Men have always been interested about what the future will bring. The future is the “great unknown,” the source of the greatest insecurity in the life of mankind. Men desperately seek ways of determining what the future will bring– they will read horoscopes, listen to fortune-tellers, and other such things. This desire for knowing the future extends into the religious world too: the success of the “Left Behind” series and the lessons on “prophecy” done by Evangelicals attest to the general desire for knowing the future.
This desire is not without precedent in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, we see the men of Israel often consulting the Lord to receive a sign of the future (e.g., Gideon in Judges 7 and Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 18). The prophets of the Lord also spoke concerning the future, but how many men of Israel desired to hear what they had to say?
This concern about the future is not limited to the Old Testament. We read in 1 Thessalonians 4 that the Thessalonians were concerned about the return of Christ and what that meant for those who had already passed on. Therefore, we may conclude that we have the right to know some things about what the future will bring. God, as He does in all things, abundantly supplies His children with what they need to know. Let us now examine the Scriptures to see what He says about what will occur in these “last days.”
Before we begin, however, I wish to give a word of warning. We are speaking using the term “the last days.” I do not desire for anyone to be confused and believe that this is a discussion of the “last days” as the Evangelicals teach, the idea of premillennialism with the seven-year “Tribulation” and such things. We read in the Scriptures the following in Hebrews 1:2:
God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.
These “last days” of which we speak are the days between the beginning of the church on the day of Pentecost in Acts to until Christ’s return in glory, whenever that blessed day arrives. Therefore, we are currently in the “last days,” as we have been for 1,970 years, and will continue to be until He returns.
When we look at the Scriptures concerning these “end times,” we see that two groups of people emerge: the “believers,” those who once held to the faith but have since departed from it, and the “unbelievers,” those who do not believe in God nor honor Him. Let us first examine what the Scriptures have to say about the “believers:”
- Matthew 7:21-23. We see here that even from the beginning of the preaching of the Gospel, Jesus warns that there will be many who profess Him and are even able to perform wonderful deeds and yet are not known to Him for their righteousness. Clearly, men can fall into a “false Christianity.”
- 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7. Paul speaks here that before Christ will return, the “son of perdition” will be made manifest. Is this the Antichrist believed by many? By no means– this “son of perdition” existed at the time of Paul and was shortly to manifest itself. Unsurprisingly, we do see that near this time period the Judaizer controversy of Acts 15 arises, and the demonstration of apostasy will shortly be made evident in Macedonia.
- 1 Timothy 4:1-4. Paul warns Timothy about those in the future who will be “seduced by doctrines of demons,” and who will have their consciences seared, speaking lies without regret.
- 2 Timothy 4:3-4. Paul here speaks about those in the faith who will no longer endure the truth but follow after their own lusts, finding preachers to tell them what they want to hear and to turn aside to fables. These would rather believe the lie than suffer the truth.
- 2 Peter 2:1-3, 10-20. Peter shares caustic words about those who are about to fall away from the faith, bringing in “destructive heresies” and performing all kinds of ungodliness.
- Jude 17-18. Even toward the end of the Scriptures, Jude re-affirms the message of the Apostles, that many will fall away in the end times, following their own lusts.
What have we seen in these passages? Most assuredly that there will be a “falling away” from the faith, and many will profess Jesus Christ but will act contrary to the teachings of the New Testament. Do we see this in our world today? Absolutely! The papers are full of headlines of denominations accepting those things that are wrong and even decrying those who wish to stand for the truth! People hear the messages that they want to hear, and refuse to listen to those who would urge them to repent and to make their lives right with God. We must not fear, brethren, that somehow God has abandoned the world and that truth cannot be ascertained, for God predicted that men would fall away from the truth! Let this serve to us as a warning to always maintain the doctrine of God, and to diligently seek the source of our salvation.
Let us turn now to the “unbelievers:”
- 2 Peter 3:3-8. Peter relates to us that many will come in their own lusts mocking those who believe in the return of Christ. They forget the truths presented in the Scriptures, and are doomed to destruction unless they repent.
- 2 Timothy 3:1-9. Paul warns Timothy about the actions of the ungodly people in the “last times.” Compare this passage with Romans 1:18-32: do we see much change between the actions of the ungodly Gentiles and the actions of the ungodly in the “last times?”
What do we see in passages like these? The “unbelievers” have always walked according to their ungodly lusts, and this condition does not change. Do we see this in the world today? All one needs to do is visit his local grocery store and to see what is being sold at the checkout counter. The “lust of the eyes,” the “lust of the flesh,” and the “boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:15-17) are all available freely in this land, and many sins come without earthly consequence. Let us remain unspotted from the world!
Finally, at the appointed time, Christ will return. We are told the following:
- Matthew 24:36-25:41. Jesus relates to us that the time of His return will come quickly, and that all must be ready for that day. He also describes how the Judgment will take place, and the rewards for the righteous and the penalty for the ungodly.
- Acts 17:30-31. Paul assures the Athenians that their ignorance will no longer be overlooked because God has fixed a day of Judgment through Christ.
- 1 Corinthians 15. Paul comforts the Corinthians by explaining to them that when death is conquered, Christ will return the Kingdom to the Father, and that on the day of Judgment all the believers will be changed and will live with God forever.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. The Thessalonians were concerned about what was to become of those who have already died. Paul comforts them by explaining that they will rise first, and those who live will meet them in the air.
- 2 Peter 3:9-10. Peter explains to us well that after the Judgment, all physical matter will be destroyed.
- 1 John 3:2. John confirms for us that even though we do not know what we will be when He comes, we know that we will be like Him.
Christ will assuredly return, and we may take comfort in that knowledge: we must only suffer the ungodly for a little time, and righteousness will prevail. Let us work diligently so that as many as possible may find the day of the return of Christ to be a comfort, not a concern.
What may we conclude about the “end times?” We see that there are “believers” and “unbelievers,” those who once believed but have since followed after their own desires, and those who have never known God, respectively. We may look around our world today and see that assuredly these things come to pass– there are many who profess Christ but do not live according to the standard of the New Testament, and the ungodly are as ungodly as ever. We must take comfort in the knowledge that Christ will return and righteousness will prevail.
It would behoove us to heed the words of Peter in 2 Peter 3:11-18:
Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unstedfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and for ever. Amen.
Amen indeed! Let us work diligently so that we may be found to be those who have maintained the glory of God and His Word and have not defiled Him through improper life. Let us be steadfast, unwavering in the faith that will save. Let us all be saved from this perverse generation!