Summary: How do we interpret our present time? Do we understand the times?
“The Charge of the Light Brigade: Why All the Noise?”
Jer. 4:11-12, 22-28 & 8:18-9:1; Mt. 24:3-14 & 36-44
Jesus, and the New Testament authors, spoke frequently about his second coming. One scholar indicated that 1 out of every 15 verses in the New Testament speaks about it. And yet we seldom discuss it – in fact, we often act as if we don’t know what to do with it. We can take some comfort in the fact that Jesus’ followers didn’t know either. Jesus said to them (Lk. 12:54-56) "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ’It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ’It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?” How do we interpret our present time? Do we understand the signs? Do we believe, as I indicated last week, that we must make some noise? Have we grasped the significance of the moment in which we live?
Let’s take a look at THE SIGNS OF OUR TIMES. First, consider the lessons of history. There is an INTELLIGIBLE CYCLE OF HISTORY. Alexander Fraser Tyler, in his 1770 book Cycle of Democracy, wrote, “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse (generous gifts) from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a louse fiscal responsibility, always followed by a dictatorship. …What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes his own self-interest as he sees it...which for the majority translates as ’Bread and Circuses.’…Bread and Circuses is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But … when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader..." Have you seen that anywhere?
In his book When Nations Die, Jim Black gives the following factors that signal the collapse of a civilization: increase in lawlessness, loss of economic discipline, rising bureaucracy, decline in education, weakening of cultural foundations, loss of respect for traditions, increase in materialism, rise in immorality, decay of religious belief, and devaluing of human life. Have you seen that anywhere?
We can also see signs of our time in the INTENSIFYING JUDGMENT OF GOD. According to Jesus the signs are obvious:
FALSE RELIGIONS – consider the rise of Islam and other non-Christian religions that are gaining in popularity and power
TRIBULATION – All we need to do is track the record of terrorist attacks over the past ten years; or count the number of wars currently being fought; or consider the rising threat of nuclear and chemical weapons. While we hear very little of it, we cannot ignore the persecution of Christians around the world. While our nation is embroiled in whether or not someone has the right to burn copies of the Koran (I’m not discussing the core of that issue here) the fact is that in countries around the world Bibles are burned everyday and those who owned them are imprisoned, tortured, or worse.
VIOLENCE OF NATURE – There has been an increase in the intensity and frequency of earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods; a rise in pestilence and uncontrollable diseases.
FAMINE – Because of the violence of nature and the sinful neglect of humankind, more people suffer from starvation and lack of proper nutrition.
DECREASED MORALITY – Since Roe vs. Wade America has been sliding down the slippery slope towards a culture of death which, in the words of the Manhattan Declaration, “…cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable.” Additionally the erosion of marriage and family life has taken a tremendous social toll as evidenced in out-of-wedlock births, mixed and blended families, and promotion of multiple forms of partnerships.
LAWLESSNESS – American prisons are bursting at the seems at rates higher than anywhere in the world, and many Americans live in fear.
The issue here is not “Did God send all of this?” I cannot tell you if God orders up all the storms and tragedies – I do know, as you do, that He obviously allows them. But the point, according to Jesus, is that these are all a result of the fact that there is sin in the world – Paul even said the whole earth (Rom. 8) groans for redemption. They are part of God’s judgment and THEY ARE MEANT TO POINT US BACK TO GOD. In response to the question “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus listed all these signs and then concluded, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”