At the last Standard Bearer staff meeting it was decided, among other things, to add this rubric in our magazine in place of that one which the writer formerly edited: Examining Ecumenicalism.
Though the title of this rubric is a new one for theStandard Bearer, the attempt to remind the readers of the signs of our times is not new for this magazine. In the various other departments we have been constantly reminded of the apostasy within the churches today; of the development of world power and world corruption; of the events evident in creation itself. It is our intent in this department to bring the “signs of the times” clearly before our eyes—that we may more carefully watch; and that we may sincerely pray, “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!”
Perhaps I could be so bold as to ask your cooperation too. Doubtlessly, you encounter articles in magazines, books, or newspapers which remind you clearly of the Word of Scripture where these things are foretold. Or there are thoughts which come to your mind, thoughts stimulated by the Word of God, concerning the subject of the signs of the times which might be of interest to our readers. I would ask that you forward these to me directly, or in care of our editor. I can not promise to use everything that might be sent, but I would promise to consider and perhaps incorporate such materials in future articles: Such cooperation will make this department far more interesting and stimulating.
The idea of this new department
We will, the Lord willing, be calling your attention in future articles to the “signs of the times.” Signs are devices used to point, usually, to hidden realities. Such is true even in the area of our daily existence. A sign along the highway may remind one of an unseen curve ahead; or of a city which lies a certain number of miles away; or even of a product for sale in a grocery store or automobile agency. The unseen is represented by a sign which is visible to the natural eye. The same could be said of the “signs” in our title. These “signs” are those things which are visible to our eyes pointing to the invisible reality which is yet to be realized.
The second part of the title for this department speaks of “the times.” By this is normally meant, and in this rubric too, the age or period in which we live. We live, according to Scripture, in the “last days” and in the “last time” (I John 2:18). The “signs” we see are those which show to us what the time on God’s great “time-clock” is. Just as one sees the hands on a clock and hears the dongs of the hour as the time of midnight approaches, so one can spiritually discern the time of our age which rapidly progresses to the moment when our Lord Jesus Christ returns on the clouds of glory.
But how is one to know what is a “sign?” The world about us, the world of unrighteousness, sees signs: signs of impending disaster. There is pollution, overpopulation, war, disease. We hear daily reminders of remedies to be sought—or disaster is inevitable. In fact, many within what is called “church” are ready to join with those of this world to find solutions to the problems which might otherwise destroy mankind. I am not particularly interested, however, in what the world terms “signs”—except to point out that the reaction of the world to its multiplying problems is exactly the reaction foretold in Scripture.
Our Source-book for the “signs of the times” must be Scripture itself. God tells us there clearly what shall take place throughout the age of the new dispensation—and especially those events which take place just before the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. One finds striking reminders of the signs which are even now evident in passages asMatthew 24, I Thessalonians 4, II Thessalonians 2, II Peter 3, most of the book of Revelation, as well as many prophecies of the Old Testament.
It will not be my intent to enter into exegetical analysis of these passages, but rather to show from current events how many Scriptural passages are now being fulfilled. If one only can see, he will recognize how that present-day events are fulfillments of Scriptural prophecy. We live in the day of signs: signs of the last times, and. signs of the soon-return of our Lord from heaven. Are we recognizing these signs?
The need of this department
One might almost be inclined to say that there need be no special reminder to the Christian that he lives in the last times. He has eyes to see, does he not? Yet constant reminder is imperative.
It is a recurring objection that the end surely is not yet. It is emphasized that, though there are periods in the history of the world in which the world-situation appears to worsen, this represents only part of a cycle.
Of course, the objection that the world will last a long time yet is not a new objection. It was voiced already in the days of the Apostle Peter. He answered that, too, in his epistle. There were those who asked, “Where is the promise, of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (II Pet. 3:4). The argument sounds familiar, does it not? But what does the Word of God answer? “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the Word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water; whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished. But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same Word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (II Pet. 3:5-7).
The world of the ungodly will not acknowledge that the end could be near. These express fear for possible catastrophes which might befall the earth because of man’s mismanagement, but these see no end of the world in the foreseeable future. These are convinced that, through their own ingenuity, there will be established eventually a world-utopia. All present problems will be solved. Man will dwell together in peace, only, it is imperative that we work hard now toward that goal.
Many within the church have adopted a similar line. I have heard of those in positions of importance within Reformed circles who emphasize that the end of time will surely not be for thousands of years. Many will seek to join with the world to establish that world-utopia. These seek not a kingdom of God which is heavenly, but a kingdom which will be established here on this sinful earth. Some of these are postmillennial in their confession. Others, though a-millennial in confession, in practice also adopt the post-millennial conception.
It is well, therefore, that we compare Scripture with those events which are now transpiring about us. We ought not to be frightened because of what does take place and what must still take place; rather we must the more urgently pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”
That Jesus is coming soon is a fact. We know not the day and hour of His appearing. Nor may we try to establish some time for His return, as has been attempted by some. Jesus Himself emphasized that the day and hour knoweth no man, not even the son of man (Matt. 24:36). Yet the signs today are so clear that I believe one is justified in saying that it is probable that Jesus will return within the lifetimes of many of us. We may well live through the time of final persecution, the establishment of the antichristian world power, and then finally see the Son of man return on the clouds of glory with His holy angels. Just think of that! The most striking events of all the history of the world may well occur in our lifetimes! The purpose of this rubric is to point out some of these events as they transpire.
This rubric must then direct our attention to that command of Christ to watch (Matt. 24:42). We are to be ready to greet our Lord upon His return. Were the president of the United States to visit us a week from today, we would without doubt expend every effort to prepare for such a coming. We would notify our friends. We would prepare our home so that it would be spotless. We would make sure that we address him aright. This would be the most momentous day of our lives. How much more ought we not to prepare faithfully for the coming of the Lord of all? Can we leave anything undone which God’s Word requires of faithful servants? Can we forget for a moment that His coming is imminent? Can we fail to tell many that our Lord is coming soon? Those who know that Christ is coming soon, will surely be ready. They watch.
Encouragement through this department
Knowing the time, as we should in the light of Scripture, we must be reminded constantly that we are to live lives of separation. This is not the time to be one with the world. This is not the time to enjoy its amusements; to set our hearts on its lusts; to seek its goals. We are strangers here on this earth. Our Lord is presently in heaven—but He is coming again soon. When He comes, He takes us from this corrupt earth and prepares for us the new heavens and new earth. Knowing all of this, let us indeed be separate—seeking the heavenly in all things.
And we ought to be encouraged to use wisely our time, talents, and possessions to God’s glory and as those who indeed seek the coming of His kingdom. We ought not complain about the “burdens” of instructing our covenant children aright; of support of the church on this earth; of contributions for the cause of missions; of giving for the need of God’s poor. God has entrusted much to our care. It belongs to Him. We have often been selfish with what is given—considering it to be our own to use as we see fit. All present things shall be consumed by that fire of the last day. While we have the time and opportunity and possessions, may we have also the grace to seek with these the coming of His kingdom.
Let us remenber . . . “. . .
The Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5).