It is the purpose of this writer in this article and in the subsequent articles that have been assigned to him to treat the idea of the signs of the times in a rather different way.
There are different ways in which on can deal with such a topic. One can do so exegetically. By that I mean one can take a specific passage of Scripture that speaks concerning the last days, and therefore concerning the signs that the child of God must observe in those last days, and expound it. Or one can do so thematically or topically. By taking a specific sign for his theme or topic he writes about that sign, makes reference to specific passages of Scripture that address themselves to that sign, and applies all of that to the day and age in which the child of God lives.
But there is another way in which such a topic as the signs of the times can be treated. And that way is to view such a topic from the perspective of the child of God as he lives through the last days and experiences in his own life the various things that are coming and must come to pass. It is the perspective of faith that guides the child of God as he walks through this valley of the shadow of death and which impels him as he does so to watch for the return of his Lord and Savior. It is the perspective of hope that lives within the child of God’s heart which directs him to the sure promise of God that He Who shall come will come and will not tarry to bring him with all His chosen ones to the life that is to come. It is the perspective of comfort. It is the sure and undying testimony in the consciousness of the child of God that as he travels his pilgrim’s journey with all its sorrows, struggles, trials, and afflictions he belongs to his faithful Savior Jesus Christ. Such a perspective this writer chooses to follow as he addresses himself to this topic.
What is the format which will be used for such an endeavor? Certainly the format will consist of both of the first two ways mentioned above, namely exegesis and topic. This is of the nature of the case. When one deals with the topic of the signs of the times from the perspective of the child of God, his faith, hope, and comfort, one cannot ignore the specific signs of the times that he experiences along his pilgrim’s journey. And too, when one deals in such a way with the above mentioned topic, one cannot and may not ignore exegesis. After all, the experience of the child of God is never one that is apart from the Word of God. The faith, hope, and comfort of the pilgrim saint is never one that is divorced from that which is his only rule for faith and life—the Scriptures. In other words, his experience, faith, hope, and comfort is never blind or governed by his own subjective feelings. But rather, it is altogether governed and directed by the light of the Word that shines in his heart and directs his footsteps in life.
But now for a few specifics with respect to the whole matter of format that will be followed. The format will consist of narrative form—a narrative of the life and experiences of a specific child of God in his covenant family and in the world in which he lives. We will see his struggles. We will observe him as he struggles against his enemies, namely, sin, the devil, this wicked world, and his own sinful flesh. We will see him as he battles the temptations of this world, fights the good fight as a faithful soldier in the army of the King of kings and Lord of lords. We will study his weaknesses and frailties: see him to be what he is, a soldier of the cross, but a very imperfect one whose best works are polluted with sin, and even more, one who does not always do that which is his duty to do.
We will see his sorrows. For there are indeed many sorrows that he experiences in his pilgrim’s journey—sorrow for sin first of all. He knows himself to be a sinner. He experiences the fact that he has not perfect faith, that his sins rise up against him prevailing day by day. We will see him, therefore, very often in prayer, praying for God to be merciful to him and take his sins away. Further, we will see this child of God experience other sorrows. The sorrows that must needs arise in the life of the child of God as a result of his taking up his cross and following Jesus and as a result of his antithetical life and walk, as on the one hand he refuses to be a part of this world, and as on the other hand he strives to manifest his citizenship in the kingdom of God and of His Christ. We will see him hated by the world, which is the realization in his life of what Jesus foretold when He said, “He shall be hated of all men for My Name’s sake” (Mark 13:13). Still more, we will witness the sorrows that he experiences and the tears that he sheds as he sees within his own family what it means when Scripture says that there is appointed unto every man a time to die. We will see him face the reality of death as it strikes in his own family by means of incurable disease. We will watch him sit by the bedside of a loved one day after day beholding the weakness of man both in himself and in those who try to help him. And, in that connection, we will see the all-powerful hand of God that brings the man’s loved one unto Himself in His own way and at His own appointed time.
We will narrate the life of this covenant-conscious ‘child of God as he strives to be faithful to God’s covenant. We will behold him as he longs to bring forth the seed of the covenant; watch him as he endeavors with all his heart and mind and soul and strength to bring up his covenant children in the fear of God’s Name, teaching them God’s Word, impressing upon them the pilgrim’s calling to watch for and pray to God for the speedy return of Christ. We will see him labor to provide a good covenant Christian education, sacrifice daily to support the schools which God has been pleased to give him, both monetarily as well as prayerfully.
And finally we will witness the joys that this pilgrim experiences in life. Yes, there are struggles. Indeed, there are sorrows that the child of God experiences in life. There are many of these as the child of God finds himself on this side of the grave; as he lives the life of a pilgrim with uplifted head looking for His Savior to appear. But the very fact that he does look for His Savior to appear provides him in the midst of all his struggles and sorrows great joy. For he sees the events in the world as well as those that occur in his own life to be so many things under the government and control of His almighty God, his sovereign Lord. He witnesses daily the fact that nothing happens by mere chance, but that all things take place by God’s Fatherly hand. He believes with a certain knowledge and an assured confidence that Christ Who died for him, rose again, ascended into heaven, and sits at God’s right hand wields the sceptre. Christ rules over the wicked with a rod of iron, directing all things step by step unmistakably to the end, and rules over him according to the riches of His grace with a shepherd’s staff, comforting him as only the Great Shepherd of the sheep can do. We will see him rejoice under the shadow of God’s wings in God’s house on the sabbath day as he longs to hear and does hear, the chief means of grace—the preaching of the Word—thereby experiencing grace sufficient for his every need. We will see him as he sings songs of praise and adoration for this great comfort that he experiences, and as he lives a life of thankfulness to God now in this life and is ready to do so in the life to come.
That is the format that these articles will take. Why have I chosen to have these articles take such a format? The answer to that question is very simple. The topic, that of the signs of the times, is not merely something cold and objective. It is not merely something that belongs to the doctrine of eschatology in a dogmatics textbook. For that matter, any topic or Scriptural truth as it relates to the life of the child of God is never cold and abstract. Such things are not presented in the Word that way. Jesus, Whose word the Word is, did not teach His disciples that way or have His disciples under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit write His Word that way. Rather, what is written in the Word, and now especially as that pertains to the subject of the signs of the times, is real and true to the experience, the faith, hope, comfort, and life of the child of God. It is real with respect to our lives—your life as you read these articles and my life as I write them. And, therefore, my purpose in using such a format is to enrich our lives as we associate ourselves with this pilgrim. Who this pilgrim is will remain a mystery until the next article. What he encounters as he lives his pilgrim’s life, that too will remain a mystery. But this much I will tell you now. In him we will see ourselves, and the experiences that he will encounter will be true to our experiences as he with us observes the signs of the times from a pilgrim’s perspective.