SIGNS OF THE TIMES
One of the main characteristics of the believer in this world is that he lives in the expectation of the return of Christ. In many different ways the believer is described in Scripture from this point of view. Sometimes he is called a pilgrim in a foreign country who is passing through a strange land and who lives in the constant and fervent hope of the day when he shall go home. He is called to emulate the saints of old who “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth.” They are admonished to seek a better country, that is, an heavenly, and look for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Then again they are urged to watch and pray as faithful virgins who keep their lamps filled with oil while they await the bridegroom’s coming. Always they must be faithful—faithful unto death in order that no one may take their crown.
If this is their life, it stands to reason that these believers are very much interested in the many signs that point to the return of their Lord. These signs they look for and try accurately to interpret. Especially as the signs increase in intensity and clarity, their hope becomes a more fervent part of their life. The catechism puts this confession in the mouth of the child of God when it says that the believer “with uplifted head looks for the very same person who before offered himself for my sake, to the tribunal of God and has removed all curse from me, to come as judge from heaven.”
Much of the news that is worth reporting must surely also be interpreted as evident signs that the return of Christ is very near. These signs speak loudly and clearly that the hour is growing late, that the moments of God’s clock rush on; that the last hour is about to be struck.
Some of these signs appear in the news of the Church; others in the news of the world.A significant item is reported by the latest issue of Torch and Trumpet. To quote part of it:
It seems that the age of world-wide Christian missions may soon come to a close. One non-Christian land after another places severe restrictions on mission work due to an awakening paganism. In Ceylon the Christian schools have been seized by the government and manned by Buddhist teachers. Christian radio programs have been banned. In Africa a rapidly expanding Mohammedanism is raising more and more barriers against the advance of Christianity. An EP (Evangelical Press—HH) dispatch from Khartoum in the Sudan tells of “new restrictions on missionary activity in this country where the Christian community is a tiny minority of 95,000 persons in a total population of 11,390,000. First a new government ruling, which went into effect on November 15, stipulates that young people under the age of 19 will have to have their parents’ written consent and government approval before they can be baptized. They will also need similar approval before they can be enrolled in a seminary or other church-related educational institutions. Second, missionaries must reapply annually for renewal of their residence permits and give the government the right to inspect mission property and to review sources of mission income.”
One of the most remarkable phenomena in our times is the movement of pagan nations towards independence and individual national status. Every little country that has been soundly sleeping and unheard for hundreds of years suddenly appears on the world scene and demands a voice in world affairs. But with the rise of these countries to a place of international prominence comes also the rise of paganism a-s a world force. Christianity is pushed out of these lands. Especially is this true of countries in Asia and Africa.
There can be no clearer sign that the binding of Satan spoken of in Revelation 20 is come to an end. Once again, in the providence of God, Satan is loosed to go out to deceive the nations on the four corners of the earth. These nations arouse themselves as mighty giants waking and stretching and yawning after years of slumber. Yet always they unanimously oppose Christianity and insist on the paganism of Buddhism? Confucianism, Shintoism, Mohammedanism, Fetishism, etc.
This must surely be preparatory to the basic division of the world into the two camps of Antichrist and Gog and Magog. It must herald the split between the “Christian” nations that become Antichristian and the nations on the four corners of the world that become the destroyers of Antichrist.
But the gospel is preached according to the purpose of God. The victory of the white horse ofRevelation 6 is surely complete. Nothing points more clearly to the imminent return of Christ than these significant facts.
Another sign of the return of Christ is the moral and spiritual degeneration of men as they sink lower into the mire of sin. Scripture speaks of the growth of iniquity and the increase of evil as the end nears. In a recent speech to the American Legion Convention J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation spoke of this. He was not speaking of signs of Christ’s coming; he was simply pointing to the evil of our age in this most civilized of all countries. He said, among other things:
What has happened to the time-honored precepts of hard work and fair play which influenced the American scene during the all-important formative years of this great republic? Where is the faith in God which fortified us through our past trials? Have our national pride, our moral conscience, our sensitivity to filth and degradation, grown so weak that they no longer react to assaults upon our proud heritage of freedom?
Crime and subversion are formidable problems in the United States today . . . Self-indulgence—the principle of pleasure before duty—is practiced across the length and breadth of the land. It is undermining those attributes of personal responsibility and self-discipline which are essential to our national survival. It is creating-citizens who reach maturity with a warped sense of values and an undeveloped conscience.
This day, more than 5,200 felonies—four serious crimes every minute—will be committed across the United States. They will include 430 crimes of violence—murders, forcible rapes, and assaults to kill. At least 250 robberies, 10 an hour, will be recorded, as will 4,500 burglaries, major larcenies, and automobile thefts. Since 1946, our national crime totals have more than doubled. Over the past five years, since 1957, these crimes have risen five times as fast as our growing population.
Nowhere has this increase been more pronounced than among America’s youth. Last year, persons under 18 years of age were involved in 43 percent of all arrests for serious crimes. They accounted for 22 percent of the robbery arrests, nearly one half of the burglaries and larcenies, and well over half of the automobile thefts. . . . There is a moral breakdown among young people in the United States. The crime rate is outdistancing the population increase; pornography is flourishing; and there is a quest for status at the expense of morality. . . .
Disrespect for law and order is a tragic moral illness. . . . Our city streets are jungles of terror. The viciousness of the rapists, murderers, and muggers seems to know no bounds. . . . Too often, the interests of justice and consideration for the welfare of society are buried under an avalanche of court decisions which give violators of the law rights and privileges that destroy respect for the law and the public safety. . . .
More and more the judicial-legal system of this country is being revised to benefit the criminal—to the disadvantage of the innocent. . . .
The public, by its submissive attitude and its lethargic acceptance of infractions of the law, has helped create an atmosphere conducive to the insidious growth of underworld activity. . . .
Some of these signs of the Lord’s return appear in the Church. Here the signs are particularly the signs of apostasy from the faith. This apostasy is especially evident in the growing movements towards a “one world church.” Everywhere ecumenicity is the talk of the day. Everywhere churches unite into bigger and bigger denominations. But with all this movement to a one world church, there is always movement away from the truth. There is no movement towards unity without a movement away from God’s Word. There is no merger without sacrifice of Scripture. There is no ecumenicity without apostasy.
Many look today towards Rome and the Vatican Council which is meeting there for the leadership that is required to bring all Christianity together into one denomination. But Rome insists that all roads also lead to Rome. There is no union except the union of return to the bosom of the “whore of Babylon.” It is worthy of note that the devil never budges an inch although men may talk endlessly about compromise.
But apostasy is found a lot nearer home. In the last issue of The Standard Bearer we reported on the significant news from the Netherlands—news of the denial of inspiration and of the progress of evolutionism among the Reformed Churches. Now we learn from Torch and Trumpet that other historically and confessionally reformed truths are being denied. Rev. H.J. Kuiper writes that “our people in the Christian Reformed Church, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Protestant Reformed Churches, the Reformed Church, and other Reformed bodies should know about what is going on in the Reformed denominations of the Netherlands.” He then quotes an article written by a certain Dr. A.D.R. Polman who openly denies the truth of reprobation. A Dr. B.J. Brouwer wrote a letter to the Gereformeerd Weekblad in which he said “that it is a mystery to him how office bearers in the church can declare, by signing the Formula of Subscription, that they agree with Article I, point 15 of the Canons of Dordt. This article is simply not to be harmonized with Scripture. It is old-Reformed rather than Reformed.”
Dr. Polman answers:
(Mr. Brouwer) justly rejects an eternal divine decree of reprobation. . . . Nowhere in the Bible is reprobation described as an eternal purpose, as an unchangeable decree before the foundation of the world or as a dark, mysterious phase of God’s counsel. Its dark, threatening reality is not denied anywhere but it is constantly pictured as a gripping act of God in the midst of history . . . as God’s righteous judgment on so much wickedness. The correctness of this assertion is powerfully demonstrated also by the fact that I found no Scriptural proof in the writings of the fathers of Dordt but more than once a purely logical conclusion from eternal election (he who elects necessarily passes by others at the same time and thus rejects them) while it is precisely so remarkable that the Bible nowhere draws this apparently logical conclusion.”
What is there left when so many Scriptural truths are openly flaunted? Indeed apostasy points to the return of Christ.
Also in the history of nations one finds signs of Christ’s return. Scripture speaks of wars and rumors of wars. These too shout loudly of the coming of our Lord. While there are no global wars going on at present (although everyone was holding their breath in anticipation a few weeks ago), there are many small wars. One can in a few moments of thought recall three or four: Indonesia, Viet Nam, India, Yemen. This is not to mention the rebellion and insurrections that constantly appear such as in Algeria, Guatemala, Chile, Cuba, etc. It was Cuba that filled the hearts of men with fear. Communism on the doorstep of America! Who would have thought it possible?
Yet more significantly than all this is the recently reported split between Russia and Red China. Brought on by the pressures and tensions of the time, but also by the deep racial differences, this split could have far-reaching implications in years to come. Many times Bible students have asked the question of what part Russia would play in the will of God at the end of the ages. Some have answered that Russia really belongs with the Western nations culturally and ethnically. Others have answered that this is impossible since ideologically Russia is one with China. They are both avowed Communists. But even news commentators are suggesting the possibility that Russia will be forced out of her alliance with China and pushed into cooperation with America and Europe. This is not impossible.
Yet, in all these things, the Church looks on high where Christ her Lord reigns sovereignly over all things. They see the hand of Christ in all these events for He directs them all. They see the answer to their prayers and longings, for indeed, in all these things Christ comes quickly! To us comes the calling to flee the world of sin, to remain faithful to the truth, and to face the threatening dangers of the strife-torn nations with calmness and serenity in the certain knowledge that our redemption draweth nigh.