Tuesday, March 24, 2020


It does seem that every politician, company, government official and email contact wants to give us information, assure us of their concern for our well-being and exhort us concerning Covid-19 (the current coronavirus). Some of it is helpful while others aren’t. Perhaps we are all getting a little weary of the subject.
But when the matter of signs of the end times comes up and the suggestion is made that this virus points to us being in the end times, we who are students of the Word of God need to see if there is any validity to these ideas and proclamations. So, seeing that I have some time on my hands, I thought it might be helpful to remind us of certain biblical realities.
(1) God is involved in this coronavirus event. Daniel (Dan. 2:21a) and Paul (1 Thes. 5:1) tell us that God is in charge of the sequence of events in human history as well as the significant turning points in that history.  So major events (such as World War II and 9/11) and the order of all events are under the direction of the Sovereign God. He is a God of great detail, and He rules over His creation. And although latitude is given to Satan and fallen men, God has His own “end game” in view at all times. He uses the right players and events at just the right time to move history along towards His predetermined end. Daniel reminded the sinful, rebellious king Belshazzar that the “Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind” (Dan. 5:21). So, with this in mind, it is safe to say that God is indeed actively involved in this event. Why? That we don’t know, except to say that the Lord is always trying to get the attention of sinful people to bring them to Himself, and that these kinds of events somehow contribute to bringing about the end times. Not only did this current event not sneak up on Him, but He was and is moving it along as best fits His overall purposes. 
(2) Is Covid-19 an indication that we are in the Tribulation period, or does it tell us we are fast approaching the Tribulation? Yes, there will be plagues during the Tribulation period. People are correct when they note that point. In fact, plague (disease) along with war, famine and unrestrained activity of wild beasts are part of the Tribulation judgments (Rev. 6:8).  These four realities are, according to dozens of Old Testament passages, revealers of the “wrath” and the “hot anger” of God (e.g. Ezekiel 5:13-17; 14:21; Jer. 16:4-5, etc.). God directed these judgments against Israel in the Old Testament and these four will again be seen in their greatest intensity during the Tribulation (the 70th Week of Daniel). However, the Tribulation period, according to Jesus and the prophets (Matt. 24:21; Dan. 12:1; Jer. 30:7; Joel 2:2), is a unique and unprecedented period of time; unlike any time in human history. In fact, the Apostle John writes (Rev. 6:8) that 25% of the earth’s population will perish in these first four judgments of the Tribulation period; which means that (considering the earth’s present population) 2 billion people will perish from the first four judgments, including plague (disease). So, what is taking place today is simply not what will take place during the period of tribulation.  
Also, some are saying that Covid-19 indicates that we are close to the end times because these are part of the birth pains that come before the tribulation period (Matt. 24:8).  However, the birth pains Jesus refers to take place within the tribulation period itself and, as previously stated, are absolutely unique in intensity (and perhaps location). They are not before the Tribulation, but in it.  Earthquakes, warfare, plagues and famine have always been part of the history of fallen man; and that is why we need to remember that when they occur during the Tribulation period, they will be unprecedented in their intensity. For example, an earthquake (such as the more recent one in Japan) can measure 9.1 on the Richter scale. This is a huge quake, but not unprecedented.  However, the world after the Flood of Noah has never seen a 12.1 earthquake (or maybe even greater). The Tribulation will have at least 2 earthquakes of a magnitude never seen before. So, it will be all the birth pains, including plagues. They are terribly bad and they are without precedence. 
(3) Never let a crisis go to waste.  This has notoriously been the thought of some politicians who would use any crisis to further their own political and personal ends. But there is an element of truth here for the believer in Jesus.  This Covid-19 events did not blindside the Lord our God. He did see this coming (obviously), long before any person did. So, it is logical that we use this event to be proactive in our service and relationship with Him. There are a number of things that the Holy Spirit might lead us to do. Some ideas:
  • Take this time to reflect and meditate on the Lord and His ways (Psalm 145:5; 77:11-15).  We live so much of our lives in the “laser lane” of life; always on the go. In quietness, seek Him. It is often in the context of being still and meditative that the Lord speaks to our hearts and reveals Himself and His will in fresh ways. For some of us this could be a wonderful experience.
  • Read the Word and other good books. It might be challenging to read portions of the Bible that you haven’t read for a long time. We often excuse our inattentiveness to Scripture because of our packed schedules. They aren’t so packed now, and such reading might prove more valuable than re-runs on TV.
  • Look for opportunities to connect with others via phone, email, skype, texting, etc. And let your confidence in our Good Shepherd who is sovereign and gracious be seen. There are a lot of nervous, frightened people who likely could use your input and perspective. Many in our culture no longer have their diversions at hand right now and something of the shallowness and emptiness of their lives is surfacing. It’s scary for them. It might be an opening for us.
  • As we have contact in our neighborhoods and the few places we might connect with others, let your confidence in Christ the Lord be seen.  After all, now that God has gotten their attention, we can give them the really good news. One evangelist said just the other day that he is finding people far more open to hearing about Jesus and spiritual matters because of Covid-19.  Like the experience with 9/11, this could just be a little window of opportunity that has been opened for us. So, let’s keep alert to such opportunities.
None of us knows how all this will play out in the coming weeks or perhaps months, so maybe it would be wise to contemplate what the Lord would have us do. We do have the Good Shepherd who is all powerful, wise and good and can lead us into some fruitful times during Covid-19. 

Monday, March 2, 2020


          When we think about Bible prophecy, our thoughts usually immediately go to the subjects of the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennial Kingdom or perhaps some future judgments.  And this is good since truths about these coming events indeed are to powerfully impact our present thinking and our present living.
          The Apostles, however, also included in their pronouncements truth which prophetically relate to how this church age will end.  They were unusually concerned with what the church would be like when this age came to its end. Prior to the Rapture event when Jesus Christ suddenly and supernaturally takes His Bride, the Church, to heaven and out of this world; there will be an invasion of false teachers with their false teachings that come into the Church. Now we know that Satan, since the Garden of Eden, has used false and distorted ideas as his primary tool in countering God’s work in the world. This is nothing new. But the Apostle foresaw a time when falsehood in the church would explode leaving believers in grave danger.  Large numbers of men and women would seduce the saints with their damaging doctrines.  These terrible teachings would hurt believers in this life as well as affect the life to come. And while we cannot set dates and times, we are certainly seeing such an explosion of falsehood and distortion of God’s truth. Teachers and preachers today can get their teachings out to the public very easily and broadly because of the new and growing technologies that have come into existence.
          But the fact remains, what the Apostles saw coming may well be with us now. A great deal of ink was used on this subject by the Apostles, but I want us to be reminded of five truths they predicted (direct by the Holy Spirit).
(1) A Departure. As the church age moves on and gets closer to its end, teachers will depart from healthy doctrine and in its place substitute man pleasing ideas (2 Tim. 3:1; 4:3-4) and over the church age this will get worse and worse (2 Tim. 3:13).  And in the western church especially, this now seems to characterize much of the preaching and teaching. Chaff is everywhere but good wheat is hard to find.
(2) A Mega Movement. This distorted doctrinal preaching and teaching will attract large numbers of people (2 Pet. 2:2). Jesus had taught in His parables of the “mystery kingdom” (mainly the church age) that the “kingdom” would grow large but would also grow more corrupt (Matt. 13). People are attracted to these teachers in large numbers because they tell them things they like to hear. Gone from the teachings are the hard truths such as coming judgment for sin, the fear of God (which is to be in balance with the love of God), personal holiness and other doctrines which make demands on people.
(3) A Sinless Message. These teachers do not define and denounce sin which is such a real part of our experience and struggles. The Scriptures inform us that they avoid speaking about sin because they themselves indulge in sinful lifestyles (2 Tim. 3:2-5). Instead they promote both directly and indirectly hedonism and materialism to the immeasurable damage of believers (2 Pet. 2:18-20). Like the false prophets in Israel, their “ministries” are spiritually empty and actually lead people away from the Lord God (note Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 13). Their distorted view of God and His ways make it impossible for people to know Him and properly relate to Him.
(4) A Subversive Approach. The consistent warning by the Apostles is that these false teachers are within the church. They are not outsiders (Acts 20:28-30; Jude 4, 12; 2 Cor. 11:13-15). Special scrutiny is to be given to those in the church with positions and titles because they are the ones who have authority and are, therefore, most influential in the church. The idea that it is outside cults and movements that are the danger is simply not the case. Paul warned that “among your own selves (the elders) men will arise” who will promote distorted doctrines (Acts 20:30).
(5) A Sacred Responsibility. It is the God-given responsibility of the elders of the church to expose and refute these counterfeit doctrines (Acts 20:28; Titus 1:9-11). The sad reality, however, is that too many elders in the local church today seem incapable of this, as they appear to have neither the knowledge nor the courage to do this critical task, which protects the flock of God from these dangerous doctrines. Avoiding judging false teachings in the name of tolerance is not at all acceptable. As the Apostles Paul and Peter instruct (2 Tim. 2; 1 Pet. 3), they are not to be harsh or arrogant, but are to kindly refute those who are promoting satanic ideas (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).
We can never declare that the Lord will be retuning on such and such a date because sound doctrine no longer characterizes the western church. What we can say is that He might indeed be coming very soon because the ongoing departure from the truth of God in “the church” is yet another one of the props on the prophetic stage; pointing to the possibility that it is close to curtain time, and the beginning of the final act of human history known as the Tribulation.
      In the meantime, until the curtain goes up, you and I need to become better students of the Scriptures, coming to understand them and apply them to life. And we need to increasingly “contend earnestly” (Jude 3) for God’s truth, and to “expose” the distorted doctrines that are being promoted in the church (1 Tim. 4:1; Eph. 5:11). This contending for the faith is part of what a faithful servant of Christ does. This may never be behind a pulpit speaking to thousands, but more likely will be one on one with a fellow believer who has been seduced by man pleasing ideas. We must never be proud or argumentative, but we must be clear, compelling and full of conviction in our handling of truth. Remember that it is only God’s truth (the wheat) that transforms lives. Chaff never does that.