The Signs Of The Times, Part 4
The purpose of the previous two posts in this series was to set up a consistent framework, and establish guidelines for reading and interpreting prophetic scripture. With this information strapped firmly to our Belt of Truth, we can accurately survey the prophetic landscape of the End Times/Last Days terrain. The first order of business is to synchronize our watches with God’s clock so we are at least in the same time zone that He presently is working in.
We have already looked at how God divides natural time into blocks called seasons, days, and years. Within these divisions, God also has two very specific ways to define time. The first one is called “chronos,” which is the Greek New Testament word chosen to define the passage of natural time of seconds, minutes, hours, etc. This division of time allows us to synchronize with God’s passages of time in the material, historical universe. The second division of time is called “kairos,” which is the Greek New Testament word chosen to give understanding to how God is working and intervening in natural (chronos) time.
Chronos defines the quantity of time, kairos the quality of time. Chronos defines the passage of history. Kairos defines how and when God works in history. Kairos is a predetermined point in God’s purpose that is not based solely on natural occurrences, but on the “fullness” of certain actions on the part of humanity. Here is just one of many examples of kairos: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,” [Gal. 4:4 NASB]. The “fullness of time” designates when God has decided that it is time to move and act upon a prophetic utterance that was spoken at some point in chronos time.
God's prophetic timeline must be looked at and studied on these two plains in order to truly understand the signs of the times we are living in. Studying history in chronos time will give us accurate information about what God has done, and studying history in kairos time will open to us revelation about what God is doing and preparing to do. Let’s examine the prophetic foundations of the End Times by looking at the biblical concept of The Last Days, which is the precursor to understanding the signs of the times.
The idea of the Last Days goes all the way back to the fall of humanity. God declares over Adam and Eve that from the moment they leave the Garden, a struggle for good and evil, right and wrong, light and darkness, will ebb and flow through human history. This struggle will continue until a predetermined time (kairos) when salvation and deliverance will invade human history (chronos time) and usher in a time when the invasion of God’s Kingdom on Earth would be reestablished, and righteousness would begin to pervade every corner of the earth. In other words, the failure in the Garden would be redeemed at some point in history, and the original plan for humanity to take dominion over the earth would be reestablished.
The concept of the Last Days is woven throughout the entire body of scripture. The Last Days, it was prophesied, would be a period of time when the redemption and salvation of humanity and our planet would be firmly established. It would also be a time when recompense for all the rebellion and arrogance for those that defied Almighty God would be accounted for. Although the concept of the Last Days was plain to see, the understanding of what it would look like and when it would be ushered in was fraught with misconceptions.
Here is the very first occurrence of the phrase, Last Days: “Now it will come about that In the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it,” [Isa. 2:2, NASB]. This proclamation was made while the nation of Israel was in the shadow of the specter of impending captivity of the nation that would take place under the cruel Babylonian empire around 598 BC (Isaiah was prophesying around 740 BC, about 140 years before it actually happened).
The nation was being warned that, if repentance on a grand scale did not sweep through the hearts of Israel, destruction and bondage would surely fall upon them. The prophecy also contained a promise of restoration and redemption for the nation after a period of time in captivity. The Hebrews saw this as a time when the great and powerful kingdom of the Jews would rise from the ashes, and once again shine like the sun - in The Last Days.
Under King David, and his son Solomon, Israel experienced a “golden age” of peace and prosperity that was unparalleled in history. The Jews were holding onto the hope that one day the Kingdom would be restored to them and the glory of Israel, the carriers and keepers of God’s holy covenant, would be restored. They saw the Last Days as a time of Israeli national exaltation. However, God had a much wider and inclusive Kingdom in mind.
Fast-forward through history about 750 years to the time of Jesus. The nation of Israel had gone through the prophesied captivity. They were liberated by the hand of God acting through the Persian empire, they were released, and they were fully resourced to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. They were holding tightly to the promise of the Last Days restoration, but in short order, they abandoned, once again, their covenant with God and filled the nation with idolatry, injustice, violence, and greed. By the time of Jesus they were again in bondage and captivity to a much worse overlord - the Roman empire. The longing for the glory days, the Last Days, was at a fever pitch when Jesus began His ministry.
From its inauguration, Jesus made it clear that His ministry centered around the establishment (reestablishment) of The Kingdom. All of the Gospel writers record that Jesus went about all the regions of Israel preaching and teaching about the Kingdom. The mighty signs and wonders He performed, the power and authority of His words, His impeccable character, all stirred up visions of another King David, Who was about to seize control of the nation, and establish His throne. Indeed, as Jesus entered into Jerusalem to face His crucifixion, the multitudes of people were wanting to celebrate a coronation.
The gospels record the confusion, and angst, that even the closest followers of Jesus felt on the day of His death. They, too, were hoping that He was the one promised to usher in the 2nd golden age of the Last Days. "But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened,” [Luke 24:21 NASB]. It seemed as though the prophets got it wrong and Jesus was just a king David wanna-be. All the build up and excitement was lying in a cold, dark tomb - until the third day!
After the resurrection, Luke specifically records that Jesus appeared to His disciples for a period of 40 days prior to His ascension into Heaven. During this time, Jesus was teaching them about the Kingdom - not the one that they were expecting- but the Kingdom of God that had invaded the earth, established a beachhead, and was about to be launched into all the world. Jesus gave His disciples very clear and defined instructions about what to do immediately after His ascension. They were to go back to Jerusalem, wait for the Holy Spirit to fill them with power and authority, and then go into all the world and be witnesses for Jesus, demonstrating and preaching the good news about salvation and the Kingdom of God.
Luke recounts what happened to the disciples as they waited in Jerusalem in his narrative called the book of Acts. On the morning of Pentecost, sometime around AD 33, a full-blown heavenly invasion hit the earth and filled those who were waiting in obedient anticipation with power and authority that had never been released before. The church that Jesus said He would build was born, and the Kingdom of God began its advancement, and world evangelism was launched. This moment was the consummation of the purpose and power of Jesus at His first coming.
The narrative and history of the first century church recounts the explosive growth of the gospel within the confines of Jerusalem and Judea. It seemed as though nothing would stop this on-coming Kingdom freight train from barreling through Samaria and the “uttermost parts of the earth.” The message of Jesus was not only ushering thousands of Jews into salvation, it was invading the Roman empire in the far reaches of the known (to the first century Jews) world, and leading multiple thousands of gentile pagans into the Kingdom of God. All of this was accomplished in the midst of deep, and sometimes relentless, persecution. It seemed as though nothing could derail the train.
The first century church was in the midst of a prophetic convergence like never before in history! The Holy Spirit was moving so powerfully and swiftly with amazing signs, wonders, and results. On the day of Pentecost, with the faucets of Heaven open full-bore, Peter steps forward and gives the amazed crowd of onlookers an explanation of what was happening. In the opening lines of the first New Covenant sermon, Peter reaches back into prophetic history and pulls the revelation of the Last Days into the moment that they were living in. Peter declared that Pentecost ushered in the “fullness of time,” and this was the beginning of the Last Days! The Last Days began at Pentecost and will continue until The Last Day at Jesus’ 2nd coming.
The book of Acts is a historical account of the first 35 or so years of the fledgling church. Luke takes great care and pains to accurately lay out the timeline and major happenings. The letters, or epistles of the New Testament written by Paul, Peter, John, James, and others, give us a glimpse of the inner workings of the churches that were being established as the gospel was being preached. In the midst of the great exploits recounted in Acts, a subtle invasion began from within the ranks of the believers. Scripture calls these invaders false teachers, false apostles, false prophets, and even savage wolves.
These individuals were Satan’s “moles,” planted in and among the believers to begin the process of doctrinal divisions that created factions of every sort. Satan could not stop them from without, so acting from within was the only hope of curtailing the invasion of the church into his dark, sinister kingdom. In the midst of all the heresies and false teachings that were circulating, a fixation- and even obsession- for the 2nd coming of Jesus began to rise into view.
It would be expected that a group of people so hated and persecuted as the first century Christians were, would want Jesus to come back and deal with all their enemies, or at least rapture them out of the mess. Satan capitalized on this longing and made this one of the central themes of his twisted propaganda campaign. The circulation of this disinformation caused many in the church to take their eyes off of the earthly mission of world evangelism and into the heavens, looking for Jesus to return. What a perfect strategy! The 2nd coming is the blessed hope of the Church. If Satan could keep the Church looking up into the sky, he could continue his diabolical dirty work on the earth.
Church history proves out this strategy. It is impossible to walk in a straight line while looking into the sky. The arguments and divisions that ensued over this doctrine have split the Church of Jesus into various camps of eschatological beliefs (the understanding of the “end times”). Is there a definitive answer to once and for all quell the debate and get the Church of Jesus all looking in the right direction and believing the same thing about the end times and the 2nd coming? Well, in order to find out, we are going to have to let Jesus speak on the matter. After all, it is HIS 2nd coming, and He must be the final authority. We will hear from Jesus in the next segment…
So, stay tuned, and tune in...
by Pastor Jim Anan