How To Live In These Last Days
By Rich Carmicheal
The world is heating up. While there is debate as to whether or not the world is literally heating up (global warming), most people will agree that the world is heating up in other ways. For example, financial woes threaten national economies and the global economy. Tensions are strong between some nations, including hostility toward the United States and Israel. Concern deepens over the threat of nuclear weapons as more nations develop that potential. Economic pressures and other pressures are increasing over the supply and demand for oil and other resources. Terrorism is a constant threat that may even intensify with access to more lethal weapons. Of course there are also the pressures created by political corruption, greed, exploitation of the poor, malnutrition and starvation, disease, violence, genocide, persecution, false religions, and the list goes on.
As God’s people, we are deeply grieved but not surprised by such harsh conditions in the world. Jesus forewarned us that "nation will rise against nation… there will be famines and earthquakes in various places…many will turn away from the faith…many false prophets will appear and deceive many people…[and] because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold" (Matt. 24:7-12). The Apostle Paul also warned, "There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…" (2 Tim. 3:1-4).
One of the strong admonitions in the Bible regarding signs of the end times such as we are experiencing in our day is to "Be alert!" (Mark 13:33). We are to "be always on the watch" (Luke 21:36) and on our guard (Mark 13:23). Certainly we are living in an hour that demands our attention. Is it not true that enough factors are in place that dramatic changes can happen in the world in a short period of time, if not overnight? What would it mean for the world if Israel or Iran attacks the other, or if a major economy collapses, or if terrorists succeed in the use of a weapon of mass destruction? The Apostle Paul’s words seem as urgent as ever: "The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here" (Rom. 13:11-12).
God’s Word has much to say about the last days. The focus, however, is not so much upon the timing of final events as it is upon how we are to live in this most significant time. As I call your attention to what Scripture teaches in this regard, I encourage you to make any adjustments necessary to live more fully according to God’s Word. As you do, you will become more prepared for what is to come, and you will also be more equipped to make a positive and lasting impact in the lives of others.
Be Strong in the Word of God
One of the serious issues related to the last days is deception. Notice, for example, Jesus’ warnings about deception in His teaching about the end of the age in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many" (v. 4); "…many false prophets will appear and deceive many people" (v. 11); "…false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible" (v. 24). The Apostle Paul warns us that "evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Tim. 3:13) and that "the coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth…" (2 Thes. 2:9-10). The Apostle John, in his vision of what is to come, describes the beast that "deceived the inhabitants of the earth" (Rev. 13:14).
Of course we already see much deception in the world including false religions and cults that distort the truth, and current culture which denies the reality of absolute truth. But even within the Church, there are growing signs of deception. Some who claim to be Christians are beginning to advocate routes of salvation other than through Jesus Christ alone. False teachers are at work within the Church, twisting doctrine to their own advantage for power and financial gain. We seem to have reached the time described by the Apostle Paul, "…when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear" (2 Tim. 4:3).
How do we guard against such deception? We must "stand firm and hold to the teachings" that have been passed on to us through God’s Word (2 Thes. 2:15). We must continue on in the "…holy Scriptures, which are able to make [us] wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:15-16). And, as the Apostle Peter exhorts, "be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…" (2 Pet. 3:17-18).
One of the primary ways to recognize what is counterfeit is to be thoroughly familiar with what is genuine. God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), and it is imperative in this season that we immerse ourselves in His Word. We must read it, study it, meditate upon it, and abide by its truth. If we do not ground ourselves in God’s Word, we will be susceptible to being "tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching" (Eph. 4:14). Like the Sadducees, we may find ourselves in error if we "do not know the Scriptures…" (Matt. 22:29). But if we devote ourselves to the "solid food" of God’s Word, we will be able "to distinguish good from evil" (Heb. 5:14). Of course, we also help protect others from error when we faithfully share the Word with them. Thus, Paul’s call to "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Tim. 4:2).
In addition to the protection that God’s Word gives us from deception, it also helps us understand the times in which we are living. Daniel, for example, writes that he "understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years" (Dan. 9:2). Jesus gave us the Book of Revelation through the Apostle John to show us "what must soon take place" (Rev. 1:1). Therefore, John writes that "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near" (Rev. 1:3). Of course, numerous other portions of God’s Word give us insight into what is to come. As we take this teaching to heart, we will be more alert and prepared both now and in the days ahead.
This is also a time to become very serious about sin. The writer of Hebrews points out that when Jesus appears, He "will bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him" (Heb. 9:28). Therefore, we can "encourage one another – and all the more as [we] see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:25). However, the writer goes on to issue this warning: "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God" (Heb. 10:26-27).
If you are flirting with sin, or if you have fallen into the practice of sin, now is the time to repent! Take to heart Jesus’ warnings in His letters to the churches in the Book of Revelation: "…I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you" (3:1-3); "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock…" (3:19-20).
The time is coming when the "heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare" (2 Pet. 3:10). In light of this, the Apostle Peter asks, "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?" He then answers that "You ought to live holy and godly lives" (2 Pet. 3:11). He goes on to state that since "we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" we should "make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him" (2 Pet. 3:13-14).
Likewise, the Apostle Paul, looking forward to the resurrection to come, admonishes: "Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning…" (1 Cor. 15:34). The Lord is righteous, and so we are to give up sin and "continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming" (1 John 2:28). We are "to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:12-14).
Be Faithful to the Lord’s Work
Bible passages about the end times emphasize the need to remain faithful to the responsibilities the Lord has entrusted to us until He returns. For example, in the context of His Second Coming, Jesus teaches, "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns" (Matt. 24:45-46; cf. Luke 12:42-43).
In a similar way, the Apostle Paul, also in the context of the Return of Christ, gives us this exhortation: "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain" (1 Cor. 15:58). And the Apostle Peter, stressing that "the end of all things is near," calls us to use whatever gifts we have received "to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms…" (1 Pet. 4:7, 10).
We should be very careful to not underestimate the value to our Lord of our day in and day out service, our obedience in the small things as well as the large things. The work He has entrusted to us is essential to His plan to reach the lost with salvation and to build up the Church. We must be faithful to that work! We are to "occupy" until He comes (Luke 19:13, KJV), "making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil" (Eph. 5:16).
Be Faithful in Prayer
We must also devote ourselves to prayer in these last days. As the Apostle Peter writes, "The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray" (1 Pet. 4:7). Jesus also emphasizes the importance of prayer in the context of end times: "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap…. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:34-36). Likewise, the Apostle Paul calls us to "be faithful in prayer" (Rom. 12:12), to "pray continually" (1 Thes. 5:17).
Why such emphasis on prayer? And why is particular emphasis given to the importance of prayer in these last days? Well, consider how great the needs are all around us and throughout the world, and match that with the types of things God does in response to prayer. For example, He helps us in times of trouble and temptation, He delivers us from our enemies, He sustains and strengthens us, He provides for us and protects us, He heals us and sanctifies us, He grants peace beyond understanding, He grants us favor with others, He reveals His will and guides us in it, He grants us wisdom and spiritual understanding, He helps us do what is right, He enables us to live worthy of Him and to fulfill His purposes, He empowers us for ministry, He takes away fear and gives us boldness, He opens doors for ministry, He sends out missionaries, He causes His message to spread and be honored, He forgives and saves, He brings spiritual growth and causes love to abound more and more, He enables us to stand firm in all the will of God, He diverts judgment, He performs miracles, and He pours out His Holy Spirit.
Are these not the very things the world is desperate for in this hour? No wonder the Lord calls us to prayer! We need, and others need, what God alone can give – and is eager to give in response to prayer. If you are already faithful in prayer, then press on, knowing that the prayers of the righteous are "powerful and effective" (James 5:16). Your prayers are of eternal consequence, impacting your life and the lives of others throughout the earth! If you are not faithful in prayer, it is time to wake up, lay aside the distractions of the world, and "devote [yourself] to prayer, being watchful and thankful" (Col. 4:2). Put into practice Paul’s admonition to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18).
While believers may vary in their understanding of the timing and sequence of end-time events, there is no question that the Lord calls us in these last days to be strong in His Word, to turn away from sin, and to be faithful in ministry and prayer. Jesus’ return draws near. "So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled" (1 Thes. 5:6).
One of the hopes of the ministry of Herald of His Coming is to help as many people as possible prepare for the return of Christ. To this end, the ministry is blessed to publish and distribute revival literature to encourage and strengthen members of the Church, and salvation literature to help the lost turn to Christ. Those of us in the Herald office express our appreciation to all of you who help with this work through your prayers, encouragement and financial gifts. Because of your support, the Lord’s message is reaching many precious souls, and we rejoice that His Word does not return to Him void, but accomplishes His desires and achieves His purposes (Isa. 55:11). May He give us the grace to continue to join together to freely share His message until He comes again!
Whether you are a longtime friend of this ministry, or a new friend, we hope to hear from you soon. You may write to:
Herald of His Coming
P.O. Box 279
Seelyville IN 47878