Week 18 (May)
I'm not old enough to remember Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin being labeled as the Antichrist. But I'm told it was done by a lot of sincere Christians.
Years have gone by and history has proved those speculations to be wrong. The three men have long since died. That should teach us something. There is danger in attempting to equate with certainty specific current events and the biblical signs of the Second Coming such as Jesus gives us in Luke 21. [ essay on Matthew 24:14 ]
Dogmatic interpretations of prophecy which later prove erroneous can destroy our credibility with others. Such mistaken dogmatism can even eventually dull the keen edge of our own expectancy of Christ's return.
Attempting to foretell the future by interpreting current events is not, of course, a disease peculiar to the Church. In his library, my father-in-law had a book titled How to Prepare for the Coming Crash. Published in 1971, that book insisted that a worldwide conspiracy of bankers was going to force us into a chaotic economic depression in 1972 and no later than 1973. What happened? Well, the author read the signs wrong.
That people who try to foretell the future make such bad guesses need not prevent us from thinking about the end times. We are certain that Christ is coming again. And His coming is imminent, although we cannot necessarily be certain that it is immediate.
While we were on our first home assignment during missionary service in Italy, a couple of people asked me: "Since you live in the Mediterranean area, aren't you able to see quite clearly the fulfillment of many end-time prophecies?"
I must confess that I do not spend a lot of time trying to match news reports with prophetic passages in the Bible. Sure, when books by Hal Lindsay and Salem Kirban were popular, I read some of their stuff. But I don't share their apparent confidence in being able to exactly match up newspaper headlines with biblical prophecies.
Really, I'm not even capable of arguing a definitive position in the pre- and post-millennialist controversy that was so strongly contested by some early leaders of the Church of the Nazarene.
What then should be our attitude toward the end times and the Second Coming of Christ? Well, first of all, Jesus is coming again. That is definite. And I anticipate it with hope and joy.
Then Jesus seems to be saying in the account in Luke 21 that we should not let the worsening of world conditions get us down. Jesus said things would get bad, but that's the time to "lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28).
The most important effect the biblical teaching on the Second Coming has on me is not the ability it gives me to spin elaborate theories and construct timetables. Rather, it is in the incentive it gives me for holy living. In fact, in Luke 21, Jesus tells us that we should so live as to be "accounted worthy...to stand before the Son of Man" in the end time.
Jesus is coming again. When? I don't know. But I do want to be worthy!
I wrote these devotional thoughts while we were serving as missionaries in Italy. They originally appeared in the May 4, 1980 edition of Standard, a take-home piece for adult Sunday school classes.
Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132
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