|Volume 22 Number 5 May 2020||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
There’s nothing like a catastrophic event to capture the imagination of people and fuel prognostications of fiery pulpiteers regarding the end of the world. The signs of the times are thought by many to signify the imminent return of Jesus Christ and end-times. These assumptions are based on a misunderstanding of or, in the case of religious leaders, sometimes the outright abuse of Scripture, namely Matthew 24:6-7. “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (NKJV).
Though the apostles did not realize it yet, they essentially asked Jesus Christ two different questions in Matthew 24. “…Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). They could not perceive of the massive Temple in Jerusalem being so utterly demolished that not one stone remained upon another except that the entire world would be destroyed also (Matthew 24:1-2). Nevertheless, our Lord answered the two questions posed by the apostles, first regarding the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and secondly about the end of time when Jesus’ Second Coming would occur.
It is important to observe that Jesus repeatedly cautioned His disciples not to be fooled by pretenders—false christs (Matthew 24:4-5), “false prophets” (Matthew 24:11) and “false christs and false prophets” (Matthew 24:24). It is as important in the 21st century for us not to be fooled by “false christs and false prophets.” “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
While Jesus answered the first of the two questions posed by His disciples, He referred to what people commonly call the signs of the times. However, notice that all of what Jesus said—including the signs of the times—was relative to the generation that was then living during the ministry of our Lord. “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34). Therefore, the signs of the times about which our Lord spoke pertained only to the first century and were only relative to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word “generation” as “the average span of time between the birth of parents and that of their offspring” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/generation). Hence, a generation is approximately 30 years (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation). Everything Jesus said about the signs of the times was to take place within about 30 years. Therefore, Jesus’ response to His apostles about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem was contained within the timeframe of about 30 years, and the signs of the times could have neither relevance nor application to happenings in the 21st century.
Every generation experiences “wars and rumors of wars,” sees “nation…rise against nation” and observes “famines, pestilences, and earthquakes.” Therefore, what Jesus said about the signs of the times could only refer to the generation living in the first century. Furthermore, our Lord’s elaboration about fleeing to the mountains (Matthew 24:16), a woman being pregnant or having infants (Matthew 24:19) and the Sabbath (Matthew 24:20) does not correspond to the Second Coming and the end of the world. Fleeing to the mountains at the Second Coming of Christ doesn’t make any sense; no one will be able to flee from our Lord to anywhere at His Second Coming. Being pregnant or having small children would not hinder anyone regarding the Second Coming. Further, what difference would it make were the Second Coming to occur on the Sabbath?
On the other hand, these matters do make sense when read within the context of Jesus answering the first question of His disciples, regarding the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. At the appearance of the approaching Roman army, Christians were to flee Jerusalem to avoid being caught up in the city’s impending overthrow. The haste with which Jesus said those fleeing should flee to the mountains could have reference only to escaping Jerusalem before it was besieged (Matthew 24:17-18). Pregnant women and families with small children would face difficulty in hastily fleeing an approaching horde of soldiers. If the Roman legions arrived on the Sabbath, the closure of the city gates by the Jews in the observance of the Law would greatly hinder anyone fleeing to the mountains.
“Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history” (Hedges). Wars and rumors of wars, etc. in Matthew 24 can only be relative to a particular generation—the first century—since every generation experiences them. Likewise, earthquakes and disease occur in every generation; a glance into history confirms this.
Even plagues of worldwide proportion have occurred from time to time:
Plainly, the current strain of coronavirus or COVID-19 is only the latest plague battering humanity among many diseases that historically have ravaged the human population regionally or globally. Therefore, COVID-19 is no more a sign of the Second Coming of Christ and of the end of the world than any previous pandemic, epidemic or plague. While answering the second question of the disciples regarding the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ, Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36). To illustrate that statement, our Lord related that people would be “…eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage…” (Matthew 24:38), working “in the field” (Matthew 24:40) and “grinding at the mill” (Matthew 24:41), as they were in Noah’s day, when our Lord returns (Matthew 24:37-41). Jesus plainly said regarding the end of the world and His Second Coming, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42) and “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).
Works Cited or Consulted
“1918 Pandemic (N1H1 virus).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC. 16 Apr 2020. <https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html>.
“1957-1958 Pandemic (H2N2).” CDC. 16 Apr 2020. <https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1957-1958-pandemic.html>.
“1968 Pandemic (H3N2 virus)”. CDC. 16 Apr 2020. <https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1968-pandemic.html>.
“2009 H1N1 Pandemic.” CDC. 16 Apr 2020. < https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/2009-h1n1-pandemic.html>.
Hedges, Chris. “What Every Person Should Know about War.” The New York Times. 6 Jul 2003. 16 Apr 2020. <https://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/06/books/chapters/what-every-person-should-know-about-war.html>.
Jarus, Owen. “20 of the Worst Epidemics and Pandemics in History.” Live Science. 16 Apr 2020. <https://www.livescience.com/worst-epidemics-and-pandemics-in-history.html>.
Merriam-Webster. 16 Apr 2020. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/>.
Walking with God
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). In my estimation, there is no better place to “see” the heart of God than through the Psalms. The Psalms, which fall into the poetry section of our Bibles, are made up of 150 Psalms, divided into 5 different books. The Hebrew word for Psalms means songs of praise, and many of the Psalms are just that. The entire 150 Psalms are thought to be composed over a 1,000-year period. While God is ultimately the Author (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21), He used several different human penmen to record His Words. David is attributed with writing 73 psalms in this collection, while Asaph, the sons of Korah, Solomon, Heman, Ethan and Moses are the other penmen of this great assortment. Each of the five books of the Psalms has a unique literary structure. Every book begins with our relationship to the Lord, and each book ends with a doxology (expression of praise) to the Lord. As we briefly note each of these five books, we shall see a unique place that God occupies in our everyday affairs.
Firstly, in Book 1 (Psalms 1-41), we see God beside us. A great example of this is found in Psalm 1. Here the man who walks beside God is like a “tree, planted by the rivers of water.” This man is flourishing, prospering and growing because he walks beside God. The last psalm in book 1 (Psalm 41) is another fitting example of God beside us. The one who daily “considers the poor” (Psalm 41:1) has the blessing of God walking beside him, which includes “preservation” (Psalm 41:2), “compassion” (Psalm 41:3-10) and salvation (Psalm 41:11-13).
Secondly, in Book 2 (Psalm 42-72), we see God before us. A notable example of this is found in Psalm 46. Even if “the earth be removed” (Psalm 46:2), God is still God! It is He that goes before us in trials and turmoil. It is God that is always there, even amid horrific circumstances. Following God, we will always find help (Psalm 46:1). Psalm 72 is a Psalm from Solomon, but is certainly a Messianic Psalm, wherein Solomon, by inspiration’s pen, saw God planning and preparing the time when all of mankind can serve God (Psalm 72:11). It is a time when all of the earth will see the wonderful planning of God in redemption and this terrestrial ball will be filled with His glory (Psalm 72:19). We are so blessed today to see this plan unfolded in its entirety!
Thirdly, in Book 3 (Psalm 73-89), we see God around us. Psalm 78 is a psalm of Asaph, wherein he recounts the history of Israel and demonstrates how God has been at work the entire time. He encourages Israel to retell these wonders to the next generation and even unto the children which had not yet been born (Psalm 78:6). What a lesson for us today. We must share with others, beginning in our homes, the mighty deeds that God has performed! Psalm 89 continues this same idea of proclaiming God’s greatness to everyone (Psalm 89:1), which greatness is clearly seen in God blessing mankind with His Son, the seed of David (Psalm 89:35-36), and then, this book closes with adoration and praise for the Anointed One, Jesus Christ!
Fourthly, in Book 4 (90-106), we see God above us. Psalm 90, a psalm of Moses (the only psalm that Moses is credited with penning), is a psalm wherein God is shown to be eternal and everlasting, but man’s life upon this earth, in contrast, is shown to be very brief. Psalm 106 wonderfully closes with the doxology of God, Who is, “everlasting to everlasting” (Psalm 106:48). Amen!
Fifthly, in Book 5 (107-150), we see God among us. Of course, nowhere do we see God among us more than Psalm 119, where His Word is our guide and stay. One can never be “among God” unless His Word is among him or her as well. Psalm 119 is a beautiful acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet, which contains 22 letters. Each 8-verse stanza begins with a corresponding Hebrew letter. Psalm 119 is a great treatise on the Law of God. Psalm 128 is another splendid example of God among us. When God is among our homes, our families are blessed (“wife as a fruitful vine;” “children as olive plants about thy table,” Psalm 128:3). Then, this book closes with a Psalm of praise (Psalm 150) extolling God for His “power” (v. 1), for His “mighty acts” (v. 2) and concludes with the call for everything that has breath to praise the Lord (v. 6).
Walking with God is a choice that each must make. To walk with God means that we obey His Word. Surely one of the remarkable things we see in the Psalms is reverence for God, both for His blessings and for His Book. May we each deeply drink of the wonderful treasures that are ours to behold within the Psalms, and may we each daily walk with God!