Last Days Living • Part 1

It is the 16th of June, 2023 as I pen this, the middle of so-called “Pride Month,” an international celebration of LGBTQIA+.
I recently returned from leading a tour of Israel. Our first day was spent in Tel Aviv where the rainbow pride flag was on full display. Here in the United States, the pride flag adorns store windows, corporate websites, State and Federal buildings; even branches of the Military. Professional sports sponsor special Pride Nights, honoring LGBTQIA+ organizations with community service awards, even when those organizations engage in public lewdness and grotesquely mock The Gospel.
The reaction has been varied and mixed. Some have called for a general boycott of businesses that have jumped on the Pride Parade. Others make a quiet, personal decision to take their dollars elsewhere. Then there are the many who shrug their shoulders, saying, “So what? Who cares?”
A few well-known Church leaders have taken public stands against Pride Month events, mobilizing their churches by saying followers of Jesus must boycott LGBTQIA+ affirming businesses. Leaders who won’t take such a stand are branded as “gutless cowards.” Some of them may be. OR, maybe they have chosen what they regard as a more Biblical and Christ-consistent path.
The first email in my inbox this morning was from a precious brother who has spent the past year seeking to obey God as closely as he is able. The joy and sense of God’s presence he enjoys is indescribable and God has showered great favor on him. His commitment to a careful obedience is challenged by Pride Month. He worries that shopping at a store displaying a pride flag dishonors God. He asked for counsel. His email confirmed a thought I awoke to – that I ought to pen an article on how we ought to live today - that is, in what is likely to be the Last Days.

ARE These the Last Days?

Are these the Last Days? Is this the End Times?
Without getting too technical, the Last Days commenced with the ascension of Christ after His death and Resurrection.[1] It has been “the Last Days” for two-thousand years because there has been no change in God’s plan since Jesus’ ascension and the Day of Pentecost ten days later.
Think of history as a line moving across a gently rising landscape. That line moves through major events in God’s Redemptive plan; Noah, Abraham, the Exodus, King David. Then something happens to the line as it passes through the Incarnation of Christ. With Jesus’ ascension, the line reaches a towering cliff. Instead of proceeding up the cliff, it makes a 90-degree turn and travels along the base of the cliff for two-thousands years. At some point that line ends with the end of human history as we know it. Christ will come and the kingdoms of Man will end in the Kingdom of God.
Technically, the Last Days began two-thousand years ago when the New Covenant went into effect. They will end when Jesus comes to take possession of that which rightly belongs to Him because of His redemptive work. Earth is in escrow. It has been for the last two millennia. For the sake of convenience, let’s refer to this technical meaning of the Last Days as the Church-Age.
The popular meaning of the Last Days is that period foretold in Scripture marked by there-to-fore unseen upheaval in the social, political, economic, environmental, and religious realms. For most people “the Last Days” is the tail end of the Church-Age.
The upheaval of the Last Days reaches a crescendo in what is known as The Tribulation (maybe better than “crescendo” would be “abyss”). We at Calvary Chapel believe the Rapture of the Church takes place before the Tribulation. BUT! We do not believe it will be “rainbows and unicorns” right up to the beginning of the Tribulation, then it all goes to hell overnight. The Tribulation will merely be the consummation of global trends that have been in place long before it begins.
The first half of the Tribulation will be a time of seeming peace and prosperity as the antichrist moves to secure power. His ability to accomplish that is what garners him wide-spread support. As 2 Thessalonians 2:5-12 makes clear, the Holy Spirit’s restraint on evil will be removed. The evil that comes forth won’t begin as social chaos. It’s more subtle than that. It will be manifested in God turning the world over to what it has wanted ever since Adam and Eve turned from Him in Eden. Rebel Man has wanted a world without God so he could fill that space. The first half of the Tribulation is God giving humanity what it wants – a world without His intervention. It gets what it has always aspired to – a man who seems to demonstrate the powers of deity. Read up on his career in 2 Thessalonians.
The antichrist turns out not to be the savior he pretends to be. He’s Satan’s beachhead on Planet Earth who in the last half of the Tribulation unleashes destruction.
Back to our original question. Are these the Last Days?
The debate among Christians over this is fierce and will not be resolved here. What I can say is that as I have studied what the Bible says about what the world will be like in the first half of the Tribulation, all the trends are in place that will reach their climax then. The social, economic, political, and religious realms are like a stage all set for the curtain to rise. I see no major piece that needs to be installed.
Scoffers mock such expectation and talk. They level the charge that some have claimed to be living in the End Times for centuries. Indeed they have. We can even make the case that the Apostles of the First Century thought they lived in the Last Days. Paul seemed to think so and by the technical meaning of the Last Days, they were living in them. But it was their expectation of Jesus’ Return we ought to take note of. The Apostles understood something the scoffers ignore. Jesus was clear – His followers were to live as though He could return at any moment. Remember, with His ascension, history runs along the edge of its consummation. It is no longer running toward it. In truth, Jesus could return at any moment of the last two-thousand years. That is the way He wants us to live – with that expectation. It is why He said, “Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Luke 12:40
The Apostles weren’t wrong to expect Jesus’ return; they were obedient. They understood that to be obedient to the call to “be ready,” expectation was necessary.
Peter calls out the scoffers who mock an expectation of Christ’s return when he writes,

Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle … that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water …

Peter then refers to God’s judgment of a wicked world in the Flood of Noah’s day.
The Bible tells us what the Last Days will be like, not so we would ignore the signs, but to recognize them and be heightened in our expectancy of Christ’s Return. As I said, all the trends that will reach their climax in the Tribulation are in place in our time and moving rapidly toward their end. The evidence strongly suggests that the Tribulation is close. That means the Rapture is even closer.
But, and to the point of this article, we ought not expect things will be easy in the days before the Rapture, then it all falls apart immediately after. God’s people ought to expect the trends that crescendo in the Tribulation will plague them before that time of testing arrives.
We already are.

Next Time

In Part 2, we will consider some practical ways Jesus’ Followers ought to live in a world growing increasingly hostile and dark.
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