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Have the Times of the Gentiles Passed

Author: Ray C. Stedman

It is great for me to be back here with you after vacation time and conference ministry that I have had in the Northwest during these last two or three weeks.  It is wonderful to hear what God has been doing here in my absence.  I want to speak tonight on the question that is on the lips of almost every thoughtful student of the Bible these days.  Wherever I go I find someone, sooner or later, poses a particular question and it is of such wide interest that I felt it might be helpful if we would discuss it a bit together.  I do want to make it, if I can, a discussion period.  Not only will I speak on this subject, but I hope to close with a question and answer time or discussion time on the general themes of prophetic significance. 

We set aside these Sunday summer evening meetings for a look at the word of God in its prophetic aspect, all of which has been highlighted for us so tremendously by the sweep of world events in the Middle East these last few days and weeks.  They still occupy intense interest on the part of the whole world today.  What is God doing in this corner of world that has been the focus of so much history through the sweep of the centuries?  What is he doing in our day and what does the Bible have to say about this?  The question I would like particularly to attempt to answer tonight is the question that arises out of the Israeli takeover of the old city of Jerusalem and especially the temple site.  It is the question:  “Have the times of the Gentiles run their course?  Have the times of the Gentiles been fulfilled?”

The Lord Jesus, in the twenty-first chapter of Luke, is recorded as having prophesied that “Jerusalem would be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”(Luke 21:24 RSV)  Many today are asking that question:  “Have we seen the actual accomplishment of that prediction?”  Does the takeover of the old city and the temple site in Jerusalem mean that the times of the Gentiles have indeed been fulfilled?  I would like to come to grips with that question tonight because I know many are asking it and I have been asking it myself and I found it necessary to do some intensive searching of the Scriptures in attempting to answer that most fascinating question. 

I found one thing.  I found that in the unfolding of the events of history, even though they fall within the general prophetic program of God, it is still necessary for us to adjust a bit some of the predictions that we have made.  We can make these adjustments quite honestly and earnestly, as we see these prophetic events actually unfold.  Now this is not a new problem.  I am sure the Jews in the days of Our Lord on the earth and even the disciples, as they saw unfolded before their eyes the fulfillment of many of the great Old Testament predictions of the first coming of Jesus Christ, had to revise some of their ideas about this. They had to fill in the gaps and had to make some changes in what they thought was going to take place.  This is quite evident from the New Testament because many of them were way off base, way out in left field, as far as their understanding of what would happen.  You recall how the Lord in his ministry was continually running into people who said, “Are you not now going to do this, and this, and this?”  Even the disciples said, after the resurrection, “Are you now going to restore the kingdom unto Israel?” [Acts 1:6] since they thought this was the next step in the predicted program of God.  The Lord had to correct them with the admonition:  “The times and the seasons are not for you to know, but the Father has put them in his own power.”  However, he went on to say, “Power shall be given unto you after the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witnesses of me unto all the world, unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”  Now this is therefore necessary as we are seeing the culmination of events in the program of God.  If it be true indeed, as it looks very much like it is true, that we are seeing some remarkable fulfillments of long-predicted events, especially centering around Israel, we can expect that some of our ideas may undergo some change. 

I think this is what is happening with regard to this phrase“the times of the Gentiles.”  As I have read through prophetic books by Bible students and prophetic authors over many years, I think almost invariably all of them have associated this phrase, “the times of the Gentiles”with the great vision recorded in the second chapter of the book of Daniel.  I myself have done this also.  Nebuchadnezzar the king had a vision of a great image with a head of gold, shoulders of silver, thighs of brass and legs of iron with feet of iron mingled with clay.  In the interpretation of that vision, Daniel the prophet said to the king that this would be the predicted course of the history of the world following Nebuchadnezzar’s day.  Beginning with him and following, there would be four great world empires that would run their course upon the pages of history.  These have been literally fulfilled exactly as Daniel had predicted. 

In the interpretation of that vision the king was told that in the dream he had seen a stone cut out of a mountain without hands which would fall from heaven and hit the image at its feet and would break the whole image and all these empires would come crumbling down to the ground.  The stone would then grow into a great mountain that would fill the whole earth.  The king was told by Daniel that this was a kingdom that God would set up in the days of the kings represented by the ten toes on the image - the ten kingdom confederacy of the last days.  This kingdom would be a kingdom which God would erect among the nations, headed, as we know from the New Testament, by Christ himself.  His kingdom will fill the whole earth and accomplish God’s purpose.  Most prophetic students have linked the phrase,“the times of the Gentiles” with the course of that image. 

It began with Nebuchadnezzar, the great Gentile king, who was first given the right to have sovereignty and supremacy over the people of Israel.  It was Nebuchadnezzar who, in 586 B.C., came in and captured Jerusalem and took Israel into its first captivity.  For seventy years they were held captive in the nation of Babylon, until the time of Daniel when they returned to Jerusalem after a seventy-year captivity.  They first returned as little straggling remnant headed by Ezra, then another group headed by Nehemiah, and others came back in other little groups until the city was at last reoccupied.  The walls were rebuilt, the Temple was rebuilt and Jerusalem again was made to be a livable city.  However, it was still under the sovereignty of a Gentile power and it never came out from under the sovereignty of those Gentile powers until June 7, 1967.  For the first time, in well over 2000 years, (almost 2500 years of history) the nation of Israel had undisputed sovereignty over the old city of Jerusalem.  Now that is a very significant event.  If nothing else were ever to occur in our day other than that, we could say we had seen a most interesting and a most significant, singular development in the taking over of the Old City for the first time by the Jews as a sovereign nation. 

Now does this mean that the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled by that event?  If we link the phrase“the times of the Gentiles” with the great image that Daniel saw then the answer is no. According to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar as interpreted by Daniel, the times of the Gentiles or the season of the Gentile empires would end by the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, by the second return of Jesus Christ.  That is why today many Bible students are quite reluctant to say that the times of the Gentiles have indeed ended by the taking over of the city of Jerusalem, despite the fact that it was the Lord Jesus himself who said, “Jerusalem shall trodden down of the Gentilesuntilthe times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”  How do you reconcile this apparent discrepancy and what is the explanation?  The attempt to answer that question drove me back to my Bible and I tried to exhaustively examine again some of these great issues.

I found some interesting things.  I focused upon this phrase,“the times and the seasons” which Our Lord mentions inActs 1:7 and which is also referred to by the apostle Paul in First Thessalonians, the fifth chapter.  He says: “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you.” (1 Thes. 5:1 RSV)  What did Our Lord mean when he said “The times and the seasons are not for you to know.”?  Particularly what are these divisions, times and seasons?  I began to investigate the meaning of this from the actual Greek words. Times is the wordchronos (orchronoi in the plural) from which we get words like chronology, chronometer and other instruments and sub-sciences that have to do with time.  The wordseasons is the wordkairos(orkairoiin the plural).  These words have very distinct and different meanings.  I found that the word time simply refers to the succession of moments, to duration.  It is just a period of time, marked out and it has reference to the length of that period, whether it be a few years, a few moments or a few decades or centuries.  These can be called a time.  The word is used in Galatians when it says,“When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his son, made of a women, born under the Law.”  [Galatians 4:4] It simply refers to the succession of moments, to the length of time in which any event may occur.

The wordseasons has to do more with the character of what is happening during that time.  We use the word in this way in our own English vocabulary.  We speak of the four seasons of the year:  summer, fall, winter and spring.  In each of these seasons something different is occurring.  A different mode of life prevails.  Certain human activities are restricted to various seasons.  We have the winter and summer sports seasons, the harvest season, the planting season, all of these relating to the various divisions of the year that are commonly known as seasons.  They are characterized by something that is going on during that time.  These are divisions of times and relate to the characterization of that which is occurring within it. 

I discovered something interesting concerning the use of these two words by the great authority on New Testament words, Bishop Trench.  He compares these two words.  He also points out that thattime is simply a word expressing duration, limited to no particular length of time but simply meaning the number of moments, ages or years in which an event occurs.  And then he stated something that I found to be most interesting.  Theseasons (or thekairoi), he said, are the joints or articulations in these times, the critical epoch-making periods, foreordained by God, when all that has been slowly and often without observation ripening through all the long ages is mature and comes to birth in grand, decisive events which constitute at once the close of one period and the commencement of another. 
In view of some of the grand decisive events that we have been seeing in the Near East, this was most significant to me.  Bishop Trench wrote in the nineteenth century, long before any of these things were happening.  He went on to refer to certain events of Christianity as seasons of this nature.  The pronouncement by Constantine making Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire constituted the end of a season and the beginning of another.  The rise of the Protestant Reformation constituted a season within the times of the gentiles in which a great and significant event came into being.  One epoch closed and another one began and later on ran its course and then closed and another began. 

When Our Lord uses the term “the times of the Gentiles” the word he employs is really theseasons of the Gentiles, thekairoi of the Gentiles.  He said, “Jerusalem shall be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles”, which is a phrase that obviously signifies sovereignty and supremacy.  Jerusalem would be under Gentile domination and control until the seasons of the Gentiles have run their course, have been fulfilled. 

Any student of history looking across the centuries recognizes various seasons the nations have had.  We can recognize times when God has moved in a quieting way in human history with seasons of rest, refreshment and enjoyment that have come upon the earth.  The nineteenth century was a season like that, when for a time men thought they were solving all their problems.  I remember even as early as the first two decades of this century that men still thought that way.  I can remember during my childhood the atmosphere of optimism that still widely prevailed.  Even after World War I, men thought that they were on the verge of solving all the great problems which mankind had been confronted with and that we were on the edge of a golden age that would soon dawn with peace, prosperity and plenty for all.  Some of you who are older can recall how there was an excitement, an attitude of anticipation that ran throughout the earth.  During those days men really thought we were in a time when we were right on the verge of rushing in the millennium by virtue of man’s efforts.  Then the dark days of the Depression hit, followed by the catastrophic blows of World War II and the nations seemed to go out of their minds with a madness that pervaded the earth.  Men were at one another’s throats in the greatest war history has ever known and all men’s beautiful golden dreams were shattered in the blood, sweat and tears of World War II.  You hardly hear anyone talk with that kind of optimism anymore.  Now a great despair grips people’s hearts all over the world.  The violence that stalks our cities’ streets has made our President this very week set aside today as a day of prayer.  It is almost unprecedented in American history that the President would call for national prayer in the face of an emergency like we are facing in our country today.  All of this, coming hard on the heels of the greatest catastrophe and convulsion the world has ever seen, has served to dispel all the fatuous dreams of man’s accomplishments and they are long forgotten.  We moved from the season of peace into the season of controversy and of war. 

This has occupied the whole course of gentile history.  There has been the rise and fall of nations, of kingdoms and of empires, coming to their zeniths and reigning for a brief time and then fading out of the picture.  Then another great world power would come onto the scene, move in and take over with its variation of civilization, leaving its imprint upon the nations.  Then it would also fade out.  All the time in this great convulsion of the nations of the earth there come what the New Testament calls “perilous times.”  The apostle Paul predicted this.  He said perilous times shall come in these last days.  Unfortunately many Bible students read that as though he meant the“last days”as only the final days before the Lord returns.  However, any careful study of the New Testament will show that the “last days” began with the coming of Jesus Christ to earth and we have been in the period called the last days ever since that time.  It has stretched now for almost two thousand years.  What the apostle says is that in these last days repeated cycles of perilous times will come, characterized by men being lovers of their own selves, trucebreakers, fatuous, violent, and cruel, etc. 

We are going through one of those seasons now.  If we adopt Our Lord’s phrase referring to these seasons, then what he meant when he said that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times (the seasons) of the Gentiles be fulfilled is clear.  It is simply that when Jerusalem was recaptured by Israel and the temple site again came under the sovereign domination of a nation of Jews, this would be the last of the seasons marked out for the Gentile nations.  This would mark the end of their appointed seasons and Gentile supremacy would run its final course and, as we have predicted in various sections of the scriptures, would express itself in a terrible blasphemous exaltation of man that would find symbolic expression in the glorifying of a man in the Temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem.  Paul calls him“the man of sin” in 2 Thessalonians 2,“who shall be revealed, who will exalt himself above all other gods”and who will offer himself as God in that temple.(2Thes. 2:3-4)  This is what the Lord Jesus referred to in Matthew 24 when he says: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet,”(and Matthew adds in parenthesis let him who reads understand – that means search your scriptures, read the book of Daniel the prophet and you will know what he is talking about) “standing in the holy place (as Daniel the prophet predicted),”  then you know that you are in the last of the seasons of the Gentiles. (Matthew 24:15 RSV)  That is the mark.  It isn’t the thing that begins this season.  It is simply the characteristic mark of it, which identifies it as being the culmination of all the blasphemous systems that have underlain the philosophies and religions of man, that man is his own god.  This exaltation and deification of man is the crowning characterization of the last of the seasons, the seasons of the Gentiles being fulfilled. 

If this is the case, then it means that we have approached and entered into what Daniel calls “the time of the end.”  Events will move with rather frightening rapidity and the course of human events will find their culmination as outlined in the prophetic program of God.  We can expect the fulfillment of God’s promise to his own, reiterated again and again throughout the New Testament.  His promise to the Church that he will come and receive them unto himself will be fulfilled.  It will be in an appearing to the church, which is distinguished by the use of a peculiar word, theparousia, the presence of Christ.  It is my personal conviction that this presence of Christ will take a form very much like the post-resurrection ministry of Our Lord.  That is, he will be present with his own, appearing and disappearing as he did in those forty days after the resurrection.  He was with the disciples from time to time and they never knew when he was going to appear.  It culminated at last in the ascension into heaven. 

It is also my personal conviction that the prophetic program will begin with a sudden (like a thief in the night) appearing of the Lord Jesus for his own, when the words of Paul are fulfilled:  “The Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, and the dead in Christ shall rise first.  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” (1 Thes.4:16-17 RSV)  I don’t believe that means that we are transported off to some other planet or some place in space.  I have come to see that the heavens is a wonderful way the Bible has in referring to the realm of invisible realities.  I do not mean it isn’t a place, it definitely is a place – it is all places, really – but it is what we would refer to as another dimension of life – a fourth, sixth or tenth dimension which we are not able to enter into as three-dimensional creatures.  In that dimension, which is everywhere, unseen and invisible, we are constantly surrounded by a spiritual kingdom which is making its effect felt in the realm of visible realities.  As Paul puts it, it includes even the dark powers –“We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and wicked spirits enthroned in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12 RSV)  This is where our battles lies and this is the explanation of what is happening in life and world history.  Our newspapers reflect the mere external amplification of these forces that move behind the scenes.  If we want an understanding of them we have to recognize the existence of this other dimension of life.  It is into this dimension that we pass when the Lord comes for his own and it is very likely that the Church in that capacity will be here present on earth, with the Lord during all the days of the Great Tribulation which is to come to try those that dwell upon the face of the earth.  We will be ministering behind the scenes to God’s people, the Jews, and to the great band of Gentiles that will believe the Jew’s message as they herald forth the gospel in the terrible days of tribulation. 

That is the last season of the Gentiles, the time when Gentile power reaches its zenith.  The underlying philosophy of Gentile supremacy and the exaltation of man will find its symbolic expression in the man of sin at the temple in Jerusalem.  All the terrible dark powers of earth will be unleashed and the Holy Spirit will no longer be operating as a restraining force among the nations of men.  A tide of evil will be loosed upon the earth.  The dam that has held back the terrible powers of human evil will be taken away and there will come a great flood of violence, revolt, rebellion and wickedness accompanied by the judgments of God as detailed inMatthew 24 - 25, the prophecies ofDaniel and the book ofRevelation

Does this help in our understanding of where we are?  I cannot say for sure.  Any prophetic student must always recognize the fact that we are not able to set dates and we don’t want to do that.  Jesus said it is wrong to do so.  But we can certainly read the signs of the times.  He encouraged us to do that so we might know when we are approaching that time of times when the end shall come as all the prophets have long predicted when the patience of God is at last exhausted and he no longer puts up with the terrible God-defying blasphemies of men.  Then he will begin to move in divine judgment upon the earth.

Are we approaching that time?  Well, it is highly significant that Jesus would say Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the end of the seasons appointed for Gentile supremacy will come to their final fulfillment.  When that begins Jerusalem shall be in the hands of the Jews once again.  It is necessary, of course, that the Jews be there, a temple must be rebuilt, agreements must be made with other nations and the land of Palestine must blossom like a rose.  As any visitors to Israel can see, this has already taken place.  It is a land as beautiful, as cultivated, as productive and as fruitful as California.  That is saying about as much as could ever be said about any land. 

All of this brings us to focus in upon that one phrase of Our Lord – the times of the Gentiles, the seasons appointed to the Gentiles shall be fulfilled.  This is the last season when man shall stalk in pride and power throughout the earth.  This is the last opportunity for man to vaunt himself against the love and grace of God and to defy the movements of the Almighty in the earth.  This is the season when at last man’s pride and arrogance shall be brought under the judging hand of God that all men may see that God at last calls for a reckoning.  His love waits in uttermost patience for centuries hoping that man will repent.  As Paul puts it in Romans, “the goodness of God leadeth unto repentance.” [Romans 2:4]

Some of us wonder why God has delayed so long.  How can he put up with some of the things that have been going on for centuries?  Peter answered by saying that we should not count the delay of God as men count it, but we must remember that God is long-suffering, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  When these things begin to come to pass upon the face of the earth, it is only that God might again awaken men to fact that he hasn’t been kidding, that he has been telling men the truth.  Life is the way that he says it is and judgment always follows the breaking of God’s rules.  His love waits to wash, cleanse, redeem and set men free.  The hunger of God, asDr. Mitchell so beautifully put it, is for fellowship with men, but with men who have been washed, cleansed and delivered from the damning forces that would wreck, mutilate, destroy and ravage men’s lives. 

These are the forces we see loosed on the face of the earth tonight and perhaps we have reached the end.  This is what our study seems to suggest.

[Cannot hear questions.]

Answer 1:  Both of the answers to those two questions come from the book of Daniel.  In the 11th chapter you’ll find reference to the time of the end.  This is a biblical term.  Daniel also tells us:  “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book even to the time of the end.  Many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased.”  This is suggestive of the rapid increase of knowledge and of transportation in the end times.  This of course has speeded up the whole program of human life.  We’re constantly marveling at this.  Things are being accomplished now in a decade that took centuries to equal in the progress of man before this time.  We can see the frightening speedup of events in our own day in every realm of life. 

Answer 2:  Aside from the fact that King Hussein has not taken me into his confidence on this, I would just simply comment that there is a reference in closing chapters of the book of Ezekiel, the 48th or 49th chapter.  The gate which opens to the east from the temple area would be reserved only for the coming of the Messiah.  This prophecy has been linked with the bricking up of the golden gate, which was known in the Lord’s day as the Beautiful Gate of the temple.  It was at that gate that the lame man was healed as Peter and John went up to the temple at the hour of prayer.  In the third century of our era this gate was bricked up and has been bricked up ever since.  No one has ever succeeded in taking it down and I don’t think King Hussein is going to either.  This isn’t a direct biblical prophecy as such, but there is a suggestion that this gate is reserved for the entrance of the Messiah into the temple area and it is interesting that it has remained closed for all these centuries.  If it opens up, you’d better get ready to go. 

Answer 3:  When you say before Christ returns, you have to distinguish between his appearing to the world in general and his return for the church.  Before he returns for the church there are no events that need to be fulfilled.  This can take place at any moment and could have all along.  There has never been anything that would delay his return for his church.  But once having come for his own, there are quite a significant number of events that need to take place:  the revealing of the man of sin in the temple, the breaking of a covenant with the Jews that was made by him concerning the use of the land of Palestine, the invasion by Russia from the north, the destruction of the Russian army in the mountains of Israel, and many other predicted events.  All this happens before his return in glory.

Answer 4:  I askedDr. G. Douglas Young of the American Institute of Holy Land Studies who has a school located on Mount Zion right outside the walls of Jerusalem on the place where David’s tomb is located.  I asked him if he had heard anything about this among the Jews.  He said no; he had heard rumors and this is all I’ve heard.  These rumors have been extant for a long time, that the temple has already been prefabricated and ready to be put up at a moment’s notice, but nothing has come of this yet and I just can’t answer whether it’s mere rumor or that there’s something to it. 

Answer 5:  Most Bible students link this cleansing of Israel, which is the judgment of the nation, with the time of the Great Tribulation that Our Lord mentions inMatthew 24.  The reason for that is inDaniel 12, verse 1 where Daniel was told at that time Michael shall stand up – “the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people” – that’s Michael the archangel who is associated with the people of Israel and “there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.”  Now that seems to be identifiable with those words of Our Lord when he said:  “Then shall be great tribulation such as never been since the creation of the world.” (It must be the same period.)  “And at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book.”  This is called in Jeremiah “the time of Jacob’s trouble” when Israel passes through its most terrible period.  This is very sobering when we think of what happened to this nation under Hitler with six million Jews killed in the gas chambers of Germany and then we realize that their worst time is yet ahead.  You can see what a terrible time this will be.  “For behold in those days and in that time when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem I will also gather all nations and bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat and will judge them there for my people and for my heritage Israel whom they have scattered among the nations and parted my land.”  Now this the judgment of the nations.  This follows the judgment of Israel and I take it as associated with Our Lord’s words inMatthew 25 when he says, “When the Son of Man shall come in his glory with all his holy angels with him, then shall he sit on his throne and all nations shall be gathered before him and then shall he say to those on his right hand, ‘Enter into the joy of the Lord, for when you saw me sick and in prison…you visited me.’ And those on the left hand, ‘Depart into judgment…’”  This is the judgment of the sheep and the goats.

Answer 6:  This again brings us back to the comment I made at the opening.  In the prophetic scriptures we have highlights given where sometimes events seem to be associated together when in fact they may in their fulfillment have a brief or even a lengthy period of time in between them.  You have this in the case of the coming of Christ.  His first and second coming are identified in the Old Testament without being separated.  That is why the Jews when he first came expected him to come in glory because they saw only that part and they did not want to see the predictions of suffering.  We now know that these are separated by a vast period of time.  Some of the events that seem to link together here may well be separated.  They are tied together because they are identical in purpose and they have an underlying connection that ties them together but they may be separated somewhat in time. 

Answer 7:  I think that the word season applies over a somewhat extended period of time.  It isn’t just a mere point of time and as such this is the beginning of the last season of Gentile supremacy.  It doesn’t mean that the Gentiles are completely through as of now.  It just means that they have now entered upon their last opportunity to reign as Gentile nations in the range of government committed to unbelieving men.  This is their last time to do so.

Answer 8:  Yes, I really think there is division in Israel, but it’s amazing how strongly conservative Judaism dominates much of the life of that nation.  You only have to be there on Shabbat to know that.  They close up everything.  Even though much of Israel is liberal in its outlook, the conservatives pretty well dominate the customs of the country and they are very much interested in rebuilding the temple.  It is very significant to watch the developments in the Far East as well as the Near East these days.  The only reference in the scripture to the developments in the Far East is rise of the great army that will come out of the east into Israel in the last days.  It is called the army of the kings of the east inRevelation 16.  Brief as it is, this suggests certain things about China.  It seems to suggest that China will never succeed in its attempt to industrialize itself and become an industrial, highly civilized nation as we think of in terms of western industry.  China will resort at last to developing its truly great resource which is manpower.  There will be probably continual turmoil and upset within the Chinese government that will keep it from taking a leading part in the world powers.  I remember about seven or eight years ago, long before there was even the hint of a breach between China and Moscow, a prediction that this would be the case.  China would be involved in inward turmoil that would keep it from actually exercising much of an influence in world affairs.  Up to date that has certainly proved to be true.

In conclusion, there certainly is no question whatsoever that we’re living in very remarkable days.  Again we need to hear the words of Our Lord about these days.  It’s easy to get so wrapped up in curiosity about world events and prophecy that we lose the import of it.  However, the Lord was careful to bring this home to his disciples.  Again and again he said it:  Watch! Watch what kind of people you are these days.  Watch and pray, he said, that you enter not into temptation.  For these are days that are going to try men’s souls.  These are days when that which can be shaken will be shaken.  Much that we have regarded as being solid and dependable is being upset on every side today.  Long-standing morals and standards that we have taken for granted for years are now being challenged and overthrown on every side.  The temptation to go along with these movements of revolt and rebellion will increasingly mount in the days ahead.  These are days when we need to watch and be careful and occupy until he comes, not just fold your hands and put up your guard and try to be on the defensive.  Be busy for the Lord.  That’s the greatest defense of all; occupying until he comes not in gloom and despair, but rejoicing.  Wringing your hands at the terrible events of the day is the worst kind of Christian testimony.  Obey the Lord when he says, “Lift up your heads and rejoice, for the day of your redemption is at hand.”  A people with peace in their hearts, smiles on their faces and grace on their lips in these days will stand out as a testimony to the grace of God in the midst of a generation that is gripped by despair and frustration.


Thank you, Our Father, for these remarkable words that challenge our investigation and that hide so much truth that can be found by searching.  Lord, we pray that we may be royal individuals who will search these things out.  For you have said that it is the glory of God to conceal a thing and the glory of kings to search it out.  We pray that we may search the scriptures that we may know what is happening in our day and be able to give a word of reassurance to those whose hopes are rapidly fading as all that they built upon and all that they thought was stable is being overthrown in these days.  We ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen.