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Are we living in the Last Days?

By: Scott Morton

There seems to be a lot of confusion on this topic over the last few months. Many people have been thinking about the last days, as there have been predictions of when the Rapture is going occur. There is also the talk of December 2012 and this being the prophesied end of the world. The Apostle Paul talks about the things of the end of this dispensation:

2 Timothy 3:1-9

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. [2] For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, [3] Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, [4] Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; [5] Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. [6] For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, [7] Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. [8] Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. [9] But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

This is an important passage to look at when speaking about the last days of the dispensation of grace. The Apostle Paul is laying out a series of things that are going to happen that will help point out the timing of the last days.

Before looking at the details of what is said here, it is important to note why it is necessary to look at these things. This is a popular topic in Christian circles today. There are many shelves of books in Christian bookstores written on the issues of prophecy and the end times. There are movies that have come out recently, and probably more on their way, dealing with the December 2012 issue. As some of these dates come and go, the thing the Apostle Paul said to the church at Thessalonica can become an issue:

2 Thessalonians 2:1-2

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, [2] That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

A warning is given here about becoming shaken in the faith they have. This is because they have a fear they have missed the Day of Christ. If you study this day out in some detail (1 Corinthians 1:8, Philippians 1:6, and Philippians 1:10 are just three examples related to this day), it is clear this is speaking of what we know as the Rapture. There were some teaching issues of this day being at hand (right now) or that it has already passed. If someone thinks this has already occurred and they are still here, the thought would be they have missed the Rapture.

This has been particularly true over the last few months. One prominent Bible teacher has been on television declaring a date for the Rapture. When this date came and went in May, he did not change the thinking of this. The answer about why he was wrong was that there was a miscalculation and he then presented a new date. This does not solve the problem. All it does is create more confusion among Christians, as they struggle with this topic, and it makes Christianity a joke to those who are not believers. The coverage this received should have demonstrated this fact to everyone.

Not appointed to wrath

This is one of the most important things to remember about who we are as members of the Body of Christ. We will not face the wrath of God, known as the Day of the Lord (which is different from the Day of Christ). The Apostle Paul tells the church at Thessalonica several times about not being appointed to wrath:

1 Thessalonians 1:10

And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

1 Thessalonians 5:9

For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,

This would be the wrath spoken of in the gospels (Matthew 3:7) that the Pharisees were attempting to flee by joining the Little Flock. Those who are members of the Body of Christ are being told they will not be a part of this. The Rapture is going to occur before the events of the Day of the Lord take place.

Passages such as these should help an individual to evaluate the teaching of someone related to the end times. If someone is saying members of the Body of Christ are going to be facing this wrath, we should know that this teaching does not stand on sound doctrine.

What last days are Paul speaking of?

The Apostle Paul speaks of the last days of this dispensation. There are many warnings he gives about this because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16) and we are fighting a battle against things that are spiritual, not physical (Ephesians 6:12). The members of the Body of Christ need to be prepared for this battle.

During the Apostle Paul's time, there were many things going on, where people were turning away from the sound doctrine he had taught. He has to give instructions to Timothy about holding fast to the form of sound words (2 Timothy 1:13-14) because many people were not doing this. The result of this was people being swayed by false doctrine and being pulled away from the things he had taught them. This is why we see him actually list out individuals who had walked away from this truth:

2 Timothy 1:15

This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.

2 Timothy 4:9

Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: [10] For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.

The Apostle Paul first mentions that all who are in Asia have turned against him. This would be all of the individuals in what we know now as Asia Minor that have received the message of Jesus Christ preached according to the revelation of the mystery. They have taken the message of truth and have rejected this, leading to them walking away from the Apostle Paul and his message.

He then goes on to list some specific people and the reasons why they have done this. The Apostle Paul states they loved this present world, leading to their walking away from the truth. This could mean they wanted the approval of men, so they started teaching the things which would please these people. It could also mean they did not want to face the problems that often come from standing for the truth of God�s Word rightly divided. For those who have made this stand, there is often a rejection by other people, as they do not want to be associated with what they feel is an error.

It is interesting to look at some of the details of this passage. In order to go Thessalonica to escape the teaching of the Apostle Paul, this church had to no longer be functioning according to the doctrine that had been given to them. The Apostle Paul had held them up as an example for others on how to receive the Word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Something had changed in them, leading to the rejection of what they had seen before as truth.

Titus is also mentioned as being one of the people who had rejected the teaching of the Apostle Paul. This is an individual who had been an influential part of his ministry. He had been in Jerusalem and the focal point of a discussion on circumcision, as the Apostle Paul pointed out how this was not necessary during this dispensation (Galatians 2:1-9). He had been an individual who was so close to the Apostle Paul, there was no rest in his spirit when he was not there. It is clear that there was an improvement in his mood as soon as he arrives (2 Corinthians). In fact, in most Bibles, you only have to turn a page from the passage above to see an epistle written to Titus.

While these may seem to be inconsequential, it is important to think about these facts. Many people feel they would never turn from the truth of what God's Word says. It does not take much for this to actually occur, as has been seen by the above two passages. Turning away from what the Apostle Paul teaches is simple. A person can reject the clear teaching of a passage, or they can be swayed by every wind of doctrine, leading them to reject this message.

The characteristics of the time the Apostle Paul is mentioning appear to be reflective of the time we are in today. Every generation has been able to see these things and has felt this way. The reality is that things have progressively become worse and worse in these areas with each generation. Let�s look at a couple of these areas:

Lovers of their own selves

The time we are living in appears to be a time where this is going on. Thanks to "reality television" many people seem to think they can become famous for doing some outrageous things. The focus is always on them, which is a demonstration of the pride they have. The book of Proverbs states that pride will bring a person low (Proverbs 29:23) and it leads to shame (Proverbs 11:2).

The teachings of the Apostle Paul show the focus is never on us. Instead, the focus is on:

Galatians 2:20

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

The life we are now living is the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is no longer us who are in focus, but Him. When I understand this, I truly realize that if I am focusing on myself, I am not following what God is intending for us during this dispensation. Therefore, I am not demonstrating the faith that has been given to us.

Unthankful

This is so much more than the condition we see this world in today. Over the last few years, this has been a trend I have noticed more and more. If you hold the door for someone, it used to be customary for the individual to say thank you. It seems this custom has disappeared and more often people do not say anything, almost as if they had just expected that the door was going to be held for them.

While this is going on today in the world, the issue of being unthankful is more problematic than just this. The Apostle Paul here is referring to individuals who are not thanking God for what has been done. There is a condition in which he says man is going to fall:

Romans 1:18-23

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; [19] Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. [20] For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: [21] Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. [22] Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, [23] And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Man would become foolish and would turn away from God. They would not be thankful for everything that has been done. This is being seen more and more, as people stop believing there is a God, or stop believing in the wonderful things that have been done for us. Many people today feel God is just a creation of man, and not the other way around.

The Apostle Paul shows many times in his epistles how we are supposed to be thankful for things. This is part of our prayer life, as is show in Philippians 4:6-7. Our lives are to demonstrate this, as we shine as lights onto this lost and dying world.

Lovers of Pleasures

This is another easy one to see today. How many things in this world are designed for nothing more than the pleasure of the individual? All of the things that fall into this category are things that appeal to the flesh, where the Apostle Paul states dwells no good thing.

The things appealing to the flesh are designed to take someone farther away from the spiritual things. It also helps to take someone�s mind off the difficulties they might be experiencing in their lives. This happened during the Weimar Republic, just before World War II. The government sanctioned many things that appealed to the flesh in order to distract individuals from what was going on.

The Apostle Paul gives many warnings about the flesh. The following is just one of these warnings:

Galatians 5:16-17

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. [17] For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Our focus is to be on the things of the spiritual realm, where all of our blessings are (Ephesians 1:3). We are not to give heed to the things of the flesh.

By looking at a few of these things, we can see there are some serious problems now, just as there have been in generations past. We need to be focused on making all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery (Ephesians 3:9), as this is what the Apostle Paul had been instructed to do. We also need to be focusing on redeeming the time (Ephesians 5:16). This means we need to share the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) with this lost and dying world, in order to help them receive the salvation which has been offered to mankind today. If we focus on this, we will not be concerned at all about false prophets who are teaching the world is going to end.



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