Are these the end times?
Last Friday’s earthquake in Japan shifted the earth’s axis by four inches and the Japanese coast by eight feet. In our last essay we discussed the fact that no one is promised tomorrow. As news broke of the cataclysmic earthquake, this principle became fact. More than 10,000 people were killed in the 8.9-magnitude quake and tsunami.
The tsunami not only killed thousands in Japan—it also slammed harbors in California and Oregon, causing millions of dollars in destruction. Japanese authorities are struggling to contain damage to nuclear reactors this morning. Today’s New York Times reports that Japan’s prime minister has called the earthquake his country’s worst crisis since World War II.
A week ago I was praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. One stone in the wall weighs more than a 747 jetliner. No one in Jesus’ day could imagine that the massive temple could be destroyed, but Jesus knew the future: “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:2). Within four decades, his prediction came to pass.
I was scheduled to be in Egypt today, but the January 25 revolution in that country caused us to cancel our study tour. Who could have imagined two months ago that a youth-led pro-democracy movement fueled by Facebook and Twitter would topple the Mubarak regime and spread across the Arab world?
These are indeed historic days. When disasters and wars erupt, people often ask about their relation to the end of history. Last week we discussed Jerusalem and the book of Revelation; today let’s think about Jesus’ predictions and their fulfillment in our time. After he prophesied the destruction of the Holy City, his disciples asked him, “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).
Jesus responded with six different signs. To what degree are they being fulfilled in our day? The first is the rise of false religions: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (vs. 4-5). The 20th century witnessed an unprecedented rise in the popularity of alternative spiritualities and world religions in the West.
Second, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars” (v. 6). World War I killed 39 million people; 51 million died in World War II; and 16 million have died in the 150 wars since. The 20th century saw more wartime fatalities than the previous 19 centuries combined.
If the Lord tarries, tomorrow we’ll continue our discussion of Jesus’ predictions. In the meanwhile, know that God’s people are in his hand, no matter what comes today (John 10:28). He’s holding onto you—are you holding onto him?