From Russia-Ukraine war to tremors in Singapore, the signs are clear: Time to arise as the End-Times Church
by Edric Sng // February 25, 2022, 10:45 pm
At about 9.40am this morning (February 25), people across Singapore felt the Earth move under their feet.
The tremors, stemming from a 6.0-magnitude earthquake about 500km away in Northern Sumatra, were felt by people in all corners of Singapore.
This was set against a backdrop of geopolitical anxiety caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine the day before, which left hundreds dead.
All this, against the wider context of a world turned upside down by a pandemic, to a degree that few could have anticipated. It is almost two years ago to the day now when COVID-19 first got its name from the World Health Organisation in February 2020.
It is a situation so volatile and unprecedented that even the health authorities in Singapore had to backtrack on their planned relaxation of measures, with cases in the tens of thousands for many consecutive days.
Church life has not quite resumed to the same degree since March 2020, when – with the Circuit Breaker looming – all congregational services in Singapore were suspended, at first till end-April, then extended till June.
Since then, it’s been almost two years of incremental adaptation, technological adoption, occasional rays of hope and setbacks, all set against the continuous beat of institutional soul-searching (such as here, here, here and here).
This does not feel like business as usual. It feels like something bigger is in the works. Birth pangs.
JESUS IS COMING – BUT HOW SOON?
In Matthew 24-25 – sometimes known as the Olivet Discourse – the disciples ask Jesus: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
It is unlikely that they were thinking of Jesus’ Second Coming, given that their foreknowledge of the Lord’s impending death, resurrection and ascension, and His future return someday as Judge. Jesus, of course, knew that it could only refer to His Second Coming.
He listed out some indicators that would foreshadow that day:
☑️ False Messiahs (Matthew 24:5) and false prophets (Matthew 24:11)
☑️ Wars and rumours of wars (Matthew 24:6)
☑️ Famines and earthquakes (Matthew 24:7)
☑️ Many will turn from the faith; betrayal and hate (Matthew 24:11)
☑️ Increase in wickedness (Matthew 24:12)
☑️ The love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:12)
❓ The Gospel will be preached to the ends of the Earth (Matthew 24:14)
By our estimation: 6 out of 7. We’re almost there. Even on that last note, progress is being made, as we’re down to 28% of the world not yet having heard the Gospel – down from 54.3% in 1900, according to the Status of Global Christianity 2022 report.
We should not merely be looking to build the post-pandemic church. We should be building the End-Times Church.
With every report of war, earthquake and false Messiahs, and with every survey hinting that the love of many is indeed growing cold, Jesus’ return feels closer than ever before.
If He’s coming again, these are the End-Times. And so, even as we try to transition to church life in the endemic New Normal, we need to get the scope of the task at hand right.
We should not merely be looking to build the post-pandemic church. We should be building the End-Times Church.
Thankfully, in Matthew 24, God’s already given us a blueprint of how the End-Times Church should look. As the world shakes, this is the church we should be shaken into building.
HOW SHOULD THE END-TIMES CHURCH LOOK?
1. The End-Times Church is Undeceived by Pretenders: A Church of Truth about God
“Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4)
The problem with truth, in Pontius Pilates’ words, is: What is truth?
While God’s Truth/Word is perfect, it is subject to imperfect interpretation by imperfect people – that’s you and I. This lack of absolute clarity is where deception arises. We all want to follow God, but there are many who will come claiming to be God or His promised Messiah.
How then do we remain undeceived?
How can we recognise Satan when he masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)?
A. We must know the Word. Logos. You identify a false messiah when what they claim differ to any degree from the words of the True Messiah, Jesus – the red-lettered words in the New Testament. The only way to know this is to actually be familiar with Jesus’ words by reading your Bible first-hand (and not only relying on knowledge passed on second-hand through preachers).
B. We must know the Spirit. Rhema. With the Spirit, we receive wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and the fear of the LORD (Isaiah 11:2). We need to be open and sensitive to being taught by the Spirit, for “The Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father will testify about me”, Jesus tells us John 15:26. “When he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16:12).”
As we rebuild the post-pandemic, End-Times church, we must make knowledge of the Word and Spirit central to our church life. Anything less leaves us open to deception.
2. The End-Times Church is Untroubled amid Problems: A Church that Trusts in God
“See that you are not troubled.” (Matthew 24:6)
A personal observation: The church is easily troubled.
With every shift in safe management measures over the past two years, there has been much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth. How to administer Holy Communion? How to conduct worship without singing? How to engage the children? How to protect the elderly?
Wars and rumours of wars – especially those near our shores – trouble us. Even those far away give rise to worries about oil prices and the economy.
How then do we remain untroubled?
A. Set our mind on Jesus. He will give you peace at all times in every way (2 Thessalonians 3:16). Keep our minds stayed on Him (Isaiah 26:3).
B. Set our mind on the Spirit. “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:6).”
C. Build our altar of worship, prayer and thanksgiving. As we remember how He has helped us in the past, we remember how He holds the future, too. We move beyond human understanding to receive His peace, which passes understanding (Philippians 4:6-7).
“When the earth and all its people quake/it is I who hold its pillars firm.” (Psalm 75:3)
3. The End-Times Church is Unwavering amid Persecution: A Church that Tahan-s through God
“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:12-13)
Our faith will increasingly be tested. The thing about tests is that … they should be difficult, or they are no real tests at all! (Think back to the fiendishly complex PSLE mathematics questions we’ve heard of over the years.)
Think about it. In this world there will be trouble: Health scares, emotional setbacks, wars, earthquakes. How do you respond to each? How much can you tahan (tolerate) before your resolve starts to waver?
And yet we are told to not merely survive such trials, but consider them pure joy (James 1:2)!
How then do we stay unwavering despite persecution for our faith?
A. Look to Jesus. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)” Jesus endured the Cross for us – now He calls us to take up our Cross daily (Matthew 16:24), while He sits at the Father’s right hand, interceding for us (Romans 8:34)!
B. Look to the Spirit. “For God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Feeling the fear creeping up? The Spirit gives us the power to fight that. Through the Spirit, what you are going through “will turn out for your deliverance” (Philippians 1:19).
C. Remember the reward of perseverance. “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”(Hebrews 10:36) What is that reward? The crown of life (James 1:12, Revelations 2:10) and being “perfected and completed” in the process (James 1:4).
4. The End-Times Church is Unhindered in Proclamation: A Church that Tells of God
“And this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
The book of Acts ends with Paul preaching in Rome for two whole years. “He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ — with all boldness and without hindrance!” (Acts 28:31).
We are called to be a testimony to the nations. We know this as the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). But at the same time, we know that we are often held back from the proclamation, whether in our shyness, awkwardness, lack of preparation, fear of rejection. Yet we know we should not let our personality and preference stand in the way of the proclamation.
What will it take to be unhindered in proclaiming Jesus?
A. Ask Jesus for strength. Ultimately, the passion for proclamation comes from a personal revelation and appreciation of what Jesus has done for us. The Apostle Paul said it was Jesus who gave him the strength to serve Him and to share Him, by living as an example “as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:12-16). That same strength is ours, if only we would ask Him!
B. Ask the Spirit for boldness. Facing persecution from both the local and Roman leaders, the early Acts church had one overriding concern, even over their own safety: To preach the Gospel. As they prayed, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31)”.
C. Pray for one another as evangelists. “Pray in the Spirit … always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel.” Let’s make Paul prayer request in Ephesians 6:18-19 our ongoing prayer for one another.
THE WORLD NEEDS THE CHURCH
You will note that for each of the four points above, our first two responses should be consistent: We need to look to Jesus, and we need to seek the Spirit.
Jesus is the hope that we have in hopeless times. The Spirit is the power we need when we feel powerless to respond to circumstances.
The tremors we felt today shook many of us, as have the newspaper reports of the invasion of Ukraine, or indeed the pandemic of the past two years.
Now is not the time for a weak, shaken church in retreat. Just the opposite – the world needs the church, full of hope, full of faith, full of passion to point people to Christ.
More than merely a post-pandemic, New Normal church – the world needs the End-Times Church to arise.
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