Pastor John Chowning
It is often said that we live in perilous times, and I suppose that in many ways this is quite true. The Apostle Paul spoke of this in 2 Timothy 3:1, "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come." In verses 2-4, Paul lists a number of the characteristics of so-called perilous men. In verse 5b, he said: "And from such people turn away!" So, we may conclude that perilous times will be characterized by perilous living among perilous men (and women).
Are things worse in 2016 than in any previous period of history? Certainly a strong case can be made for this argument by considering that the world could be destroyed several times over with the nuclear capabilities that the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, Israel, North Korea, and possibly other nations now have. The ongoing threats of the North Korean dictator are sufficient to trouble our nation's leaders and those of other leading nations around the world. There are other problems around the world as well - hunger, poverty, human trafficking and slavery, pornography, all types of addiction, and corrupt leaders.
The world is beset by "wars and rumors of war..." In our own nation, we see moral standards and values declining, marriage having been redefined just in the past year or so, rampant drug abuse and addiction, violence in our streets, increased volatility of race relations, political corruption, etc. It seems that people are turning away from God and our Christian worldview is increasingly the minority perspective even in our part of the world.
What does all of this mean? Are we living in the final days of history? Is the Lord about to return? Are things worse now than every before? There are no absolute answers to these questions. The one certainty is that the Lord will return - we just don't know when.
While a case can be made that perhaps we are in the final stages of history and that the Lord is about to return, we have absolutely no way of knowing this for certain. The Bible is very clear that we will not know the day or the hour of the Lord's return. Every period of history, since the Lord ascended into heaven and promised his followers that he would return some day, has had similar problems and issues. The early church yearned for the Lord's return and reflected the challenges of living a Christian life in an increasingly hostile world. An argument can be made that the 21st century is comparable to the first century in terms of certain conditions and forces in play.
My conclusion is that our times bring some unique challenges to the Christian way of living. However, I don't necessarily agree that things are worse now than ever before, because each and every era of history has experienced a number of challenges, and the Christian faith has attracted opposition from the very beginning of our faith more than 2,000 years ago. It is increasingly apparent that we are living in some exciting times when we take a global perspective and see how the Holy Spirit is moving around the world - in places like China, parts of India, Cuba, etc. And even here in the United States, there are signs for renewal and revival.
The bottom line is that we should always be prepared for the Lord's return. The Lord may return this very day - are we ready if he comes? And the Lord may calls home to heaven today - are we ready if he were to call us home? Meanwhile, we are called to be people of hope who are daily going about the mission and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we should always be prepared!