Jesus said concerning His return – “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place.” (Mt 24:32-34)
Only the Father knows the exact day and hour when Jesus will return; however, God has given us many signs which may be found in scripture. Today we will consider the Signs in the Church.
It may surprise some to learn that there will be signs in the church concerning the coming of Jesus. Consider these verses of scripture –
Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. They will say it is wrong to be married and wrong to eat certain foods. But God created those foods to be eaten with thanks by faithful people who know the truth. (1 Tim 4:1-3)
They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. (2 Tim 3:5)
For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. (Mt 24:24)
In the first two chapters of the book of Revelation, we find seven letters dictated by the Lord Jesus and addressed to seven different churches. Many believe that these seven letters depict not only seven literal churches during the first century, but also, seven time periods of church history. If that is so, consider the state of the last church, the church of Laodicea.
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation: “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. (Rev 3:14-19)
If indeed, the seventh letter to the church of Laodicea depicts the state of the church just before the return of Christ, then the believers of the last days are in for some dark days. Jesus said that this church had become “lukewarm” and “indifferent.” Added to that was a sense of pride which boasted – ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ Comparing what Jesus said to what Paul wrote about the church in the last days, it does seem that the church of Laodicea could indeed indicate where the church is headed.
Few will argue that Christianity today is becoming more and more about entertainment, and less and less about spiritual commitment and growth. Many denominations are dieing, while others are already dead. According to Barna Research, with each new generation, there is less and less interest in following Christ. Recently, noted author and speaker, Josh McDowell, has published a book entitled – The Last Christian Generation. A perfect example of where we are spiritually headed in America can be found in USA TODAY – “Survey: More Americans dropping dogma for spirituality” (06.23.08) Consider some of the statistics reported:
- The survey finds U.S. adults believe overwhelmingly (92%) in God, and 58% say they pray at least once a day. But the study’s authors say there’s a “stunning” lack of alignment between people’s beliefs or practices and their professed faiths.
- 51% have a certain belief in a personal God, but 27% are less certain of this, 14% call God “an impersonal force,” and 5% reject any kind of God. “People say ‘God,’ and no one knows who they mean,” says Kosmin, director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.
- 78% overall say there are “absolute standards of right and wrong,” but only 29% rely on their religion to delineate these standards. The majority (52%) turn to “practical experience and common sense…
- 74% say “there is a heaven, where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded…
- 70%, including a majority of all major Christian and non-Christian religious groups except Mormons, say “many religions can lead to eternal life.”
- “Americans believe in everything. It’s a spiritual salad bar,” says Rice University sociologist Michael Lindsay. Rather than religious leaders setting the cultural agenda, today, it’s Oprah Winfrey, he says.
- “The impact of Oprah is seen throughout this survey. She uses the language of Bible and Christian traditions and yet includes other traditions to create a hodgepodge personalized faith. Exclusivism (one religion has the absolute and exclusive truth) has gotten a bad name in America today,” he says.
If indeed, Christ’s letter to the church is a letter to the church of the last days, then there some final words of His letter that we would do well to read and to heed.
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” (Rev 3:20-22)
Scripture gives us Signs in the Church for the last days. It also gives us many words of admonition to be alert and looking for our Lord’s return. I close this lesson with these words of the Lord as recorded in the gospel of Luke
“Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.” (Luke 12:35-38 )
For a outline of other End Times Events covered in this study, click on END TIME EVENTS.