Are we living in the end times?
The immediate answer is, “Yes, of course we are.” Technically, we have been living in the end times ever since the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, the end times began. That was the fulfillment of all of redemptive history—what God had been working toward since Creation and the Fall of Adam and Eve.
Through the establishment of the people of Israel to the exodus to the Promised Land,
… to God sending judges, kings and prophets all leading up to Jesus,
… and throughout it all, God calling people to Himself until His direct intervention through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus,
... ever since then – from Jesus until now – has been the end times.
The real question is: How close are we, during these end times, to the actual end? There is only one other set of events to take place, and those are the events at the end of time. All time between Jesus and then are the end times.
So what are those “end-of-the-end” events? Jesus told us with great specificity. So much so that the passage found in Matthew is known as the “little apocalypse.” Here’s what Jesus said to look out for:
“... many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.
“Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers. And many will turn away from me and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold.... And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:5-12, 14, NLT)
When you analyze that text, there are at least eight signs that Jesus describes.
First, there will be false prophets and people who claim to be Christ or some type of “messiah” leader. Individuals will rise and teach what isn’t true and will try to get people to follow them, but they won’t really be of God.
Second, there will be wars and threats of wars. In other words, it will be an age of anxiety and fear of world conflict. There will also be conflicts between nations.
Third, there will be an increase in the number of natural disasters—floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, earthquakes.
Fourth, Christians will be persecuted for their faith. They will be ridiculed and discriminated against.
Fifth, a lot of people will turn away from their faith. They will renounce Jesus and say that they no longer believe in Him.
Sixth, there will be internal division and discord among Christians. Christians will turn on each other.
Seventh, immorality and insensitivity toward immorality will reign throughout the land. We will engage ourselves in things that embarrass God and, when we do it or see it, we won’t even blush.
The final sign is that before it all ends, the good news of Jesus will be proclaimed to everyone in the world.
So, are we in the end times?
Are those eight marks in play?
Well, as we speak the online world is full of false teachers,
... we’re teetering on the brink of World War III with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine;
... global warming is spiking severe weather events;
... Christians are being persecuted around the world, particularly in places like China and India; but even here, in the United States, Christian values and beliefs are often mocked and ridiculed, and Christian stances penalized;
... former self-professed Christians are fueling the rise of the nones;
... the last three years and all things COVID have divided Christians as never before and in ways previously unthinkable. What doctrinal divides and worship wars couldn’t do, masks and vaccines and Q-Anon did;
... we’ve moved beyond gay marriage to affirming all things trans. Even the affirmation of pederasty (or aspects of pedophilia) is beginning to circulate in certain circles;
... and for the first time the internet makes the global communication of any message possible, including the message of Jesus.
I think that checks off all eight.
If I were to posit a ninth sign, it would be a cultural/technological climate that would allow for the rise of the antichrist and his deception to take hold of the world. Even that, now, I would argue is in place.
Did you read of the false meme of the Pope in a large winter jacket? Innocuous, yes, but false, nonetheless. It made me reflect on the power of A.I., technology, deep fakes and mass deception.
Exactly what the antichrist would need.
In truth, we don’t know the exact time, only what the world will look and feel like when the end is near. And I’m not one to advocate a “run for the hills” mentality, but I do embrace the counsel of C.S. Lewis that we should live each day as if it is the world’s last night.
And I’m not the only one to take note that the description of the end times sure does look and feel like,
... right now.
James Emery White
Ashley Fetters Maloy and Anne Branigin, “An AI-Generated ‘Balenciaga Pope’ Fooled Us All. How Much Does It Matter?” The Washington Post, March 27, 2023, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.
Photo courtesy: ©GettyImages/Ig0rZh
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president.
His latest book, After “I Believe,” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast.
Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.