Jesus once outlined the signs to watch for that would indicate the end times are near. Recorded by Matthew (chapter 24), and known as the “little apocalypse,” there are at least eight dynamics that will come into play:
- false prophets and people who claim to be Christ;
- wars and threats of wars;
- an increase in the number of natural disasters;
- the persecution of Christians;
- the renunciation of faith by many Christians;
- internal division and discord among Christians;
- immorality and insensitivity to immorality; and
- the proclamation of the gospel to everyone in the world.
I know—reading the list sounds like today’s newsfeed. And there is an entire cottage industry proclaiming that we are, indeed, in the last days. There is an equally robust chorus belittling such cries of alarm by saying that such signs have always been upon us, and that Christians living in every era of history thought theirs would be the last.
I don’t know.
I just know we’re closer to the end than any other era of Christians.
And I also know that, again, reading the list sounds like today’s newsfeed.
Just consider immorality and insensitivity to immorality. Findings from the 2017 American Values Atlas, just released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), reveal an emerging consensus on LGBT issues. “Currently, more than six in 10 (61%) Americans say gay and lesbian couples should be able to marry legally, while only about half as many (30%) are opposed.” And those who strongly favor same-sex marriage outnumber those who strongly oppose it by a more than two-to-one margin (30% vs. 14%).
I know this sounds like old news, but it shouldn’t because it isn’t. In 2007, only 13% of the public strongly favored same-sex marriage, while nearly one-quarter (24%) strongly opposed it. The study even found that most religious groups now support same-sex marriage, with opposition confined to a few of the most conservative Christian traditions. But even that is weakening. Since 2013, opposition to same-sex marriage has dropped 13% among white evangelical Protestants from 71% in 2013 to 58% today.
There has never been such a seismic moral shift in such short order in any era of history of which I am aware.
And then consider how Christians will be persecuted. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) just released its 2018 Annual Report noting that religious freedom is in global decline. “Sadly, religious freedom conditions deteriorated in many countries in 2017, often due to increasing authoritarianism or under the guise of countering terrorism,” said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark.
Countries of particular concern (CPCs) include Burma, Central African Republic, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. And yes, much of the persecution in those countries is targeted toward Christians.
So is the end near?
Of course it is, whether it happens in our lifetime or not. Which is why we should take Jesus’ oft-repeated counsel to heart:
Live every day as if it is the world’s last night.
James Emery White
“Emerging Consensus on LGBT Issues: Findings from the 2017 American Values Atlas,” PRRI, May 1, 2018, read online.
“USCIRF Releases 2018 Annual Report, Recommends 16 Countries be Designated “Countries of Particular Concern,’” USCIRF, April 25, 2018, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.