Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
March 17, 2011
Are these the end times? (Part four)
The gravest crisis in Japan since World War II continues to grow. The number of dead and missing from Friday’s earthquake and tsunami now exceeds 12,000 people. To illustrate the enormity of the quake: the Korean peninsula moved two inches to the east, while Japan’s main island of Honshu moved eight feet closer to the United States.
Trace amounts of radiation have been found in drinking water 50 miles from the Daiichi nuclear plant. The earthquake and tsunami have left at least 1.6 million Japanese homes without water. According to today’s New York Times, it now seems likely that fuel rods in at least one reactor are melting down, risking nuclear contamination on a deadly scale.
Japan’s emperor Akihito spoke to the nation yesterday, the first time in Japan’s history that an emperor addressed his country during a crisis on television. The 77-year-old chief of state said: “I am deeply concerned that the current nuclear plant situation is critical. I truly hope that with so many people working together to help, the situation will not worsen. I am deeply impressed to see people who have survived, and are suffering from the biggest disaster, encourage themselves to live for tomorrow.”
For multiplied thousands, however, there is no “tomorrow.” Do disasters of this magnitude indicate that the “end times” are near?
As we have discovered this week, Jesus predicted that six “signs” would precede his return (Matthew 24:1-14). Each has been fulfilled on unprecedented levels in the last century. At the same time, we have been living in the “last days” for 20 centuries. In the Jewish worldview, the “former days” preceded the Messiah; the “last days” are those which follow his ministry on earth. And so John could write, “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18).
For 20 centuries, Christians have been awaiting our Lord’s return. Paul warned us that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2). If we live each day as though it were our last, one day we’ll be right. And each day we’ll make Jesus our Lord and King.
Consider one of my favorite paragraphs by C. S. Lewis: “If you read history, you’ll find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’; aim at earth and you will get neither.”
At what are you aiming this morning?