A Joint in Time

 

The Greek of the New Testament has several words to describe the flow of time in the social order. The word aion, often translated as "age," refers to an indefinite period of time marked by certain moral or spiritual characteristics. The "age" we live in now is the time period between the First and Second Advents of the Lord Jesus Christ. The general character of this current age was outlined by Jesus for us in the Olivet Discourse (1). The age "which is to come" (Eph. 1:21, Matt. 12:32 Mark 10:30, Luke 18:30, Hebr. 6:5) will be the Millennium--the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth from the throne of His father David in Jerusalem. Between this age and the next there will be a violent seven-year transition known as "the tribulation period."

The New Testament also refers to time as measured in chronos and kairos--times and seasons. Chronos means quantity of time, space of time, duration, succession of moments, length of time, or a bounded period of time. To understand this word, it is helpful to read the passages of the New Testament where chronos is used. These include Matthew 2:7, Luke 4:5; 8:27; 20:9, Acts 20:18, Romans 16:25, and Mark 2:19. Kairos refers to the quality of time or season, the epoch characterized by certain events, the decisive quality of happening, an opportune time, or a fortuitous moment. Kairos is used in such passages as Romans 5:6, Galatians 6:10, Matthew 13:34, 26:18, Revelation 12:12, I Peter 1:11, and Luke 4:13. In the New Testament we have expressions like "times of refreshing" (Acts 3:19), "times of ignorance" (Acts 17:30), and "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24).

Before leaving earth after His resurrection from the dead Jesus reminded them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority." (Acts 1:7). What this means is that we can not set dates for the return of Jesus, nor can we unravel the past history of our planet with clarity. One reason we can not extrapolate the time scales of histories (either forward or backward in time) has to do with the internal "joints" in history which are determined by God alone:

"The 'seasons' are the critical epoch-making periods foreordained of God, when all that has been slowly, and often without observation, ripening through long ages is mature and comes to birth in grand decisive events, which constitute at once the close of one period and the commencement of another. Such, for example, was the passing away of the old Jewish dispensation; such, again, the recognition of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire; such the conversion of those outside; such the great revival which went along with the first institution of the Mendicant Orders; such, by still better right, the Reformation; such, above all others, the second coming of the Lord in glory." (Archbishop Trench)

God has never lost control over individuals and nations for even a nanosecond. Though He has not told us when, He will ultimately judge all of us against the standard of His Son. God is moving history inexorably towards the consummation He has chosen for us in advance. For history to be jolted and disturbed from time to time is what we ought to expect.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for `In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, `For we are indeed his offspring.' Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead." (Acts 17:24-31)

America's horrendous national tragedy on September 11 seems to have been one of these mysterious "joints in time" when history turned and headed in a different direction. Many individual, national, and global values and priorities changed drastically in a matter of hours on September 11th. What is likely is that some major reconfigurations in the angelic realm (behind the scenes) took place on that particular day. Angels have more to do with events in the world than most of us imagine. Warfare between fallen and unfallen angels is ongoing, and angels have a lot to do with social behavior, the nature of cultural values and our quality of life. (2)

Israel is the key factor in understanding the age we live in now. A little over a hundred years ago God began to allow Jewish immigrants to return to their homeland after two millennia of Diaspora. National identity was restored to Israel in 1958 and the Jewish State has grown in numbers and in economic and military strength ever since. All this is consistent with the predictions of Israel's ancient prophets. In other words, the stage is being set in the Middle East for the Second Advent of Jesus Christ. Israel is as yet an unbelieving nation and their glorious future as head of the nations will only come after the "time of Jacob's trouble" when many millions of Jews will perish as World War III rages in their very midst. (Zechariah 12-14 has a number of details about these approaching events).

Only Israel has a covenant relationship with God among all the nations (3). We are Christians first and Americans second, "our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself." (Philippians 3:20-21)

For two thousand years Jesus has been building His church. When the calling out of this special group is completed, Israel will again be center stage in world history. The church is multinational, multicultural, and made up of peoples from all the world. Anyone who is willing to allow Jesus to rule as Lord in his or heart is immediately a member of this universal family--the people of God. There is, however, no other way to come to God --Jesus said so Himself, "I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by me." (John 14:6)

There are a lot of things happening in our world which tell the discerning that the end of the age is near. Once slumbering background desert kingdoms in the Middle East surrounding Israel have sprung back to wealth and power and became major players on the world stage. Reconfiguration of the nations of Europe clearly speaks of a coalescing federation towards the ten nation "revived Roman Empire" spoken of in Bible prophecy. A clear movement towards one world government can be seen from the daily news. A world-religion is coalescing and drawing together all religious peoples who do not name the name of Jesus as Lord. As the age draws to a close we see more and more violence and evil coming to the surface as God releases restraints on the evil in the human heart.

Meantime there is much confusion about the role of the United States in all this. Some seem to thing that the U.S. is a nation which receives special favor from God, though the Bible gives no support for this view. Actually only 5% of the Christians in the world are Americans these days, and the number of true Christians within our country is a small fraction of the total population. American is one of the "gentile world powers" described in Daniel. We are, by and large, a fully pagan nation. And, what is worse, the church in America is presently weak and severely compromised by serious sins one of which is surely "worldliness." (4)

This is one reason why the wake-up call of September 11 has been much needed. Yet, whether the church will truly respond remains to be seen. The great need of the hour is a repentant church restored to the high calling God intended for her. (5) God told King Solomon when the First Temple was dedicated,

"When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:13,14)

Many years ago Ruth Bell Graham said, "If God does not judge America, he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah." I agree. It may well be that recent events are the first step in God's judgment of our nation for her grievous sins of gluttony, immorality, greed and pride. Nations do come and go in history! (6)

One of my big concerns for a whole generation of Christians is their superficial and shallow faith. I believe it is vitally important for us all to have a thoroughly-informed Christian world-view. Where did the universe come from and where are we heading? What about evil and what are God's solutions? Who is the real God and what is His program for our planet? How do we make responsible choices in an evil world? (7,8)

Christians today need to know at least the basics of the fastest growing religion in the world--Islam. A good friend of mine has written an introductory article for Christians, Understanding Muslims. (9) Glenn Miller is the author of "A Letter to my Muslim friends." (10) Muslim eschatology has some interesting parallels with Jewish and Christian beliefs about the end of the age, (11), and finally the web site Answering Islam is excellent (12).

Contrary to some of the popular statements we have been hearing about Islam, it is not a religion of peace. Islam spread initially in the Seventh Century by violent military conquest. "Islam" means "submission" (to the will of Allah) and that dominion may be accomplished by peaceful means or by war when necessary. Territory which once belonged to Islam in the past remains sacred to Islam and must be reclaimed at all costs. Allah is said to be merciful and compassionate, but unlike the God of the Bible, he is not a personal God and his attributes are far different from those of Yahweh. He is most assuredly not the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, King David, and Jesus Christ. (In practice Islam is not monolithic, but quite fragmented with many different sects and branches).

Our President has wisely called for a war against Terrorism, not against Muslims or Arabs. President Bush has also avoided elevating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the center of world attention. However, more than one Arab leader has seized the opportunity to call the Israelis "part of the world terrorism network." Other Muslims have insisted that there would be no end to international terrorism until the problem of the "occupied territories" is resolved once and for all. The latter statement is a thinly veiled call for the total elimination of all of Israel, not simply for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. Those of us who enjoy a personal relationship with the God of Israel through His Son Jesus know that it is Israel's God who is seen as mankind's ultimately enemy. It is the Lord whom men seek to dethrone once and for all. Psalm 2 gives us God's answer to the uproar of the nations clearly and succinctly.

Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying, "Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us." He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, "I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill." I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling kiss his feet, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2)

There have been wars in the world since Cain murdered Abel. As the age we live in draws to a close these wars will become more global and more terrible, culminating finally in the most terrible of all wars which will be fought in the land of Israel. The nations whose religion is Ishmael's (Islam) will surely be among the principals fighting in World War III. Caught right in the middle of this final conflict will be the tiny nation of Israel--but it is they who will emerge victorious. Their champion and protector will be Jesus Christ Himself. (13)

The Norwegian Academy of Sciences has determined that since 3600 B.C. there have been 14,531 wars and only 292 years of peace. This is approximately 2.6 wars per year, and one year of "peace" out of every two decades, or a little over 36 hours of peace per month, or about one minute of peace every four hours.

The tenor of much of my daily email has changed a lot in the past two weeks. Quite a few Christians have written asking about the nature of war and the role of the Christian in society. (14) I also found that quite a few friends did not realize what our relationship to government is supposed to be. What is the church supposed to be doing in the world? For instance, teaching the Bible is the Number One priority for the local church, but the Number Two priority is for Corporate Prayer (15) by the local church, "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way." (1 Tim 2:1, 2).

For many of my friends life has been more uncertain than ever. This is actually the way things always have been--uncertain--could we but see things as they really are. Will there be more terrorism incidents? I, for one, would not be surprised. In addition to biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, there are such things as the E-Bomb, which is also a plausible terrorist weapon (16). It may well be that now is the time for America to fade as a world power of any real importance on the stage of history.

All thee perils which may face us in the days ahead are merely the long foreshadows of the incredible devastation of all of world civilization by the hand of God which are found in the last book of the Bible (17).

"Enemy-occupied territory - that is what the world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage." (C.S. Lewis)

Are we safe in this world? Hardly. The world is not our home. It is hostile, enemy-held territory. The Apostle Paul said, "If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied." (1 Cor. 15:19)

...when so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they trod upon one another, Jesus began to say to his disciples first, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. "I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. "And I tell you, every one who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God." (Luke 12:1-9)

In the days before the great Flood of Noah there was only one appointed place of safety from the coming storms. Noah built a great boat and warned the world for decades that only inside the Ark was safety to be found. Only Noah and his three sons and their wives were in their quarters when God shut the door of the Ark--from the inside. Then the Flood came.

There is a greater Ark of safety offered by God to mankind now. This place of refuge is to be found "in Christ." We are freely invited to enter into Christ and find eternal safe harbor in Him.

"He has translated us [Christians] from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13,14)

Christ's invitation to come to Him is universal. It is offered to all men everywhere. Jesus said,

"All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:27-30)

But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When people say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11)

Notes:

1. For an excellent study of the Olivet Discourse by Ray Stedman see, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/olivet. See also Accidents and Disasters--Does God Care, http://ldolphin.org/disasters.html

2. For the role of the Christian in Spiritual Warfare see, http://ldolphin.org/spwarfare.html. The church has been given powerful weapons for changing the world. The answer to terrorism, for instance, lies with Christ's church and her calling to participate offensively and aggressively in spiritual warfare.

3. Israel, the Church and the United States Compared, http://ldolphin.org/IsChUS.html.

4. The Elements of the World, http://ldolphin.org/elements.html. The Christian's enemies are never people. Our enemies are the flesh, the devil and the world.

4. The book Thy Kingdom Come by Ron Graf and me, is available on my web page. This book is a step-by-step study of Bible prophecy (eschatology). We have had over 62,000 downloads so far. http://ldolphin.org/kingdom.

5. A Few Notes on Repentance, http://ldolphin.org/repent.html. Also, The Church at the End of the Age--and What to Do About It, http://ldolphin.org/church.html

6. Ray Stedman's Behind the Scenes of History, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/behind/index.html for an analysis of how and why God has judged other nations down through the present age.

7. The Return of the Landlord, http://ldolphin.org/landlord.html. The universe was created by Jesus and FOR Him! It is not our world and our lives are not our own to do with as we please. "You are not your own, you are bought with a price"

8. The Church and the Tribulation: There's War on Folks, http://ldolphin.org/war-on.html

9. Understanding Muslims, http://ldolphin.org/islamprimer.html.

10. Glenn Miller, A Letter to my Muslim friends, http://ldolphin.org/glenn.html.

11. Muslim eschatology has some interesting parallels with Jewish and Christian beliefs about the end of the age, http://ldolphin.org/islam.shtml,

12. Answering Islam is excellent, http://www.answering-islam.org/. Chuck Missler is the best "intelligence gatherer" I know. I highly recommend his recent briefing packages, Strategic Trends and A Legacy of Hate: The Long War Against War Against Israel. Available from http://www.khouse.org.

13. Jesus, the Avenger of Blood and Kinsman Redeemer, http://ldolphin.org/avenger.html. Jesus has a special role in the final redemption of His own people, the Jews.

14. Ray Stedman wrote Ten Propositions Concerning War, http://ldolphin.org/warprinciples.html, in 1982 when our fears centered on possible nuclear war with Russia. I was surprised to see how very relevant Ray's remarks are to our present set of circumstances.

"The Christian view of life is (following the teachings of our Lord, himself) that the world is under satanic control. Jesus called the devil the 'prince of this world' and the 'god of this world.' The apostles reflect that same view. Jesus said the devil was a strong man who guards his house and its goods are helpless to do anything to deliver themselves. This indicates that if it were not for the intervening grace of God, all of life, every moment of it, would be filled with war, struggle, strife, anger and hostility. We'd be at one another's throats all the time. It's God's intervention in a godless world---a wicked world (if you want to use the biblical term) that allows any peace at all. Therefore, peace must always be regarded as a gift of the Spirit of God."

15.. Corporate Prayer in not an Option, http://ldolphin.org/prayoption.html. Also helpful are James Montgomery Boice's notes on Common Grace, http://ldolphin.org/common.html.

16. The E-Bomb, see http://popularmechanics.com/science/military/2001/9/e-bomb/print.phtml, http://infowar.com/mil_c4i/mil_c4i8.html-ssi, http://newsmax.com/archives/articles/2000/12/28/161114.shtml.

17. Expository Sermons on Revelation by Ray C. Stedman is and excellent and clear set of messages from the last book of the Bible, http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/revelation.


September 30, 2001

lambert@ldolphin.org