Discerning the Times

 

“When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.”  (Matthew 16:2-3, NKJV)

 

As we draw nearer and nearer to the return of Christ, it seems like more and more people choose to be ignorant of current events or Bible prophecy. I hear things like, “Whatever happens, happens, I can’t do anything about it”, or just say that it’s not important, or that they can’t understand it. And, amazingly, a lot of people who say it are born again, deeply devoted Christians, who profess the authority of scripture. Given that approximately two-thirds of the Bible is made up of prophecy, the wisdom of that kind of approach is questionable.

The first time I preached a sermon in a church, I spoke about the importance of understanding the times and being ready for the return of Christ. When I sat down to prepare for it, the Holy Spirit immediately took me to a Bible passage that I previously hadn’t paid much attention to. It was Luke 19:41-44. In this passage, Jesus was near the end of his earthly ministry, and knew He was soon to be arrested and crucified. He made it abundantly clear the importance of being able to discern the times. In fact, he grieved over the lack of it:

 

41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city (Jerusalem) and wept over it, 42 saying, If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

 

That is a heavy price to pay! Jesus was prophesying about the (then future) destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Because the people of Jerusalem chose to refuse the knowledge and wisdom God offered them, and to harden their hearts against Him, the Son of the living God lived among them for three and a half years and they rejected him, His hedge of protection was lifted from them, and it brought about their own destruction! We are now approaching our own time of visitation, when Jesus is to return as King, and history seems to be repeating itself.

 

Knowing the Word

When Jesus grieved over the fact that the people of Jerusalem didn’t know it was their time for salvation, He was implying an expectation that they should knowIn the Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance, (I refer to that often as “the concordance”), the Greek word “ginosko” (“know” or “known”), found in the passage above, is translated as “to understand completely“.

God is just. He’s not unreasonable. He doesn’t expect us to have knowledge of something without giving us what we need in order to do just that, and will hold us accountable for it. The people of Jerusalem in that day had the ability to read, He gave them his Word, promised them salvation and deliverance through his Son, their Savior, and put in his Word all they needed to know to recognize and accept Him when He came. But it was their job to diligently seek Him, and that’s where they fell woefully short. If they would have sought Him, they would have found Him, and those who did seek Him did find Him!

Prophecies of the Bible seem to strongly indicate that the return of Christ is very near. Are we to believe that this time He doesn’t really want us to know, but instead wants us to be ignorant of it?

Jesus himself, when speaking of His return, gave these warnings:

 

32 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!” (Matthew 24:32-33, NKJV)

13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour[b] in which the Son of Man is coming. (Matthew 25:13, NKJV)

 

Multiple warnings like these are given, many of which are in Matthew 24-25. Those two chapters cannot be read without coming to the conclusion that God wants us to be wise, discerning and prepared for the days we live in. Stay awake and alert! The time of our visitation is drawing near.

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