Is 1 Peter 3:15 Accurately Used as an Apologetic Text?

Often at BellatorChristi.com, I receive comments to which I try to respond as quickly as possible. This past weekend was no exception. For most comments, the responses I attempt to leave suffice for the question or comment presented. However, this weekend a commenter left a response that baffled me to my core. He challenged apologists in using 1 Peter 3:15 as a call to do apologetics. At face value, it has always appeared to me that 1 Peter 3:15 was an apologetic text. For heaven’s sake, if Norman Geisler, Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, and other heavy hitters in the apologetics world used this text in support for the use of Christian apologetics, one would assume that the text holds some merit. Nevertheless, I have learned never to assume anything. Thus, I pose this question on today’s blog; are apologists using 1 Peter 3:15 contextually accurate as a call to do Christian apologetics?

While I was somewhat anxious scrutinizing the use of the text—does anyone really want to say that the entire apologetics world is wrong—my anxieties were quickly dispelled when reading the text of 1 Peter 3:15 in its appropriate context. I found quite speedily that the text has been used appropriately much to the chagrin of my opposing critic. Why? When one determines the meaning of a text in relation to the context of the passage, one needs to look at the text in relation to the message of the book it is in; the surrounding chapters, and the context of the statement itself. Before beginning the process, let’s first see what the text in question states. Peter writes, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16).[1]

Context of the book argues for an apologetic understanding of 1 Peter 3:15.

What is the message of 1 Peter as it pertains to 1 Peter 3:15? The apostle Simon Peter writes this letter to the provinces in Asia Minor (1 Peter 1:1-2) during the 60s.[2] For the Christians in the area, the 60s were a time of great hostility. Not only did Jewish groups ostracize the early believers, the Roman imperial government was in the process of turning up the heat on them as they were thought to be “‘atheists’ (for rejecting the gods), ‘cannibals’ (for eating Jesus’ ‘body’ and drinking his ‘blood’) and incestuous (for statements like ‘I love you, brother’ or ‘I love you, sister’).”[3] Obviously, any casual student of the Bible, much more a serious one, will know that these accusations were ungrounded and rooted in a false understanding of the Christian faith. Thus, the ancient Christian would need to hold a good apologetic in order to defend his or her faith against the false indictments posed against them in popular society, both eccelesiastically (Jewish opposition in the synagogue) and governmentally (Roman opposition in the courts). Therefore, 1 Peter 3:15 holds an apologetic thrust when held against the context of the book. But what about 1 Peter chapter 3? Is it apologetic-oriented?

Context of the surrounding chapters argue for an apologetic understanding of 1 Peter 3:15.

The first section of 1 Peter 3 continues the thought begun in 1 Peter 2:11. Peter instructs the churches to live godly lives in the pagan society in which they live. Peter notes that they are to “as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Living in the pagan culture as they were, the Christians were going to have more temptations than they would had they lived in Jerusalem or Capernaum. Peter argues that their very lifestyles were to be an apologetic argument for the faith. Peter notes that the believers were to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). 1 Peter 3:8 shifts the focus, as will be examined in the next section. In 1 Peter 4, Peter again picks up the topic of living for God and the reality that the Christian would most likely suffer for their faith (1 Peter 4:12-19).

Context of the pericope argues for an apologetic understanding of 1 Peter 3:15.

1 Peter 3:8 shifts the focus from living well in the face of pagan opposition (1 Peter 2:11-3:7) to suffering well in the midst of persecution; a topic picked up again in chapter 4. It is in this pericope that the text in question is found. Peter instructs the believers that in Asia Minor that they can anticipate threats. However, the believers were not to be frightened (1 Peter 3:14). Why were they not to fear? They should not fear because they had truth on their side. Peter redirects the believer’s focus to the reason that they were believers in the first place—the truth of Christ. It is here that 1 Peter 3:15-16 is given. The believers could face opposition and give a well-reasoned and rational defense for their faith because of the truthfulness of the faith. However, the believers were to provide the reason (Gk “apologia,” also translated “defense” [ESV]) for their faith but with the previously instructed good behavior and gentleness. Barker and Kohlenberger note that “Christian hope is so real and distinctive that non-Christians are puzzled about it and ask for a ‘reason’ (Gk 3364). The type of questioning could be either official interrogations by the governmental authorities (cf. Ac 25:16; 26:2; 2 Ti 4:16) or informal questioning.”[4] The believers were to have orthodoxy (“right belief”) an orthopraxy (“right conduct”) as part of their apologetic argumentation.

Conclusion

From the three points observed (the context of the book, the surrounding chapters, and the text itself), one can safely say that apologists are correct in using 1 Peter 3:15 as a proof-text for the use of apologetics. Modern Christians find themselves in a similar situation as the recipients of Peter’s first letter in Asia Minor. For our brothers and sisters in places of great persecution, 1 Peter speaks to them to continue to stand strong despite the woes they face. The rewards will be greater in heaven for those who have suffered martyrdom than for those of us who do not have to live with the threat of physical harm. However, for Western Christians, 1 Peter has a lot to say, as well. Western Christians find that pressures against them for holding their Christian faith are increasing at an alarming rate. A society which once adhered to the principles of the Judeo-Christian worldview is quickly crumbling into an abysmal moral chaos. Like the believers of old, modern Christians must stand firm, honoring Christ as Lord, being quickly ready to provide a defense (an apologetic) for the hope that one holds. 1 Peter 3:15 strongly advocates the use of Christian apologetics. Modern Christians would do well to listen to Simon Peter’s appeal.

© October 24, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture in this article comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011).

[2] I am a traditionalist in the sense that I hold to the early church’s understanding of who wrote the New Testament texts. I accept that John the apostle wrote the Fourth Gospel and the letters attributed to him. I, in turn, accept that Simon Peter wrote the letters that bear his name.

[3] John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener, NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 2177-2178.

[4] Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger, III., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, New Testament, abridged ed (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1053.

Will God Take Action Against Persecution?

With constant reminders of Christian persecution, one may think that God is not watching or is unconcerned. One may find oneself asking as the prophet Habakkuk inquired, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he” (Habakkuk 1:13)?[1] Is God unconcerned? Will God not take action? First of all, one must note that God is very concerned. However, it must also be noted that persecution was a known aspect of the believer’s life. In fact, it is part of the plan. This is not to say that God is pleased with persecution…heaven forbid!!! But rather, God knew that such persecution was going to take place. This is demonstrated in four ways.

The Persecution of the Prophets

People who make a stand for God have always been on the receiving end of persecution. The writer of Hebrews states, concerning the prophets, that “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:37-38). In 1 Kings 19:10 and in verse 14, the great prophet Elijah before being taken away addressed how people had killed the prophets and were seeking to take his own life. The prophet Jeremiah, in Jeremiah 2:30, stated that the people’s “own sword devoured your prophets like a ravening lion.” Jeremiah also noted that Uriah, a prophet and son of Shemiah was taken from Egypt by King Jehoiakim. King Jehoiakim “struck him down with the sword and dumped his dead body into the burial place of the common people” (Jeremiah 26:20-23). Thus, the prophets of God suffered persecution.

The Persecution of the Messiah

The Son of God Himself suffered persecution. John the apostle noted of Christ that “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:10-13). Jesus was allowed to die in order to provide salvation for all by dying on the cross. In fact, Jesus warned from the beginning that there was a cost in following him. Since, there is an enemy who stands opposed to the grace and truth of God (i.e. Satan); one can expect to be persecuted. Jesus said bluntly to all around him, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself” (Luke 9:23-25). Clearly, Jesus warned that such persecution is to be expected. However, this is certainly not the end of the story as will be seen.

The Persecution of the Early Church

The early church would suffer great persecution. All the early apostles, except for John, died as a martyr. James, the brother of John, was the first apostle to die (Acts 12:2). Stephen also suffered martyrdom (Acts 7:54ff). Thus, persecution was part of the Christian life from the outset.

The Persecution of the End-time Christian

In the book of Revelation, John reports that “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’ Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers (or brothers and sisters) should be complete, who were killed as they themselves had been” (Revelation 6:9-11). There are a couple of things that can be seen in this passage of Scripture. First, one can find that persecution is to be expected to exist, if not increase, as the end of this sphere of existence draws to a conclusion. However, something else is witnessed in this passage of Scripture that brings us to our final point. As four means were listed that describe the fact that God knew that persecution would take place, it must be remembered that the book of Revelation helps one understand that there is a result to this persecution.

 The Results of Such Persecution

The book of Revelation demonstrates that God is not only concerned with persecution, God will eventually take action. When God does take action, it will come swift and will be INTENSE!!! Listen to the words of Revelation, “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.’ So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped…So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia (184 miles)” (Revelation 14:14-16, 19-20). God will take action. When God does, it will be intense and will be forthright.

Conclusion

The great preacher Jonathan Edwards preached a message entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” While Edwards’ message would not be accepted with great favor amongst many modern congregants, especially those who promote the health and wellness gospel; God used the message to bring several to faith. Why was this message so effective? It was effective because it helped people realize that God is not only a God of love, God is also a God of justice. Rest assured, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). God knows the evils of the world. But why the delay? The clear sense of Scripture is that God is giving individuals time to repent. Simon Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:9-10). The age of grace will not extend forever. In the popular words of the age, “God will bring it!” When it is brought, there will be no turning back. Thus, in the wise words of the prophet Amos, we must all “prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12)!

[1] All Scripture, unless otherwise noted, comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008).

Top Ten Challenges Facing the Church in 2015

In late 2013, I posted an article which has become one of the hottest articles on my website at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com. The article laid forth the top ten challenges facing the Christian church in 2014. Due to the interest sparked by that article, we will make the Top Ten Challenges List an annual offering to you the reader. 2014 witnessed some daunting challenges for the Church.[1] 2015 will also provide some distinct challenges which will need to be met with truth, integrity, and faithfulness. The following list will provide the top ten challenges facing the Church in 2015 and will offer a proposed method of handling the problem.

Challenge #10:           Racial Issues

Problem:         Some may find this a bizarre issue to place on the top-ten list. When the reader discovers that this writer is Caucasian, this may provide an extra bit of surprise as Caucasians do not traditionally address race issues as African-Americans. However, if there is one thing that can be learned from the issues from the latter part of 2014, that is that race relations in America are not as good as everyone might like to think. The issues surrounding Ferguson has demonstrated the lack of trust that some of African descent have towards those of European descent, and vice versa. Couple that problem with the fact that Sunday mornings is among the most segregated time in America, and one finds a real problem. Adding to the mix is the level of distrust that Latino (or Amerindian) individuals possess with those of African and European descent, and vice versa, due to problems surrounding immigration. The sum total of the problem equals a big, grand, ol’ mess!!!

Solution:          The Church can provide a solution. In fact, many churches are already helping to correct these issues. The solution is to focus on the value of human life, all human life. Jesus placed great value on human life and was not divided over socio-economics, race, or gender. This value was demonstrated when Christ met with the woman at the well, a Samaritan woman at that.[2] In addition, the church needs to stress, as Paul did, that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).[3]

Challenge #9:             Holiness/Integrity

Problem:         In 2014, the Mars Hill Church of Washington decided to disband their multi-site complex once Mark Driscoll stepped down. Among many other things, Driscoll was accused of plagiarism within his works. Many of his publishers removed his works and Driscoll was left in the cold. Christianity Today’s Morgan Lee reports that,

In a statement, the church’s board of overseers accepted his resignation, but emphasized that they had not asked Driscoll to resign and were surprised to receive his letter.

They concluded Driscoll had ‘been guilty of arrogance, responding to conflict with a quick temper and harsh speech, and leading the staff and elders in a domineering manner,’ but had ‘never been charged with any immorality, illegality or heresy. Most of the charges involved attitudes and behaviors reflected by a domineering style of leadership.’[4]

Regardless of Driscoll’s leadership style, the origin of the problems at Mars Hill stemmed from a lack of integrity on Driscoll’s part. It is easy for one to condemn Driscoll, but the cold-harsh truth is that many modern church leaders, as well as many modern congregants, lack integrity in their Christian walk.

Solution:          First of all, each Christian needs to be reminded that they are not responsible for their salvation. For it is “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Second, each Christian must stay focused on Jesus, which can only be conducted by regular private and corporate worship.

Challenge #8:             Technology Addiction/Individualization

Problem:         The eighth challenge is not only a challenge that the Church faces, but is one that all modern people face, at least those who have the means: that is, addiction to technology. Messaging has replaced phone calls, instant messages have replaced visits, and emails have replaced cards. Whereas this is not all bad, there has been an increased emphasis on individualization. Technology addiction may have something to do with such a problem. However, can one blame technology for the modern individualization, or is technology addiction the byproduct of a culture that is possessed with “having it your way”? Either way, sympathy, empathy, and compassion are being lost in the “world of me.”

Solution:          It is recommended that Christians set boundaries as to their time spend with technology. Technology fasts may be a good disciple to practice. In addition, families may desire to have “technology free zones;” that is, times where iPhones, iPads, iPods, and computers are not permitted. Good “technology free zones” include: supper time, family time, vacations, and et cetera.

Challenge #7:             Solid Male Leadership

Problem:         The seventh challenge may seem a little bizarre. Nevertheless, the modern Church is increasingly finding itself without an abundance of male leadership. Perhaps part of the problem is due to the breakdown of the family. It could also be that men find Christian principles to be feminine in nature (i.e. love, compassion, etc.). While many denominations have stressed female leadership, much is lost in such a drive. This article is not arguing from either a complementarian or egalitarian standpoint, but is simply noting that many men fail to see their role in the local church. Several families suffer from fathers who have given up their roles. The children especially suffer from the lack of a fatherly role.

Solution:          The Church needs to revitalize its focus on male leadership. If a denomination accepts female leadership, well and good. However, such an acceptance should not come at the expense of the denomination’s focus and training of men in order that they might take leadership roles. Men have a place in God’s house. Men should not expect women to perform all the work at church; neither should they think that their role in the family is unimportant. Perhaps leadership conferences could be held with a focus on male leadership. Churches could focus on masculine attributes of the Christian walk, such as truth, justice, and standing tall in the face of adversity, while also demonstrating that it takes a “real man” to love and show compassion as such disciplines are often difficult. While it is certainly healthy that the Church places its attention on women (and unfortunately many churches in history have failed in this endeavor), such a focus should not be done to the neglect of the men. Both sexes are important to the family of God.

Challenge #6:             Negativity

Problem:         The modern Church has lost its joy! Every Christmas churches sing “Joy to the World,” but do so with a melancholic and defeated temperament. Perhaps the strains of modern ministry have taken its toll on Christians. Nevertheless, the Church must not be bogged down with negativity, but must face uncertain days with the joy that only God can bring.

Solution:          A few disciplines may help the modern Christian reclaim their joy. First, the Christian needs to take time away from the news. If one constantly allows oneself to be bombarded by negative news, one will find oneself becoming more and more negative. Second, limit your time spent around negative people. It is impossible to avoid every negative person, but a person does not need to allow such a person to envelope one’s life. Third, take time with God!!! Even Jesus Himself was known to go “out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Take time with God privately and corporately! You may find your joy quickly coming back!

Challenge #5:             Love/Interpersonal Relationships

Problem:         Perhaps the eighth challenge listed in this article is what affects the fifth. Nevertheless, it seems that the Church, particularly the American church, faces a problem with Christian love, particularly interpersonal relationships. The Church is at its strongest when it is united. Unfortunately, churches have found themselves focusing on trivial matters which lead towards a lack love towards their fellow man. Because of this, the Church has seemed calloused and rigid to many who do not know much about the Christian message.

Solution:          In Revelation, Jesus has John write a letter to the Church of Ephesus. The church had done many things right. They had stood up against “those who are evil” (Revelation 2:2) and have “tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false” (Revelation 2:2). However, Jesus had one thing against them: they had “abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Perhaps that is what has happened to many Christians. In our effort to stand for truth and to be salt, we have forgotten that we are to stand for love and are to be light. We must remember that all the law is found in two great commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37) and to “love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40). Focus on the major things…loving God and loving humankind.

Challenge #4:             Secularization

Problem:         Secularization is something the Church must continue to face in 2015. The world is becoming more and more secular and the influence of the Church is becoming less and less in certain areas. Ethical values have been tainted and, in some cases, have been completely reversed. Most troublesome is the entrance of worldly values into the church, particularly the American and European churches.

Solution:          Values and ethics from a biblical perspective must be emphasized. No longer should the church leader expect individuals to automatically know right from wrong. In many cases, people have been so tainted by the culture that they may not realize the impact that it has had on the way they view the world. Christian teachers and preachers must stress values and be unafraid to speak on sin. One may lose a member or two, but great spiritual development will come to those who remain. As Isaiah denotes, one should “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).

Challenge #3:             Marriage

Problem:         Marriage is under attack in modern times, indeed and understatement. Not only has the definition of marriage come under assault, but traditional marriages are collapsing as well. Unfortunately, Christians are not immune to this problem. I recently spoke with a woman who attends a church I previously attended. She told me that she knew of at least three couples that were either separated or facing divorce. Infidelity was the cause of the problems in all three of these occasions. She frustratingly inquired, “Does anyone remain faithful anymore?!?”

Solution:          One cannot offer an easy fix especially to couples determined to part ways. However, there are means of fixing the problem. First, individuals must ask what it is that they really want. Does one merely want a partner with whom to party? Or, does someone desire to find a faithful, loving partner? If the answer is the latter, then one needs to find a faithful Christian partner. Christians should marry Christians. If it takes a Christian several years to find their mate, so be it. It is better to wait and marry the right person, than to rush and marry the wrong person. Second, couples need to constantly work the make their relationships better. Many people will get married and then will stop trying. Continue to kindle the fire in holy matrimony.

Challenge #2:             Biblical Heresies

Problem:         The second great challenge facing the Church in modern times is that of biblical heresies. This year Victoria Osteen was blasted by evangelical Christian for spouting individualistic and unbiblical teachings. Victoria is not the only one offering a watered down form of the Christian faith. Megachurches and small country churches have fallen victim to erroneous doctrines and beliefs. The apostle Paul placed so much emphasis on right doctrine that he boldly proclaimed that “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

Solution:          The solution is relatively simple. Stay true to the Bible! Preachers should strive to preach expository messages, that is, allowing the Bible to speak for itself, rather than choosing topics and jumping around from text to text. Also, as Greg Koukl has often said, don’t just read one verse from the Bible, read Bible passages and keep them in proper context. I would say that it is important also for preachers to obtain at least some Bible training from an accredited Bible college or university. This will help one to abstain from straying from the truths of the biblical text.

Challenge #1:             Global Persecution

Problem:         While the other nine challenges will be debated by many, it should be beyond dispute that the greatest challenge the Church faces in 2015 is persecution. With the rise of Boko Haran, ISIS, and the continued efforts of the Taliban, 2014 will go down as one of the bloodiest years for Christians (and non-Christians alike).

Solution:          It is difficult to know how to respond to Christian persecution as this has been a problem since the inception of the Church. But, perhaps there are a few solutions that one may find concerning the problem. First, one must pray. Pray for those being affected by such ruthless persecution. Pray for the families who have lost their loved ones. Also, pray for the enemies and attackers. Pray that God would change their hearts. God has transformed people through visions, miracles, and near-death experiences. Pray that God would do whatever it takes to reach these individuals. Second, one needs to pressure their elected officials to protect the defenseless wherever the defenseless may be. The world has seen dictators and ruthless aggressors before in Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. Finally, the Church needs to remember the end result. In the end, God wins. Evil will be defeated. As the Bible concludes, Jesus is noted as saying, “Surely I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20). Along with John, I would also say, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)!

Conclusion

Many other challenges could be listed. Ebola, socialism, and countless other problems entered my mind as I prepared this article. At times, it seems that the challenges that the Church faces is overwhelming. But, when we feel overwhelmed, we must remember we serve and all-powerful God. Our problems are big, but our God is bigger. Finally, let me conclude along with Paul in saying “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

Bibliography

Lee, Morgan. “Goodbye, Mars Hill: Mark Driscoll’s Multisite Empire Will Sell Properties and Dissolve.” Christianity Today.com (October 31, 2014) http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/october/goodbye-mars-hill-multisite-church-dissolve-mark-driscoll.html. Accessed December 15, 2014.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Copyright 2014. Pastor Brian Chilton.

—————————————————————————————–

Footnotes

[1] When Church is capitalized, the global church is referenced.

[2] Racial tensions existed between Samaritans and Jews. The problems between the two races extended back for centuries. The problems originated when the Samaritans, who were originally of Jewish descent, interbred with Gentiles. Nevertheless, Jesus was unmoved by the racism of the day and sought to minister to Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles alike.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Morgan Lee, “Goodbye, Mars Hill: Mark Driscoll’s Multisite Empire Will Sell Properties and Dissolve,” Christianity Today.com (October 31, 2014) http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2014/october/goodbye-mars-hill-multisite-church-dissolve-mark-driscoll.html.

9 Signs that the End is Drawing Near

Normally when one seeks to find information concerning the end-times, one will gravitate towards the book of Revelation. However, Jesus presented some fascinating information concerning the end-times in a message that He delivered on the Mount of Olives. The message is popularly titled The Olivet Discourse. In the opening points given in the message, Jesus provides nine signs that the end is drawing near. These are not the only signs that exist. Nonetheless, the signs provide a fascinating glimpse at the conditions one can expect as the end draws near.

Sign One: Increase in False Religions

Jesus began the message in saying, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray” (Matthew 24:4-5, ESV). The first sign is that one can expect false Messiahs to increase in the end. Notice that Jesus emphasizes “many.” In a world bombarded by information, many ideas and philosophies invade the intellectual arena. Some would claim that they were the Christ. Others would claim that there is only one Christ—Jesus of Nazareth. Some would claim that another person was the Christ. Some would claim that everyone is the Christ. While yet others would claim that the “Christ” is a false idea. Only one can be correct. In fact, there is only one who can meet the standard of the Christ, which is Jesus of Nazareth. That the world is blitzed with much more exposure to multiple religions and philosophies points to the fact that the end may be nearer than one might think.

Sign Two: Increase in Violence

Jesus continues his discourse in saying “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (6-7). Violence has been part of human history since the very beginning. The first murder is recorded in the Bible when Cain slayed Abel in Genesis 4. However, as the end draws increasingly near, one can expect a monumental rise in violence globally. In fact, Jesus states later in the message that “as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (24:37). The days of Noah were known for illicit violence and great depravity. As violence increases worldwide, one can anticipate the looming of the end.

Sign Three: Increase in Famines

Jesus additionally denotes that “there will be famines” (7). Here, Jesus notes that famines will increase during the end-times. Certain studies indicate a concern for the possibility of a coming crisis as it pertains to global food supplies, particularly corn and grain. However, more research will be necessary as it pertains to this issue.

Sign Four: Increase in Natural Disasters

Jesus continues by saying “and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (7-8). As the end approaches, one can expect an increase in natural disasters. Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and perhaps solar bursts and meteor strikes will all increase as the end approaches. While disasters have occurred since the dawning of mankind, such occurrences shall increase in number and will be more destructive in nature.

Sign Five: Increase in Persecution

Jesus continues by warning that “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (9).

Philip Jenkins writes,

  Matters changed swiftly during World War I. Massacres and expulsions all but removed the once very large Armenian and Greek communities in Anatolia (now Turkey). Counting Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks together, murder and starvation killed more than two million Christians between 1915 and 1922.

Emerging Arab nations also targeted Christians. Iraq’s slaughter of Assyrians in 1933 gave lawyer Raphael Lemkin a basis upon which he defined the concept of genocide. The partition of Palestine and subsequent crises in the region massively shrunk other ancient Christian groups. The modern story of the Christian Middle East is one of contraction and collapse. By the end of the past century, Christianity in the Middle East had two great centers: Coptic Egypt, and the closely interrelated lands of Syria and Lebanon. They are now home to many refugee churches” (Jenkins, 36).

 Persecution has undoubtedly increased in the twenty-first century. Whether it is physical persecution, social persecution (e.g. peer pressure), or other means of persecution, one can expect such to increase as the end approaches.

Sign Six: Apostasy

The sixth sign given by Jesus is described in the following statement: “And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another” (10). Here, Jesus is referring to the faithful. Among the faithful in the end times, one should expect many to fall out of the church. Some may not have realized that the Christian walk was as tough as it was. Others may feel that being a follower of Christ is passé. One must wonder whether such a person ever truly knew Christ in the first place. Nevertheless, the true Christian will remain as such a one “endures to the end” (13).

 Sign Seven: Departure from Truth within the Assembly

The seventh sign that the end is near is that in the end “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray” (11). Stuart Weber writes of verse 11 in that

 “Verse 11 sounds similar to verse 5 above, describing false prophets instead of false Christs. A prophet was a spokesman for God; therefore, a false prophet was one who falsely claimed to be God’s spokesman. This was a more subtle form of deception, since there was only one Christ. However, there can be many prophets from God, and it was easier to pass oneself off as a prophet. Jesus said there would be many such deceivers and that they would deceive many people(Blomberg, 398).

 The fact that Jesus uses the term “prophetes” (prophet) demonstrates that these false leaders exist within the assembly of believers as opposed to the false messiahs who exist outside the assembly. Thus, the church can anticipate that as the end approaches more and more false teachers, preachers, and pastors will arise. There will be many more “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16).

Sign Eight: Departure from Known Morality

The eighth sign that the end is drawing near is that because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (12-13). The things that are right will become scoffed and the things that are wrong will be celebrated. Morality will decline as the end approaches. The end will resemble that days of Noah (24:37), a time known for the abandonment of faith and moral recklessness.

 Sign Nine: Global Evangelism

The previous eight signs were negative in scope. However the ninth sign is positive in nature. The final sign listed in this section of the Olivet Discourse in that the end is drawing near is that “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (14). The advent of the internet allows for the gospel to be shared all across the globe. In fact, at https://pastorbrianchilton.wordpress.com, over 172 nations are being reached with the gospel message of Christ. Countless other ministries are spreading the good news of Christ all across the globe. Now, more than ever before, it can be said that most every nation has a chance to hear the gospel message. This, although a positive sign, is a sign that the end is drawing imminently near.

Conclusion

Some would approach the previous verses from a preterist interpretation. Craig Blomberg writes,

 “It is crucial to observe the fulfillment of all these preliminary events prior to a.d. 70. This fulfillment will explain how 24:34 can be true. It demonstrates that everything necessary for Christ’s return was accomplished within the first generation of Christianity, so that every subsequent generation has been able to believe that Jesus could come back in their times. It should lead us to reject all views that claim to know for sure that Christ is returning in a given year, decade, or century on the basis of some unique event that has never previously occurred in Christian history (as, e.g., with the reestablishment of the state of Israel or with some future, hypothetical rebuilding of the temple). Moreover, by including the extensive preaching of the gospel (item 9) with the eight negative signs, Jesus offers something of a balance in his presentation of events that must occur before the end. Neither the unrelenting pessimism of traditional dispensationalism nor the unbridled optimism of certain forms of postmillennialism is justified. Instead, the period of time prior to Christ’s return will be characterized by a growing polarization between good and evil. God’s people will increase in power, witness, and impact in the world, even as persecution and hostility intensify and global conditions deteriorate. Revelation 11:3–13 graphically depicts this polarization, and church history, beginning already in Acts 8:1–4, has frequently demonstrated the truth of Tertullian’s slogan that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church” (Blomberg, 357).

 Even if it were true that these events were fulfilled before the Temple’s destruction in 70 AD, an approach to which this writer is skeptical, prophecy tends to hold a two-edged sword as it is often forth-telling and foretelling, forth-telling in describing something that was to occur near the time projected, and foretelling of some distant event. Even if these nine signs were primarily intended to describe the imminent destruction of the Temple, one could rightfully postulate that these signs point to a time near the end when Christ would return. Seeing that Christ did not return in 70 AD during the destruction of the Temple, a preterist view is suspect in this writer’s opinion. As Weber denotes,

 “The second question Jesus answered has to do with the purpose of preaching this gospel of the kingdom throughout the world. A testimony (marturion) was a legal term, referring to the sharing of information on a particular topic. In this case, it had to do with Jesus and his kingdom. The testimony served two purposes simultaneously: (1) it could win the listener over, and (2) it could condemn the guilty. Implied here is Jesus’ distinction between those who listened and those who did not (11:15; 13:9, 43) End here means the end of the age” (Weber 399-400).

Jesus was answering two questions: one concerning the destruction of the Temple and the other concerning the end. These nine signs speak clearly to the characteristics of a society nearing the end of time. Are we near the end? Check the signs and judge for yourself.

© Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

 

Bibliography

 Blomberg, Craig. Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.

Jenkins, Philip. “Is This the End for Mideast Christianity.” Christianity Today  58.9 (November 4, 2014): 36. Retrieved November 30, 2014.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.

Weber, Stuart K. Matthew, vol. 1, Holman New Testament Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

3 Reasons to Study Eschatology

Several fields of theology exist. For example, Christology, from the words Christos (meaning Christ) and logos (meaning word, logic, or the study of), is the study of Christ. Eschatology stems from two words; eschaton, (meaning last), and logos, as was covered earlier. Thus, eschatology is the study of lasts things. Soon, our church will undertake the study of the Olivet Discourse, a message given by Jesus on the Mount of Olives as recorded in Matthew 24-25, and the book of Revelation. Both studies deal extensively with the end times. However, some may wonder if such a study is necessary. Timothy Paul Jones provides two reasons as to why some people avoid the study of eschatology. Jones, concerning the study of the last things, denotes, “Sometimes such wonderings degenerate into endless debates and unwarranted speculation about specific details. Other times, end times curiosity comes to a screeching halt as people throw up their hands at what they’ve begun to feel is an impossible and fruitless enquiry.”[1] One should avoid the extremes when studying eschatology, as one should remember that “day and hour no one knows—neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son—except the Father only” (Matthew 24:36),[2] while also remembering that the Christian should “be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). Studying the end times can be quite beneficial as there are three reasons why one should study eschatology.

1. Helps us to Focus on What Really Matters

 First, eschatology helps one to focus on what really matters. Often, individuals live their lives as if their time on earth will last forever. People often allow minute details and issues to create rifts in their lives and damage their relationship with their family, friends, and colleagues. Why does this occur? Often, such things occur when one does not realize one’s place in history. The cold hard truth is that this world will not last forever. There is coming a day when everything shall change. The NFL, NBA, MLB, and even college sports will one day cease to exist. Governments and their institutions will cease. But, one can assuredly rest in the promise that Jesus provides in that “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Eschatology helps the believer place their focus on what really matters and lessen their emphasis on the things that will pass away.

2. Helps us Not to be Overcome with Evil

 Paul denotes that one should “not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Let’s face it. 21st century Christians are overwhelmed with evil. Ebola is spreading, militant atheists and terrorists seek to destroy Christian freedoms, and ultra-liberalism seeks to pound out Christian convictions under the auspice of political correctness. If one is a “worry wart,” they have a lot to fuel their worrisome fires. Yet, it should be remembered that Paul wrote these words in a world that was oppressed by a Roman government that was no friend to the Christian faith. Furthermore, Paul could claim that one should not be overcome by evil because he focused on the end result; that is, that Christ will be victorious and that one day “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10). While there may be variations in the way individuals interpret the end times, the core focus of eschatology is that Jesus will be victorious and that good will eventually defeat evil.

3. Emphasizes the Work that Needs to Be Done

 Lastly, eschatology helps one remember that there is work to be done. Life is like a vapor, or “smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes” (James 4:14). Thus, when one realizes that Jesus is coming soon to establish His kingdom in its final stage, then one should work harder and will focus on the task at hand. It reminds me of a time when I worked at a textile manufacturing facility. The CEO of the company was to visit the company. Everyone was abuzz trying to get everything to the point that it would be acceptable to the CEO. The managers knew approximately the time that the CEO would appear, but they were not exactly sure of the time that he was to appear. Therefore, everyone worked hard as they knew that the top executive of the company was about to pay the facility a visit. In like manner, every Christian should work as though Jesus were to appear at the next moment. You never know, He just might. Jesus is the top CEO of creation. Are we working so that He would be pleased with our efforts? Eschatology brings a focus on the work that needs to be accomplished.

Conclusion

 While there have been some who have abused eschatology by setting dates and others who seek to dismiss the claims of Revelation and end times prophecy, eschatology is a valuable field of study for the Christian. Eschatology helps us focus on what really matters, provides us encouragement in that good will eventually triumph, and enlightens us to do the work that is necessary before Christ returns. While there are varying interpretations of the end times, one should never lose focus on the three essentials concerning the end; that is, that “Jesus will return physically to earth, God will physically resurrect all humanity, [and that] Jesus will judge all humanity.”[3] Be not discouraged. Jesus is coming soon.

© Pastor Brian Chilton. 2014.

 

 

Bibliography

 All Scripture used in this article, unless otherwise noted, comes from the Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009.

Jones, Timothy Paul. Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy. Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, Inc., 2011.

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[1] Timothy Paul Jones, The Rose Guide to End-Times Prophecy (Torrance, CA: Rose Publishing, 2011), 3.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).

[3] Jones, 42.