I can't have helped but notice the messages of many preachers since our economy took a nosedive and the political situation in our country turned in a direction that none of us are pleased with. I am sure we will all agree that God is still on the throne, and will be. Yet perplexity seems to be everywhere. One tells of students setting dates and it goes from there. I long ago found that it was best to deposit date setting prophecy in the waste can. The real problem is that all these things take us by surprise and we treat prophecy as some great mystery. Now I do not for a minute profess to thoroughly understand all prophecy in the Bible but I understand enough to know that we can understand enough for our needs if we are willing to see things for what they are. What has happened and what exists today is the result of what transpired previously. As the Scripture tells us: what you sow you will reap, or as science tells us; for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Today's actions are the reactions of yesterday's action. So now I ask: Does the Olivet discourse and the book of Revelation refer to past or future events? Well let me give you a hint. Hosea 1:1 tells us that, "when Israel was a child then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt." This, of course, refers to the Exodus in the time of Moses. Matthew 2:15 tells us that, "out of Egypt have I called my son" referring to the child Jesus being brought back from Egypt after the death of Herod. One prophecy; two meanings. The reactions to what transpired in the early days of the church will be the same in this or any other era. "There is no new thing under the sun," (Ecclesiastes 1:9.) or, as I have heard all my life; history repeats itself.
The following is the start of a new book with the title cited below. The first chapter is in the archives of my website www.jimcaniff.com. The second chapter I wrote quite some time ago, but lost it in my computer and only recently found it. I share it with you. Do yourself a favor and take the time to read it.
THE SECOND COMING
Near the end of our Lord’s earthly ministry He told His apostles, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." Whatever else that statement may communicate to us, one thing should be clear: the truth may be very hard to swallow. The Apostle Paul demonstrated this when he told the Corinthians that they were yet babes in Christ and could not bear strong meat–meaning, of course, some truths that they were not mature enough to handle.
In dealing with the second coming of Christ we are confronted with just such a dilemma."Christians" have found several ways around it. Among these is firstly, and the most popular, the "rapture," the doctrine, or theology, of dispensational premillennialism. And then we also have postmillennialism. While these two theologies are worlds apart in their approach to the second coming of Christ they have one thing very much in common: escapism.
Jesus asked, "when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Paul said, "perilous times shall come" and, "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." Jesus said, "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, not ever shall be," and, "ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake." Also He stated, "because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." It is not a pretty picture, and not one we are likely to want to face. According to the dispensational premillennialists and the postmillennialists we won’t have to. Isn’t that comforting? The former say that before these horrible times come Christ will come and sneak us all out; they call it the rapture. The postmillennialists say that these bad times aren’t coming but rather we are going to Christianize the world through the preaching of the gospel and thereby usher in the millennium and then Christ will come. Boy, isn’t that a relief? If I seem a little sarcastic, please forgive me, as I thought: "the way of the cross leads home," and that "we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Surely escapism is in vogue in the Christian communities of today.
I am reminded of the words of a pastor’s wife, who said, "the trouble with pastoring a church is that you are trying to get people to pay you to tell them what they don’t want to hear." Who wants to hear about perilous times coming to their life, family and community? Do you want to live in a day when you must take the "mark of the beast" in order to work, earn money and provide for yourself and your family, knowing that you will lose your soul if you do? And if you don’t take it you won’t be able to participate in the economy of the world you live in. It might be quite a struggle; especially when "Christians" start telling you that, "if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." These compromising Job’s comforters, with their holier than thou attitude, will be right there to put you in your place. For you see it can’t be "the mark of the beast" because we get raptured before that happens, or if he is a postmillennialist he will be assuring you that all that happened back in the first century.
How in the world are we going to win people to Christ while telling them of all these bad things that will be coming to them? I know this older evangelist, who though I had heard preach many times, I had never heard him expound on prophecy and didn’t know just what he believed on the subject. I once asked him what he thought about the issue. He said he expected that we would have to prove our mettle. I am persuaded that is true. True Christianity prospers in a hailstorm. It has prospered when Christians were persecuted, burnt at the stake, imprisoned, fined, beaten, belittled and ostracized. Though Satan try as he may, "the gates of hell will not prevail" against Christ’s church. Compromising the truth for numbers sake, while tempting, is really just a toboggan slide to hell.
Well if these escapist routes are not sound doctrine, just what is? I will attempt to lay that out for you now.
The first promise of the coming of Christ is in the 3rd chapter of Genesis, verse 15. "It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." The bruised head is that of Satan (the serpent) and the heel is that of Jesus, the Christ, whose heel is bruised when nailed to the cross. Of course that is referring to His first coming not His second coming. As that is true, the fact remains that there was, and is, as much consternation, confusion, and different theological opinions about His 1st coming as there is about His 2nd coming.
Now, let me digress briefly. I believe "the scripture of truth." (Daniel 10:21.) By that I mean The Holy Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament and not the Apocrypha. Generally I use the King James Version - I love it! If you don’t believe the Bible I suggest you go read a comic book or, perhaps, Nietzsche. He was insane too. Now back to the issue at hand.
A reading of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John will reveal that there was much discussion about Jesus, whether He was the promised messiah. There were differences of opinion about where He would come into the world, how He would come, and just what He would be when He got here. Would He restore the Davidic Kingdom? To this day, among Jews, there is a disagreement as to whether the Messiah will be a ruling king or "a representation of the Messianic Age itself." If it is an issue (any issue) people will disagree concerning it and come up with a seemingly endless list of opinions. Virtually everybody has a motive for what they believe concerning any issue, and most, an ulterior motive. Somewhere in the midst of all this the truth just gets buried.
The Second Coming of Christ is an issue, thus there is great controversy concerning it. If you really want to know the truth concerning His coming again, you will have to surrender any position you have held and would be prone to defend. You must want to know the truth regardless of any effect it might have on your relationships and alliances, and on your financial well being. You will have to be able to say, with absolute honesty, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."Any commitment to truth that comes short of that in any manner or measure will keep you from the truth as it is in Jesus. To know the truth of the 2nd coming, or any issue, one must want to know that truth regardless of any ramifications it might have for the seeker of truth. The truth might cost you financially. It might cost you friends and alliances. It may hurt your influence and ministry. It might get you crucified. (Or perhaps in this day and age a sniper may just put a bullet through you or the authorities may give you a lethal injection.) If any of those things are more important to you than truth then the truth is not within your reach.
Moses was God’s choice to lead the Israelites from Egyptian bondage to "the promised land." This promised land we call Palestine, or The Holy Land, the Middle East, etc. Today the Nation Israel occupies at least some of it. Almighty God spent 80 years getting Moses ready for the task of leading hundreds of thousands of slaves out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and through the wilderness. The first 40 of those years he spent, at least figuratively, in Pharaoh’s palace. The last 40 years he was on the back side of the desert keeping sheep and raising a family. When the time was right God sent him back to Egypt to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. At least one reason God didn’t send him sooner was that, "the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full." But when the time came that the Amorites were far gone in sin the Children of Israel were sent to take their land from them and to "cut them off." Exodus 23:23.
Why would God do that to the Amorites or any people. Make no mistake about it God loved the Amorites just like he loved the Israelites, or any other people, but people, individually and collectively, can sin away their day of grace. God has said, "My spirit shall not always strive with man." This is true of individuals, groups of people, nations, or mankind generally. King Saul came to the state, spiritually, when he had to acknowledge that "God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams." I suspect that it wasn’t that God wasn’t answering but that Saul, over time, had developed such a habit of hearing only what he wanted to hear that he just couldn’t hear God anymore.
It happens. It happened to the nation Israel. Jeremiah said of them: "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved." Further, Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, who loved his nation, said God told him:
Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee.
Anybody whose heart is right loves people and wouldn’t want to think that any individual they know is beyond redemption. But the fact is that a person can develop such a firm habit of minding God that he will always mind God. And just as that is true, a person can develop such a habit of rejecting God’s counsel that he will always reject God’s guidance and instructions. Thus the Scripture writer tells us that, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." It can happen to the individual or to a nation.
It was in the days before the flood that God said, "My spirit shall not always strive with man." Why? Because "the wickedness of man was great in the earth," and "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." So God had Noah build the ark, get his family and the animals on it, and then He sent the flood and destroyed them all.
Centuries later because God couldn’t find ten righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah He got Lot, with his two daughters, out of there, and then rained fire and brimstone on those cities until no trace, that we have been able to find, is left of them. One exception of this might be the pillar which is known as "Lot’s wife."
One of my history instructors in college said, "the only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn anything from history." Harry Truman said, "There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know." And the writer of Ecclesiastes said, "there is no new thing under the sun." What should we make of all this? Isn’t it that history repeats itself; that we people, individually and collectively, keep making the same mistakes over and over? The people in the days of Lot made the same mistakes as the antediluvians. The Amorites repeated these errors (more properly called sins). And then Israel was taken into captivity because of the same practices. How are things today? "As it was in the days of Noe." "As it was in the days of Lot." They planted and built; they married. They carried on as if things would continue as they were forever. How are we doing today? God on occasion has allowed things to happen that should wake us up to the fact that things just might not continue on indefinitely like they are. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor shocking us into reality. But then, after the war, we turned over and went back to sleep. The militant Islamists flew airliners into the twin towers and the Pentagon and we were shocked awake once again. Soon we were back asleep again. We have ball games to see, vacations to go on, jobs to do, children to rear, plans to make, churches to pastor, property to maintain, etc. etc. We haven’t the time nor the inclination to consider that our world could be turned upside down.
I am often reminded of the common people in Israel in the days of Christ’s earthly ministry. Jesus was stirring things up and the people asked among themselves, "Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?" What difference did it make what the rulers knew? What did they, the people that were asking this question know? That was the question, and the only question! Now you may be wondering what Hal Lindsey thinks about this; or Jack Van Impe or Vic Reasoner or "Who Flung Joe?" What difference does it make what they think; or what this lowly, insignificant writer says; what is God the Holy Spirit trying to tell you? "Ye have an unction from the Holy One" and "ye need not that any man teach you." (You’ll find that in the first epistle of John, I didn’t make it up.) What you need to do is wake up! Or to put it more succinctly, as we kids often did when I was young: "Wake up and piss, your bed's on fire!" Could it be that all of our beds are on fire?
(Wait a minute, you say; what is a preacher doing using that kind of language? What? I am just using the same language that the Psalmist David did when he identified men as those "that pisseth against the wall." By the way, I am a Christian, not a Puritan.)
The prophet, Isaiah, tells us: "Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof." Could this turning upside down of the world be literal as well as figurative? We shall see.
My dentist, as well as fixing teeth, likes to talk theology. He attends a church with a rather large congregation. I once asked him why, in view of the large amount of people in the United States who profess to be Christians, these Christians don’t have more of an influence for good than they do; why don’t they have more of a restraining influence on evil. After talking awhile he finally admitted he did not know. Dr. Dobson’s Focus on the Family fights a valid battle. Divorce, abortion, and homosexuality are destroying the traditional family and families are the foundation on which any community, society, nation, and, in fact, our world is built. Thus the Apostle Paul said, "honor thy father and thy mother; which is the first commandment with promise." The promise being the stabilization of your community, society, and your nation. Has America and, perhaps the whole world, sinned away its day of grace. I think we all know the answer to that question. You say wait! I am a postmillenialist. Well if postmillenialism is true then there will be something new under the sun and history will not repeat itself. God help us to WAKE UP!
I recently published a book: This I Have Learned; subtitled: Reflections at Sunset. One of the chapters in that book is titled From One Extreme to the Other. I see that Vic Reasoner is publishing two articles defending the inerrancy of Scripture in the upcoming issue of The Arminian. I certainly believe all of the Bible and applaud his effort. However, knowing Vic, I am confident he will go to the opposite extreme in attacking this attack on the Bible. Of course you will not know exactly just what I mean as you likely haven't read my book.. I wish you would read it and think you would be rewarded for doing so. It is $24.95 plus $3.99 S&H. You may get it a little cheaper from your favorite bookseller. Or if you cannot afford it I offer it free to anyone who cannot afford to pay for it but promises to read it. If you do purchase it and decide it was not worth the money or the effort it took to read it, just let me know and I will reimburse you for the book and you can use it for a paperweight.
God bless, and God help us to be leaders to this lost generation.
James B. Caniff