Are we close to the end times? Is Jesus returning soon? These are questions that every generation of believers has probably asked themselves. For most of my Christian life I never really cared or spent much energy to study eschatology. I realized that over 40% of the world had never heard the Gospel. So, I felt compelled to focus on reaching those people groups of the 10/40 window, thinking Jesus' return must be a long way off according to Matt 24:14. However, over the past 25 years so much progress has been made and many missions leaders believe that Matt 24:14 can be fulfilled in the next 25-50 years. As followers of Christ, we should feel blessed that God has chosen us to live in this time of global unrest and catastrophe that has caused so many unreached people to be scattered and resettled in Christianized nations. Also, because of wars and natural disasters, many Christian workers are being mobilized into areas previously closed off to the Gospel. It's similar to God using persecution to scatter the early believers so that they would go and preach the Gospel to the unreached (Act 8:4). We may not understand it and may not even agree with it, but God has always chosen to use pain and suffering to accomplish His will and purposes.
Although evil and wickedness have always been in the world, it is definitely increasing as righteous living declines. The quote from Jesus "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold" (Matt 24:12) is the reality of our world today. It's hard to get through a day without hearing of people being murdered senselessly, mass shootings, the hatred within politics, disagreements leading to violence, deadly protests, for the love of money and power wars that bring death and destruction, hatred and distrust between nations, ethnic and racial bigotry, etc. Add to that the perversion of transgenderism and the child abuse that comes with it being so prevalent in our country and the Western world. As wickedness increases, people's love for each other has grown cold. What we are witnessing in the world today is no surprise to God though. Jesus painted a pretty dim picture of the times leading up to the end times.
4) Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5) For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6) You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7) Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8) All these are the beginning of birth pains".
9) “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10) At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11) and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12) Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13) but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come"(Matt 24:4-14).
There are differing interpretations of this passage. Some theologians believe Jesus is talking about the tribulation period, and some believe He is speaking of the times (birth pains) leading up to and increasing as the end nears. I happen to agree with the latter. Either way, Jesus told this to His disciples then, so that His disciples now, would heed His warnings and recognize the times we are living in.
Another reason I believe this passage is speaking about the times leading up to the end times period is that the persecution of Christians has increased dramatically and is worse now than at any time in history. According to Open Doors https://www.opendoors.org/en-US/persecution/countries/ over 5600 Christians were martyred last year. The majority of them are from Islamic-run countries in the 10/40 window. Afghanistan is one of the countries high on the list for persecuting Christians. So, we see that Jesus' prophetic warning in verse 9, is a reality in our time also.
Jesus also warned that many will come claiming to be Messiah (v5), deceiving many, and many false prophets will appear (v11) also deceiving many people. Six hundred years after Jesus prophesies these warnings the greatest false prophet in the history of the world arose starting the religion of Islam. Mahammad, the prophet of Islam and author of the Quran, claimed to be a prophet sent by God. However, he redefined the scriptures and perverted the Gospel message and who Jesus is by stripping Him of His deity and Sonship with the Father. The Quran also denies that Jesus ever died on the cross and rose again. Although there are many true things about Jesus in the Quran, Islam teaches about a different messiah, a different Jesus called Isa. Although historically Islam is speaking of the same Jesus, they totally redefine who he is, therefore proclaiming a false Jesus and a false messiah. Although I love Muslims and have many Muslim friends I consider to be like family, I personally believe Islamic theology is Satan's greatest masterpiece to deceive the world.
Some staggering facts to consider. Islam is the fastest-growing religion worldwide and in the United States approaching 2 billion followers. After 9/11 Islam was experiencing approx 60,000 converts each year to Islam in America alone. In recent years the number is about 30,000 yearly. Many of these converts grew up in Christian homes and about 85% are African Americans. Add to that the birthrate of Muslims far exceeds Christian families in America and globally. Estimates show that within 20 years Islam will be the dominant religion of the world surpassing Christianity.
So, why does it matter if Islam surpasses Christianity? For many years now, I believe that Islam is the spirit of the antichrist and that the antichrist will come from the Islamic world. While I was reading the Quran to learn more about Islam God brought this scripture to my mind, so, I base my opinion on this scripture. 1 John 2:22 says, "This is the antichrist, the one who denies and Father and the Son." God revealed to me that day how evil Islam was for strongly denying the Father and Jesus as His Son. Islam also believes the messiah Jesus (Isa Al-Masih) will return in the end times and correct the Christians and Jews and lead them to become Muslim. If anyone doesn't convert to Islam they will be killed. According to Islam, Jesus will also kill the antichrist (Dajjal) in the end times. I am personally convinced the Muslim Jesus (Isa), will return in the end times, however, not as the returning Messiah of the Christians and Jews but to deceive the world. Therefore, fulfilling Jesus' prophetic warning, "For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many" (Matt 24:5).
These facts about Islam and the warnings from Jesus about the end times can be discouraging. Seeing all the increase of wickedness in our world today can cause us to become callous, and cause our hearts to grow cold toward others. However, Jesus gives us hope in verse 13, "but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved". Then in verse 14, He gives His disciples the end result of the Great Commission He will soon command them (and us) to do before He ascends into Heaven.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).
Disclaimer: My opinion in this blog is not to be taken as if I'm speaking dogmatically or claiming to predict the future as some end-times prophet pretending to speak for God. I just want to pass on to you as a front-line worker, working with Muslims for over 23 years, my perspective of the times we live in and the scriptures that warn us to be aware. My desire is only to encourage us all to be like that faithful servant waiting for his master to return which Jesus talks about in Matt 24: 45-46.
We invite you to join us as we continue to keep our love for the world alive and fresh as we wait for the coming of our Lord! We need your continued prayer and financial partnership to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and be a witness for Jesus to the Muslim nations and the unreached people God leads us to. Please consider partnering with us!
If you are not sure about your position with God when the end does come take a few minutes and enjoy this short video sharing God's story by Zume'. I hope you are encouraged by God's love and redemption for you!