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One Step Closer to His Return
Unloving behaviors are evidence we are close to the last days
If you’ve been around this site for very long, you’ve probably heard me say that we are not just close to the end times, but we are close to the end of the end times. We are approaching the biggest event in world history. In fact, I wouldn’t even say we are approaching it. We are already there, and these things are happening now.
When I say things like that, it catches my listeners’ attention. They always want to know why I believe this. Here are a few reasons:
Days of Perplexity
One of the things Jesus says about the days leading up to His return is that they will be filled with distress. Here are His own words about it:
And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”—Luke 21:25–28
Jesus is saying people will be perplexed when they witness the signs and experience the periods of sorrow before He returns. They will want answers but won’t have them. Perplexity means intense puzzlement and confusion at the complexity of a situation. Does this sound familiar to you?
It should, because that is what is happening in the world at the present moment. There are problems with no answers, and no one is able to step forward and solve them.
Jesus also says the end will happen in just a single generation, we will see all these events fulfilled. He says, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place” (Matthew 24:34).
So when you see these things start happening, you will know the end is near. The end doesn’t happen over a period of two to three hundred years—Jesus said the generation that sees these things start happening will see all things fulfilled.
Jesus was not speaking about His own generation during His time on earth, because everyone in that generation died. I believe Jesus was talking about our generation.
You may be pulling out your old history book and looking at all the cataclysmic events that have happened since the time of Christ. You’re wondering how this generation stands apart from all those that went before. Every generation has experienced wars, hurricanes and earthquakes. I will readily admit that each generation has had natural disasters, disease, famine, despots, and dictators. Some of those evil leaders were so bad that people wondered if they were the Antichrist. They might have had the spirit of the Antichrist, but they weren’t the real thing. He is still to come.
So, yes, every generation has had some signs, but the end generation will have every sign.
How long is a generation? In Psalm 90:10 Moses wrote:
The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years
The average human lifespan is right in the middle of those two numbers. Most people are expected to live into their 70s.
Why is this significant? Israel became a nation again on May 14, 1948. That was 70 years ago. I don’t set exact dates for when the end will come, but Jesus said the generation that sees the beginning of these things will see the end. By my best count—if a generation is 70 to 80 years—then the end times are happening even now. We are in the middle of it. What we see occurring in Israel today is one of those signs.
I do not know exactly how long we have left before Jesus returns, but we are seeing all the signs pointing to His arrival. For example, Jesus says, “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). He is telling us that human depravity and rebellion against God are going to rise to a deafening crescendo.
Lawlessness doesn’t mean kids won’t obey their teachers, drivers will break speed limits, or taxpayers will cheat the IRS. Those things certainly are lawless, but they aren’t what Jesus means. He is speaking about rebellion against God. Of course, rebellion against human authority grows out of rebellion against God, but while those two are related, they are not synonymous. The Greek word for “lawlessness” in this passage is anomia (“without law”), and it specifically refers to rebellion against God.
The apostle Paul describes the days leading up to the coming of Christ like this:
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.—2 Thessalonians 2:3
Another way to translate the phrase “falling away” is apostasy. Paul is saying people will turn away from the truth. He wasn’t referring to the way the world often rejects God; he meant that people in the Church will reject the truth of God’s Word. We are witnessing this happen right now in our generation.
Paul gives an even fuller description of lawlessness in his second letter to Timothy:
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.—2 Timothy 3:1-4
Paul’s list is extensive. He lists 18 negative actions that will typify human behavior before Jesus returns. How many of these things do we see in our current generation?
Halfway through the list, Paul says something that has always caught my attention: Ppeople will be unloving.
What makes that particular behavior so interesting is he says they will be “lovers,” but they will love something other than God or people. In fact, the behaviors he lists are unloving toward God, others, or both.
The Greek word translated “unloving” in this passage is astorgoi, which means “without natural affection.” They don’t even have the love that normally should accompany human existence. They don’t love their families, and they certainly don’t love God. Consider the number of parents killing their children and children killing their parents today. Stories such as these were unheard of 30 or 40 years ago, but they’re commonplace today.
Love of Self
Boasting, pride, blasphemy, disobedience, unthankfulness, unholiness, slander, lack of self-control, brutality, hating goodness, betrayal, stubbornness, and haughtiness all share a close connection. All of them operate as if I am the most important person. It’s as if we are saying, “You don’t matter. God doesn’t matter. I am the only one who matters.”
Our culture has built a whole industry around this list of vices. Spend an hour on social media and you will see what I mean. Some people have even made a living off doing nothing except promoting themselves and focusing on these behaviors. We call them “social influencers.” They haven’t accomplished anything except to be noticed through self-promotion. Not all social influencers are bad, but those who engage in these kinds of vices have proven that our culture elevates those who openly engage in sin.
Think about how much our contemporary culture focuses on self-love. People are told to love themselves unconditionally because that is the only way they will be healthy, happy, and whole. We should love ourselves—but not to the exclusion of loving God and others.
Jesus didn’t say that love of self was the greatest commandment or one “like unto it” (Matthew 22:36-40). He told us to love God and others. We should know who we are in God’s eyes, but we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Romans 12:1-3). Paul is writing about those who lift themselves up and ignore God. We don’t really need to be encouraged to love ourselves, nor do we need to hate ourselves.
We should see ourselves as we really are, which is how God sees us. We are sinners who have been saved only by the love, grace, and righteousness of Jesus Christ. The Greek term Paul uses here is philautos, which means “self-loving or self-centered.” Believers are never encouraged to become self-centered or self-focused. The first minute you decide to become the center of your own existence is the same minute you choose to destroy your relationships with God and others. “Lovers of self” may head up Paul’s list because it is the essence of every other sin. Once we take our eyes off God and put them on ourselves, we open the door for our flesh to take over.
Love of Money
People also love money. According to a survey conducted by Dave Ramsey, “money fights are the second leading cause of divorce, behind infidelity.” Money problems stoke worry, conflict, and even crime. How we relate to money says more about us than we think. Paul wrote,
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.—1 Timothy 6:10
You don’t have to possess a lot of money to be a money-lover. Many people who don’t have much money are as obsessed with it as those who do. Our society often marks the value of people by how much they possess. The Bible repeatedly warns us not to show favoritism or esteem others based on how much they own, but most people in our culture ignore that admonition.
You can have money, but you must guard your heart. Jesus said:
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.—Matthew 6:24
During biblical times, Mammon was the Syrian deity of wealth and riches. Jesus was warning His followers that they could be worshiping a demonic idol if their focus turned too much toward money and greed. It’s the same today. We are living in a culture of idol worship.
Love of Pleasure
People love pleasure. Pleasure is something God created. The Lord wants us to find pleasure in Him. Others bring us pleasure because of their connection to Him. He wants husbands and wives to experience pleasure within the confines of a committed, covenant marriage. But those are not the kinds of pleasure Paul is talking about in 2 Timothy 3.
The type of pleasure Paul lists is not the kind God intended for us. He is writing about those who find pleasure in sinful and thoughtless behavior. That kind of behavior ignores God and misuses others.
We are seeing these sinful, unloving behaviors exhibited in our everyday lives. People seek peace and pleasure in everything except a relationship with the Lord. Yes, it’s distressing and disturbing, but Paul does not list these vices to discourage us. He is saying they are evidence that we are one step closer to the return of Christ.
Jesus wants His followers to get excited because He is about to restore all things for those who believe. Right now, we only have a small portion of what Jesus redeemed for us on the cross. But one day soon, we will get everything back that was stolen by sin and Satan. On the day Jesus returns, He will redeem us and make all things new.