Characteristics of Our Time
Prof. Johan Malan - English Articles,
Middelburg, South Africa
We live in a disorderly and confused world without clear moral principles and strong leadership in society. More than ever before clarity is needed on basic matters such as cultural identity (who am I?), moral standards (how should I live?), political ideology (which policy is the right one, e.g. capitalism, socialism or pragmatism?) and religious values (should I adhere to one of the traditional religions, be agnostic, or seek mystical experiences after Oriental traditions?).
Everyone does as he or she pleases, which renders members of society like wandering sheep without a shepherd (Isa. 53:6). Solomon justly says: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 16:25). The Living Bible says: “Before every man there lies a wide and pleasant road he thinks is right, but it ends in death.” Most people will discover too late that they have been on the wrong road.
The following are a number of important characteristics of our time:
The last decade of the previous century saw the rapid advance of postmodernism as a philosophy and way of life in many parts of the world. The direct consequences of this ideology are a lack of clear objectives in life, egocentric lifestyles derived from personal taste, and diverse spiritual practices due to a pragmatic and subjective assessment of religion. All fixed structures and clear ideologies that were part of the modern era, including the Christian civilisation’s adherence to the Bible – which accounted for Christian constitutions, Christian education and the promotion of Christian principles in society – were abandoned and thrown overboard. They were substituted by new cultural expressions in which every person chooses his or her own lifestyle that does not necessarily conform to the Bible, to social standards or to family traditions.
A key concept in postmodernism is “deconstruction.” That means that the old order of society should be dismantled as it is no longer acceptable to postmodern humanity. The problem is, however, that the old order is not replaced by any clear-cut system. Every person is completely free to determine his/her own lifestyle. That usually leads to an eclectic pattern in which each one chooses his/her own combination of institutions and customs.
The new way of thinking promotes a very liberal form of Christianity in which everything revolves around people and their secular interests. Man and his interests is the central focus of their religion. Then there are those people who choose to be agnostic by not believing in any supernatural phenomena. Still others adopt multireligious thinking and come up with their own mix of ideas. They try to reconcile aspects of Eastern and African religions with the Bible on the premise that all of them worship the same God.
Other areas of life also adapt to this confused style of thinking. Cultural boundaries are not respected, neither are Christian marriages or even the basic realities of biological identity (male and female). The result of the latter is that homosexuality is rife in postmodern society.
The new world order
A new world order of global unity is arising from the ruins of the old order which is in the process of being completely demolished. It has the following important implications:
· Nationalism is replaced by globalism. It is regarded as old-fashioned, narrow-minded and divisive to associate yourself with obsolete cultural or national groups. We must have wider horizons. National identity should first be replaced by a larger, regional identity. People in Europe should refer to themselves as Europeans rather than Englishmen, Frenchmen or Germans, etc. They should transfer more power to the European Parliament and also give preference to the European currency and European passport. The boundaries between countries should gradually vanish as they merge into the new super state. In the same way, a transition should be made to greater African unity, American unity, Asian unity, and Middle Eastern unity. The final objective with this process is the merging of all regions into a world state which will unite all countries and regions under the authority of a global government. No country should have the power to deviate from the principles and objectives of the emerging world government on the local level.
· The world economy should be centrally controlled. To be able to do this, there must first be a world government with executive powers. For the sake of more effective control there should be a cashless system of funds transfer which can be controlled from a central point. Such a system can be used to monitor the financial transactions and movements of all economically active people. In this way, the freedom of people will be severely restricted. Computer technology has already been developed for the implementation of such a system.
· Boundaries between various religions should be softened. Supporters of the new world order generally argue that a mystical, religious brotherhood should be established among all people to serve as a basis for other kinds of unity. The interfaith movement is based upon this idea. Their premise is that all religions worship the same God, so they can learn much from one another to better know and understand God.
· Cosmic unity as the ultimate objective. Various New Age groups entertain the idea that cosmic unity is the ultimate objective of the new world order. According to them, the reason for humanity’s group consciousness and narrow-mindedness is the fact that they are not yet attuned to the larger, cosmic sphere. The New Age Movement teaches people to practise transcendental meditation and other forms of contemplation in order to cultivate a new spirituality which is multireligious and mystical. That will, according to them, foster feelings of unity and peace among all people.
· Culture should be determined eclectically. The new world order accepts cultural diversity in the world but is against its rigid observance. They favour a gradual merging of all cultures. People in the West are encouraged to supplement their materialism, cold, logical thinking and busy lifestyles with Eastern meditation. That is done for relaxation and a mystical self-realisation. In postmodern thinking it is common practice to add elements from Buddhism, Hinduism, African religions and other mystical traditions to a capitalist life-style – all according to your own taste.
The days of Noah and Lot
The Bible clearly says that the end-time will be like the days of Noah and Lot (Luke 17:26-30). What were the characteristics of these times? “The wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually... And God said to Noah, The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Gen. 6:6,13). In the time of Lot, the major evil in people’s lives was sodomy: “And they called to Lot and said to him, Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally. So Lot went out to them... and said, Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly” (Gen. 19:5-7). The Living Bible says: “The men of the city – yes, Sodomites, young and old from all over the city – surrounded the house and shouted to Lot: Bring out those men to us so we can rape them. Lot stepped outside to talk to them: Please fellows, he begged, don’t do such a wicked thing.”
Are the times of Noah and Lot not absolutely typical of our time? The great majority of people are exceedingly evil and they only contemplate bad things. They fill the world with violence and all conceivable forms of crime – to such an extent that one can describe it as a global culture of sin. Aggressive and shameless homosexuality is part of the morally depraved humanity of the end-time. That is fully-fledged humanism. The perpetrators of violence and immorality also gain control over governments, they openly allow evil and defend the rights of dangerous criminals by abolishing capital punishment. They even allow sodomites to marry, thereby making a mockery of God’s institution of marriage.
In evil societies of this nature there is no regard for God and His Word. That is why the supreme authority of God is not recognised in the constitutions of most countries. South Africa is one of many countries that do not officially recognise and observe Christianity in government structures. For obvious reasons, countries and communities like this will not heed God’s warnings on judgement. Divine wrath will therefore befall them unexpectedly. In the days of Noah they “did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:39). The present world is in a similar situation – not only because of people’s wickedness but also because of their ignorance on God’s impending judgements.
An aggravating circumstance among end-time humanity is the fact that they have the Bible which does not only explain the way of salvation but also the full implications of persisting wickedness by spiritually hardened people. Because of the latter, humanity will bring about their own near-extinction. The Lord Jesus said: “Then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And if those days had not been shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matt. 24:21-22).
Many years before Christ, Isaiah prophesied about the same judgements that will come upon the evil-doers of the end-time and cause great destruction: “Behold, the Lord makes the earth empty and makes it waste, distorts its surface and scatters abroad its inhabitants... The land shall be entirely emptied and utterly plundered, for the Lord has spoken this word... The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left” (Isa. 24:1,3,5-6).
A further comparison between our time and that of Noah and Lot is the fact that the Lord first ensures the safety of the righteous before pouring out His judgements upon the wicked. Noah, Lot and their families were not appointed to the wrath of their time, and for the same reason believers of other times are also not appointed to divine wrath. We are indeed persecuted by a world that lies in the sway of the devil, but we are never judged by God. For that reason the Lord Jesus said: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). Are you worthy to escape the coming judgements?
Weak and arrogant leadership
The end-time is not only characterised by leaders who are weak and incompetent but they are also arrogant because of not observing the Word of God and acting accordingly. Sin and unrighteousness proliferates under their reign and they do as they please. In course of time they become dictators who think they are untouchable – like little gods. That is exactly what the Antichrist will do. Paul says that he is “the man of sin... the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4). He is “the lawless one” who will arrogantly break all God’s laws (2 Thess. 2:8).
These tyrants and their evil followers will be pulled down and dethroned by God during the coming tribulation: “Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it... I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold” (Isa. 13:9-12).
The times of Noah and Lot, as well as the end-time, are not only times of great moral depravity and spiritual apostatising, but also times in which God directly intervenes in the lives of humanity to save the righteous and punish the wicked. In such times the filthy become more filthy and those who are holy become more holy (Rev. 22:11). As followers of the Lord Jesus it is our duty to go out from among the backsliders and compromisers.
The church of Laodicea
A very common characteristic of our time is that of self-deception within apostatised churches. People generally take a strong stand on their own views, whether they are deceived or not, and adamantly justify themselves. The consequence is that fewer people have a teachable spirit and can therefore not easily be induced to change their minds. Most people justify themselves spiritually, or join churches with low spiritual and moral standards where preachers declare the members to be saved without a clear testimony of being born again.
The end-time church of Laodicea thrives on this watered-down gospel of self-righteousness. They boast in their own achievements by saying: “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” (Rev. 3:17). Their wealth is evident in their high income, large, cathedral-like churches, highly educated preachers, thousands of members, the high esteem that they enjoy in society and in the great significance that they attach to the clergy and the special rituals of the church. All these things are taken as proof of their salvation and the favour that they think they enjoy with God. The church, rather than Christ alone, is regarded as the gateway to heaven.
“Laodicea” means “Human rights” and is an indication that the major focus of this church is on people and their rights, rather than the glory of God and a living relationship with Him through the Holy Spirit. Their dedication to the promotion of human rights is so extreme and unconditional that they even refuse to regard homosexuality as a sin and abomination in the sight of God. The political rights and socio-economics needs of people are considered so important that this church easily becomes involved with humanitarian programmes for the uplifting of people’s secular lives. Little or no emphasis is placed upon the spiritual needs of people.
What does the Lord Jesus say about this deceived church? “You do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17). There is only one solution to this problem of a dead form of godliness which deceives people into thinking they are saved – they should repent by opening the doors of their hearts to the Lord Jesus. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20).
Deceived believers do not have a strong expectation of our future life in heaven and the revelation of Christ’s kingdom during His second coming. They prefer a kingdom here and now, in which they can enjoy all the blessings of wealth, dominion, peace on earth and the immediate solving of all their problems. That is why they have transformation rallies to establish the kingdom, and also practise strategic spiritual warfare to pull down Satan’s strongholds on earth. They do not accept the reality of being sojourners and pilgrims in a world that lies under the sway of the Wicked One, and also fail to accept the clearly stated fact that Christians are destined to be persecuted during this dispensation (John 15:18-20; 16:33; Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 2:3; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet. 4:12-13).
Dominionists believe that the world will, as a result of their faith and efforts, become a better place until the kingdom is fully established. They do not accept biblical prophecies which warn that the world will deteriorate in the end-time and is heading for the revelation of the Antichrist as the man of sin (2 Thess. 2:3; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1-5). They reject the fact that there will be a great tribulation at the end of this dispensation (cf. Matt. 24:21-30; Luke 21:25-27), and consequently also deny the promise of the rapture as an escape for true believers from the coming tribulation (Luke 21:36; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). In dominion theology, humanity and their interests such as peace and prosperity are major considerations. The Word of the Lord is distorted to fit this expectation.
It is characteristic of the end-time that the deity of the Lord Jesus is increasingly denied. Many people do not believe that He is eternal, self-existing and one with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the holy Trinity. His virgin birth is also denied, thus presenting Him as a mere man who was only a great prophet. In this way He does not only become more acceptable to sinners, but also to other religions. Such a “Jesus” can even fulfil the role as the universal Jesus of all faiths, but that can only happen after He has been so severely degraded in status that He can be depicted as a follower of Mohammed and a personification of Buddha. Sinners represent Him in blasphemous Hollywood films such as Jesus Christ Superstar, The Last Temptation of Christ and Jesus of Montreal as a typical human sinner.
There are even many Christian theologians who deny the deity and virgin birth of Jesus Christ. They only refer to Him as Jesus as if He is their equal, and not Lord Jesus as the apostles mostly described Him after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit when His deity was fully revealed to them. To many people Jesus is only the son of Joseph and Mary; they cannot, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, address Him as “My Lord and my God!” like Thomas and others did (John 20:28).
The Jewish leaders had the same misgivings and refused to recognise Jesus as God. They wanted to stone Him for making Himself equal with God: “The Jews answered Him, saying, For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a man, make Yourself God” (John 10:33). They rejected the heavenly origin of Jesus and stubbornly refused to accept Him as Son of God or God Himself who is one with the Father (John 10:30; 14:8-9). They only saw Him as a human being who was born in Bethlehem. But the Lord Jesus introduced Himself as the eternal I AM to them: “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John. 8:58). It was vitally important to confess His deity as no one can be saved without believing this great truth. Christ said to them: “If you do not believe that I am he, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). The Modern King James Version renders this verse, “If you do not believe that I AM, you shall die in your sins.”
The strong motivation behind the end-time campaign against the deity of the Lord Jesus is a postmodern process of deconstruction in which He is deprived of His biblical identity and divine attributes in an effort to replace Him with another “Jesus” also referred to as “the Christ” or “the World Teacher.” The Jews were long ago warned against this kind of deception, when the Lord Jesus said: “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive” (John 5:43).
The millions of deceived people among the Gentiles will do the same. They will also conclude a covenant with the false messiah (Dan. 9:27), follow him in awe and worship him (Rev. 13:3-4). They will fully accept the great impostor of Satan, thinking that he is the true Christ. The image of Jesus must first be changed and a brotherly relationship between the various religions falsely be established before people can be deceived to receive somebody else in the place of Christ as the cosmic christ of all religions. In the process, uninformed people will receive strong delusion to believe the lie (2 Thess. 2:11) and will conclude a covenant wit the counterfeit christ.
What we experience in the world today is an intensive process of deconstruction to change the image of the Lord to such an extent that He can, in a uniting sense, be portrayed as the Messiah of all faiths. He is also increasingly dissociated from His cross and the shedding of His blood for the atoning of sin. He is considered within the context of “positive thinking,” which results in all “negative” connotations such as His cross and God’s judgements upon sin being excluded as if they are not important. Jesus is only depicted as a peacemaker who came to save humanity from problems such as poverty, discrimination, rejection by others and political divisions among them. To these people, He came to introduce a new social order in which everybody will live happily and peacefully.
The shocking fact is that there are various churches and Christian groups which are, under the instigation of the devil, proclaiming “another Jesus,” “another gospel” and “another spirit” (2 Cor. 11:2-4). Without realising it, they have become forerunners to the “other Jesus” of the end-time – the Antichrist. When this impostor appears on a white horse of peace to bless and unite the world and temporarily save them from an impending world war (Rev. 6:2), virtually all people will accept him as “the Christ” and follow him in awe: “All the world marvelled and followed the beast... and they worshipped the beast” (Rev. 13:3-4).
People who have changed the image of the Lord Jesus to conform to that of the Antichrist do not believe that a personal Antichrist will appear on the scene. Their prophetic perspective is completely distorted and they are looking for an earthly kingdom under the leadership of the global messiah of all faiths – not realising that he will be the Antichrist.
True Christians can have no part in the false presentation of the Lord Jesus by depriving Him of His deity and virgin birth, as that would rob them of a Saviour from heaven. Paul says He is “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). Peter says that Jesus Christ is “our God and Saviour” (2 Pet. 1:1) while John refers to Him as “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). Furthermore, we cannot be silent on the great significance of His crucifixion. We join Paul in saying: “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).
Sober thinking and singleness of purpose
If we want to avoid being deceived we should know the Bible well. All claims must be tested in the Light of God’s Word. “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13).
Biblical prophecies on the end-time help us to understand what is happening in the world, so we don’t need to walk in darkness and be led astray by Satan: “We also have the prophetic word made more sure, which you do well to heed as to a light that shines in a dark place” (2 Pet. 1:19). If we walk in the light of God’s Word we will not turn to the right hand or to the left from the narrow way, and prosper wherever we go (cf. Josh. 1:7).
Do not put your trust in princes or try to please family, friends or colleagues but be a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus: “Do not be conformed to this [evil] world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).
Remember that we have a heavenly destination and that we must give account of lives before the judgement seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10-12). If we have a strong expectation on Christ’s second coming we will live holy lives (1 John 3:2-3). If our prophetic expectation dwindles or becomes extinct we run the risk of forgetting who the Lord of our lives is. Such people become arrogant and lapse into carnal lifestyles: “If that evil servant says in his heart, My master is delaying his coming, and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him... and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites” (Matt. 24:48-51).
We are living in a world where the majority of people still reject the Lord Jesus and His Word by preferring to do things their way (John 3:19). The big challenge ahead of us is not only to strive to enter through the narrow gate (Luke 13:23-24) but also to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us [and to] run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2).
The evil characteristics of our time are no excuse to Christians to lower their standards and conform to the world. Unfortunately, some believers wilfully expose themselves to evil, thereby undermining their own faith. The Lord Jesus said: “Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). The Living Bible says: “Sin will be rampant everywhere and will cool the love of many.” Do not allow that to happen.