Two sailors, on the deck of a large ship, looked at a tiny speck on the distant horizon. One said, “I can't make out what it is. It is too small—too far away.
There is too much haze and the ship is too unsteady. In fact, it may be a freak of the imagination. There may be nothing there at all.”
The other said, “It is large and near at hand. It is a ship and it is coming in our direction.”
Both men were talking about the same thing but, while one sailor used his unaided eyes, the other peered through a large telescope. What we see ahead depends on what kind of glass we use and what sort of light we have.
If the only light we have is the light of experience, we will not see much of tomorrow. To be able to read the future we need the eyes of God and the light of His Word. This is why the Bible is called a “lamp unto my feet” and Bible prophecy “a light shining in a dark place” (see Psalm 119:105; 2 Peter 1:19). People have always been interested in the future. Movies, writers and playwrights have endeavoured to depict what they think is going to happen.
Scientists, philosophers, historians and political leaders are all talking about the world of tomorrow.
In the midst of all this pessimism, gloom and frustration in intellectual circles, there is one great hope: the promise of Christ to return to this earth. He said, “I will come again” (John 14:3, KJV). Of all the subjects in the Bible, this is one of the greatest.
A large portion of Scripture deals with the future of the human race.
You will find it discussed in book after book, on page after page, as if it were a great prophetic picture thrown up on a vast screen before us. Time has been telescoped. Events take place rapidly.
The panorama before us is both colour and sound, clearly depicting where we stand today in relation to eternity.
So what do we see ahead?
First of all, we see changes in church and state—great changes. More and more, the church will be appealing for assistance from political powers. Christianity, forgetting the lessons of the past, will rely on the strong arm of the state for aid (see Revelation 17).
We see growing world perplexity.
“On the earth [we will see] dismay among nations, in perplexity” (Luke 21:25, NASV). And the word “perplexity”
means “bewilderment.” The world stands bewildered by events in the Middle East, India and many other places. The nuclear threat—particularly the potential for terrorism—becomes so great. So there is a cry for peace and safety—especially for safety (see 1 Thessalonians 5:3).
There seems to be a great chorus calling for the warring factions to “hammer their swords into plowshares... .
And never again will they learn war” (Isaiah 2:4, NASV). Melt the tanks into instruments of agriculture and turn our defence budgets into aid for the needy.
But then a dark curtain covers it all and there is smoke and bloodshed, storms and lightning.
As we look ahead we see the rise of the non-Christian powers which have been asleep for so many centuries.
Suddenly, a great awakening takes place—one little dreamed of 100 years ago (see Joel 3:9-12). As these underprivileged countries assert themselves, every nation watches them with uneasy concern and interest. Africa is ablaze; Asia is aflame; China and India, nations which only a few years ago were nations of peasants, are undergoing rapid economic and technological development.
We see a great falling away in the Christian church of two kinds—theological and a moral. The moral decline is brought about largely because the church has been teaching for so long that the Ten Commandments are no longer binding on Christians.
The “now” generation lives as the church has been teaching and the growing permissiveness in society is the result. “For the coming of the Son of Man,” Jesus said, “will be just like the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37, NASB). Remember the words of Genesis 6:11, describing those days: “The earth was filled with violence” (KJV). The future reveals the movement for unity among the churches, both Protestant and Catholic, growing into vast aggregations of power. Could the July 2007 statement of Pope Benedict XVI—that the Catholic Church is the one true church and other “churches” should not be called such—hint of the unity to come? An invitation to join as one “community of believers” may be on our doorstep.
The picture becomes very colourful and we see many strange spirit appearances growing more and more common.
There are startling manifestations; loved ones are supposedly raised from the dead and are able to talk to their relatives, who receive messages of their existence since death. Could the next step be to see a being of dazzling brightness appearing, who heals the sick and does many marvellous things, with many believing the impostor to be Christ (see Matthew 24:42; Revelation 16:14)?
Then we are stunned as picture after picture flashes on the screen before us in crazy patterns and bright glaring lights. It is the psychedelic whirlpool into which this generation is being drawn; the mind-changing drugs, the mind-expanding drugs sweeping the world. A vast cornucopia of concoctions are on offer today, aiming at the human mind and will, tampering with the seat of decision, tampering with the conscience, tampering with people's eternal destiny.
We see inventions, marvellous, breathtaking achievements; humanity endeavouring to conquer the very depths of space.
One human wonder seems to be following so closely on the heels of another. As said the prophet about the last days, “many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase” (Daniel 12:4, NASB).
We see millions rejecting the worship of God for the worship of men and women, and their scientific achievements.
“Humanity is the master of things” is the prevailing philosophy.
Amazing inventions so multiply that men are tempted to believe in the possibility of “heaven on earth” without the help of God.
All these things are ahead and more—much more—but now the scene changes in both colour and sound. The great curtain of the ages opens on what is obviously the climax of everything— a wonderful sight beyond comparison.
The whole world is bathed in light far brighter than a thousand suns. It is the blazing glory of His presence.
The cities of earth are falling; millions try to hide and call for the rocks to be their shelter. Graves burst open and the dead come forth. Thousands who have not drawn a breath for centuries feel the throb of immortality.
Angels restore little children to their mother's arms. And then Jesus speaks: “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34, NASB).
Have you ever stopped to realise what this could mean to you, if you are a child of God, as you see that white cloud moving up out of the east—faster and faster, larger and larger, brighter and brighter? It is the King in His beauty! He is here! Feel the charge of eternal life flow through your body. At that moment, the “eyes of the blind will be opened. And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer” (Isaiah 35:5, 6, NASB).
Hear the happy cry ringing through the hospital wards, “No more operations, no more pain!” If you have walked with a limp, then you will run as you have always wished you could. If you have failing sight, your vision will suddenly be restored. You will throw your glasses away. You will never need them again.
If you have arthritis and your joints are all tied up, the pain will suddenly cease. The ugly bumps will disappear.
Your skin will become smooth. If you have heart troubles and fear the faithful old pump is wearing out, all will be restored again. If you have cancer and have had the “death sentence” pronounced over you by your doctor, the ordeal will then be over. Pain will be finished and God will wipe away all tears from your eyes with the handkerchief of His love. From this moment on, you will feel perfectly well and will never know sickness again.
No wonder the second coming of Jesus is called the “blessed hope” (see Titus 2:13). As it has been through the ages, it is today the only, last, best hope of humanity.