In my last blog, we were looking at Signs of the Times of the Second Coming of Christ.
I have two more “signs” of some historic notice to highlight in today’s column. Yet first, here is an extended review of our Catholic beliefs on the ‘end things.’ I thought it necessary.
About the Second Coming, Catholics believe Jesus will come again. We teach that Jesus could come again at any time. His return is immanent. The Church’s Creed affirms that when Jesus returns, He will judge both the living and the dead. At that time, the world will come to an end. Catholics reject the belief in any coming “tribulation period” or a “rapture of the church” common among some other Christian denominations. We believe Jesus will simply return, judge all of humanity, and bring an end to time.”
About the related idea of a Kingdom of God reign, Catholics see the Kingdom of God as something present and visible in the Catholic Church (and to wherever God will want to extend His body of believers into His elect), but we well also speak of it as something greater yet to come in experience in heaven. Catholics reject a literal millennial kingdom period, a belief common in some other Christian denominations. Saint Augustine first articulated kingdom view in his “City of God.” Yet he meant the age of the Church would be this kingdom period. Catholics expect the Church and the gospel to spread to the entire world before the end comes, encompassing the entire earth in the made-available Kingdom of God. That, indeed, is what we are trying to do presently. Each Mass ends with a clergyman’s dismissal, such as “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!”
Christ will come. We need for people to come to know Him before He appears in Glory.
We Catholics, for our whole history, have professed our belief that Jesus will come again in a glorious Second Coming. Our Mystery of Faith in the center of the Eucharistic Prayer of Mass (as prayed/sung by the people) proclaims it and pleads God for it: “Lord Jesus, come in glory!” Our Scriptures proclaimed in our liturgies announces it, such as in Revelation 1:7 (New American Bible) “Behold, He is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him. All the peoples of the earth will lament Him. Yes. Amen.” Or in Micah 1:2-4,11; 4:1,3 “Hear, you peoples, all of you; pay attention, O earth, and all that is in it, and let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. For behold, the Lord is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. And the mountains will melt under him, and the valleys will split open, like wax before the fire, like waters poured down a steep place…I will again bring a conqueror to you, inhabitants of Mareshah; the glory of Israel shall come to Adullam (Canaan).” “…In the latter days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of The Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow unto it…“And he will judge between many peoples, and will decide concerning strong nations afar off: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; and nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Matthew’s Gospel ending (Mt. 24:30; 26:64) are proclaim texts quite familiar to Catholic ears about the End Times- “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in Heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory…(and Jesus said to him), You have said one thing, nevertheless, I say to you another, that, hereafter shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and then coming in the clouds of heaven.”
So, while no one knows the day, nor should try to know it– of this Glorious Return of Jesus– He did leave some clues to the End Times signs. Here, as promised, are two more such “signs.” They are taken from the same Matthew 24 text.(vs. 3-8)
A) Growth of false teachers/ antichrists and deceivers of the Gospel message in the End Times. B) Wars, earthquakes, famines as “birth pangs” of The End being near.
Jesus pointed to these things as He said in the finish of His ministry, while sitting on the slopes of the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and asked, ‘When will all this take place? And will there be any sign ahead of time to signal your return and the end of the world?’ Jesus told them, ‘Don’t let anyone mislead you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will lead many astray. And wars will break out near and far, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must come, but the end won’t follow immediately. The nations and kingdoms will proclaim war against each other, and there will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world. But all this will be only the beginning of the horrors to come.‘”
This translation doesn’t spell out what the “horrors” mean, but Strong’s Concordance communicates that the end times will be analogous to the birthing process, because the word “horrors” comes from the word “odin” which is best translated as “the pain of childbirth” or “birth pangs.” This means that, much like birth pangs, signs of the end times will appear with greater frequency and intensity as Christ’s return draws near.
History shows that wars, famines and earthquakes are increasing in frequency and intensity. Let’s see the figures. According to a Wikipedia list of wars, the past 500 years have witnessed an increase in the frequency of wars: 15th Century – 29 wars. 16th C. – 59. 17th C. – 75. 18th C.- 69. 19th C. – 294. 20th Century – 278 wars. The first decade of the 21st Century already did witness 55 wars, putting humanity on course for 550 wars over the next one hundred year period.
According to Wikipedia, the past 500 years have also witnessed an increase in the frequency of famines: 15th Century – 6 famines. 16th C. – 10. 17th – 24. 18th – 28. 19th – 30. 20th Century – 44 famines. The first decade of this century alone witnessed 12 famines already, putting humanity on course for 120 famines for this century!
As the population of the world has grown, famines have caused more and more death and destruction in their wake. Yet is it a population problem? No. It’s a greed problem and a pride problem. We have great capacity to feed the world, even of this size now.
According to a Wikipedia list of earthquakes, the past 500 years have witnessed the following number of earthquakes described as a magnitude 7.0 or greater:
15th Century – 2 earthquakes 16th – 3 of them. 17th – 7 of them. 18th – 13 of them. 19th – 29 of them. 20th Century – 123 of them! The first decade of this 21st Century already witnessed 144 earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.0 or greater, putting humanity on course for 1,440 such earthquakes over the next century. ‘Yikes!
The dramatic increase in devastating wars, famines, and earthquakes from the time of Jesus until today is one of clearest signs of the end times. So it is a good thing to bring yourself to be ready for the Coming of The Lord.
As for false messiahs, antichrists and the like– just think of the big opposition to the Catholic Church today. She seems to be a target for many. Many would like to take her down. Yet Jesus knew this from the start, saying to Simon Peter: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against you.” That comment from the Savior indicates how He knew they would definitely try to defeat or stop us. Many today will indirectly be an opponent of The Church, with persons who will claim their own authority to bring a counter-message to that of the Church, as in preaching to “itching ears” as 2nd Timothy 4:3 describes. Many declare their own versions of Christianity today, ignoring the One Jesus founded to be kept through time until His return. The numbers of separate churches or communities calling themselves Christian is staggering in 2017. The teachings of Jesus in John 17 are not much followed today, bringing on all the disunity of those called as “Christian.” The “love one another” commandment of our Lord seems to be set aside instead for selfish things. Even Gandhi said that perhaps the world’s biggest sin (amidst a world of people calling themselves ‘decent’) is greed of self.
The Loving Oneness of Christ Jesus was meant, most of all, to be expressed in the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. The Pauline mandate for the Eucharistic sacrifice by priests (as himself) to be prayed with the faithful, until Christ’ Return, is not followed at all outside the original Catholic orthodox Church. “We proclaim the death (sacrificial offering) of Christ until He comes again,” said St. Paul in 1st Corinthians 11:26 in his epistle text on the Mass of the early church in Greece. The true Church has the Eucharist to offer (re-present) to God. The Church has the successor to Peter and the apostles, too. Yet many choose to stand outside of her (or one might say: HIM). Paul said that we are to strive to be “in Christ.” He says it 160 times in his epistles. Yup.
That is the sad state within Christendom–our division.
Then there is the awful state outside of Christendom, of people claiming to be equal or better than ‘regular’ or historic Christianity. This time of history is full of many cults, some of the occult movements most obviously under Satan, others in new age movements under some spirit, not to the honor of Jesus, but still there are left the millions of others in false groups (cults) that claim some connection to Christ but not to His divinity. Those cult members and false teachers are in a dire state themselves, outside of the salvation teaching of the Lord Jesus, Who very much IS Divine. Jesus is God and man. Scientology followers, Mormons, Christian Scientists, Unitarians, The Way members, Jehovah Witnesses and many more such cults claim to be godly, but there is not the acknowledgement of any to Jesus being as Lord God over them, that is, not in the way as He asked of His own. John’s epistles in the Bible are all about warnings of such false teachings and teachers. The Early Church also has her hard fought accounts versus many heresies and distortions of the Truth of Christ. Those original orthodox believers would be aghast at what is taking place today in these above false movements.
If one were to put up a road sign of all this spiritual confusion, then I think the one of the intersection depicted would be it.
Yet, more worse than the false teachings or astray ways going on is what’s ahead. Gaining force to affront the Church is the real possibility for a global false leader of huge magnitude to mislead the world and to gain a massive following. If the smaller antichrists of Hitler and Stalin weren’t bad enough last century, then we might shudder at who and what this century might bring us. The rise of globalization and maybe a multinational world government and controlling system on the earth could bring the AntiChrist. One day, a single man will rule all the people and nations on the earth, so seems to warn St. John’s Apocalypse vision: “And he was given authority to rule over every tribe and people and language and nation.” Revelation 13:7
Given the current global financial crisis and the potential catastrophe of a global war, more and more diplomatic leaders and world politicians are calling for global government. And as human technology continues to advance and mature, we’re quickly reaching a point where global totalitarian rule will be possible. Some great deceiver will come forth to persecute the Church and Christ’ own, while seemingly being the popular figure for worldly people to follow, right to their oblivion. Yet there will be a people of great faith keeping obedient to Christ and His Truth and Headship of the Body. “And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world – to every nation, tribe, language, and people. ‘Fear God,’ he shouted. ‘Give glory to him. For the time has come when He will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water.'” Revelation 14:6-7 (NLT) Or worship the Deceiver.
What an awful time of conflict that portends to be. Let’s pray for the strength to “endure to the end and be saved.(Matthew 24:13).”
Prophecy is telling us that Christ is coming.
“In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know His return is near, at the door.” Matthew 24:33
The time on the clock of time is ticking. “Another reason for right living is that you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Romans 13:11.