Evangelist Billy Graham gave an electrifying sermon recently where he quoted from Luke 21. 26, describing the last days of this present dispensation on the earth when men’s hearts were failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth. He quoted from the 12th of Daniel where it says that many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased. Is this scientific knowledge? Surely that’s true. But if it is the knowledge of truth that increases, it brings to mind the Lord’s question, "When the son of man comes, shall he find faith in the earth?" For Christians who are watching for signs of his return, for example, does the nuclear test ban equate with a period of peace and safety? For when they shall say peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them as travail upon woman with child. (I Thess 5. 3) Does the test ban treaty lead up to the time when Israel is a land of unwalled villages; that are at rest; that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls and having neither bars nor gates? Some Bible scholars believe that this is the time when Ezekiel 38 is fulfilled, and the second advent ushers in a new order of things in a new heavens and a new earth, the former things having passed away.
Now the second advent becomes very personal. It will not be a place for sinners. In order to be part of a new order, we must stand before the judgment seat. We’re gonna have to pass an examination. Every one of us shall give an account of himself to God. (Rom 15. 12). Exams bring up very unpleasant memories of school because of abysmal ignorance, or cramming a lot of facts into our heads–some have a special talent here. Sometimes we remember doing well on the examination and perhaps fooling the teacher. Often we seem to be living as though life is just like that–we spend our time fooling each other–procrastinating–hoping that a great spurt right at the end will do the trick. This won’t work at the judgment; we’re not giving an account of others, but of ourselves. Last minute efforts are not going to save us. Rev 22. 11 reads,
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still;
He which is filthy, let him be filthy still.
And he that is righteous, let him be righteous still,
And he that is holy, let him be holy still.
We are what we are when he returns, and no desperation efforts are going to change anything. We’re creatures of habit. Once you’ve embraced bad habits, you can’t change quickly even if you wanted to do so.
Pleasing God can become a matter of habit. Man can train himself, or be trained, to do the unnatural thing such as holding your breath for a prolonged time, fingering a guitar, or mastering the flying trapeze, etc. God doesn’t want us to do what comes naturally. He has asked for the exact opposite,-- that we change into a character that answers the call of Christ, e.g. to be compassionate and merciful toward our fellow man, an often contrary, even inconvenient thing. All habits require that you make a start, and do it with a strong and dedicated will. That’s why so much scripture is directed at acting now. We must Redeem the time, because the days are evil (Eph 5. 16). Time is meaningful to Christians–we must use it now because it is fleeting. Paul, admonishing the Corinthians warned, Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6.2). And the writer to the Hebrews told them to exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘today’; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3. 13). Today will soon be tomorrow, and you may be hardened through bad habits. Wake up, Paul said, overcome your inertia.
Now it is high time to awake out of sleep;
for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand;
let us cast off the works of darkness
let us put on the armour of light. (Rom 13. 11, 12)
Christ taught with parables. That of the ten virgins is a perfect example of the idea that we can indeed be the master of our fate. Five virgins took extra oil when going out to meet the Lord. They constantly replenished their supply of oil , fueling the light within, giving them understanding. Enlightened by study, their comprehension was nourished. But this cannot be done at the last minute; it was impossible for the wise to give to the foolish virgins. (Matt 25. 1 - 13) In the parable of the talents (Matt 25. 14 - 30) we’re admonished by Christ to use our abilities in the service of the Lord. In modern parlance, you can’t put all your talents in the market on the last day and hope to double your money. The battle is to the strong, and if we aren’t winning everyday, we are losing. So in the words of Solomon, the Preacher--
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,
do it with thy might;
for there is no work, nor device
nor knowledge, nor wisdom
in the grave whither thou goest. (Ecclesiastes 9. 10)