Has the End of the World Come Upon Us? (Part 1)

[audio https://www.buzzsprout.com/3192/224789-has-the-end-of-the-world-come-upon-us-part-1.mp3]

TEXT: 2 Timothy 3:1-9

end-of-the-worldIn recent months and years, scientists and scholars have expressed concerns about the future of mankind on this planet. Nearly every scientist agrees that the Earth is running out of resources and the human race is running out of time. Many have presented the earth as a ticking time bomb that is slowly winding down. If the Earth continues on its course, at some time in the future, our entire ecosystem will eventually implode. Some predict a new ice age will come, or a huge sunspot will flare out from the sun and engulf this planet in flames. Others say that man will be the instrument of his own demise: we will eat ourselves out of food, drink ourselves out of water, pollute ourselves out of healthy living conditions or blow ourselves to pieces. Whatever the case, nearly everyone agrees that the world will end someday, someway, somehow.

Most people put the end of the world at thousands of years in the future. But, when we look at Scripture, we cannot help but consider that it seems as though things are shaping up for history to draw to a close sooner rather than later.

Today, we are going to look at some of the signs spoken of in the Bible that indicate that we are rapidly moving toward the close of history. While Scripture does not give us a date for Jesus’ return, it does give us some sign posts that indicate that the return of Christ is close at hand.

Paul begins by saying, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” Let me share with you what he means by ‘perilous times.’ The word perilous carries with it the idea of serious trouble, difficulty, precariousness, and stressful circumstances. If a person is in danger, they can be said to be “in peril.” John R.W. Stott said, “The word was used in classical Greek both of dangerous wild animals and of the raging sea. Its only other New Testament occurrence is in the story of the two Gaderene demoniacs who were as savage and untamed as wild beasts and whom Matthew describes as ‘so fierce that no one could pass that way’.”

Every day we hear of home invasions, shootings in schools, college campuses, and other public places, abductions, bombings, floods, earthquakes, snowstorms, and other disasters that ruin people’s lives. Now, when you go to the store, you have to be extra vigilant because someone may be lurking in the parking lot ready to rob you of the stuff you bought when you come out. We are living in perilous times.

We need only to look at the violence in Ferguson, MO, this past week to know that we are living in perilous times. We need only to look at the bombing of a mosque in Nigeria that has left over 120 people dead and 270 people wounded to know that we are living in perilous times. We need only to look at the wars in Ukraine, in Iraq, and in Syria to know that we are living in perilous times. We need only to look at the constant uprisings, protests, and overthrowing of governments in the Middle East to know that we are living in perilous times. We need only to look at the tensions in Jerusalem and the constant threat of war hanging over the nation of Israel to know that we are living in perilous times. We need only to look at the sad news about Bill Cosby and realize that you can’t trust even the people who look and appear to be the kindest and friendliest folks in the world to know that we are living in perilous times. We need only to recall the repeated shootings on high school and college campuses to know that we are living in perilous times. We need only to look at the spread of Ebola around the world to know that we are living in perilous times. We could go on and on with more examples, but I think you get the picture — we are living in perilous times.

Speaking of these perilous times, Dr. David Jeremiah, wrote in his book, I Never Thought I’d See the Day: “There has always been a stark difference between life as the Scriptures describe it and life in our fallen world, but lately the contrast has grown even more stark. The changes we have experienced in the United States and the world have been more numerous, more consequential, and more threatening than any in my lifetime.” As evidence of these perilous times he goes on to cite the rise of atheism, the intensifying of spiritual warfare, the increase of homosexuality, the attempts to redefine marriage, and the rise of radical Islamic terrorism. Dear friends, we don’t have to look far and we don’t have to look long to know that we are living in perilous times.

Thankfully, we have the Lord Jesus Christ to cling to during perilous times like these. As the hymn, “In Times Like These”, says:

In times like these you need a Savior
In times like these you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One;
This Rock is Jesus, the only One!
Be very sure, be very sure
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!

We have the blessing and benefit of holding onto the Solid Rock during these perilous times.

Now, we are going to look at the specific signs that Paul gives Timothy regarding these perilous times — these times that indicate the end of the world is upon us. And these signs, are not just a result of these perilous times, but they are the cause of these perilous times.

1. The first sign of the end of the world that we are going to look at is the increased selfishness of man. In his letter, Paul gives a litany of vices that fall under several categories. One of those categories is selfishness. Paul says, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud…”

Part of the reason why we are living in perilous times is because of the selfishness of man. I don’t know if you have noticed it or not, but I can definitely say that we are living in a time where people care more and more about themselves than they do about others. Most people only care about their own advancement and progress in life, and some will knowingly trample on others to achieve their goals.

Yesterday, as you know, was Black Friday. Thousands of people camped out at stores and showed up early to be the first in line to get a hold of TVs, computers, electronics, appliances, and other items. In some cases, shoppers began fighting each other to get something they wanted. Police had to be called to some stores to restore order and control the crowds. What leads to that kind of behavior? Selfishness.

This sign of increased selfishness is very dangerous because it is rooted in the first sin — not the sin in the Garden of Eden, but the sin of Lucifer — the angel who rebelled against God. In his heart, he lifted himself up against God and he began to think only of his own glory and his own goals. He thought so much of himself that he, a created being, believed that he could run the universe better than the One who had created it. Lucifer’s pride led to his love of himself rather than love of God.

As we look at the context of this letter to Timothy, we find that Paul is giving his protege some warnings and advice about false teachers. The characteristics that he lists here are some of the traits of those false teachers. One commentary notes that ‘The presence of people who had these vices [in the church] demonstrated that times were truly terrible. Paul’s list referred to professing Christians, and it is similar to his list in Romans which described pagan society. All of these vices come from a love of self.’

Sociologists and researchers have noted that individualism has been on the rise in our culture since the 1960s. We are becoming more of a ‘me’ culture instead of a ‘we’ culture. A recent study by Stanford University researchers found that appealing to people on the basis of the good of the community or the good of society as a whole does not motivate them like appealing to them on the basis of their own personal benefit. People are willing to do more and risk more if they are thinking only of themselves. Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in an increasingly selfish society. And this excessive love of self is a sign that we are living in the last days.

Paul’s intent in describing these people to Timothy is so that he can be on guard against them infiltrating the church. We, too, must be on guard against selfish teachers in the church — teachers who care more about their salary than they do about the salvation of lost souls. And, most importantly, we must be on guard against this type of selfishness cropping up in our own lives as we await Jesus’ return. We can do this easily if we remember that we are just pilgrims on a journey through this world which will one day pass away. Our real home is Heaven. Our focus should not be on how much we can get for ourselves here on earth even if we have to do without some of what our society deems as basic necessities. As Charles Stanley said, “We must remember that our earthly needs will come to an end, but Jesus Christ will remain forever.” May we make it our goal to be increasingly selfless in an increasingly selfish world.

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