Discerning the Signs of the Times

                “It’s not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in His power” (Acts 1:7). Not only does God have complete command over ‘times and seasons,’ but also over the specific ‘day and hour’ when the Son of Man will return. This knowledge is hid even from the angels (Mark 13:32, Matt. 24:36, 25:13).

                When we travel signs give us direction as well as forewarn us of things ahead. God through His Word gives us instructions to guide our life. He has given us prophecies or signs—many that have already come to pass.  Some signs point further out such as those of Matthew 24. They give information regarding the ‘beginning’ of the end as the prophetic clock’s alarm is positioning to go off to awaken Israel for their conversion, restoration, and blessing.

“You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you can’t discern the signs of the times” (Matt. 16:3).

                There are signs that believers today should discern (Matt. 16:2-3, 24:32-33). The word discernment in Greek is ‘diakrino’ and implies distinctions or differences.  It’s the exercise of judgment with special regard to ‘things that differ’ that balances pros and cons prior to reaching a conclusion (Phil. 1:10).  It’s sadly something we see very little of today where judgment is based on sound bites, partial information, emotions, and sensationalism.

Only through an all-knowing, infallible God can we have proper discernment. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the Lord with all our heart and to not rely on our own understanding. In all our ways we should acknowledge Him, and He will direct (rightly divide) our paths. 

                Only through God’s Word will one know what is profitable for instruction, reproof, and correction so that he or she may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work that God has foreordained for them to walk in (2 Tim. 3:16-17, Eph. 2:10).

                Only God’s Word can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

                Only through God’s Word (not the world) can one’s mind be renewed to discern what the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God is (Rom. 12:2, 1 Cor. 2:13-16).

                The believer’s responsibility is to be diligent in not only studying and knowing God’s Word, but in rightly dividing it (2 Tim. 2:15).  This means that although everything in the Bible is written for our learning, it’s not all written specifically to us (Rom. 15:4). The times when God spoke to “the fathers” is distinguished from the time in which He has “spoken to us.” The time in which “He spoke by the prophets” stands in contrast with the time in which He spoke by His “Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). And the “time past” is obviously distinguished from “these last days”. In order to “rightly divide” the word of truth, it’s essential to regard the times in which the words were spoken, as well as the times to which they refer. 

                Questions a Bible student must always ask when they’re reading God’s Word are:

(1) WHAT is spoken or written?, (2) WHO is it spoken or written TO?, (3) WHO is it spoken or written ABOUT?, (4) At what TIME?, (5) With what INTENT?, (6) With what WORDS?, (7) With what CIRCUMSTANCES?, (8) WHERE? 

Always consider what goes before and what comes after—taking all things in the context they were written in.

TIMES AND SEASONS

                The ‘latter times’, which are the subject of the Spirit’s ‘express’ words in 1 Timothy 4:1, are signs we should be aware of. They are a precursor to the things that pertain to Israel at the time of the end.  The only prophecies that pertain within the realm of this present dispensation are found in Paul’s epistles written since Acts 28:28 (These include: Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). The first great prophetic pronouncement is found in 1 Timothy chapter 4 which opens with the words, “Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some will depart from the faith.”  If we view this passage in light of the context, it will be found that the central core of Paul’s first letter to Timothy reveals two things that are set against each other: the apostasy of the later times with the mystery of godliness. The mystery of godliness is explained as “God manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).  The apostasy (forsaking) of faith of the last days of this dispensation is vitally connected with seducing spirits, doctrines of demons, the forbidding of marriage, the abstention from meats, old wives tales, and bodily exercise (1 Tim. 4:1-8). This departure from the faith will have immediate and future consequences. The immediate consequences are reflected in the state of affairs depicted in 2 Timothy 3 and 4.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come…” (2 Tim. 3:1).

This gives us a clue of the character that will be displayed during this time. The word perilous in Greek is Chalepos and is used of things that are hard to bear, severe, grievous, rough, rugged, and dangerous.  When used of persons, it indicates that they are hostile, angry, cruel, bad-tempered, nasty, and generally mean-spirited. This same Greek word is used to describe the mental condition of the men possessed with ’devils’, who were ‘exceeding fierce’ in Matthew 8:28.

“…For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Tim. 3:2-5)

At the same time this falling away from the faith will prepare the way for the greater apostasy that’s prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2 (belonging to the dispensation that follows after this one). Thus the apostasy of 1 Timothy 4 is the beginning opposition to the mystery of godliness, which resistance reaches its fullness in the manifestation of the man of sin. In order for the apostasy that’s foretold in 1 Timothy 4 to be carried out, two entities need to work together. One is spiritual and the other human. The spiritual entities’ responsibility is to seduce with their doctrines of demons, while the human agents, with their seared consciences, become ‘lie-speakers’. These pawns of the devil are similar to those that will be taken in and deceived in the future because they received not the love of the truth…and had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thess. 2:9-11). Interesting to note that references to ‘The Truth’ and ‘the Word of God’ are positioned on either side of the departure in 1 Timothy 3:15 and 4:5. It’s ‘The Truth’ that sets the captive free (2 Tim. 2:25-26), and it’s away from ‘The Truth’ that the false teachers will redirect the ears of those who willingly become ensnared to do the devil’s bidding (2 Tim. 2:26, 3:6). 

                The darkness only deepens as the end of the ages draws near.  Mind you, these warnings are for believers. Just as ‘faith comes by hearing’ so does deception. Either the believer holds fast to the mystery of godliness (and the Head of the body), or they start upon a downward path that leads via the doctrine of myths to the mystery of iniquity (a ‘form of godliness’ that’s devoid of power).  This should be enough to warn the believer to be vigilant and to make sure all the armor of God is in place. It’s vital that the believer’s focus is on the Lord and His Word no matter how it becomes attacked or ignored (Eph. 6:10-18, 2 Tim. 4:2, Col. 2:8, 16-21).

                So hold fast to God’s faithful word and don’t be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17, Titus 1:9). And remember our true citizenship is in heaven where our blessed hope and our glorious and great God and Savior Jesus Christ await us (Phil. 3:20-21, Titus 2:13).

Laura

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