Years of TransitionDays of Hope
Seeking a definition for the present decade, Modern Maturity magazine asked a number of sages to define the present time. Frances Lear, founder of Lears magazine had this to say:
"Theres one word for the nineties: transition. Its occurring in all areas of life: entertainment, technology, retailing, womens lives, childcare, and the image and definition of age."
The noted playwright, David Henry Hwang, put it this way:
The author James Michener styles the present "The years of confusion," while the columnist Molly Ivins hopefully entitles it "Pre-Millennial syndrome."
With a troubled economy, ethnic violence breaking throughout the world, a fragile environment becoming ever more fragile, moral standards undergoing constant challengesand the list goes onit is little wonder that the present is described with such words of uncertainty. .
Speaking prophetically of our day, the Bible uses the word perplexity as a defining phrase.
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Mens hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.Luke 21:25-26
The Greek word translated perplexity is aporta and is defined as being in a quandary by Professor James Strong, and describes a situation where nations find "no solutions to their embarrassments." Literally it means no way out.
It is this very inability of world leaders to find a way out that has led to the frustration and cynicism that Hwang wrote about in his summary of the present decade. The current inability to find a solution to handling the national debt illustrates this well.
The Way Out
When columnist Ivins used the phrase "Pre-Millennial Syndrome" she may have been referring to the imminence of the year 2000, introducing a new millennium in the worlds continuing history. But the Bible speaks of another millennium, a far more important millennium.
In Revelation 20:1-6 the Bible speaks of a millennium, a period of one thousand years, when Jesus followers would reign with him over this earth. It is this Millennial Kingdom which has been the hope of sincere Christians ever since Jesus died on Calvarys cross. It is this Millennium that Jesus taught in his parables and illustrated in his miracles. It is this kingdom for which he taught his disciples to pray, Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
It is this Millennium, this Kingdom of Christ, that has the only solutions to mens current-day problems. There is a way out, and that road is near at hand.
Today men debate the merits of gun control laws. That kingdom promises a time when men shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks (Isa. 2:4).
Today the immense problem of health care reform is the talk of the country. In that kingdom it is predicted that the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped, the lame man shall leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing (Isa. 35:5, 6).
Today the lack of a unified religious vision has led to a steady decline in moral standards. In that kingdom unity of belief will be so universal that no man shall say, `Know ye the Lord, for all shall know him, from the least to the greatest; . . . for the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Jer.31:34; Isa. 11:9).
Today environmentalists decry industrialisms "rape of the earth" and organize to save endangered species. That kingdom foretells a time when the desert shall blossom as a rose and they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain [kingdom] (Isa. 35:1; 11:9).
Today an uncertain economy and changing trade agreements leave thousands insecure in their jobs. But that kingdom is described as being a time when one shall not build and another inhabit, when every man shall sit under his [own] vine and under his fig tree (Isa. 65:21, 22; Mic. 4:4). Today, no matter how far medical science progresses in slowing down the aging process, the end of the road is still death. In that kingdom there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor pain (Rev. 21:4).
Does that sound like a fairy tale? It is not! The Bibles record for the accuracy of its prophetic fulfillment in the past gives us adequate reason to trust in the accuracy of its future predictions.
Not only has the Bible record for prophetic accuracy in the past been remarkable, but we are living in the very days when scripturally predicted events are happening all around us.
Fulfilled prophecy is nowhere more evident today than in the land of Israel. The past century has seen a remarkable turn of events concerning this ancient people of the Bible. Shorn of a homeland, they have been scattered among all the nations of the earth.
Today we see them reassembling to the land of their forefathers from every corner of the globe. In pictorial language the prophet Ezekiel foresaw this very thing when he viewed a valley of dry bones, which miraculously came back together, grew flesh and sinew, were covered by skin and received a new breath of life and lived again. We are not left to guess the meaning of this vision, but it is interpreted for us in Ezekiel 37:12-14.
Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD.
Jeremiah adds his words of support: Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the south: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith the LORD.
This return of Israel from their captivity of nearly twenty centuries has not been easy. It has been accomplished through the agony of much warfare. This, too, was predicted in Scripture.
After some seventy years of captivity in Babylon, Daniels prayers concerning the end of Israels exile were finally answered. He is told that their final complete deliverance would come at the hand of Michael, their angelic "prince."
And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.Daniel 12:1
Just a few verses later Daniel is informed with more details about this "time of the end" when this deliverance would occur: But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased (Dan. 12:4).
How descriptive are these words of our time! We are living in the days of a knowledge explosion which has produced means of transport unrivaled in the days of history. Not only transport of people, but ever more rapid means of communication have interconnected the nations of the earth into one global community.
The Timing of These Events
This brief recap of daily fulfilling prophecyIsrael returning, unparalleled trouble, an information explosion, and rapid gains in transportationare all the more remarkable when we notice that Jesus used these very prophetic signs in one of his remarkable sermons.
Near the end of Jesus ministry his disciples came to him with a series of questions. Two of these were: What shall be the sign of thy presence and of the end of the age (Matt. 24:3).
In his answer Jesus quotes from Daniel (12:21) and alludes to the developments of Israel in a short parable, the parable of the fig tree: Now learn a parable of the fig tree, When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh. So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors (Matt 24:32, 33). This parable is a similar analogy to that of Jeremiah 24:1-3 where the fig tree is expressly stated to represent Israel.
All of these prophecies alluded to by Jesus were to inform his disciples concerning the time of his return to earth, a return whose very purpose was to establish his kingdom.
Yes, these are indeed days of transition. As the noted historian, Barbara Tuchman wrote in Guns of August, "an old world ended" when World War I brought down the hereditary ruling houses of Europe.
But we have not yet arrived at the other end of that transition, when the Kingdom of Christ brings a new realitya reality of peace, hope, and lifeupon this earth.
Therefore there is much perplexity. Men see "no way out." All human plans serve only to bog society down further in the mire of confusing events. No wonder there is the cynicism that playwright Hwang notes and the confusion of which Michener describes.
But while men see "no way out," let us rejoice in the assurance that God does have a planned exit from the present morass; that present distresses are only the rites of passage into a new era.
While we patiently wait let us continue to fervently pray: Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).