“Are we living in the End Times?” I hear this question more often than I thought I would when I entered ministry. My answer is a resounding “YES!” I can confidently say this because of Acts 2 and Peter’s sermon on the first Pentecost. Peter quotes the Prophet Joel, who says that in the Last Days the Holy Spirit will be poured out. Then Peter follows this up with the statement that this prophecy was fulfilled that day. So, according to Scripture, we have been living in the End Times since at least the first Pentecost (around May 24, 33).
With that in mind, look at what Paul writes here:
I’m giving you this commission in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is coming to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearance and his kingdom. Preach the word. Be ready to do it whether it is convenient or inconvenient. Correct, confront, and encourage with patience and instruction. There will come a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. They will collect teachers who say what they want to hear because they are self-centered. They will turn their back on the truth and turn to myths. But you must keep control of yourself in all circumstances. Endure suffering, do the work of a preacher of the good news, and carry out your service fully.
Now, of course this time came during the life of Timothy, otherwise Paul would not have had to warn him about it and it would have been meaningless to him. But given the fact that we are also in the End Times, it fits with us as well. There are so many different versions of the Gospel message today even within what could be considered established Christian denominations.
How do we differentiate between those who “preach the word” and those who “say what they want to hear” in churches?
The best way to do this is not to trust ourselves. Proverbs 3:5 states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence.” When dealing with questions of what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is false, we need to remember that the Church has been at this business of preserving the integrity of the Gospel, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, for around 2000 years. Look to see what people have believed about a certain teaching or doctrine over the whole course of that history.
This does not mean the decision will still be easy. Some will, no doubt. But the vast majority of issues today will show that there were probably some people in the history of the Church who believed the same way. In that case, it is important to see what the most Christians in the most places over the most time have believed about a particular issue. Compare that belief to a plain reading of Scripture and see what comes of it. If the two agree, then there is your answer. If the two do not agree, then more work is needed.
First, make sure you are understanding the Scripture correctly. Then, if you are and the general belief and practice of the Church is mistaken, see if there is another practice that was earlier in the life of the Church, say from the first 300 years of the Church. If that earlier practice agrees with Scripture, then there is your answer. If those two do not agree, then one more step is required.
Stop where you are and admit you misunderstood the Scripture. The reason for this is that, after 2000 years of existence, if you come up with something new to the Faith, you are most probably wrong. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth. Even in the great revivals and reformations in the history of the Church, we see a recapturing of what was always present in the Scriptures and the Church, if not given its proper place at a given time.
If you do not know how to go about investigating all of this, contact me and I will be more than willing to help.