While working as an advertising manager at a daily newspaper during the 1920s, Herbert W. Armstrong had a brief discussion with four or five reporters and editors about what would be the most astonishing and dramatic newspaper headline.
“Another World War Breaks Out,” one of them suggested.
Not to be outdone, one of the others proposed a headline he believed would be even more sensational: “New York City Suddenly Blown Off the Map!”
“That’s tame,” a third newsman exclaimed. “Second Coming of Christ Happened This Morning!” All of them, except Mr. Armstrong, cackled with laughter.
“You men,” Mr. Armstrong said solemnly, “may live long enough to write that headline.”
As it turns out, they didn’t. Neither did Mr. Armstrong. But for an increasing number of people today, especially here in America, the subject of Jesus Christ’s return is no longer a joking matter.
“Will He Return?” Newsmax asked about Jesus Christ on the cover of its April edition. According to the feature, “public buzz about the biblical last days is at its highest level since 9/11.” In a 2006 survey, the Pew Research Center found that 79 percent of American Christians believe in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, although only 20 percent believe His return will occur during their lifetime. Still, there was a time when “doomsday” preachers were universally seen as wild-eyed fanatics. Today, those same Jeremiahs are attracting large throngs of faithful supporters.
On the other hand, as Jon Meacham argued in an article also published in the lead-up to Easter, while America remains “a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were even five years ago” (Newsweek, April 4; emphasis mine throughout). According to Meacham, since 1990, the number of self-identified Christians has dropped by 10 percent. Conversely, the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation, he says, has jumped from 8 to 15 percent over the same period.
Thus, even as apocalyptic teachings about the last days increase in popularity, our way of life drifts further and further from God.
Signs of the End
The Apostle Paul described the end time in 2 Timothy 3. “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (verse 1). Jesus said it would get so dangerous at the end of this age that unless God intervened, no flesh would survive (Matthew 24:22).
Skeptics who deceive themselves with the belief that we are in no special danger today—that the world has always been like this—had better start watching world events.
At present, eight nations in the world possess nuclear weapons. The most recent member admitted into the nuclear club was North Korea.
London’s Times Online reported April 24, “The world’s intelligence agencies and defense experts are quietly acknowledging that North Korea has become a fully fledged nuclear power with the capacity to wipe out entire cities in Japan and South Korea.”
Think on that. A mad dictator now has his finger on the trigger of a nuclear bomb and all that our intelligence experts can do is quietly acknowledge that he has nuclear weapons?
In Pakistan, Taliban terrorists are rapidly seizing control of territory, and the shaky government appears virtually helpless to stop them. Thus, extremists are frighteningly close to grabbing hold of that nation’s nuclear arsenal (article, page 7).
Then there is Iran—the terror-sponsoring Islamic state that is probably within months of acquiring nuclear weapons.
Yes, human nature has always been selfish and vain. But it’s only been in the last half century that mankind has developed weapons powerful enough to, as Jesus prophesied, obliterate all flesh from off the Earth.
This alone proves we are living in the last days.
But besides the proliferation of nuclear bombs, there is another sign that we are the last generation before Jesus Christ returns: our increasingly rebellious, anti-God, anti-family, upside-down culture. Paul correctly foresaw man’s perverse nature in these latter days, describing it as being unthankful, proud, covetous, disobedient to parents, without discipline, and a lover of self and of pleasures more than of God (2 Timothy 3:2-4).
“Few, indeed, realize the shocking facts of this accelerating downward plunge,” Mr. Armstrong wrote back in 1964. “It is rapidly becoming a greater threat to humanity than the hydrogen bomb!”
In his booklet What Is Faith? Mr. Armstrong wrote, “This present world breakdown, with world economic collapse, social unrest, religious confusion, is merely the warning signal that the end of the present civilization is here. The Second Coming of Christ to establish a new order of world peace on Earth is near—much nearer than people think!”
Yes, indeed—that is a front-page story most of us will live long enough to read for ourselves!
And as shocking as that headline might be for people who scoff at the promise of His coming (2 Peter 3:3-4), many of those who consider themselves Christian will be startled by another headline, closely related to Christ’s Second Coming.
Will Christ Find Faith?
Notice! When asked by His disciples about the sequence of events leading up to His return, Christ answered by saying, “Take heed that no man deceive you [disciples]. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ [they believe in Christ, in other words]; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:4-5).
Elsewhere in Scripture, religious deception is identified as the first horseman of the apocalypse. Did you know that Jesus Christ prophesied that most Christians in this end time would be deceived about His gospel message and His inspired teachings—deceived about what true Christianity really is? Jesus said false Christianity would be so widespread that even many of His own disciples would be deceived.
Notice how Paul described the latter-day modernist religious movement in 2 Timothy 3:5: “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” That is God’s assessment of mainstream Christianity. There’s an outward appearance of godliness, but very little substance. It’s a popular brand of Christianity that, while it might accept the existence of God—even the appearance of God’s Son on Earth—it fully rejects His power and authority.
Look at the age in which we live. God and His laws no longer have any direct authority in people’s lives. Overcoming evil is viewed as impossible by church leaders today—so the clergy rationalizes sinful living by falsely teaching that Jesus came to excuse us from obeying God’s laws. Added to that, God the Father and Jesus Christ are represented as weak and incapable of intervening in the affairs of mankind. The miraculous events of Scripture are often spiritualized away as fables or old wives’ tales.
And while many traditional Christians might hold to a belief in Jesus Christ’s return, few accept the biblically prophesied, 1,000-year, rod-of-iron rule that Jesus Christ will administer over all the Earth.
From the First Pages to the Last
One of the first promises in the Bible, in Genesis 3:15, is of a Savior who would come to qualify to replace Satan on the throne of this Earth. It says God would allow Satan to “bruise” Christ’s “heel” in causing Him to be crucified. But Christ would bruise Satan’s head by rising from the dead to depose him as ruler of the world.
Throughout the Old Testament, numerous prophets and teachers of God foretold of a future Messiah and King who would rule the Earth. Moses wrote about His coming in the law. David described it in the Psalms. Isaiah referred to it in several places throughout his book. So did Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Daniel said the Messiah’s dominion would break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms.
Nearly all the minor prophets refer to this coming King. Micah said the Lord would reign over Israel in mount Zion forever. Zephaniah said, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” Haggai said that at His coming, He would “shake all nations.” Zechariah 14 describes that Second Coming in great detail. Malachi said that the Eternal would come and that He would be like a refining fire.
In the Gospels, it says Jesus would be given the throne of David and that His Kingdom would never end (Luke 1:32-33). This obviously refers to Christ’s Second Coming, as numerous other passages in the Gospels explain. In the model prayer Jesus outlined for His disciples, for example, one of the first subjects He admonishes us to pray for is, “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). In John 14:3, Jesus said, “[I]f I go … I will come again .…” In Mark 13:24-26, Jesus described the latter days in time order—first tribulation, then heavenly signs, “then shall they see the Son of man coming .…”
The book of Acts says Jesus would return the same way He left 2,000 years ago (Acts 1:11). The Apostle Paul wrote extensively about Christ’s return and His worldwide rule, particularly in the book of 1 Thessalonians and in 1 Corinthians 15. James said, “Be patient … unto the coming of the Lord” (James 5:7). John said that when He appears, we, the firstfruits, shall be like Him (1 John 3:2). And Peter, as noted earlier, spoke of “scoffers” coming in the latter days who are willingly ignorant of the promise of Christ’s coming.
Then there is the book of Revelation, where John describes God’s coming Kingdom in incredible detail. When Christ comes down from clouds, John wrote, “every eye shall see him” (Revelation 1:7). When the seventh angel sounds, he wrote in Revelation 11:15, the kingdoms of this world will “become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.” Again, in Revelation 19:6, “And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
Over and again, your Bible promises the soon-coming reign of Jesus Christ over all the Earth. Why, then, aren’t more people familiar with the reality of God’s coming Kingdom?
By our actions, mankind has denied the good news gospel message of the soon-coming Kingdom of God—described throughout Scripture as the Family of God administering God’s law of love by His authoritative family government.
Religion without substance is why Jesus asked in Luke 18:8, “[W]hen the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” Talk about a stunning headline! In looking ahead to our present-day generation, Jesus Christ foresaw the near-total absence of real, believing faith.
That means this world has almost completely lost sight of what it means to actually live by faith.
What Must We Do?
A Trumpet reader recently e-mailed me about a common theme he has picked up on in many of our articles. “You often write about the Second Coming of Christ and the calamitous events to unfold in the lead-up to His return. But what must we do?”
It’s a beautiful question—not unlike the one the disciples asked in Acts 2:37 after Peter’s sermon on the feast of Pentecost. There is absolutely something you must do!
Repentance is the first step (see verse 38). To assist you in that transformation, begin by studying Mr. Armstrong’s booklet What Is Faith? Then dig into God’s Word and learn about the true God as He is revealed in the Bible. Sign up for our free Bible correspondence course. Study as if your survival depended on it. Immediately begin living in accordance with God’s perfect and holy laws. Work toward baptism.
Then, when the Son of man returns to this Earth, you won’t be caught off guard—and you will have living faith!
You are welcome to request a free copy of Herbert W. Armstrong’s booklet What Is Faith? ▪