“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens captured the dichotomy of the world in which we live. At the same instant, it is both maddeningly reprobate and yet reflective of the glory of God. We witness tremendous abominations at the same time that God reassures us that He has everything under control.
More pronounced today than even during the era Dickens wrote about, our world has become a cacophony of contradictions. Knowledge is accessible in volumes never before imagined, and yet wisdom is tragically illusive. Material prosperity and riches have raised our life expectancy and standard of living, and yet many people are plagued with a sense of perpetual jealousy and impending doom. This is the dual reality of our age.
The Signs of the Times are multiplying all around us. Some are so obvious that even the undiscerning can recognize them. Natural signs are increasing in frequency and intensity — although the Christ-shunning world is eager to chalk them up to global warming, climate change, or whatever the latest fear-mongering fad dictates. Signs of society’s breakdown are evident in crime statistics, human pathologies multiplying by the day, and a sense of foreboding and despair that is infecting our young people.
The signs of technology are aligning with Bible prophecy at an incredible rate. People are being misled into clamoring for a globalist approach to world politics that presages the alignment of nations in the end times. And, exceeding all the other categories, Israel shines as a prophetic beacon proclaiming that God’s promises are still “yes, and amen.”
Touching on cause and solution to our current state is the category of Spiritual Signs. Like so many other indicators, many of them are becoming more pronounced by the day. Looking about, it would be easy to be “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). Certainly, Satan wants us deceived, demoralized, and defeated. However, not all the Spiritual Signs are negative; some are tremendously positive.
Before we examine the negative and positive aspects of this category, let’s remember the “bottom line up front” with Peter’s word of encouragement regarding our own spiritual well-being. He advised us to be consistent in “holy conduct and godliness…” (2 Peter 3:11). So, as we consider the Spiritual Signs multiplying around us, let’s determine to keep our eyes on Jesus.
It is undeniable that we are witnessing a falling away from moral truth and spiritual discernment in our society. Throughout the Western world — a prominent portion of “Christendom” because of a shared foundation of Christian identity — Judeo-Christian values are being abandoned with glee. In just the past 2-3 generations, Christianity has fallen from prominence as the default religion of most Americans. It is now the ostracized faith of people considered “troublers” by the broader society (1 King 18:17).
Although secularists assert that mankind can evolve away from religion, the truth is that other ideologies and false religions fill the void when Christianity is rejected. Consider some of the tragic manifestations of this negative trend:
Rise In Cults and Demonic Worship
After Roman Emperor Constantine embraced Christianity early in the 4th Century, Christianity became the dominant religion in the West. What we know as the Catholic Church held primacy until the Reformation, when break-away Protestant denominations determined to reform the Church back to its Biblical foundations.
Until the 1800s, there was little divergence from basic Christianity.
But over the last 150 years, the world has seen an explosion of religious denominations, sects, and faiths — with many qualifying as outright cults, such as:
- Mormons – whose latest “prophet” renounced that name in 2018 in favor of simply “Latter-day Saints”
- Jehovah’s Witnesses – who deny the deity of Christ and therefore are far outside the Christian faith
- Christian Scientists – whose beliefs follow the erratic teachings of Mary Baker Eddy, including an assertion that the material world is merely an illusion; it has been rightly said that Christian Scientists are like Grape-Nuts Cereal, which contains no grapes or nuts (similarly, Christian Science is not based on Christianity or science)
- Unitarians – who attempt to harmonize all religious beliefs into a homogenous amalgam that ends up devoid of any meaning
Scripture specifically warns that anyone who preaches a gospel contrary to the Gospel declared by Jesus Christ “is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8).
Increased Apostasy and Heresy
Let’s first distinguish between apostasy and heresy. Apostasy refers to a former believer (or denomination) that declares himself, herself, or itself no longer a believer — meaning a total rejection of Christian faith by one who once claimed to be regenerated. Heresy on the other hand can be likened to a little leaven that affects the whole loaf. It happens when someone attempts to blend a false teaching in with Scriptural truth, inevitably undermining the Gospel and the Person of Christ.
Paul foretold that apostasy would become more pronounced in “latter times” as some will “fall away from the faith, paying attention to the deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1).
Regarding any who would exchange the truth of Christ to return to paganism, Peter said, “It would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away…” (2 Peter 2:20-22).
Regarding heresy, Peter also warned, “There will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). Not only does heresy deny Jesus, it also causes destructive divisions within the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:19).
True followers of Jesus must be on guard, testing the spirits and every supposed doctrine to see if it adheres to the Word of God. Any teaching or teacher who denies Christ “is of the antichrist” according to John (1 John 4:1-6). That is why Jesus, Paul, and Jude were so quick to warn against wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15-23, 1 Timothy 1:3-7, 2 Timothy 1:13- 14, and Jude 1:3-16). After a first and second warning, Paul tells us to simply reject such a person (Titus 3:10-11).
We regularly highlight the accelerating decline of denominations that formerly held to “the faith once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3). With great sadness, these include:
- The Episcopal Church (tied to the Church of England) – which set aside millennia of Church teaching on marriage and sexuality to ordain militant transgender and queer priests and bless same-sex marriages; in 2022 a doctoral student studying under the oversight of the Archbishop of Canterbury posited that Jesus was a transgender man.
- The United Methodist Church – which individual churches and even whole conferences are abandoning as it forsakes Biblical truth in exchange for the evolving sexual revolution.
- The Presbyterian Church USA – also embracing the entire litany of progressive causes in violation of Scripture.
While this is just a short list of denominations that have gravitated far to the Left, individual pastors are also susceptible to drifting away from orthodox Biblical faith. Numerous studies have documented that closet atheists are engaged as pastors and church leaders in virtually every denomination in America.
An Epidemic of Deception and Satan Worship
How could any of this occur unless people willingly stray? Billy Graham testified that his one-time colleague in evangelism, Charles Templeton, experienced a crisis of faith. He ended up rejecting Christianity altogether — denying the Lord who he had once served. His adamance caused Graham to struggle for a time. But Billy Graham remained true. Responding to Templeton’s doubts, he said:
When I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as the Word of God, my preaching has power. When I stand on the platform and say, “God says,” or “The Bible says,” the Holy Spirit uses me. There are results. Wiser men than you or I have been arguing questions like this for centuries. I don’t have the time or the intellect to examine all sides of the theological dispute, so I’ve decided once for all to stop questioning and accept the Bible as God’s Word.
Templeton yielded to deception and was led astray. Clearly, sixty-six years later, scores of people have embraced deception and followed the same path to destruction. Church attendance has plummeted, and the number of non-affiliated “nones” has skyrocketed.
While not every Christ-denier will overtly worship the devil, their eternal destiny is the same. Incredibly, a growing number are adding insult to injury by verbally affirming their allegiance to Satan. The so-called Church of Satan existed only at the extreme fringes of American society until recent years. Now, Satan worship is not only widely tolerated, it is also celebrated at events like the Grammys and gleefully broadcast on networks like CBS for the entire nation to revel.
Someone fully grounded in, and committed to, the Word of God and relying on the Holy Spirit should be immune from drifting away from the Lord. Many people have had “crises of faith.” One mark of an overcomer is that they overcome such fiery darts.
Persecution Of Christians
The final example of a negative spiritual sign is a precipitous rise in the persecution of Christians. When I first began preaching with Lamb & Lion Ministries in 2013, I predicted that, in some fanatically-liberal corner of America, a Christian would be jailed for their faith sometime within the next 5-7 years. By the next year, I moved the timeline up to 3-5 years. I never dreamed it would happen the following yea r— in my home state of Kentucky!
When the US Supreme Court handed down its Obergefell decision on June 26, 2015, the liberal governor in Kentucky immediately mandated that every county clerk had to personally endorse his newly minted same-sex marriage license certificate. Out of 120 counties, only three clerks were willing to risk their income and pension to oppose such an outlandish order.
Governor Steve Beshear instructed his administration to fire up the furnace of public opinion and throw in Kim Davis. Eventually, he would insist she be jailed for flaunting his edict.
Five years later, Beshear’s son held the same office. As he reacted to the supposed Covid crisis, he singled out Christian churches for heavy-handed intimidation and threats — in flagrant violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution.
I could speak to the arrest of an Iranian pastor (Ramin Parsa) sharing his faith in a private conversation at the Mall of America. Or the imprisonment of Christian pastors Artur Pawlowski and James Coates in Canada for refusing to bow to the persecution of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. We could talk about Christian faith under attack around the world — with little pushback from our current US Administration. I personally know many pastors and missionaries who testify that conditions are worsening around the world year by year because America no longer cares about defending religious liberty in general and Christian evangelistic efforts in particular.
These negative signs weigh upon the soul of anyone who wants to serve the cause of Christ. They bear testimony to the battles our enemy seems to be winning. Sensing his soon demise, Satan is pulling out all the stops to distract, demoralize, and deceive.
But greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
Before we turn to some very positive signs, please pause to pray. Ask for tough and persevering faith from the One who has overcome the grave — and promises to hold you tight, as you too overcome the world.
In the second segment of this series exploring the Spiritual Signs of the End Times, we will dive into the positive spiritual signs.