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The Editorial

Maybe the last time?

What do the Rolling Stones have to do with the Second Coming?

John Benton, Editor

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Is there a 'cup of sin' that must be filled?

Half a lifetime ago, a good friend, David Porter, a gifted writer and editor, now with the Lord, spoke at our church on the subject of rock music and the Christian. It was a fascinating evening, illustrated by a number of rare recordings. What stuck in my mind was the similarity between the Stones’s 1965 hit The Last Time and an ancient tape of a US black church choir. The choruses seemed very alike, but the choir’s theme was the return of Christ. No one knows the day or the hour. This could be the last time we meet as a church. And similarly we could say this could be the last time we meet for prayer, or for a Christmas carol service. He comes at an unexpected hour (Matthew 24.44). ‘This could be the last time – I don’t know.’ Quite a thought!

Signs of the times

The news continually makes us think about eschatology. The UK’s recent trade deals with China, with little regard for human rights in that country, have the wiff of the end-time Babylon, where only economic gain matters. The proposed further relaxation of Sunday trading laws has the same smell, as does the ‘commerce’ in ‘the bodies and souls of men’, involved in people smuggling and the migrant crisis (Revelation 18.13).

The Lord Jesus gave us a number of ‘signs of the times.’ These include wars and nations in upheaval, persecution of God’s people, false Messiahs, and the gospel going to all nations. How are these signs meant to function? They are not meant to be used to calculate a date. None of us can know that. But they do act to assure us that the Lord’s plans are still on track.

Let’s put it this way: if you woke up one morning and the news was that war had ceased, peace was everywhere and all persecution of Christians had stopped, you could be excused for thinking that something had gone wrong. But instead, we look at the biblical signs of his coming and we look at the world we know and they match. From the very beginning of church history right up until the present moment the course of history has followed an identifiable road which the Bible says leads to the second advent. One day it will be ‘the last time’ – the last time we meet on earth for worship, or have the privilege of witnessing for Christ, or the last time we sin...

Speeding his coming?

Perhaps the world, with its increasing ungodliness and persecution, may be looked upon as accelerating Christ’s return. To Abraham, God explained that his descendants would return to Canaan. But it would not happen until the fourth generation, ‘for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached full measure’ (Genesis 15.16). Then Joshua came to bring God’s judgment. Can we think like this? Is there a ‘cup of sin’ which must be filled before Jesus comes as judge and thus the increase in sin speeds the day? Or again, as Paul experiences persecution he sees it in terms of ‘filling up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions’ (Colossians 1.24). Is there a cup of affliction for God’s people that must be filled, and then Jesus will come? As the momentum of persecution grows, does it, from a human angle, speed the day? It is an encouraging thought as the world gets ever rougher for God’s people.