“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart … Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ ”Luke 18:1, 8
As I read through the New Testament I cannot help but notice an apparent contradiction, which is no contradiction at all because it is only apparent. This is in reference to the subject of faith. For instance, we read in some letters from Paul, such as in Ephesians, Thessalonians, Colossians, and others, that he appears to be saying, “once saved always saved.” And yet I can read Galatians, 1 Corinthians, Hebrews, 2 Timothy, 1 Peter, Jude, and Revelation and not be so sure that is what the New Testament teaches. Thankfully, I believe the Holy Spirit has helped me reconcile these apparent differences. And here is where the issue lies: It lies somewhere in the “last generation.” Something is different about the last generation on earth before Christ comes. This is what I am picking up from words used by the authors of scripture when they begin with things like “in that day…” and “in the last days…”
Have you heard people say that in the days of the Apostles there was great evil on the earth, especially in Rome? Well, that is only partly true. Some were evil and eventually, Nero was. But the Romans followed laws and had laws against immorality like we have. These were just and fair laws. This began with the Greeks who set up systems of government and sought to keep things orderly. The Romans carried out swift justice on the wrongdoer, plus, in order for them to know what was “good or evil,” they had to have moral standards, which they did, which came from the Greeks before them. So, some have said that when Peter writes “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:17) that he is saying this regarding a wicked and twisted government in Rome. But there is NO proof he is saying that at all. People just assume this because they try to predict the date of Peter’s writing and therefore assume he is writing during Nero’s wicked days. Also, Paul says we are to obey the government since it is set up by God to keep people from doing wicked things and to punish those who do evil (Romans Ch. 13). In other words what I read in the New Testament, during these writings, is that the government was seeking to keep peace and order and had a moral standard behind their authority.
All that to say, faith is at the root of our problem here. What I mean is the difference between the first generation, the generation to which Paul, Peter, John, etc, were writing, and the generation of the last days, or the last generation on earth before Christ comes, is that that first generation, and in fact, all generations until say the 19th and 20th, had faith. When I use the term “faith” what I mean is believing in the invisible. Greece, Rome, and other pagan nations may not have believed in Jesus, but they believed in a god or gods who influenced their decisions regarding society, humanity, morality, and prosperity. They had faith in something greater than themselves. Now, I am in no way saying this saves someone! Or that believing in false gods is a good thing! My point is that we, the modern and post-modern generations, are worse off spiritually than they were. Why? Because there is always hope for a generation who believes in the reality of the spiritual beyond the material and beyond just the scientific. In order to have faith at all, in anything, one must acknowledge something outside themselves. But the generation which has made itself “GOD” is facing only judgment by the true God because it has lost the ability for faith and is without hope of salvation.
So, we are reading a book [the Bible] that was written 200 generations ago, 2,000 years ago. During a generation of gods and goddesses, demons and angels, a time filled with mythology, and yet a generation full of faith. Therefore, here is my point now, the Christians living during those days truly feared God, truly believed in the afterlife, in heaven and hell, in angels and demons, in the supernatural world around them, and though they could not see it with their eyes they walked by … faith. And what, according to scripture, is faith: “Now faith is the assurance [being convinced] of things hoped for, the conviction [like if it was standing before you] of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). And here is the key: This faith saves when placed in Christ. But all other apparent faiths do not save. And it is THIS faith that seems to be very difficult to find in a purely materialistic and scientific age.
Notice with me that to other generations these things which Paul describes here would have been appalling to them: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents (this doesn’t even phase us but even in the Roman world children were obedient), ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control (like I said, even in Rome there were plenty of moral people), brutal, not loving good (Romans knew and even desired what was good), treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people” (2 Tim. 3:1-5, emphasis mine throughout). Have you ever asked yourself why these things which Paul describes as “the last days” seem like normal everyday things in our society? I especially want you to understand that Paul is saying PEOPLE, in general, will be like this, he is not saying just Christians. He is saying society will be, and maybe even … us.
Here are some other verses you may be familiar with regarding these times: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,” (1 Tim. 4:1-2). And, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). And, “knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires” (2 Pet. 3:3). We already know that Jesus describes the last generation before His return as being like Sodom and Gomorrah and like the days of Noah. We also know according to the law of “Entropy” that everything, left to itself, naturally flows from order to disorder. Things break down slowly over time. This includes society, left to itself. The only thing which slows the process is the Church. But in the last days’ sin will abound and the love of many will grow cold.
Paul also says to the Thessalonian church that before the Anti-Christ comes the apostasy must come. Meaning the great “falling away” of Christians. He says, Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first,” (2 Thess. 2:3). So whatever it is about the last days, and about the final generation before the Lord returns, it is for certain an issue of faith.
Finally, I am convinced that we are living in a generation of faithlessness. I am speaking in generalities here. We, all of us, have been affected by our environment. We, even us Christians struggle greatly, I believe, with grasping ahold of authentic faith. I say this because we have been raised with eyes and ears and touch and taste as our senses. And we have been trained to live this way since birth. Many who call themselves “saved” do not grasp “faith”. They equate faith with “to believe” and they equate “to believe” with an idea, with words, and with an intellectual concept. But their faith is not transferred into a spiritual reality residing deep within, growing with life, and impacting every aspect of everything, every day. But when Paul writes “… if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9) he is talking about “carrying” the testimony of Jesus like a stamp on your forehead, which if seen by Nero, in his evil days, or any other ruler or authority who has the power to put you to death for the name of Christ, you would stand firm in your faith to the point of death because you knew you would one day rise from the dead also, just as Christ did.
Therefore, let us examine ourselves. And let us separate ourselves from the ways of this generation. Let us hold fast our confession of faith, a faith which boasts only in Christ, being seen in our death of the self, and in our transfer of all things to God, and in our resurrected life of faith, waiting for and expecting the coming of the LORD. Come, Lord Jesus.