The year 2019 ends under darkening clouds. We often refer to the sky before a storm as “threatening.” That’s how things look as we transition from 2019 to 2020.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for their ability to read the weather, but not discern the times.
Matthew 16:2-3 KJV – “He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”
Jesus also expects us to be discerners of our time. A quick look around the world tells us that these times are not ordinary.
Unrest has broken out onto the streets in a wide variety of places. They include Paris, Hong Kong, Iran, Iraq, Moscow, Bolivia, Serbia, Ukraine, Brazil, Ecuador, Albania, Amsterdam, Venezuela, Britain, and Chile. This has happened before, but did it ever happen to so much of the world at once?
2019 also marks a year when paganism made a massive comeback. Revelation 9:20 speaks of people in the coming tribulation who “worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.” Literal idol worship where people pray to sculpted images is making a comeback in the western world.
Part of the shift to paganism has to do with extremism in the environmental movement. Recently, a New York seminary brought plants into the school chapel. Faculty members told students to “confess” their environmental sins to the plants and ask “forgiveness.” The seminary was founded in 1836 by nine ministers. Imagine the horror those founders would have felt if you told them that one day their chapel would be used for prayer to plants.
The world also inched closer to global economic collapse. You’ve probably heard about the dangers of a high national debt all your life. But there has never been anything like the debt of governments around the world at the end of 2019. The global economy is running on fumes.
And don’t forget the massive problem of personal debt. In the United States, student loan debt has become a crisis so large that it is affecting the birth rate. College educated young people are waiting later and later to have children because they don’t feel they can afford to pay the expenses associated with rearing children while still under the massive burden of their student loans.
I could go on and on about the events of 2019 and Bible prophecy. But I want to focus on one more area that seems to have become much more severe this year. The Bible says that as the end of the age comes closer, both Christians and Jews will come under increased persecution. The communists in China are ordering that the Bible be rewritten to reflect “socialist values.” And they are continuing their campaign of harassment as they jail pastors and close churches. But it’s not just China. Christians are under extreme pressure in much of the world.
According to the ministry OpenDoors, 2019 saw “Over 245 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution.” They also count “4,305 Christians killed for their faith, 1,847 churches and other Christian buildings attacked, and 3,150 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.”
Anti-Semitism has been around for thousands of years, but after World War II, many sociologists pronounced it dead — at least in the west. Yet the irrational hatred of Jews keeps coming back. As 2019 ended, six died in a terrorist attack on a kosher market in Jersey City. Less than a week later, a man was arrested in Jersey City for threatening to “bomb all Jews.”
Then, on the evening of December 28th, a man with a machete stormed a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York. He stabbed five people who had gathered to celebrate the last day of Hanukkah.
Jews in New York now face attacks on almost a daily basis. In New York and New Jersey, many young people are afraid to show outward signs of their Jewish faith for fear of attack, either physically or verbally. On college campuses, anti-Semitic attacks have increased 70%. Early in the year, the New York Times had to apologize for running what it later admitted was an anti-Semitic cartoon. In July, a CNN photo editor tweeted about “Jewish pigs.”
But even more astounding than continued anti-Semitism is the glorious fact that there are Jews left in the world for people to hate. It’s an absolute miracle that these people still exist. For most of two millennia they were without a homeland. Yet they survived and thrived, just as the Bible said they would. Many came back to their homeland, and they’re still coming. Israel was a nation reborn in a day back in 1948.
If you ever start to doubt God’s veracity or the Bible’s validity, remember the Jews. God keeps His word. His promises are absolute. That means Jesus really saves and heaven is real. It means you can trust Him with whatever you’re facing. He’s there to help. His hand is outstretched to you.