"What time is it?"
What are the signs of the end of an age?
Today we delight in statistics, and (paradoxically) feelings.
The unchurched in this country have increased three fold in the last 30 years
but we concentrate on smaller horizons and find cause for enthusiasm.
I believe there are signs around us of the end of an age. (We must be careful to distinguish between the end of an age and the end of the ages. The end of an age may have many of the signs which will accompany the end of manís world - and yet it is not the final end! I think that many of Godís children in generations past, and today, have mistaken the one for the other.)
At the end of an age:
- All is frittered down to the lowest common denominator - principles and practice donít seem to matter as we insist on taking for granted "peoples hearts are in the right place." - People become increasingly incapable of seeing objective reality as the gap between "hype" and reality expands.The end result is that reality is rejected because it is too costly and men insist upon believing a lie.
In Godís Kingdom advance always brings conflict, and spiritual vision is always followed by a journey. The land which is far off is reached by putting one foot in front of the other multiplied thousands of times - up-hill and down dale, through the rivers and across the deserts. The far land is brought nearer one step at a time until finally it is possessed as the foot treads upon it.
In each generation God calls us to walk by faith. The past is behind us, we cannot go back. The breakthroughs of Luther, Wesley, Mueller and others are milestones not destinations. There has been a tremendous amount of study of past revival moves of God with a desire to find keys to unlock the blessings of God in the here and now. Although we may find some glimpses of truth we need to realize that the past does not contain the map of the future, it is a time whose experiences belong to history. It will no more be repeated than Luther or Wesley have been repeated.
The future is no yet unveiled. We have mentioned Abraham as he stood at the end of an age. Can we begin to imagine the thoughts of John Baptist as he proclaimed a new age? Could he, for a moment, see the Conflict and the Glory, the Unveiling and the Mystery, the Crashing down of the old, the Miracle - birth of the new? Could Luther? Could anyone?
So I believe today we stand at the threshold of a new stage in the unveiling of the purpose of God. It may be dimly seen by a few but will not stand forth in full light until the dawn of a new day illumines its new world.
The world never stands still, "each age is a dream that is dying and one that is coming to birth." Things are never the same after the end of an age - man has come into a new sphere of knowledge and working.
Where does all this leave us? To the man without God "there are no sign-posts, because there is no place to go," but to the child of God there are "things which remain." These are not the earthly structures and the outward forms but the things of the Spirit of God, the yearnings and vision of the heart.
We can no more imagine mankind a hundred years hence than could Abraham, John Baptist, Luther, or Wesley. We cannot tell in what form the outworking of Godís purpose will be clothed.
One thing I know, whatever may be shaken, whatever may be destroyed, there will be, as there has always been, a fuller revelation of God Himself, a greater expression of God in His people and a dissipating of the mists of time through the illumination of the Eternal Light.
Toynbee, the historian, spoke of the periodic downfalls of civilizations serving to help religion in its movement upward toward heaven. It is a tremendous thing when a man realizes the eternal nature of God and that the rise and fall of nations and civilizations is as the mere dust around His feet. Let me say it in a different way - the bride is made ready more and more through the ages. As the earthly collapses the heavenly nature is realized more and more in transformation from glory to glory.