I just read an article about the current leader of Iran that promises the coming of . . . well, you tell me what it is the coming of. We are indeed in the last times, and the man of sin will soon be revealed. Where he ends up being revealed from no man is certain, but this does raise interesting speculations. Iran must confront Israel during these last times, and Israel is told to flee to the mountaintops in that day. It is very interesting for me to read of a religion absolutely opposed to both Jews and Christians having a tradition of this coming.
The current leader of Iran believes passionately in his coming. He looks to his religious creed and says the following: "The ultimate promise of all Divine religions," says Ahmadinejad, "will be fulfilled with the emergence of a perfect human being [the 12th Imam], who is heir to all prophets. He will lead the world to justice and absolute peace.” To a Christian who does believe in the One perfect human who is also God, these words ring in a frightening manner.
Throughout history many Protestants, (I believe both Calvin and Luther, but I am not on firm ground here, only twenty year old memories of stale studies) have believed the man of sin would be a pope. Today I think many Protestants would be alarmed to even countenance that as a rational thought. We just are not sure. We do know that his rise to power will be spectacular, and many will be deceived.
When the last pope was selected, I did read of an interesting tradition. I wish I had marked the article, and am going to try to go back and find it. Actually it was maintained to be an actual prophecy. Many popes were prophesied to come and the last pope was named. According to this prophecy of many hundreds of years ago, the current pope is to be the second to last in what the prophecy said was a chain of (here my memory is unclear) of an immense number of popes. Each pope had a specific prophecy about his nature or his work. The prophecies were not too clear especially to one unstudied in popiology, as I am. But the really interesting point of the article was that there is to be but one more pope after the current one.
In like manner it seems to me that even the irreligious elements of our society are prophesying frantically about the end of the world. Of course they see no coming Savior, preferring to think of the end of the world in a Mad-Max (Mel Gibson) scenario. Al Gore in Earth in the Balance and Rachel Carson in her Silent Spring speak of coming destruction of the earth, though always evading the responsibility of man to his Creator.
Where and When? We are not sure as Christians, but I do believe the time is very near. In any case here are the Biblical pillars which are important to stress.
1) He is coming. (He who is taken up from among you into heaven will return in the same way.)
2) He is coming soon. (When the fig tree begins to bud, know that that generation shall not pass away until they see the coming of the Son of Man)
3) When He comes He will have a hard time finding faith on the earth. (When the Son of Man returns will he find faith on the earth?)
4) We are to vigilantly watch for his return. (We are told to be as watchmen in the night, for we know not at what hour He comes.)
I used to have an old Southern Baptist friend who often quoted to me the old refrain about prayer: Pray as if it all depends upon God; work as if it all depends on you.
I think that refrain might be slightly changed for the sake of our subject to: Expect him to come today but work as if you are going to have a tomorrow. Of course one day soon we will not have the tomorrow; at least not in our present bodies. What exciting times we do live in! All of the world has groaned and travailed for this brief moment in history that most of us will be privileged to see.