Not even 20 years into the 21st century, it seems like time is speeding up and global events happening one on top of the other. Could it be a sign of the end times?
These are some of things Greg Laurie preaches about as pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in southern California and as an evangelist at huge Harvest Crusades across the globe.
Lately, he's been doing a series on the Book of Daniel, a major prophetic book in the Bible, and told CBN News why: because knowing it will bring a blessing.
"The Bible says that when you begin to see these things happen, look up. Your redemption is drawing near," Laurie said. "It's fascinating because Jesus talked about an event called the Abomination of Desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel. Then Jesus said, 'Let the reader understand.' Some people say, 'Oh, you can't understand Bible prophecy.' Then why did Jesus say, 'Let the reader understand?'"
Understanding Can Equal Blessing
He continued, "And to the point that there's a special blessing promised in the Book of Revelation to those who read, hear, and keep the words of the Book. So, look, God wants us to understand what's happening in our world. Because if I really believe Jesus is coming back, it's going to impact me and the way that I live. And there's the blessing of it."
Laurie talked about signs these could be the end times.
"Many. So many," he said. "But I think the biggest sign of the times would be the regathering of the nation Israel. Really the prophetic time clock started ticking on May 14th, 1948, when Israel became a nation. And it's interesting that the Bible tells us that in the last days, Jerusalem would be a hot spot. What are we talking about today? Moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. We're talking about Jerusalem."
'A Burdensome Stone'
Laurie went on, "According to scripture, the end times events are going to happen in the Middle East and specifically around the city of Jerusalem. God says He will make Jerusalem 'a burdensome stone.' And so I think we see these things happening and also if you read Ezekiel 37 and 38, you see this massive nation from the north of Israel called Magog invading her – many scholars believe that could be modern-day Russia. What's even more interesting is one of the allies of that force is Persia, the ancient name for modern-day Iran. And we see this alliance that's very recent between Russia and Iran. There are many other signs I could mention, but to me these are reminders that we are in the last days and we should be paying attention."
China is the nation many analysts indicate will dominate the 21st century. But as for it playing a role in the end times, Laurie explained, "The Bible talks about a superpower with an army of 200 million people called the Kings of the East marching through the dried-up river Euphrates toward the Valley of Megiddo – hence the name Armageddon, which comes from the root-word Megiddo – to face off with the forces of the Antichrist."
Only One Nation Could Do This
Laurie points out, "It's interesting that a number of years ago China actually boasted of the fact that they could field an army of 200 million people. There's not another nation on the earth that could do that. By the way, there were not 200 million people on the face of the earth when John recorded those words in the Book of Revelation. China certainly is an economic superpower becoming ever more powerful. And they're now also a military superpower."
When he adds all these events and facts up, Pastor Laurie stated, "It means that Jesus could come back at any moment, so we need to be ready. And what does that mean? It doesn't mean we stand around staring at the sun. It doesn't mean we all quit our jobs and become irresponsible. It means that we're about our Father's business. It means that we're doing everything we can to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and tell them how to be ready to meet Him."
He summed it up saying, "I think our objective as Christians should be to take as many people as we can to heaven with us."
Christians' top priorities should be knowing God, becoming more like Christ, studying His Word, and making sure everyone they can knows Him, Laurie suggested. He mentioned his church's mission statement: "Knowing Him and making Him known."
'Just Cut to the Chase'
Many Christians believe it's too tough to present the Gospel, but Laurie pointed out, "It's easier than you think. I often tell people 'you should be able to present the Gospel in three minutes or less.' Every Christian should be able to do this. Just cut to the chase. What is the Gospel? There's a God in heaven who loves us. We're separated from Him by our sin. There's nothing we can do to earn God's favor. So we have to admit our sin and we need to turn from it."
The pastor added, "And God sent a remedy: He sent His Son Jesus Christ – who was fully God and fully man – to die on the cross in our place. Jesus came to pay a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay. If we'll turn from our sin, put our faith in Jesus Christ, He will forgive us and we can know that we'll go to heaven when we die. And we can find the meaning and purpose of life that God has for us on this planet."
'Any Christian Can Do This'
Like Billy Graham did for decades, Pastor Laurie has been reaching out with the Gospel through large venues to massive amounts of people. Some may think with Graham's passing, that era of huge crusades might be over. Laurie disagrees.
"I think the future is bright," he told CBN News. "And I think it will always be bright for the Gospel. Because the last time I checked, the Bible says it's through the foolishness of preaching that people will believe. So that's not going to change. God has chosen to primarily reach lost people through the verbal articulation of the Gospel. I call it proclamation evangelism. If you do it in a stadium, an arena, a church, an open field, it doesn't matter."
He explained. "The difference between teaching a Bible study – which I do as a pastor – and giving an evangelistic message is from the beginning of my evangelistic message to the end, I'm preaching for a decision. I'm moving toward a goal. And that goal is I'm going to say to you, 'Have you asked Christ to come into your life? And if not, would you like to right now?' I'm effectively trying to close that deal. And I think any Christian can do this."