Here Comes a New Year

Flipping the calendar to January usually brings some moments of reflection with it, as we think about what this new year might bring our way. For Bible-believing Christians, the beginning of the year causes us to wonder if this is the year that Jesus comes for us, and if perhaps the long-awaited end of times will descend on this world. And these thoughts are not irrational as the world does appear to be looking more like the days of Noah and the conditions found in Sodom and Gomorrah. And then, of course, we wonder what our personal futures will be like, as we contemplate issues of health, finances, and relationships. What will this new year bring?

God, in His infinite wisdom, has chosen not to tell us the specifics concerning what will take place in our 2023, which is probably a good thing. (Do we really want to know that we will be injured in a car crash in July?) However, there are certain truths that are fixed and do apply to this coming year. Even though some truths are familiar, they might help in giving us some perspective about 2023. First, the bad news.

Evil will triumph temporarily. The Apostle John reminds us that this world (culture) “lies in the power of the Evil One” (1 John 5:19). So, we ought not be too surprised when, after rejecting God’s standards, people twist life around and now “call good evil, and evil good” (Isa. 5:20). The Apostle Paul’s powerful and revealing discussion of the downward slide of a nation makes it so very clear that our nation has fallen under the wrath of God. (Read Paul’s expose of nations who walk away from God’s truth in Romans 1:18-32, and see if you can reach any other conclusion). And things will get much worse on this planet during the coming Tribulation period when the satanically-empowered Antichrist will successfully seek out believers in Jesus and destroy most of them (Rev. 13:7). And while the Church will be raptured prior to this time, millions will come to faith in Jesus after the Rapture, but will be martyred for their faith in Messiah (Rev. 7:9-14). It looks like the storm clouds are forming.

The Church will apostatize. One of the sad realities about Israel in the Old Testament was that those charged with keeping that nation close to the Lord (priests and leaders) miserably failed. Unfortunately, the church will follow this pattern and there will be a great departure from God’s truth (2 Thess. 2:3). The false church of the Tribulation will be the zenith of coming “apostasy.” But before the Tribulation, the warning is that there will be a massive invasion of false teachers into the church who “in the later times will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). And “the time will come when they (believers?) will not endure sound (healthy) doctrine,” but rather will turn away from God’s revealed truth and flock to those teachers who tell them what they want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3-4). That time seems to have come, and most likely in 2023 this turning away from God’s truth will only accelerate. Watch out for more and more preachers who subtly (or not) will cast doubt on the verbal inspiration and authority of the Scriptures. This is often seen as they try and accommodate the Scriptures on cultural issues such as abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, God as the creator and the God-ordained structure of the home. Biblical prophecy will be further distorted and/or marginalized. Since the Garden of Eden, Satan’s approach has been to cast doubt on the veracity and authority of God’s truth. The Bible says that the church will not do well at the end. Does it not seem that we are in this time?  

The Antichrist is alive today. Satan simply does not know when God is going to commence end times events. (In Matt. 24:36, not even holy angels have been given the starting date of the end times. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Satan has been clued in on this critical piece of information). As a result, Satan has always had a man ready to go at a moment’s notice. Such a man exists today within western culture. Daniel 7 is clear that out of the old Roman empire will come this powerful but wicked end times personality. So, he will not come from Russia, China or many other places. Whoever this is, he will be a ruler of a single nation. Then when he signs a covenantal agreement with Israel (Dan. 9:27), he is revealed as the Antichrist. If time passes and there is a “delay” in the start of end time events, Satan will replace the “present” Antichrist with another and will be ready to go. The stage is pretty much set for the last act in this play on planet earth, but we just do not know the time when the curtain will be raised. God’s timing has always been perfect, and we can be sure that the Sovereign Lord will not be a minute early or late for the curtain raising. Now some good news.

We are in the kingdom for such a time as this. Long ago when the Medes and Persians ruled the world including Israel, Mordecai the Jew gave an insightful word to his niece Queen Esther. When the Jews were facing annihilation, Mordecai told her that she was probably in her position as the queen for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). In other words, Esther was sovereignly placed there by the Almighty God to be His instrument in saving His people. And so, it is true with us. We are not here on this planet, at this time, by accident, but are here for “such as time as this.” God has His purposes and we are here to carry out His purposes. This is not to say, that as individuals we will change the world, but it does mean that our Lord has things for us to do. He has people that need the Savior and we are the evangelists. He wants truth, His truth, proclaimed and defended. He has individuals who need His touch in their lives which will be done through believers. He is waiting to hear from praying believers. We probably think of ourselves as “little” and “insignificant,” and we are probably right. However, that is exactly the kind of person that God has chosen to use over the millennia. We are here in 2023 because we have work to do for the living God. This could be our best year yet. 

We can presently live in this culture with peace and joy. Anxiety, worry, and fear are tightening their grip on our culture, which is the growing opinion of many, Christians and non-Christians alike. 2023 is worrisome. Jesus noted that in this world we will have trouble, but believers can live in peace (John 16:33). He had stated a few minutes earlier in His discourse that His peace was different from the world’s peace (John 14:27). The world’s peace depends on the circumstances of life being good and pleasant. But Jesus’ peace comes because of who He is and what He has done. A person who has placed their faith in Jesus is immediately, positionally at peace with God (Rom. 5:1). The believer has a harmonious relationship with God and is no longer at enmity with Him. But peace is more than something positional, it can also be true of us as we live in this culture. In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul declares that “the peace of God…shall guard your hearts (emotions) and mind (thoughts) in Christ Jesus.”  In this culture, unbelievers simply cannot comprehend this tranquility and harmonious relationships that are available to followers of Christ. As troubles appear, believers are to come to the Lord God with “thanksgiving” and pray about those troubling matters. When troubles come, believers need to shift their focus off the troubling matter and onto the Lord; who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and good. We may not know what 2023 will bring, but we do know that our Lord Jesus does. Peace can be ours, and joy can be ours as we abide in Christ and live obediently to Him (John 15:11),

Jesus will return and rule over the entire world. The Bible does not stutter or stammer on this matter. It is never IF Jesus will return and rule the world, but always WHEN He will do it. Psalm 2 is such a powerful reminder of what is going to take place (Take a moment and read this Psalm…good for the mind and soul). Contrary to some theologies, Jesus is not presently fulfilling Psalm 2, and this is made certain by numerous scriptures. For example, Hebrews 1:5-2:8 speaks of Jesus ruling as the One who fulfills the Davidic covenant. It includes the statement that “we do not yet see all things subjected to Him” (2:8). The point is that He is not, at this moment, ruling as Messiah. But He will. And Psalm 2 records the declaration of the Sovereign God that He has installed the Anointed One as king in Zion (2:6) and has given the nations of the earth as His inheritance (2:8). This is such an encouraging scripture. Today, many political leaders are corrupt and abuse their authority. But it is established and settled that God will set aside all of these and that Jesus’ reign on this earth will be in righteousness (Isa. 11:4-5). And the God who cannot lie says He will make all things right. We can hope that it all beings in 2023. 

It is important that we rehearse these and similar truths regularly. So, if by any chance you are concerned about many things that might come in 2023, remember that Jesus promised: (1) all authority has been given to Him (Matt. 28:18-20), and (2) He is our Good Shepherd and He will be always be with us (Matt. 28:20; John 10:11_15)). No force or person can thwart His power, and He is constantly watching over us, His “sheep.” Our task now is to “abide” (remain in fellowship) with Him and live obediently (John 15:1-12). As the old song goes: “trust and obey for there is no other way.”