David Jeremiah - A Biographical Prophecy: End Times People
Shon Hopwood grew up in a Christian home in rural Nebraska, and he had parents who had started a local church. He was the oldest of five children, and he was bright and excelling on standardized tests. He also played basketball in high school and won a scholarship to Nebraska's Midland University. But in his teens, Hopwood grew disillusioned with his basketball skills. He stopped going to class, and he dropped out of school. Then he joined the United States Navy and ended up in the Persian Gulf guarding warships with shoulder-mounted Stinger missiles. But Hopwood developed acute pancreatitis, almost died in a Bahrain hospital, and he left the Navy with an honorable discharge. That's when lostness overtook this young man. His alcohol and drug use grew into raging addictions, and he became depressed.
One day while drinking with a friend, they decided to rob a bank together. Why not? They could use the money. They ended up robbing five banks while armed. Afterward, Hopwood squandered the money on parties. And eventually his life came crashing down in the lobby of a Doubletree Hotel in Omaha, Nebraska, when FBI agents tackled and arrested him. A year later, he stood terrified before a federal judge who sentenced him to more than 12 years in prison. And shortly thereafter, he was on a prison plane, handcuffed, shackled, heading to a federal penitentiary. He was only 23 years old, and his life was growing worse and worse by the day. Now, if you stay with me, I'll tell you what happened to him at the end of my message. But his story raises questions for all of us. Why do people go the wrong way? Or in a broader sense, why do good people do bad things? For thousands of years, people have been debating those questions. Sociologists and laypeople expend huge amounts of air and ink trying to determine if human beings are basically good or fundamentally evil. According to Scripture, sin is the fundamental problem of every person.
Romans 3:10 says, "No one is righteous, not even one. No one is truly wise. No one is seeking God. All have turned away, all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one". That's from the New Living Translation. Our problem then isn't just that we live in a sinful world, which we do, but that we live in a world full of sinful people, because our sin affects everything in our lives. The Bible makes it clear that we are all corrupted by sin, every one of us. That corruption entered our bloodstream through Adam and Eve who rebelled against God in his garden, and the blood disease of sin has descended through the generations and it affects all of us today. The Bible says, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned". Because we have been stained by sin in this way, every one of us, the Bible says, "There is none righteous, no, not one," we cannot produce anything good on our own, collectively, individually. "Without me, you can do nothing," Jesus said.
So, the blood of Christ and the Spirit of God must unleash their power in our lives. God can come into a prison cell. He can take the life of a person who's going the wrong way and totally change it. But only God can do that. There's no other program that you can go to. God is the only one who can offset the impact of original sin, sin that started in the Garden. So, what that means is you and I live in this war zone we call planet earth. We're pushed and pulled between goodness and evil, between love and hate, between creation and destruction. You and I are Christ followers in a fallen world. That has been true for God's people throughout all the centuries. But can you feel it? Can you sense it? Something is changing. The bad is getting worse. Godlessness is overtaking every institution, every platform, every square inch of our culture because something in us is broken. We live in a world of sinful people. Better said, we live in a world of broken people. And the brokenness is becoming everywhere more evident to us as time goes by.
What does this mean? Well, I want to show you a prediction about the last days that will put all of this into prophetic context. I want to quote from a letter written by another prisoner, this one on death row, and he wasn't there for robbing banks. He was there for preaching the gospel. The Apostle Paul wrote his final letter to Timothy from a Roman cell. Near the end of his letter, he drew a surprisingly detailed picture of how people will behave just prior to the Lord's return and the beginning of the tribulation period. So, I'm gonna read that letter and see if you don't resonate with what he said. 2 Timothy 3:1 through 5. "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power". And then if you jump down in this passage to the 13th verse, here's what it says. "Evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived".
So, we're not just imagining this. What's happening right now isn't just something that, "Oh, I haven't known many evil people before, so maybe I'm just meeting them all right now". No, the Bible says that there will be a trajectory toward the coming of Christ when sinful people will be more sinful, evil people will be more evil, and difficulty in relationships and all the rest will be more profound. Worse and worse, the Scripture says. With those three short words, Paul predicted people will descend into a rampant and accelerating godlessness as we approach the tribulation. Please note the apostle's focus is not on bad times, but on bad people. As John Calvin wrote many, many years ago, "The hardness or danger of this time is, in Paul's view, to be not war, not famine or diseases, nor any of the other calamities or ills that befall the body, but the wicked and depraved ways of man".
You know, it's an interesting thing. Nobody knows how good a person can be, and nobody knows how bad a person can be. Paul gave us 19 specific character descriptions of what people will be like. In other words, here in 2 Timothy 3, the Lord gives us 19 expressions to depict the nature of godlessness in the last days, the things we should expect and not be surprised by. I can't bore in all the 19 words, and I'm not gonna do a 19-word word study. But I can show you a pattern in Paul's words that move from selfish people, to splintered families, to shattered societies. First of all, selfish people. Right up front, the Lord tells us that the last days will be populated by people who are lovers of themselves, narcissistic people, people who see themselves in the mirror and applaud. According to Paul, the days before the tribulation will be perilous because people will love only themselves. They will, according to the Scripture, be boasters and proud and blasphemers. These people love to talk about themselves and to build themselves up.
Such people want everyone else to love them as much as they love themselves. They write their own press reports. They pad their own resumes. When you finally meet the person in question, you hardly recognize them. These are proud or haughty people, which means they're disdainful toward other people. Looking down on others comes as naturally to them as it does to a pigeon on top of a statue. Perhaps nothing represents this attitude better than social media. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram allow us to constantly crow about our own success, while simultaneously slashing away at the achievements of other people. Often through anonymous comments and online bullying, social media is a stronghold for selfish people. Unfortunately, selfish people rarely keep to themselves. You watch what's going on right now in our culture in how we are treating one another.
I saw on television, the story of a restaurant, and they closed the restaurant. And it said on the restaurant, "closed". And down at the bottom it said, "For kindness day". And the story was that people came into that restaurant and treated the people that were working there so badly, yelled at them, hollered at them, sometimes physically wanted to abuse them, that the owner said, "No, you're not doing that to my people". And even though he's trying to come back from COVID and get his feet back on the ground financially, he shut the restaurant down as a protest against the ugliness of the people who were coming into a store. Well, selfish people end up being a part of splintered families. People will focus less on their loved ones. Their time, energy, and passion will be tied up in themselves. And the result was in the days prior to the tribulation will be strewn with broken homes.
And he uses five descriptions. These five descriptions highlight the damage that broken people perpetuate on their own families in the last days. It says they are disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, and unforgiving. Those are the five things that are in the text. And I want you to know that when ancient Greek writers wanted to say something negative, they took a positive word and put a letter in front of it called the alpha privative. The alpha negated the positive word. You see the principle in English when we say something is distasteful. We take the word tasteful, and we put a prefix in front of it and that prefix negates the word.
All five of Paul's terms about the family included in the paragraph are alpha privatives. All five describe a positive attitude that has vanished from most families during the last days. Children will be disobedient willfully. They will do what they want to do, casting off oversight and authority. They will ignore the instruction of Scripture that says, "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this as right". They will be ungrateful. Gone will be a thankful spirit between children and their parents, and that lack of gratitude will extend to other relationships. The third word is "unholy". In this context, that implies lack of respect. There will be no respect within the structure of the framework of the family. The picture is of someone who throws off the oversight at all levels of authority and harbors a growing sense of rebellion and independence.
Next, we come to the word "unloving". Normal, human relationships will be destroyed and broken and affected and wither away. The word here is translated elsewhere in the New Testament as heartless. Homes will become hard places ruined by harsh hearts. It'll spill over into the whole society. And the final word is "unforgiving," which could also mean truth breaker. This refers to people whose rebellion becomes stubborn and hardhearted. The root of bitterness within them grows into an emotional forest of poisonous trees bearing toxic fruit. And the lack of capacity to forgive others means they live as though they themselves could never be forgiven for all the harm they've done. By now you may be wondering, is this gonna keep getting worse and worse or is this gonna be a whole negative sermon? No. Let's take a breath of fresh air. Let's take a moment and turn this around. If the ungodly world is characterized by these negatives, how should God's people live in the midst of it all? It's very simple. Our grammar has to change. We should leave off the alpha privative.
In Christ, it's not appropriate to negate a virtue. Our homes should be filled with obedience between children and parents. Family should be filled with gratitude and defined by respect. They should exude a natural love and affection, and we should be able to trust each other. We have to work hard to avoid the alpha privative lifestyle. You probably never heard that word before, but here's a new term. Don't be an alpha privative family. Don't be a family that negates all the virtues that you've been given by Almighty God. We must be doggedly committed to Biblical marriages and kingdom families. Whatever has happened to you in the past, start where you are today. And with God's help, make your home a place that's indwelled by the Lord Jesus Christ. Make it a Christian home. So, are you getting this picture? When you have selfish people, they end up creating splintered families, and splintered families create shattered societies.
Now, I'm gonna do something right now that I've fought with myself all week as to whether I should do this or not. So, I'm not really sure whether I should do it, but I'm gonna do it. So, one of my favorite preachers is Tony Evans. I love Tony Evans. Believe it or not, when I graduated from seminary, I went back and I taught some postgraduate courses. And Tony Evans was in my class. My great claim to fame was I was Tony Evan's teacher for one semester. And so, everything good about him, he learned from somebody else. If he's messing up, it's my fault. You know that, don't you? Tony and his family have been friends of ours for so many years. And I love to hear this man preach because what an orator he is. When he goes off on one of his orations, he just spellbinds you. And I heard one in one of his messages recently that totally illustrates what I'm talking about. And I can't be Tony Evans, so don't get your expectations up. But I'm gonna tell you what he said.
Here's what he said. "If you're a messed-up man and you have a family, you're gonna help make a messed-up family. If you're a messed-up man contributing to a messed-up family and your messed-up family goes to church, then your messed-up family's gonna make its contribution to a messed-up church. If you're a messed-up man contributing to a messed-up family, resulting in a messed-up church, causing a messed-up neighborhood and your neighborhood's part of a city, well, your messed-up neighborhood's gonna make its contribution to a messed-up city. If you're a messed-up man contributing to a messed-up family, resulting in a messed-up church, causing a messed-up neighborhood that resides in a messed-up city that's part of a messed-up county and your county is part of the state, well, your messed-up county is gonna make its contribution to a messed-up state. If you're a messed-up man contributing to a messed-up family, resulting in a messed-up church, causing a messed-up neighborhood that resides in a messed-up city that's part of a messed-up county contributing to a messed-up state and your state's part of the country, well guess what. Your messed-up state's gonna make its contribution to your messed-up nation. And if you're a messed-up man contributing to a messed-up family, resulting in a messed-up church, causing a messed-up neighborhood that resides in a messed-up city that's part of a messed-up county that's contributing to a messed-up state, your messed-up country is gonna make its contribution to a messed-up world".
So, do you get that? I wish I could do it like him, but I can't. But I love the way he does it and love, most of all, his point. It starts with individuals, doesn't it? We look around we say, "Oh, my church is a mess". Well, you probably had something to do with that, right? If you're looking for a perfect church, if you can find it, don't go there 'cause you'll mess it up. You know, we're always looking for some corporate answer to the problems, but the problems are ours. Our families are what we create them to be. Our counties are what we allow them to be. Our cities are... it's all about us. So, unless we're willing to take insight on ourselves, we don't have much of a chance to get better, do we? So, we have selfish people. We have families that reflect on the selfishness of the people in them. And then those families go into churches and cultures and societies, and the society becomes what the family is. So, what do we do with that? I mean, in this message series, I've been trying to tell you here's where we are, here's what that means. And where do we go from here? So, how do Christians live in such a place where selfishness reigns and immorality increases? How can we be different kind of end-times people in a broken world?
Let's take a page from Benjamin Franklin. In his autobiography, Franklin described the darkness that filled the streets of Philadelphia during his day. It was pitch black at night, and people were sleeping on the streets, and they were stepping into mud puddles, and stumbling over rough stones. And even worse, crime was growing. It wasn't safe to be out after sunset. So, Franklin waged an intense campaign to persuade everyone to light the area around their own house, but he got nowhere. Finally, he just did it himself, but only in front of his own house. He planted a pole in front of his porch with a kerosene light on top of the pole. That night in the city of Philadelphia, there was one house bathed in warm glow. The lamp cast light on the street, giving passersby a feeling of well-being and safety. But the next night, another house had a lamp and then another, and pretty soon, almost the whole city was lighting the walkways in front of their houses at night. Franklin learned something. He learned that our example is often greater than our words and our admonitions, and that's what we need to learn.
With that in mind, I want to lift you out of 2 Timothy and take you to Ephesians 5, and this is the passage that says, "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord". That sentence is short enough to memorize, but it's powerful enough to illumine the pathways around your life. First of all, you need to remember the grace that you received. How do we walk in the light when our society is defined by end-times people? How do you be a Christian if you're surrounded by people who are doing the kinds of things we're watching right now, literally destroying the fabric of our country? Well, you have to experience God's grace through an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. Metaphors involving light pervade Scripture, and Ephesians 5:8 describes the difference that comes over us when we have grace with Christ.
Before that moment, we live in darkness as deep as underground caverns. We are spiritually, morally, personally, and eternally in pitch blackness. But the moment we come to Christ, he pushes down the lever that connects us to the throne of grace, and he switches on a billion mega watts of light inside of our souls. That experience is so vivid that many Christians describe their moment of grace in bright terms. So, first of all, remember your salvation. Remember the grace you received. Remember that, but for the grace of God, you wouldn't be a part of this culture doing the things that right now are so hurtful to you. Without Jesus Christ in your life, you are capable, I am capable, of all those things that we watch that are just making us shake our heads.
Number two, reflect the light that you have become. That brings us to our next tactic for living in these dark times. We have to exude God's light. We have to convey it. We have to reflect it. We have to radiate it. That's what we read in Ephesians 5:8. "Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord". Men and women, I am concerned about the way this present darkness is casting the shadow over many churches and over many Christians. Too many people in our community of faith are trying to blend the light and the darkness so they can kind of come up with a grayness in their life, and that doesn't work. It's a devilish lie to believe that we can be Christians without being different and distinct from the world. You can't, and you can't marry the world so that you'll be more acceptable to them. A lot of my younger friends who are pastors are doing that now with many of the social issues that we're facing in this country. As followers of Jesus, we have left the kingdom of darkness and we are now children of light.
So, now we must walk, we must live, as children of light. We have this ceremony here on Christmas Eve that's always so meaningful to me. And I know it's more meaningful to me than anybody else 'cause I get to stand up here and watch all of you light your candles. It starts out just like in Ben Franklin's story. It starts out with my grandson who's been walking down that aisle now for over 12 years and bringing me the original candle. And I take that original candle with that light, and I light all of the servers. And little by little, they like the rows in this building until when it's all done, you look up and this room is full of light. The light has dispelled the darkness. Ladies and gentlemen, we're only one candle, each of us. But the Bible says when you have a city on a hill where all the candles are lit, no one can deny the truth. So, the most important thing we can do as Christians in the darkness of our time is to let our light so shine that men will see us and they will give glory to the Father.
Castlefields Church is in the center of Derby, UK, has a section on its website for its members to share how they found the light of Christ. So, here's one that showed up on that website. Amanda grew up without a Christian background, except for a great aunt who would talk about the Lord and give out Bibles. And when Amanda was 25, she was studying at a university feeling very depressed and having trouble finding employment. One night, she was walking home on a cold February evening, she heard someone singing behind her. He was singing loudly. Amanda turned around and said, "Why are you so happy"? He said, "I'm praising the Lord. He makes me so happy". Turns out the man was a Nigerian evangelist. And over time, he answered Amanda's questions. He gave her literature, pointed her to the passages of Scripture, explained the gospel simply through his words so that she can understand it. "And one evening," she said, "something supernatural happened, a light switched on. And I believed Jesus had died on the cross for my sins. And it all became so personal, I gave my life to Jesus that February night in 1998. And Jesus became my Lord and Savior". Note that phrase, "A light switched on". How many of you can say today, "I remember the day when the light switched on"? Can you say, "amen"? Amen.
When I read that story, I could almost hear that Nigerian evangelist singing as he walked through the dark streets of Derby. His faith lit up the sidewalk, and he was living out the words of Christ who says to us that we are the light of the world, and a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Finally, remember the grace you receive, reflect the light you've become, and reveal the darkness that you see. The Ephesians passage goes on to tell us something else. "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: 'Awake, you who sleep arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.'"
If you turn over a brick on a bright day, you'll see a whole world of bugs and pests fleeing in every direction. These creatures prefer the darkness and the light expels them. And in the same way, the world is ill at ease when we walk in the light and seek through our lives to reveal Christ's holiness. Did you notice how this happened naturally after you gave your life to Christ? All of a sudden, the people around you started looking at you differently. "What's wrong with him? He doesn't laugh at my dirty jokes anymore. What's wrong with her? She doesn't like to get wasted on weekends anymore". We reply, "Well, you know what? I'm a child of the light, and I can't have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness". Some people will turn away from us, some will continue to be our friends. But our joint activities will become different. And some of them will follow your trail of light and find Christ for themselves.
Let me give you a key little principle that I found this week that really helps. The word "fellowship" in Ephesians 5:11 is translated from the Greek word "sunkoinoneo". The last part of the word means fellowship, but the prefix "sun" is the Greek word for the word "with". It means participating with someone in doing something. This verse tells us that once we become a child of the light, we can no longer participate with those who are doing the works of darkness. You can't fellowship with them doing what they do. That's what it means. It doesn't mean you tell them you don't want to see them anymore, you don't want to be their friends. But it means you don't do what they do. You don't fellowship sun, with them. John 20:21 says, "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light".
You and I are children of light. I don't want to be a negative person, offensive, making people uncomfortable, or drive people away. We can't help being lights in the darkness wherever we go, and it's gonna be different for you. If you'll live for, if you're not trying to be gray, if you're not trying to mesmerize your own self by marrying the darkness with the light, which doesn't work and is not acceptable and will just lead you wrong, if you're trying to really be the light, you just need to get excited about this. Someone isn't gonna like you as much as they did before. But what I know is this, everybody in the world, whether they like to admit it or not, is looking for light. They're searching. They're trying to figure out why they are the way they are, why they do what they do. They're looking for someone to help them. And if you don't shine the light, if you compromise your witness, they won't come to you 'cause they'll see the phoniness of who you are and what you're doing.
One day, I was in this barber shop and my friend, and I was getting my hair cut. And he knows I'm a pastor, and we have a good, positive relationship. All of a sudden, this guy comes in, he sits down in the other chair, and he starts in with vulgarity like you would not believe. He's telling a dirty joke, and he's trying to make... and he's laughing and it's like, you know, and my barber, he doesn't realize I'm sitting there looking at the mirror, and he's behind me so I can see him. And he's telling his barber friend, "The Pastor's in the house, come on". Well, why wouldn't he just do what he wanted to do if he's who he is? Because when you're the light, you bring condemnation to people who are in the darkness. You don't have to say anything. You don't have to do anything. People will be different around you. That doesn't mean you're better than they are. That just means it's the light that dispels the darkness.
Did you know that in the English language and in language itself, there is no word for darkness? The word for darkness is coined. Darkness is just the expression of the absence of light. So, darkness isn't a quantity. It's the absence of light. When you walk into a situation, you change the darkness. You become a part of lighting up that area where you are. The light of the world is coming through you, and Jesus Christ is living his life out in you.
That brings me back to Shon Hopwood with whom we began. Remember him? He was going to prison at the age of 23. As time went by, he got a job in the prison library, and he began reading books about the law. And as he learned about the law, he began taking on cases for fellow prisoners, writing petitions they could use in federal courts. They called him the jailhouse lawyer. Shon also began corresponding with a friend named Annie, his secret crush through high school. Furthermore, his parents let him know they continue to pray for him. And his mom, she kept sending him Christian books. One day Shon's prison friend, Robert, had a life-changing experience with Jesus Christ. Shon took all that in, and he found it increasingly difficult to rationalize his own darkened life. After Shon was released from prison in 2009, he and Annie were engaged, and they asked Pastor Marty Barnhart to officiate the wedding. But Barnhart wanted to talk to them first. He asked them what they believed about Jesus, and he said they could be forgiven by the shed blood of Christ. And the pastor's exact words were, "Yeah, even you, Shon".
Here's what happened next. "The next day I could accept the feeling," said Shon, "that God had been pursuing me for a long time and that if I just abandon my stubbornness and selfishness and hand everything over to him, I would find redemption. What does it mean to be redeemed? And how do you redeem yourself after robbing five banks? Well, the answer is you don't. The answer is that you need some help. In Ephesians 1:7 through 8 Paul writes that, 'in Christ, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us.' To put it differently, because of our sins, none of us, and surely no former prisoner like me," said Shon, "can be redeemed on our own. We need the gospel of grace which says that each of us matters and has worth because we're made in the image of God. Grace says we are not defined by our failures and our faults, but by a love without merit or condition. God's grace was enough to redeem me," he said.
Shon and Annie asked Christ to come into their lives. They were married, they were baptized. They moved to Seattle so Shon could attend the University of Washington Law School. And believe it or not, today Shon is a professor of law at the Georgetown University in Washington where he is spreading the light every day. We're living in a messed-up world. Let's face it. The Bible warns that in the last days, perilous times will come, society will go from bad to worse. But remember, the city of Ephesus was also a place of darkness in Paul's day, the city to which his letter was written. Yet Paul viewed the Christians there as children of light. Their presence lit up the city streets with the glow of Jesus. So, even in dark days, you can experience God's grace exude his radiance, exhibit his holiness. And in a world increasingly dominated by the end times, God has empowered you to shine. And how many of you know the darker the night, the brighter the light?
So, let's don't complain about the world in which we live. Let's take advantage of the difference we make. Let's don't be obnoxious, weird people. You know some Christians are like that. And when you see people like that, you don't want what they have. You want to get away from them as far as you can. But if you're gracious, godly people and you let your light so shine, and when others are being cruel, you're kind, when others are doing the things that Paul described people do in the last days, you don't do that, you are not an alpha-privative Christian but you're a Christian in the truest sense and you live your life that way, you will make a difference in this world. And if all of us determine to let our light shine, we can light up this world just like we light up this church on Christmas Eve.