Good eyesight is a marvelous blessing, and in order to see better, Americans spend billions of dollars a year on eye care. About seven percent of the population is considered legally blind. Jesus faulted the Pharisees because they were unable to “interpret the signs of the times” (Matthew 16.3). Are you able to interpret the times? Above all, are you able to interpret the times well enough to come to faith in Christ? Romans 13.11 uses this imagery when it says, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.”
What does it mean for someone to understand the times? It is not a matter of understanding world events or politics or economics. Rather, it is a spiritual matter. Let me remind you of four points.
Galatians 1.4 says that Jesus died “to deliver [rescue] us from the present evil age.” This means time as a whole. Paul is telling us that ours is an evil time out of which we need to be redeemed.
You are never going to make any true progress in wisdom unless you begin by realizing that this world, with all its cultural systems, is hostile to God and opposed to any desires for godliness on the part of God’s people. Jesus said it clearly. He told His disciples just before His arrest and crucifixion, “If the world hates you, know [keep in mind] that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of [belonged] the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15.18-19). Later in His high priestly prayer, He said, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep [protect] them from the evil one” (John 17.15). If you are to understand the times, you must begin by understanding that the present age is evil.
In Second Corinthians 6.2, Paul writes, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation [time of God’s favor].” In other words, although this is indeed an evil age, it is nevertheless also an age in which God has acted in Christ to accomplish our salvation. Paul also wrote, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4.4–5).
A third text that describes our times is Luke 19.44. Jesus was approaching Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, and we are told that when He observed it, He began to weep, saying, “The days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a [an embankment] barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children with you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know [recognize] the time of your visitation [God’s coming to you]” (vv.43–44).
He was saying that the people had been given time to repent of their sins and turn to Him and be saved, but they had refused to do it. As a result, the time of their opportunity was drawing to an end. This brings us to our fourth and last verse.
“The time is short” (I Corinthians 7.29) In other words, this is indeed a day of God’s grace. It is a time to repent and turn to Christ. It is a time to serve Him too. But it will not last forever. The day of God’s grace will be followed by the day of God’s judgment, and when that happens, the opportunity to believe on Jesus will be lost. If you are wise enough to interpret the times correctly, you will turn to Jesus now. St. Augustine did. God pointed him to Romans 13.11-14 while he was in the garden of a friend’s estate in Italy. He was convicted by those words, interpreted the times correctly, turned from his sin, trusted Christ as his Savior, and became, by God’s grace, the greatest theologian of his generation.
“And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, ‘When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.’ So, he left them and departed.
“When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, ‘We brought no bread.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said, ‘O you of little faith,’ why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16.1-12).
Pastor Steve can be reached at PastorSteve@MaranathaBibleChurch.org