I wrote a book not long ago titled, Is Your Heart Prepared for the Midnight Cry? (Charisma). I take the view that the next thing to happen on God's calendar is not the Second Coming, but rather the awakening of the church before the Second Coming. Matthew 25:6 says, "At midnight ['middle of night'—meses de nuktos] there was a cry, 'Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out to meet him.'" Some interpreters of the Parable of the Virgins hold that the Second Coming and the "midnight cry" are simultaneous. But clearly there is a gap in time between the "cry" and the actual coming of the Bridegroom (see verses 7-10). The awakening of the 10 virgins—who I take to represent the church in the very last days—precedes the coming of the Bridegroom. This will come not at midnight, but when the church is in a deep sleep, expecting nothing. Imagine yourself being awakened at 2 a.m.; it is the last thing you want or expect. That, in my opinion, is the sort of circumstance in which the "midnight cry" will take place.
I have had a number of people ask, "Is the present coronavirus crisis the 'midnight cry'?" Chapter 9 of my book reads almost as though it is describing what has been going on in recent months all over the world. My answer is, no. Whereas a major pandemic may well be a vital part of the "midnight cry," there needs to be a prophetic voice that will parallel such a pandemic that is as equally sobering and real as the coronavirus itself. That has not happened. Whereas many people have been shaken and afraid, with some people sincerely seeking God, I suspect that most of the world will soon go back to sleep.
What if the present crisis is a preview of the midnight cry? I wonder if the present crisis is a mini wake-up call to the church. It is a test. It has served to wake up some. We all must thank God for those who have either been converted out of the world or Christians awakened from being asleep. Tim Keller says that the components of true revival are: (1) nominal church members being truly converted, (2) sleepy Christians being awakened and (3) people being converted from out of the world.
The scary thing about sleep is that you don't know you were asleep until you wake up. Many of us might deny we have been asleep. But when we are truly awakened, we are shocked to think that we have been asleep. One proof that we have been asleep is that we have allowed things to enter our lives that we once vowed would never happen to us. For example, it is a melancholy fact that many college students and unmarried young people in the church are sleeping together. Same-sex marriage no longer worries us. Abortion is now generally taken for granted.
Things have changed drastically even in the last 10 years. We have lost our sense of outrage. The fear of God in the church disappeared a long while ago. Nothing upsets us anymore. We are asleep. Another characteristic of sleep is that we do things in our dreams we would never do when awake. We are in a dream-like state now. Furthermore, we hate the sound of an alarm when we are in a deep sleep. The current crisis may have barely awakened some of us, but I honestly fear that we will go back to sleep as soon as we can watch baseball games and eat in our favorite restaurant.
Whether things will ever be the same again is an open question. The new normal could well be that nothing will be normal as we have known it. But we can get used to that too.
The present crisis, in any case, should be a grim reminder that life as we have known it will end eventually. Those people who have taken to the streets in protest because they hate living in lockdown need to be told that this life is not all there is. Existentialism is the philosophy that there is no purpose in life; there is no rhyme or reason as to why things happen. But you may be sure that anything as great and unprecedented in world history as the present crisis does not take a sovereign God by surprise. Moreover, it is appointed to all of us that we are going to die. And after death the judgment (Heb. 9:27). Imagine what it will be like when all men and women wail, cry out and scream because they see King Jesus in the clouds (Rev. 1:7).
What is happening these days is preparation for what is coming next. Oh yes, the real thing will follow. What comes next will make the current scare seem like a drop in the bucket. There will be no second chance. How soon? Very soon. God in mercy is beckoning us to prepare our hearts while there is time.
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