Conceit: Sign of the End Times

Wisdom's Friend

“The evil conceits of their minds know no limits” (Ps. 73:7 NIV).

Have you ever had a little child say to you, “Watch me! Look what I can do!”? Most likely you have, for it is a common trait of little children and we find humor that touches our heart in their exuberance of life. They have not been long on this earth and are still fascinated by all that they can do, and they want others to know that they are around: “I exist! I am here! Look at me! Notice me!”. Even though what they do is often very simple and commonplace, to them it is exciting and extraordinary because of their limited acquaintance with existence; they are ignorant of the far greater things that others have done in the world.

We accept the ignorance of children because they are children, and it is completely natural and understandable to see this in a child. In fact, we find pleasure and amusement in their antics and outlook. It is a different matter altogether, however, when it is adults who demonstrate this same attitude. Then we wonder what has happened to them. Why are they still behaving like little children? Why have they not grown up? And we find their attitude and behavior not amusing and pleasurable but insufferable. And when these same “adults” come into power in a land, then not only is their existence annoying but dangerous, for they now have power over others, to their great harm.

“My people–children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your leaders mislead you, and confuse the course of your paths” (Is. 3:12 NIV).

This is the situation in which we now find ourselves in this end-times world. This applies in all areas of life: governments, science and technology, cultures, religion, education and all other areas of life. We should not be surprised, however, to see terrible powers in the hands of people ill-equipped to handle it. We should not be surprised because we have been warned that this was coming:

“Mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” (2 Tim. 3:1-5 NIV).

This short passage has far too great a range to be dealt with fairly in one discussion, so a single topic mentioned will be dealt with here: “conceit“. We shall see that this one attribute of so many in the world towards the end holds ramifications far beyond the unattractive, though seemingly somewhat harmless, trait we commonly associate with individuals. Instead, conceit will become a monster that produces other monsters that will defy God in ways unheard of before. A hint of this is seen in this familiar passage of the Bible:

“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, . . . don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Th. 2:1-4 NIV).

Surely there is no conceit greater than this, for an individual to proclaim himself to be God. Nevertheless, in this wicked world many do proclaim this very thing. And even if they do not explicitly declare such a thing as in a New-Age proclamation, they still believe it in their heart and show it in what they pursue in life. More will be said of this later, as all of this is now examined in one particular chapter in the Bible that speaks of such things, particularly of conceit. That chapter is Psalm 73. Though it speaks of many things, there is a valuable lesson to be learned about conceit hidden in the words there, if we will be patient to have that truth revealed to us by the Spirit as we go through it.

Psalm 73 begins with an affirmation that God is good:

“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (Ps. 73:1 NIV).

This is the solid footing upon which every human being should stand, as he or she walks through life in this world, holding the attitude that there is a God and that he is good. But as the psalmist notes, this is the attitude only of those whose heart is pure; the wicked do not think of God as good but as someone who restricts their paths on that lifelong walk through their world. Their attitude towards God and his laws, instead, is that found in another psalm:

“They say, ‘Let’s tear off the shackles they’ve put on us! Let’s free ourselves from their ropes!'” (Ps. 2:3 NET).

Nevertheless, the psalmist does not identify himself with this group but begins with a declaration that he knows that God is good, even though he restricts what man can do. He recognizes that God is God, not man; thus he humbles himself before God. Still, there is a problem.

“But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold” (Ps. 73:2 NIV).

Though he willingly acknowledges God as God, something bothers this observer of all that goes on around him in the world. What that something is he makes clear in the next verse:

“For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 2:3 NIV).

The psalmist has tried his best to follow God’s ways (Ps. 73:13)–and all he has gotten for his trouble is . . . trouble (it seems to him; Ps. 73:14), while those who arrogantly defy God with their mouths seem to get away with it and even prosper. “We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips–who is our master?” (Ps. 12:4 NIV).

“They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills” (vs. 4-5 NIV).

The proud, arrogant wicked often seem to prosper, their prosperity insulating them so that they are untouched by the burdens and afflictions common to much of mankind. This protection carries them further away from God, as they come to think that it is their own wisdom and self-effort that has brought this ease upon themselves. Pride increases noticeably; it is worn like a necklace (Ps. 73:6) around their head and neck. This, in turn, leads to yet another undesirable consequence: They clothe themselves with violence. Pride easily leads to violence towards others, since they are thought to be beneath one’s own stature and therefore deserve to be treated with contempt.

The rich in this world thus have a great many dangers about them, of which they are often most unaware, thinking, rather, that they are privileged to have great wealth and time to devote to matters other than making a living. They become used to not having any restrictions placed upon them because their wealth gives them power to influence others. Therefore, they scoff (Ps. 73:8) at anything that would restrict them or judge them or criticize them. And when they are thus called to account, they threaten oppression.

Though this attitude has been around for ages, it is becoming more and more apparent in our world today, just as all wickedness will reach its depths of depravity toward the end (Joel 3:13, Rev. 22:11). And the increasing gap between the rich and the poor contributes to this increasing wickedness. One report says that in the United States today, 10 percent of the people have 80 percent of the money. No doubt it is similar worldwide. This does not mean that wealth itself is evil, only that unless wisely used, it can easily result in pride and conceit.

And it is not just about money. The same principle applies in many other areas of life, the principle stated in Psalm 73:7, that the evil conceit of the minds of the wicked knows no limits. This is the principle of conceit and its consequences that is now reaching its worst levels in our world, in all areas of life. Here are some examples.

SCIENCE

In general, any scientist, especially a biologist, who denies or even questions evolution is ostracized by the scientific community. Employment opportunities can be stifled or lost; advancement in research or universities is restricted. The conceit is that science has “proven” that there is no god, or at least there is an absolute refusal to consider God as the root cause of existence, and that man and his reason is the ultimate decider of truth. One of the best books I have read on this subject is “The Wedge of Truth” by Phillip E. Johnson. I highly recommend it to all interested in this area.

GOVERNMENT

All dictatorships ruthlessly remove all who dare to challenge them, because of their conceit that because they are in power, they are the only ones who know what course to take. After all, have they not already proven that by being where they are, in command (2 Kgs. 19:22-26)? But even so-called democracies are not immune to this conceit that those in power know better than anyone else what is best for their country. Articles have appeared that suggest that even in the United States, military leaders are increasingly feeling the pressure to tow to the party line or else find themselves missing promotions or dismissed. This is nothing new, of course, but there is an alarming increase of such tactics.

MORALS and CULTURE

Those speaking out against sin, such as homosexuality and abortion, are threatened with prison and being charged with hate crimes, when the real crime is perpetrated by those who hate God’s laws which clearly decree such things as sin and whose prohibition issues from love and not hate, since all sin is detrimental to the well-being of humans.

RELIGION

In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees and other religious leaders had developed a large body of religious law that governed even the smallest details of daily life. These religious leaders did not have to worry about laboring in the fields to make money, as did the common people who contributed money to the temple treasury that supported these elite. This isolation and privileged position gave these elite leaders time to think up new laws to further restrict the lives of the common people, while they themselves felt above fulfilling those same laws. Jesus minced no words in condemning such conceit:

“Jesus replied, ‘And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them'” (Lk. 11:46 NIV).

“They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see” (Lk. 23:4,5 NIV).

Now where have we heard or seen this before? Ah, yes, the little child so anxious that others should see what he or she can do. Charming when seen in a child; harmful when those in power have the same attitude because of their conceit, that they know better than the people what is best for them.

In fact, it is in the realm of the religious that conceit takes its worst form. For, after all, that is the realm specifically denoted as that in which the highest values of man reside, his God. When human conceit therefore seeks to push aside even God, so that man can take his place . . . Is this not the very conceit which convulsed Lucifer in heaven and cost him his high position there? (Is.14, Ezk. 28).

The evil mind does not recognize that the restrictions which God has placed on all in his creation is done for the good of that creation. He restricts the waves of the sea (Job 38:8-11). And in these end times, we have already seen the wisdom of this restriction, as gigantic tsunamis have obliterated whole areas of land, destroying the lives of many people. Imagine what the waves of the sea would do all the time if they were not restricted.

What is true of nature is true of human nature. The evil nature of man must be restricted or else the evil which man could do would know no bounds. One such restriction God has placed on the evil man would do is government (Rom. 13:1-4). When that which was instituted by God to control evil becomes evil itself, however, then we know that the end of all things is near, when good is called evil and evil, good (Is. 5:20).

“If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Rom. 11:3 RSV).

“For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Th. 2:7-10 NIV).

This is the time when both the heavens and the earth will reel from the consequences of the magnitude of evil let loose upon the world. For no matter how horrible conditions become upon this world, the loud bragging and conceit of those who think they are better than God and more powerful, these agents of conceit will not cease from insisting that they are the ones who should be in power.

“Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth” (Ps. 73:9 NIV).

And they are not alone. So deceived will the people of the world be by their words that they will eagerly soak them up and submit to their rule.

“Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance” (Ps. 73:10 NIV). That is, they will “lap it up” because it is what they want. After all, have not these beings in their brash attitude taken over all the world?

“Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?’ The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Rev. 13:4-8 NIV).

And who is this beast? Where will it come from? Now that man is beginning to unlock some of the secrets of DNA, many secret experiments have been going on with gene splicing between animals and humans, and some Christians have suggested that the beast may be the result of such unholy unions. Is that not one of the descriptions which the previously quoted passage from 2 Timothy 3?

“”Mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal. . . . ” (vs. 1-3).

Whether this will be the case or not remains to be seen, but it certainly is not beyond the realm of possibility, given today’s technological skills and the increasingly conceited mind frame of man, that he can do anything . . . and therefore he should and will.

But will the world really simply stand by and let such grotesque and unholy things take place? That’s what happened in World War Two, when a whole race of people was attempted to be eradicated, while much of the world turned a blind eye to it or even secretly supported such efforts. What many people still today do not realize is that the Nazi agenda was heavily influenced by the occult, meaning the realm of the devil. It was an attempt by Satan to take over this world, just as he did in heaven (Is. 14, Ezk. 28, possibly Rev. 12:7-9), just as he did in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-5), and in the Garden of Gethsemane (Jn. 14:30), and thereafter in every dictatorship that has ever inflicted this planet with its evil (Dan. 10:13, Dan. 10:20).

Do not therefore be surprised at what you will soon see happen in this world. Things that we could not even imagine, or imagined only in science-fiction tales, will actually come to pass. Beastlike creatures of tremendous size and strength may be created by scientists in laboratories, not unlike the monsters of Frankenstein–and worse, perhaps the Nephilim of old. Expect, too, extremes in weather and climate and continued disintegration in all of the natural realm, along with continuing depravity in man. For such depravity and descent into evil is the natural result of the pride and conceit of man. We have yet to see the horrible depths to which man and demon can descend. But we know they will. Because the evil conceits of their minds knows no limits.

But that is not the end, however. No matter how wicked and how hopeless our world may seem to become, God will not abandon those who remain faithful to him. The evil conceits of the mind of the wicked may know no bounds, but God has put a limit on that as on everything else. He will let them go only so far, then he will put an end to it and judge them.

“The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath” (Ps. 2:4-5 NIV).

“In that day the Lord will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below” (Is. 24:21 NIV).

And what of us? What shall happen to us? It all depends on whether or not we have aligned ourselves with those of the world in their conceit that they can do anything, even battle the Lord of all heaven and earth (Rev. 20:8). Or whether we have humbled ourselves and surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord of all, even our souls. There is no battle within our hearts then, for we have surrendered before the battle even begins, not out of cowardice but out of love. He is the one we seek–and he has come to be with us forever.

“‘Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the Lord. ‘This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word'” (Is. 66:2 NIV).

I do not tremble at what is coming upon this earth, Lord. I tremble at your word (Ps. 119:161).

“As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him” (Ps. 18:30 NIV).

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