Understanding The End Of Times – Part 1

 
 
 

UNDERSTANDING THE END TIMES PART 1

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. “

                                                                                                      Matthew 24:42-44

Perhaps the most misunderstood and sensationalized topic of the Bible is the end times. Popular books such as “The Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey and the “Left Behind” series by Tim LaHay have caused much confusion to the simple teachings of Jesus Christ regarding his return and the events surrounding it. Only gaining popularity beginning in the 1900s, the “pre-millennial” end-time saga is the most popular view among evangelical “Christianity”. The chart on page three shows the sequence of this view. Is this a biblical view? Will there be an invisible coming known as the rapture? Is there going to be an anti-Christ who will create a New World Order marking people with the number of the beast? Does the “pre-millennial” view accurately represent scripture? Although this article cannot begin to answer these questions in detail, we will look at the scriptures to address these concepts and see if they hold water biblically. 

  1. Jesus Came to Establish a Physical Kingdom but Failed: FALSE

Centered at the pre-millennial view’s teaching is the idea that Jesus came to earth originally to establish a physical kingdom. According to this view, he failed since the Jew’s rejected him and now must return again to establish his thousand-year millennial kingdom on earth. This is very incorrect. In fact, the Jews tried to force Jesus to be a king, but he refused since he came to start a spiritual kingdom (John 6:15). Jesus said his kingdom would not be of this world and would come in the life-time of the apostles (John 18:36, Mark 9:1). Jesus established this kingdom with the founding of the church on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 (Matthew 16:13-19). Thus, Jesus is currently reigning with the saints in his church (1 Corinthians 15:24-27).  Our Lord did not fail in establishing his kingdom.

  1. There Will be Signs Prior to the Second Coming of Christ: FALSE

Although, the Bible does depict a time of apostasy and godlessness prior to Jesus’ return, there are no specific signs one should be looking for. Cited frequently for support of signs of wars, earthquakes, and false teachers is Matthew 24:1-35. Jesus tells his disciples that the temple will be destroyed, which would bring the end of animal sacrifice and the Jewish age (Matthew 24:1-2). The disciples understandably are shocked by the statement and ask Jesus when this event will happen. It is important to remember Jesus is answering first when the temple will be destroyed and secondly when he will return. Jesus goes on to say there will always be wars, earthquakes, and rumors of such (Matthew 24:4-14). He makes the point that these shouldn’t be interpreted as signs but are the beginning of birth pains. These would be poor signs considering these events have always happened. There are still natural disasters and there are still false prophets claiming to come in the name of Christ. There always has been! Jesus promises that the gospel must be preached to all nations and then the end of the Jewish age will come (Matthew 24:14). Matthew 24:34 is a key verse, as Jesus says all these things prophesied by Jesus in this passage must happen in the generation of the apostles. Interestingly, Paul records in Colossians 1:23 that the gospel had been preached to all creation in 62 AD. A few short years later the siege of Jerusalem would begin and in 70AD the Roman general Titus would destroy the temple and Jerusalem fulfilling the words of Christ. What has made this passage confusing to many is the apocalyptic language Jesus uses to describe the event. This type of language used by Hebrews used symbols, extreme language, and cosmic signs to convey judgment (for example Isaiah 24:1-5, Ezekiel 32:7). In Isaiah 19:1 it says the Lord is coming on the clouds to Egypt. Of course, none of us believe this means God literally rode in on a cloud when he judged Egypt. It is apocalyptic language. The same is being used by Jesus in Matthew 24:29-31. It is possible that the apocalyptic language does literally foreshadow Jesus’ second coming using the principle of double-reference. Many prophecies have an immediate fulfillment (destruction of the temple in 70 AD) and a future fulfillment (possibly the second coming), but we should be concerned in seeking the plain context of the passage which answers when the temple will be destroyed. The “signs” then of Matthew 24:1-35 deal directly with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. There is really only one sign Jesus tells the disciples to look for to know the temple will soon be destroyed since the others always happen. Matthew 24:15 teaches the sign is the abomination that causes desolation. In Luke 21:20 , Luke interprets the desolation or sign as the armies surrounding Jerusalem. The army first came and surrounded the city in 66AD, when the Roman 12th Legion entered Palestine. They soon withdrew however in 67AD they returned under Vespasian and General Titus and destroyed the city in 70AD. The Roman Jewish historian Josephus writes that the disciples escaped the Roman encirclement to Pella. Thus, the disciples heard and listened to Jesus’ message to flee when they see the army surround the city, the abomination that would cause desolation to the city. It is not until Matthew 24:36 that Jesus begins to talk about his return. He will come like a thief in the night and it will be totally unexpected (2 Peter 3:10). Not even Jesus or the angels know the date. As Christians, we need to be ready for the Lord to return at any moment (Matthew 24:36-51). Let us not get caught up into sensational false doctrine that sounds more like a movie, but let us hold dear to the words of Jesus to be prepared for no one knows the time of his return.

  1. The Rapture of the Church: FALSE

The idea of a rapture is quite a terrifying prospect. It says one day Christians will be “taken” to heaven and planes will crash if a Christian was piloting it, family members missing, and the world will panic looking for answers. Again, this sounds more like a sci-fi movie than the Bible. Matthew 24:36-41 describes two men in a field, one taken and the other left (v40). Context is key, as Jesus just got done describing how the flood waters of Noah “took them (the wicked) all away”. Those taken then when Christ returns are those judged and those left await their transformation and the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 22). 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 describes what happens when Christ returns and not seven years prior for a first “invisible coming”! The trumpet will sound, the dead in Christ will be resurrected first and then those who are Christians will be transformed to join the resurrected to meet king Jesus in the air. The language uses the language of a king entering a city. In Old Testament times,

when a king was arriving to a city, the citizens would go out the city gates to meet the king and then parade with him back into the city. This is what the Christians who meet Jesus in the air will do when Jesus returns. Then we are with the Lord forever. Notice there is no time interlude mentioned. This passage does not teach that the non-Christian dead are raised later. Jesus taught directly that the Christian dead and non-Christian dead will be raised at the same time on the last day (John 6:40, 44, and 54). If they are all raised on the same day, how could others be raised at another time period? We will deal with Revelation 20 in another article that uses some symbolic language that has confused some on this topic. Jesus only comes back once and then it is time for judgment. We see clearly, the idea of a “rapture” is not scriptural.

  1. There is a Satanic figure known as the antichrist who will rise in the end-times: FALSE

The pre-millennial theory teaches that after the “rapture” as chaos ensues to understand what happened on earth, that an antichrist will arise unifying the world. Many see this already beginning with the European Union. This is the challenge pre-millenialist have, they constantly try to apply world events to fit what they perceive in the scriptures, instead of seeking the plain meaning of scripture. The antichrist rises and really opposes Christianity giving  everyone the “mark of the beast”. The true Christians should be able to identify him and refuse the mark. Many see this as a chip that could be implanted in your hand or forehead. Most of this is pure fantasy and taking scriptures out of their context. The length of this article does not allow all the scriptures used to support such a theory to be explained. Our Revelation sermon series will certainly address most of them. Looking at the verses that mention the term “antichrist” will suffice for now to help us see if such an idea is biblical. (continued on back)

“Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.” 1 John 2:18

“Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.” 1 John 2:22

“but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” 1 John 4:3

“I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.” 2 John 1:7

The “antichrist” then can be a spirit of opposition towards Christ which the early church knew was coming. John goes further and says it already has come. False teachers were prevalent in John’s time. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son or is a deceiver is an antichrist. Could there be one predominate antichrist figure that arises in the future? Possibly, but this is not a major theme we find in the scriptures as there will be many antichrists. Jesus never taught to watch for one end-time human figure who will arise to prepare us to know the end is near and neither should we if Jesus didn’t teach it. We will address more end-time themes under the scrutiny of the scriptures in the next couple articles. 

 

Mike Patterson