The End is Near…
Hal Lindsey wants you to be concerned about “…a mad scramble to convince the Palestinians to drop their request [for recognition as a State] and avert an international crisis.” He goes on to say this is “supernatural” and in fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Then he says he’s going to study the legal history of statehood to expose the lies behind this plan. Mixed message? Yes. This can’t happen, it’s the worst thing ever. This is fulfillment of prophecy ushering in Christ’s return. Isn’t it one or the other?
I want to throw some biblical light on the current events in the middle-east. Matthew 24:14 tells us everything we need to know about the return of Christ.
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:6-8, 14 NIV)
Jesus made it very clear. So why all the Christian TV hysteria? God the Father will choose the appointed time based on His agenda to reach as many people as possible with the Good News. Political events will not force God’s hand. Even if these things were the key, if God wills them, why try to prevent them or be so anxious? The kingdom of God is not politics. It is righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit.
Agreed, times of tribulation are predicted for Christ-followers. But many of Jesus’ words on this were directed at an event which already occured 2000 years ago. Jesus said that the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem would be the sign of his vindication as the Son of Man/Messiah/Son of God. It should be proof to all of who he was and the downpayment that he would return to judge the whole world.
“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be…. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Matthew 24:15-21, 34, 35 ESV)
If we don’t try to overlay a whole preconceived system of thought developed in the last 150 years and just let Jesus’ words guide us it’s not so complicated. Now trying to figure out where the rapture fits? Complicated. Trying to figure out how current events hem these words in and define their meaning? Impossible, because they don’t. These words of Jesus clearly prophesy the Roman leveling of the Temple. Some who heard Jesus were still living, though elderly. A whole way of life came to an end. No stone left unturned. Just as he said. Boom. Vindication he was Messiah and that God is displeased with the compromised ruling class who controlled the Temple with Roman power. The tables turned. Prophecies fulfilled. The Book of Hebrews suddenly became incredibly relevant. Jesus as the once-and-for-all sacrifice for sin now standing in stark relief as the dust settled on fallen stones. Jews become a people of the Book instead of the Temple.
The End Times clock started ticking then! Christ could pretty much return at any time once the Gospel would be preached to the whole world. That’s the determining factor. Jesus said it straight out.
So back to the made-for-tv Christian hysteria. Honestly it’s something I’ve never understood. My common sense tells me these people may have motives more complicated than simple truth-telling. Sure is good for TBN ratings. In fact Lindsey tells us if we have friends influenced by “the world media” to “encourage them to tune in this week”. If it gets people to think about the Bible and judgment day, that’s probably good. But the tone often contradicts the plain meaning of the Scriptures.
Whether or not the tribulation experiences will be repeated just before Christ’s 2nd Coming is a matter of great debate. First, there’s simply no promise that Christians will avoid suffering. (I’ll have more to say about escapist thinking/teaching in another post.) As an interpreter of Scripture and student of history I think somewhat similar (although not the same) events have happened many times in history and will again, should Christ tarry. But they certainly happened in AD 70, exactly as Jesus predicted. The early church took it as the proof to all of who Jesus was and is now. I think that’s the main point.
So never assume you’ve got more time. For you, the end could come in the next few minutes. Live every day with eternity in view. Don’t cozy up to the world, then freak out when something looks like war over there. Live sober lives. Confess your sins if you’re out of relationship with God. Commit to following Jesus. Enjoy the wholesome gifts of life. Love God. Love your neighbor. Join in God’s mission to share Good News with all. And by all means look forward to His return! What’s next will be much better if we’re ready when our end comes. It will happen. But God chooses the moment based on maximum redemption. Not fear or politics or war. Don’t get distracted from the coming judgment by preoccupation with worldly matters. But neither be unduly focused in an obsessive way with current politics as the key to Bible interpretation. When he comes you won’t miss it! Get ready! Ready or not the end is near. It has been for 2,000 years!
“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other… “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:30, 31, 36-39 ESV)
I’ll have more to say on other relevant Scriptures, especially ones associated with judgment and the so-called rapture, in a forthcoming post.