What’s Going to Happen in the “End Times?”

This week, Pastor J.D. answers a question submitted from Brandon. He asked, “What’s going to happen in the ‘end times?'”

Show Notes:

  • I grew up in a church a little obsessed with the Second Coming.
    • On our Sunday School walls we had posters with dates and pictures of dragons and names of politicians.
    • We had our annual prophecy conferences (which were the best attended events of the year);
    • For special Sunday night services we watched the Billy Graham movies about the Tribulation.
    • We had our rapture board games and rapture bumper stickers, “In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned.” And we made rapture jokes like there was no tomorrow.
  • As a kid, I lived in perpetual fear of being left behind.
    • If for any reason I couldn’t find my parents or they didn’t respond in the house when I called them, I’d run through the house yelling “Mom, mom” just sure I’d see her clothes had fallen neatly into a pile on the floor…
    • I had this recurring dream where the rapture happened—this is not a joke—and I got lifted up to the top of the house and then as everyone else went on up to meet Jesus I would drop back down to the earth, revealing that my worst fear had come true: My faith in Christ wasn’t strong enough to get me all the way to heaven. And when the roll was called up yonder I’d be here.
  • And then, when I was in high school, a little book came out that got instant popularity: 88 Reasons why Jesus is Coming Back in 1988.
    • The guy who wrote it said, “Jesus said we can’t know the day or the hour, but he never said we couldn’t know within a 3-day window.”
    • It was a big deal at my Christian school… “We’re going to sit here and wait.”
    • Of course that day came and went. And then next year the author released 89 reasons Jesus would come back in 1989—he said he had  explained he had miscounted the Gregorian calendar, which, of course, happens to the best of us.
    • I have since learned that some of how we approached this topic lacked some balance, but, if you’ll let me be charitable for a minute, there is one thing we lived with that I believe our generation is missing and that is the earnest expectation of his return
  • My pastor would often end our services by saying, “Maranatha.” (The Lord is coming). And then he would say, “And it could be today.” And I really felt like that could be true.
    • I know we have disagreements about the timing of Jesus’ return, and what phrases like “thief in the night” really mean—friendly disagreement, I hope.
    • And I have my own convictions, as I’m sure you do.
    • Instead I want to talk about something we all should have in common:
    • And that is the need to conduct our ministries with the awareness that eternity is real and the Lord is at hand.
  • Eschatology is a fancy word for the theology of the end times—might be the one of the most, if not the most, neglected doctrines in the contemporary church. Many theologians seem to find it embarrassing: the crass, uneducated uncle of Christian theology.
    • But get this: the second coming of Christ is the most talked about doctrine in the Bible.
    • In the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are 318 references to it.
    • (1 out of every 13 verses mentions it.)
    • And for every 1 prophecy in the Bible concerning Christ’s first advent, there are eight that talk about his second. (We have a whole holiday celebrating his first coming but we barely mention the second.)
  • Furthermore: Almost every moral command given in the New Testament is tied to the second coming at some point.
    • My pastor used to say: “How can we call this doctrine non-essential? It’s in every chapter. Every command is tied to it. To miss it is to miss the whole hope and thrust of the New Testament: ‘Surely I come quickly. Even so come, Lord Jesus.’”
    • I just want a emphasize real quick that there is a commonality all Christians should have and that is the imminence of Jesus’s return.
  • There are basically four positions:
    • Some Christians think he is coming back before…
    • Pre-trib: Tribulation is a 7 year period in which the antichrist and Kirk Cameron do battle… Raptured out before.
    • Post-trib, or “historic premillennialism”: that is the idea that there is a tribulation coming, God will continue to work in the nation of Israel, but the church won’t be raptured up before. The church will be raptured out afterward. The major problem with this one is that it creates problems for the imminence of Jesus’ return.
    • Post-millennial and amillennial.
      • Both of these takes a more metaphorical approach. These positions believes the church has replaced Israel, and all the promises toward Israel have been fulfilled and are being fulfilled in the church. For spiritual purposes, there are no longer Jews and no history for the nation of Israel.
      • That’s a real problem for me as a Bible interpreter, but let me note the positives:.
      • Preserves the imminence: Jesus could return whenever.
      • Help you see the spiritual meanings behind the imagery of Revelation. (my experience vs. reading Beale)
    • There’s one more beyond those and that’s pan-tribulationists: Which means, “I really have no idea, but I know it will all pan out in the end.” Maybe you are there?
  • If you’re curious, I would say I am in the pre-tribulation camp. I would say 80% of the time.  I’m sympathetic to certain elements of the others, but I typically land on that side.
    • I‘ll give you three quick reasons for that. 
      1. Unconditional and straightforward nature of the promises
        • (2 Samuel 7:12–16; Genesis 12, 15, 18: actual nation, actual throne occupied by ethnic Jew, actual earthly kingdom).
        • Much of what was promised has been fulfilled literally (Jesus the Jew on a throne), so I assume that what is left will be fulfilled literally.
      2. The way the book of Revelation was written
        1. Daniel 9:26–27. The 70 weeks are for “my people” Israel.
      3. Some things don’t make sense if Israel is not separate from the church.
        • For example, Acts 1:6
        • Romans 9:4, Paul makes a distinction. “The people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.”
        • Romans 11:12, 23–24
  • So what do I mean by all that? The church is similar to Israel in that it is the people of God. Analogously the church is referred to it, as in many ways it fulfills spiritually the promises to Israel. But Scripture demands that their remains a future for the people of God, that is, Israel. For all my post-tribulation friends, you can stay and enjoy it if you want, me and Kirk Cameron are going on to heaven.
  • Here’s the bottom line: There are various viewpoints regarding exactly HOW the End Times events described in the Bible will take place. I know what I believe, but there are very serious, scholarly brothers and sisters in the church who believe differently then I would about the timing of what will all transpire.
  • But no matter what, we know that Christ IS going to return, and that we are to be perpetually READY.

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