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Maranatha!

This word has been the hope of all believers since Jesus checked out of here at the Ascension. It’s an Aramaic word meaning, “Our Lord will come!” And we believers have been looking forward to that epochal event for 21 centuries now.

Jesus’ return to this earth in His Godhead glory is one of the pivotal beliefs of Christianity. This soon-coming event is considered to be essential doctrine in both the Apostles and Nicene creeds (see my last post for their texts and another post for a definition of essential doctrine), repeating what was already well-documented in Scripture, it being foretold by the OT prophets, Jesus Himself, and His apostles.

The Error of Date Setting

One of the key points that Jesus made about His return is that, while we may know the season, His specific return date would be a total surprise for all mankind. For examples:

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” — Matthew 24:36

“Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.” — Matthew 24:42

“Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” — Matthew 25:13

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” — Mark 13:32

This is Jesus Himself speaking and He does not repeat Himself because He likes hearing the sound of His own voice — He’s trying to get a point across to a bunch of people who have a lamentable tendency to not listen very well: His disciples, both ancient and modern.

Here is a complete list of the persons who know when Jesus will return to this planet:

  1. God

Here is a list of the persons who do not know when Jesus will come back:

  1. The angels of heaven
  2. Jesus (while He was here on earth)
  3. The entirety of the human race, past, present, and future

This is not rocket surgery, folks, but it is astonishing just how many bozos just cannot seem to remember they are members of the latter list and delude themselves into thinking they have some sort of inside track with God and the Scriptures. As a result, the history of Christianity is dotted with totally misguided people who have attempted to nail down a date for Jesus return, the Rapture, and/or anything else related to them.

The latest is a guy named Harold Camping who predicted the date of the Rapture to be May 21, 2011.

Since you are reading this, it is obvious that he was totally off base. Immediately after May 21 came and went rapture-less, he amended his prediction and said something to the effect of, “Oops! My bad! It’s going to be in October of 2011, not May.” (October 2011 came and went — still no Jesus’ return! <face-palm!>) Since this is his 3rd attempt to set a date (he blew it once before, predicting it would happen back in the 1990’s), it appears that he will continue his delusional predictions until he dies or Jesus actually does return. Knowing God’s sense of humor — I mean He has to have a sense of humor to have servants like us, right? — I’m absolutely certain it will not be on any date Harold Camping — or anyone else here — has ignorantly selected.

The problem is that there are a bunch of other believers who are just as colossally ignorant of God’s Word and actually believe this bozo’s predictions so, as a result, quit their jobs, gave away their stuff, and made other major life decisions that they are now regretting. Some of them will learn from these self-inflicted debacles, but most will do one of two things or both: 1) blame God for their resulting problems, or; 2) continue to heed the words of this false “prophet” to their detriment.

Like I said, this is not complicated — God made it abundantly clear in His Word that NO ONE WILL KNOW THE DAY OR THE HOUR. To such folks, all I can say is, “Get a clue!”

End-Times Timelines

There’s a bunch of other folks who will acknowledge that Jesus’ specific return date cannot be predicted, but just short of that, have laid out extensive timelines for the “end times”, predicting in great detail a sequence of events that is supposed to be playing out in modern history as you are reading this as well as in the future. Some of them have huge murals depicting these timelines in their church sanctuaries as visual aids.

The Fig Tree

While I am firmly in the camp that Jesus’ return is indeed imminent, most of those timelines rely on questionable interpretations of various Scripture passages. One case in point is an idea that originated with Hal Lindsay in his book, The Late Great Planet Earth. In it, he quotes the following 2 passages of Scripture:

“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near — at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” — Matthew 24:32-34

“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near — at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” — Mark  13:28-30

Lindsay then puts forward the concept that the fig tree is symbolic throughout the Bible as a type of the political nation of Israel. So, based upon that premise, he asserts the generation seeing the re-establishment of Israel as a political entity will also witness the second coming of Christ. Remarkably, virtually every preacher since then who has taught on the end times quotes this as if it were holy writ come down from Mount Sinai on tablets of stone.

Unfortunately, there is nothing in either the OT or NT that supports this premise! Not one verse! So that supposed anchor of their timeline is completely out the window.

The 7 Thunders

And here’s another: these same end-times teachers try to read events described in the book of Revelation into their timelines, saying the seals, the bowls, the horsemen and so on mean this will happen first, then that will happen next and so on. In doing so, they conveniently read right past the following passage:

“I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud. And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire. He had a little book open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, and cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roars. When he cried out, seven thunders uttered their voices. Now when the seven thunders uttered their voices, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.'” — Revelation 10:1-4

So let’s get this straight: in the middle of the Apostle John’s account of the bowls, the seals, the horsemen, etc., we have seven thunders who speak. When John was about to write their words down, a voice from heaven, presumably God, forbade him from recording them. So none of us will know what those thunders said this side of heaven.

Does this sound like perhaps God wanted to leave some things out so we wouldn’t get so arrogant and cocky in our grasp of how He’s going to get things done?

A Glimpse of Eternity

On top of that, one has to examine the premise of the Book of Revelation itself: a man of God is taken to Heaven and shown eternity, then told to write down certain things that we need to know about what he saw. So what is the viewpoint of eternity aka “God’s spirit realm”? It is outside of time.

There are things in Revelation that took place before the Creation (the rebellion and fall of Satan), things that were current to John’s era (the letters to the 7 churches of Asia Minor), and things yet to come. So again, a specific timeline is, at least in my opinion, a complete waste of time, effort, and money.

So while there’s plenty of evidence we are indeed in the figurative final minutes of the end times, much of what passes for teaching on the subject is so much bovine scatology, rather than sound eschatology.

What Absolutely WILL Happen

There are several things the Bible is completely unequivocal about concerning the last times. The list below is not necessarily a comprehensive one nor in any particular order:

  • There will be a catching away (aka the Rapture) of all believers on this earth. The timing of this event in relation to the Great Tribulation (see below) is open for debate and has been debated for literally centuries. Remarkably, the proponents of all four viewpoints on this issue (pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib, multiple raptures) all tend to quote the same Scripture passages to support their positions.
  • There will an Antichrist who will declare himself to be God incarnate, but in fact he will be Satan incarnate. There are a number of people who think Barack Obama could very well be the Antichrist, but the jury is still out on that one for now.
  • There will be a False Prophet who will help perpetuate the Antichrist’s deception of the entire world.
  • All persons will be required to receive the Mark of the Beast in order to buy and sell, or they will starve. Given the current state of technology, it is very likely that the mark will be some form of subcutaneous RFID chip injected under the skin of the forehead or hand like the chips you can have inserted into your dog or cat to identify them and prove ownership. All who take the mark will be suffer eternal damnation. Believers who refuse and are caught will be martyred.
  • There will be a 7-year Great Tribulation during which the Antichrist will rule the earth. The entire world will suffer at his hands.
  • There will be a great battle on the plain on the battle plain of Esdraelon near the Hill of Megiddo (Har-Magedon in the Hebrew) — what we call Armageddon — in Israel where Jesus will appear to defend Israel and defeat the Antichrist and his hordes.
  • The devil and his evil minions will be cast into the Lake of Fire to suffer there in torment forever.
  • There will be a last judgment of mankind where the Book of Life will be examined for the names of those who believe. Those whose names are not found therein will be damned to an eternity in the Lake of Fire with Satan and his ilk. Believers will be judged for their works on this earth and given rewards according to those works, but they will make heaven regardless of their performance, good or bad.
  • There will be a 1000-year reign of Christ over this earth.

Bottom line? Jesus is coming back. We win, Satan loses!

And back to those who try to set dates — why would they feel the need to do this? Are they hoping that someone will repent and get saved?

That’s not likely to happen — most everyone who hears their message will correctly regard them as lunatics and ridicule them accordingly.

Are they hoping the Body of Christ will get its act together and live right?

Also not likely to happen — the ones who aren’t living right are going to ridicule them just like the unsaved folk. The ones who are living right usually know better than to heed their message — and those that don’t know need to crack their Bible open and check things out for themselves!

Error-by-Emphasis

end_times_cartoonAnd there is also a lamentable tendency for immature believers to get caught up in these teachings and who’s the best teacher of them, and who’s right or wrong so much so that they are neglectful of the things that they really need to be focussing on in their day-to-day lives. There are believers who are caught up in various addictions, live unnecessarily in poverty and/or chronic illness, have dysfunctional family lives, just to name a few, all the while priding themselves on their knowledge of what prophesy is being fulfilled at any given moment on the evening news.

This error-by-emphasis-eschatology enables them to escape having to do the work of allowing God to transform them and their relationships by the renewing of their minds. It’s both wrong and spiritually deadly to those caught up in it.

How Do We Prepare?

A Facebook friend recently published a guide on what to do in preparation for Jesus’ return. It read like a mashup of spiritual legalism and doomsday prep guidelines, including storing up non-perishable foods and learning to garden.

I beg to differ!

So what should we do in preparation for Jesus’ return to Planet Earth? A wise man named Jim Albert who used to disciple me when I was a young believer once told me, “Only 2 things on this earth are not going to burn at the end of time: the Word of God and people.” In other words, nowhere else is it worthwhile to invest our time, energy, finances, and devotion.

We should be cheerfully doing whatever it is that God has called us to do, with every bit of His grace and power we can appropriate, doing it in the way He’s told us to do it, where He’s told us to do it, and with the people He’s told us to do it with. We should be loving one another, serving one another, praying for one another, forgiving one another, regarding one another as more important than ourselves, and laying down our lives for one another. We should be allowing the Holy Spirit to mold us into Christ-likeness and refusing to give ground to the devil through sin or doctrinal error. When God speaks to us about something, we should respond in immediate and thorough obedience. We should be that light on a hill that cannot be hidden, shining the light of the Gospel to a lost and dying world.

If we’re doing that, we have no need to fear His arrival. What we will hear is:

“Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” — Matthew 25:21

Those who don’t are likely to hear the following as their sinful and/or dead religious works go up in flames:

“Drop and roll!”

Thanks for reading!