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!”
We believers have been looking forward to that epochal event for just over 21 centuries now.
Jesus’ return to this earth in His Godhead glory has been considered one of Christianity’s essential doctrines since the beginning. This fact can be substantiated from both the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. Both of them merely echo what was already well-documented in Scripture by the OT prophets, Jesus Himself, and His apostles.
What’s an Eschatology?
Eschatology is the $10 term for the study of the end times, a theological discipline which has been the subject of countless debates in seminaries, churches, and the public square since the Ascension of Jesus.
For the vast majority of church history, this area of theology was relegated to seminary classrooms, debated over by professors and their students, but rarely — if ever! — showing up in sermons once those students had graduated. Eschatology was exalted from its millennia-old academic obscurity during the Charismatic Renewal of the 1970s. It has remained a hot-topic of discussion within various churches — especially charismatic ones! — ever since.
This renewed interest in eschatology was launched almost singlehandedly by an author named Hal Lindsay in his seminal book, The Late Great Planet Earth (more on him below). A exhaustive collection of the books written on this topic since then would be literally exhausting as well as fill a small library.
Most of them, in my humble opinion, are utter rubbish.
Here are my thoughts on the matter.
The Error of Setting Dates
First, let’s address the error of setting dates for Jesus’ Second Coming.
One of the key points Jesus made about His return is this: while we may discern the times and seasons, 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 24:42Watch 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 crucial point across to a bunch of people who have a lamentable tendency to not listen very well: His followers, both ancient and modern.
Here is a comprehensive list of everyone who knows when Jesus will return to this planet:
- The Godhead
Here is a list of the persons who do not know when Jesus will come back:
- The angels of heaven
- Jesus (while He was here on earth)
- The entirety of the human race, past, present, and future
This is not rocket surgery, folks. However, the multitude of bozos who just cannot seem to remember they are members of the latter list, deluding themselves into thinking they have some sort of inside track with God and the Scriptures, continues to astonish. As a result, the history of Christianity is dotted with totally misguided people — some of them founders cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses — who have attempted to nail down a date for Jesus return, the Rapture, and/or anything else related to these two events.
The latest instance 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 self-evident he was totally off base. Immediately after May 21 came and went rapture-less, he then 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; crickets.
Since this was his 3rd attempt to set a date (he had blown it once before, initially predicting it would occur back in the 1990’s), it appears he will continue his delusional prognostications ad infinitum, ad nauseam until he either 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 of one thing: it will not be on any date Harold Camping — or anyone else here on earth, for that matter — has calculated!
The problem with such nonsense is there are a bunch of other Christians who are just as colossally ignorant of God’s Word.
How do I know this? It’s easy!
They actually believed this bozo’s predictions despite the fact date-setting is totally unscriptural. As a result, they quit their jobs, gave away their stuff, and made other major life decisions 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 issue is not at all complicated — God has made it abundantly clear in His Word NO ONE WILL KNOW THE DAY OR THE HOUR. To such folks, all I can say is, “Get a clue!”
So why are these folks driven to engage in such exercises in futility? 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?
That’s not likely to happen, either — the ones who aren’t living right will ridicule them just like the unsaved folks. Christ-followers who are living right usually know better than to heed such bogus messages — and those who don’t need to crack their Bible and develop some scriptural literacy!
Then there’s a bunch of other folks who will readily acknowledge how Jesus’ specific return date cannot be successfully predicted, but just short of that, lay out intricate timelines for the “end times”, predicting in great and loving detail the sequence of events which is supposed to be playing out in modern history as you are reading this as well as into the future. Some of them have huge murals depicting these timelines in their churches 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 a concept originating with the aforementioned The Late Great Planet Earth. In it, Hal Lindsay quotes the following two passages of NT 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 goes on to proclaim how the fig tree is symbolic throughout the Bible as a shadow/type of the political nation of Israel. Based upon that assertion, he then concludes that the generation witnessing the re-establishment of Israel as a political entity will also witness the Second Coming of Christ.
Virtually every end-times preacher since then quotes Lindsay’s idea as if it were holy writ brought down from Mount Sinai engraved by the finger of God on tablets of stone!
Tragically, this is the doctrinal equivalent of an urban legend. There is nothing in the entire Bible supporting this premise! Not one verse!
With that faulty premise thrown out the window, all such teachers are left without an anchor for their time-lines and thereby rendered completely meaningless.
The 7 Thunders
Here’s yet another fly in their eschatological soup: these selfsame end-times preachers try to incorporate events described in the book of Revelation into their timelines, teaching the seals, the bowls, the horsemen, etc. all mean this will happen first, then that will happen next and so on.
In doing so, they conveniently blow 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 ever know what those thunders said this side of heaven.
Does this sound like God wanted to leave some things out so we wouldn’t get so arrogant and cocky in our assessments of how and when He’s going to get things done?
A Glimpse of Eternity
On top of all that, one has to examine the premise of the Book of Revelation itself: a finite human being is taken to Heaven and shown eternity, then told to write down only the things 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 and space.
There are events in Revelation which took place before the Creation (the rebellion and fall of Satan), things which were current to John’s era (the letters to the 7 churches of Asia Minor), as well as things yet to come. So again, a specific timeline is, at least in my opinion, a complete waste of time and effort.
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.
Here’s 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 is it in any particular order:
- There will be a catching away (aka the Rapture) of all believers on the earth at that time. The timing of this event in relation to the Great Tribulation (see below) is open for honest discussion and has been debated by theologians 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 will be Satan incarnate. Knowledge of who that may be is WAY above our pay grades!
- 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 entirely likely the mark will be some form of subcutaneous RFID chip injected under the skin like the chips you can have inserted into your dog or cat to identify them and prove ownership.
All who take the mark will suffer eternal damnation. Believers who refuse to take the mark 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 in Israel on the plain of Esdraelon near the Hill of Megiddo (Har-Magedon in the Hebrew) — what we call Armageddon — 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.
Christ-followers will be judged for their works on this earth and rewarded 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!
There is also a lamentable tendency for immature believers to become obsessed with end-times teachings, who’s the best teacher of eschatology, and who’s right or wrong over minutiæ, so much so they are neglectful of things they desperately need to be focussing on in their day-to-day lives.
In other words, more than a few Christ-followers are caught up in various addictions, live unnecessarily in poverty and/or chronic illness, and have dysfunctional family lives, just to name a few, all the while priding themselves on their knowledge of what end-times 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 hard work of allowing God to transform them and their relationships by the renewing of their minds.
It’s both wrong as well as spiritually deadly to those caught up in it.
How Do We Prepare?
A Facebook acquaintance once published a guide on what to do in preparation for Jesus’ return. Tragically, it read like a mashup of spiritual legalism and doomsday-prepper guidelines, including storing up non-perishable foods and learning to garden.
I completely 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 safe or 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/to.
- 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 proclaiming themselves Christians 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!