More about the end-times

In regard to the end-times, one of the best places to start: is what’s recorded in the Gospels.

The following extract from Matthew’s Gospel covers a lot of important points about the end-times.

 Chapter 24 (NIV): “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 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.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

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.

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand – then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again.

“If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.

“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

“Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.

And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it  is near, right at the door.

Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The Day and Hour Unknown

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

“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.

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel; we hear Jesus teaching the people about being prepared for His return (Parable of the ten virgins); of working for His Kingdom, with all of our ability- while we wait for His return (The parable of the Bags of Gold); and, the separation of the sheep from the goats (Those who followed God’s commandments – as demonstrated by their love for each other, are separated from those who don’t follow Jesus.)

Chapter 24, is a difficult chapter – as we experience a number of time shifts and audience shifts, often without a clear indication that a shift of view has occurred. In the earlier verses Jesus is talking privately to His disciples. In verse 15, we see the phrase ‘let the reader understand’, so now, it’s not just a private discussion between Jesus and the disciples but we can now recognise that Jesus is addressing a wider audience of ‘readers’.

There is a specific verse which has given rise to a wide range of interpretations, verse 34, refers to the fact that ‘this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened’. Clearly, Jesus is not referring to His contemporaries in a literal sense – if we take the normal meaning of the words: this-generation, pass-away,  all-things, and ‘have-happened’.  The Greek words used are fairly exact in their meaning and there are other examples in Scripture where the same words have been used. So, it’s hard to argue that the same words mean something else, in this verse. It remains a difficult verse – but the one good guide is to look at the context of the discussion, that often provide the best insight of the meaning of a passage of Scripture.

In summary, what have we gained from these verses: one, we wont know the time or the day but we will be able to see signs of the ‘season’; two, God’s return will be obvious to everyone; and three, some things will have happened before God returns. It’s important to note that wars, natural disasters and the like are part of everyday life, as we wait for Jesus’ return.  And, it’s true we have had wars, disease, famines and natural disasters for the last two thousand years – we now live in a relatively peaceful time (contrary to what the popular media might be reporting). Now,  there are less deaths from wars –  as a ratio of a unit of population as compared to earlier ‘ages’.

Any comments?

What does the Bible tell us about the end-times?

Over the next few days – I’ll briefly cover some of the material to be found in the Bible, concerning the last day. Then, I hope to draw all the material together in a general summary.

Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians covers some aspect of the last days, Chapter 4, 13-18 & Chapter 5:1-11 ” Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

The main point I would like to pull out from this portion of Scripture is that times and dates will not, in general, be reveal. However, we – the children of the light – will not be surprised when the ‘Lord himself comes down from heaven’. However, those who are not followers of Jesus will be saying that it appears to be a peaceful and safe time – the calm, before their spiritual storm.

Any views, or questions, on the above verses?

“Prepare yourself – I am returning”

I’ve always struggled to find a central theme for this blog.

Now, I think I’ve found what will be my central issue for discussion, in the immediate future.

A few weeks ago, we (my wife and I) had a visit from a couple who had recently returned from overseas, missionary work. Over dinner, I was asked what I was going to do, regarding ministry. A question, I always find hard to answer – as I’m often searching and seeking direction from God on what it is, that I should be doing for Him.

The following days were soaked in prayer; again seeking Jesus’ direction for my life, and for His help in identifying those good tasks He has prepared in advance, for me to do.

The consistent answer, which I received was: “Prepare yourself, I am returning.”  Questions still remain as to what ‘prepare yourself’ actually means – but I hope to explore this particular issue over the following months.

No one, will know, the exact time and date of God’s return – when the days, as we know them – end. However, there will be signs that the season is close.

I look forward to God’s return;  there is an air of immediacy in Revelation 22:12-21 (NIV): ‘ “Look, I am coming soon!

My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”

In what ways would you prepare yourself for Jesus’ return; if you felt that His return was very close?