Rev 22:18-20 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming quickly." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
If you ask fourteen people what will happen in the end times, you’ll get fourteen different opinions, equally supported by scripture and presented in detail with timelines, charts and conviction. You’ll have some who’ll say there will be a rapture, then a tribulation, then a second coming then a reign of 1000 years. Others will say no, the rapture happens halfway through the tribulation. Still others, the tribulation happens first, then the second coming. A few will say there is a second coming but no 1000-year reign. Some even believe all of this has already happened which means to them, there’s nothing to anticipate.
Some say since it hasn’t happened yet, they don’t expect it to happen. Peter said that even some in his day felt the same way: 2Pet 3:4 "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." The Lord is not slow about His promise but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
When the persecution of the church ended by Rome because of Constantine in the 4th century, the idea of Jesus’ return was lulled asleep.
It pretty much remained that way until a man named John Darby laid out his beliefs in 1830. Darby was a priest in the Church of Ireland but became disillusioned over the prevailing condition of the church, which he saw as dead by formality. He left the Church of Ireland in 1827 and became a Brethren Church pastor. “The style of work,” he wrote, “was not in agreement with what I read in the Bible concerning the church and Christianity; nor did it correspond with the effects of the action of the Spirit of God.” On a traveling tour of America, he brought his new teachings about embracing God’s word more literally, which included God’s plans for the end times.
A man deeply influenced by Darby’s work was C.I. Scofield. It is unlikely their lives ever intersected, but it is clear that Scofield was heavily influenced by Darby’s understanding of the future intentions of God’s plans. When he published his Scofield Study Bible in 1909 it became the foundation of the Dispensational and Premillennial view of end times and gave those views world-wide acceptance.
Because of the work of these men and others, the church was stirred to begin to anticipate the events of the Second Coming of Jesus and know what will take place when He comes. Many were convinced that because of the two World Wars and the Holocaust, Jesus’ return was coming soon.
I grew up when the end time movement was strong. We had the end times movies like A Thief in the Night, Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth, the Gaithers singing The King is Coming and more recently the Left Behind book series. Why would this surge of interest in end times have developed in “recent” years? Much speculation and wondering sought answers. Jesus’ disciples wondered the same thing:
Matt 24:1-3 Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down." As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"
They asked Him three things: when will the temple be destroyed, what will your second coming look like and when is the end?
Jesus gave them a measure of general insight on two of those questions but not specific details. He only wanted them to know what they needed to know at that that time, not a couple of thousand years down the road. So, He started with the temple that some of those men would see destroyed.
Matt 24:6-13 "You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
He says there will be collapse of society, national conflict and spiritual upheaval. You can pretty much take any slice of history and see these three in effect. But He had something more pressing for them to know.
He introduced the idea of a specific tribulation. Later He will talk about a Great Tribulation, but here Jesus says you will enter distressed times. Little reading of the first century and the persecution of Christians and Jews is a story of this tribulation.
But He’s not giving specific details, just saying that when it happened, you must endure to the end of the turmoil and you will be delivered. Endured means: remain strong throughout the time. The promise wasn’t salvation but deliverance.
Though the destruction of the Temple would also destroy Jerusalem, this wasn’t the final end. There’s more to come. We often judge disasters as final events that destroy life and our future, but they are not. They may change the path we’ve been on but there is still a path. Jesus wanted them to know whatever they faced wouldn’t mean things were over or He would no longer be active in their lives, only that the path would change. The mission remained the same: Matt 24:14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. But the circumstances of that mission would change.
Tony Evans and the stormy cruise. This ship was built with these conditions in mind.
God is checking off nations that have heard the Gospel message, using that as the determining factor in when Jesus would return, but that the mission of the church would continue through this event and beyond. The gospel message would need to expand to encompass the whole world.
Acts 1:8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."
The mission of the church has always been to share the good news of salvation to those who don’t know until He returns.
Though we are the ones living closest to that end, in broad, sweeping terms, the end times began in 70 A.D. But what is it about our days that make us more aware the end of times is coming? In the following weeks we’ll learn about how what’s going on today matches what the Bible says about the end. But more importantly, we’ll see how we can live faithfully so we can endure, regardless of when Jesus returns.
- God has always gotten His people through perilous times.
- Ships are built with the conditions they’ll experience in mind.
- God knows about and is prepared for all we’ll face from here on out.
- Trusting Him has never been more crucial than it will be the closer we get to the end.