Thursday, May 25, 2006

What the Future Holds (5)

This is part 5 of chapter 10 of my book, Biblical Glasses.

What about the end?

The Bible is not limited to what the Book of Revelation has to say; it is full of end times prophecy. The Old Testament prophets, especially Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Daniel, go into great detail on the end times. Their work is filled with exciting imagery and detailed, yet somewhat obscure prophecy regarding specific end times events. In the New Testament, Paul, Peter, and John give important consideration to eschatological events in their letters.

First, Paul declared that a loud command and a trumpet call would signal the second coming of Christ with Michael, the archangel. “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” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Paul said, “The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2) for unbelievers. He went on to explain, however, that the second coming of Christ should not surprise believers. We should expect it to happen at any moment! Paul encouraged believers not to get distressed or unsettled about claims that “the day of the Lord has already come” (2 Thessalonians 2:2). Paul said:

Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the
rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness [the antichrist] is revealed, the
man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything
that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s Temple,
proclaiming himself to be God. … And now you know what is holding him back, so
that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness
is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so
till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom
the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth and destroy by the
splendor of His coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with
the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and
wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing (2
Thessalonians 2:3-10).

Second, Peter urged his audience to be on the lookout for scoffers, those who will be following their own desires and mocking Jesus’ return, rather than patiently waiting for Him. Peter said:

They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our fathers died,
everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they
deliberately forget that long ago by God’s Word the heavens existed and the
earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of
that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same Word the present heavens and
earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction
of ungodly men. But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: … The Lord is
not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with
you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the
day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar;
the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will
be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of
people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look
forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the
destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But
in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new
earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking
forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace
with Him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation (2 Peter

Third and in addition to his Revelation, John provided supplementary end times information, specifically on the antichrist. John said, “This is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). Many people consider evil dictators like Stalin and Hitler to have been mini-antichrists, but John told his audience in the following passage that anyone who denies Jesus as the Messiah is the antichrist. John answered his own question: “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22-23).

John also told his audience how to recognize the spirit of the antichrist; he said, “Every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (1 John 4:3). The spirit of the antichrist is here; we see it in the deeds of evil people like Hitler and Stalin, but it is also evidenced by all those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

The New Testament writers shed some light on end times events and ideas; however, one additional testimony to study is that of Jesus Christ. Jesus discusses many end times details in His Olivet Discourse, which follows from Matthew 24-25 (see corresponding verses in the other Gospel accounts):

Jesus left the Temple [in Jerusalem] 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. ‘I tell you the truth, 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 Christ,’ 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 he 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 [the antichrist],’ 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 roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no
one in the field go back to get his 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 Christ!’ or, ‘There He is!’ do not believe it. For false
Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to
deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of
time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There He is, out in the desert,’ 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.’ At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in
the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of
Man coming on the clouds of the sky, 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. I tell you the truth, 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. No one knows about that day
or hour, 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. I tell
you the truth, 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.

At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took
their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and
five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with
them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom
was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At
midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then
all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the
wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied,
‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil
and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil,
the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the
wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’
they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I
don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the

Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his
servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents of
money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his
ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents
went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one
with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one
talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a
long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.
The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he
said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His
master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful
with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your
master’s happiness!’ The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said,
‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’ His master
replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a
few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your
master’s happiness!’ Then the man who had received the one talent came.
‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have
not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and
went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where
I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you
should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I
would have received it back with interest. Take the talent from him and give it
to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and
he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken
from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where
there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

When the Son of Man comes
in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His throne in heavenly
glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the
people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He
will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will
say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your
inheritance, the Kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I
was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me
something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and
you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came
to visit Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You
hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see
You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we
see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you
the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you
did for Me.’ Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are
cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was
hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to
drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you
did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.’ They
also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or
needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’ He will reply, ‘I
tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you
did not do for Me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the
righteous to eternal life.’
Reading this passage should give us an idea of the seriousness of making our place in eternity certain. But still, how do we know these end times are near?

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