Pet Bible-Thumping Peeves: End of the World

Congratulations! You just survived one more prediction of the world coming to an end. Signs of the times are everywhere with earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, wars, rumors of wars, rampant immorality, etc. I don't know how many times I have had my survivor card punched, but there's no room for more punches.
I don't care who is the one predicting the end of the world and Jesus' return, but they are lying to you. The Bible would call them all false prophets. If we want to follow the Bible strictly, rather than sending them money, they are supposed to be killed for leading people astray.
Matthew 24 reports Jesus telling his disciples that even Jesus did not know the day or hour of his return. He gave them no signs of his return, only of the destruction of Jerusalem. That happened in 70 AD, not quite four decades after Jesus' death and resurrection.
Oh, Jesus does mention war, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and the sky growing dark. He also says that all of those “signs,” as the apocalypticists of the day like to call them, were bunk. There was only one sign he gave, and that had to do with Jerusalem's fall. “When you see the abomination of desolation, flee.”
The Roman general Titus marched into the temple in Jerusalem and sacrificed a pig on Yahweh's altar. The Jews had stopped offering sacrifices to Yahweh on behalf of Caesar, as they were required to do by Rome. After letting that go by for four years, Rome had had enough. Titus marched in for the sacrifice, carrying idols of the Roman deities, and the Jews revolted, burning and destroying the temple. That is why there is only the “Wailing Wall” left of the temple today.
That is what Jesus was warning the disciples about. All those other “signs” were prevalent in the years leading up to 70AD. Vesuvius erupted, extinguishing the light from half the stars in the sky over the Roman Empire, due to clouds of ash. The sky was darkened, the moon gave off a reddish glow, and the sun did not shine with its normal brilliance through the clouds of ash. It was, however, when the disciples saw the temple being destroyed that they were simply to flee Jerusalem and Judea.
As to the end of the world, and Jesus' return, he gave no sign at all. He was simply clear that all would recognize his return.
On the other hand, there is another Biblical concept we toss around that is related but so rarely understood. The Jews divided time into two segments. There was the period before Messiah and the period of time after the coming of Messiah. This latter segment was referred to in various ways, including “the last hour,” “the end times,” “the latter times,” and even “the end.” Now comes the hard part. When did Messiah come?
Jesus spoke both of his reign having come and its coming being imminent. For the most part, we look at Pentecost as marking the beginning or inauguration of the Messianic Reign. On the other hand, we tend to think of a second fulfillment of the Messianic Reign coming at some time in the future. The problem is that none of the Pauline epistles speak of such a coming fulfillment, nor do the gospels. Only the book of Revelation speaks of such, but that depends on how one interprets the book. In Revelation, however, the final reign of Christ is other-worldly, with the extinction of the earth as we know it and the recreation of a new earth.
In any event, while the New Testament is a little vague on the precise notions of when the latter times began, John's epistle is clear. “Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour.” (1st John 2:18) If it is the last hour, the second half of time, as John writes, then the end times started 2,000 years ago. We have been living in those latter times, last days, or as John puts it, “the last hour” for a long time. That does not mean the world is about to end. It means that Jesus is extending God's messianic reign through believers and has been doing so for a long time.

As to the end of the world, Jesus never gave us any hint of that. Any guess is as good as the next one. If someone proclaims to know, however, you can be pretty sure they are just one more false prophets in a very long line of them. I think we'll survive again.

©Copyright 2017, Christopher B. Harbin 


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