Understanding the End Times – for Non-Dummies
The famous For Dummies series is a global publishing phenomenon that was introduced over 30 years ago, leading to sales of over 250 million copies of the series books. The popular concept helps people learn about important subjects in a lighthearted and easy-to-understand manner. In that same spirit, let’s examine three critical areas of our own: the end times, deception, and progressivism, starting with installment No. 1 in this commentary.
Can you accurately explain what the Bible teaches about the end times? What we believe about the future affects the way we live our lives today. God wants us to grasp and communicate truth in order to be optimists, not pessimists, but at the same time to be realists also, who avoid the “end times” errors that have deceived many Christians throughout Church history. A biblically informed view of eschatology (the theology of final events) helps us avoid going astray.
The End Times
During the 1960s, I was saved out of a “lost souls” rock band in Cleveland and converted to Christ during the Jesus Movement. God providentially placed me in a position across from the White House, and I taught 2,000 young people gathered weekly about 10 minutes away. Because God blessed me with balanced biblical teaching, I escaped the “any moment rapture” error, but believed with multitudes that His return was approaching quickly.
In line with passages like Isaiah 60:1–3, we understood that both evil and good would escalate prior to the Second Coming; Jesus wasn’t returning for a “beat-up Bride,” but for an overcoming, “glorious” Church. And historically, the darkest hours have often preceded the greatest revivals.
As Christians sang “Kumbaya” and Larry Norman’s “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” I ended up on a TBN program doing an interesting interview with the main proponent of the pretribulation perspective. Hal Lindsey, author of the 35 million bestseller The Late Great Planet Earth, had a movie version of the book, narrated by Orson Welles, in which it was implied that Henry Kissinger was the Antichrist!
Soon thereafter, a book titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988 blasted onto the scene as millions eagerly anticipated being whisked away to escape the coming trouble.
Unfortunately, the prophetic predictions and apocalyptic date settings came up woefully empty. Scores of people became disillusioned, and those believing that Christians would avoid persecution and suffering (which for Americans was previously the case) experienced confusion seeing those very things increasing worldwide.
Today we need to recognize that we’re no longer living in Jerusalem, but rather in Babylon, and as the “salt” (which helps prevent decay) that we are supposed to be, we’ve got work to do in prayer, gospel proclamation, and cultural engagement! In our increasingly post-Christian culture, we desperately need a course correction and a thoroughly Biblical understanding of the end times. The dark is getting darker, but the light is getting lighter, and the difference between the two is becoming more and more evident with each passing day. Retreat, isolation, and passivity are not options!
We need to understand that contrary to all of the end-of-the-world hysteria and save-the-planet climate-change propaganda, there’s not going to be any once-and-for-all climactic end of the world, but rather an end to the world as we know it! Both evil and good will escalate (see Isaiah 60:2), and yet: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).
As genuine Christians, let’s keep it uppermost in mind that though God has not destined us for wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9), this doesn’t mean that we’ll be exempt from persecution or martyrdom. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted … (2 Timothy 3:12).
Also, some prophetic biblical predictions have an initial fulfillment followed by an ultimate fulfillment. Jesus predicted in Mark 13:2 the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (this took place in A.D. 70 ), yet is there a secondary event still to come.
Billy Graham once said: “History is going somewhere. And we know full well that He who does all things well will bring beauty from the ashes. A new world is being born. A new social order will emerge when Christ comes back. A fabulous future is ahead!”
Scripture teaches that all that takes place after His ascension is called “the end times.” It’s legitimate to wonder if we are nearing the last days of the end times. Jesus told us that we would see signs of His return, but that we were not to set dates! “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
Jesus pinpointed some characteristics describing the end times that cannot be comfortably airbrushed away:
- distress, perplexity, and men fainting from fear (see Luke 21:25–26)
- widespread betrayal, hatred, and a falling away as lawlessness leads to lovelessness (see Matthew 24:9–10)
- depravity, violence, and corruption, as in the time of Noah (see Genesis 6:5–13).
The Bible teaches that the end of this world as we know it will come suddenly and unexpectedly, with most people being sadly unprepared for its coming. As genuine Christians, we remind ourselves that dying grace doesn’t come until the dying hour, so, we’re not to be paralyzed by fear.
Make no mistake about it, a judgment day is coming for every single person, and it’s all based not on our good works, righteous activity, or charitable giving, but on what each of us did regarding Jesus Christ and His sacrificial, substitutionary death on the cross for our sins. Those who fail to repent and receive by faith the free gift of God’s provision for our sins will suffer eternal separation from God in unimaginable suffering in the place Jesus called hell.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:10–13).
A rapture of God’s people is coming, but not to whisk us away to float on clouds while strumming harps. No, we’ll be united with our King in the air to return with Him, to reign with Him, and for all eternity to enjoy the new world He has prepared (see Revelation 20:6)!
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:16–18).
Here’s the deal: When Jesus departed planet earth, the disciples wanted to know the date and time for the “big event” of His return. Jesus refocused them on the Great Commission instead. And He lovingly admonished them: “ … It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But … you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7–8).
With that, He departed. Angels appeared and told those disciples that He would be back. As for us, we can “hasten” that day by doing our part daily to reach the world with the gospel of the kingdom. And then, as Jesus has promised: “ … the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
How are you praying about the end times? Share below and encourage others to pray.
Larry Tomczak is a cultural commentator of 46 years, an IFA board member, a bestselling author, and a public-policy adviser with Liberty Counsel. His innovative video/book, BULLSEYE, develops informed influencers in 30 days (see www.bullseyechallenge.com). Hear his weekly podcast here.
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