Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Understanding of The End Times

As I watched the events of the week unfold before my eyes, I was struck by the way we as a nation have been transformed from a fairly stable capitalist Republic into a very shaky Socialist state almost overnight. Then as I prepared my outline on the seven churches of Revelation for my Sunday sermon, I found myself reading the term paper I wrote in seminary class a few years back on the book of Revelation. Considering the speed at which things have evolved in the past year, it is my opinion that what I wrote back then is relevant to today's discussion. Remember, I wrote this four years ago when George Bush was still our President, and Barack Obama was still an absentee voter in the Illinois state senate. Well, here is the summary I wrote for that term paper.

Most interpretations of the “End Times” contain good arguments and can, with enough quotes from the Scriptures, persuade even the best scholars that their claim as to what John’s visions mean, is correct. I have personally spent endless hours in an attempt to get a better understanding of the many prophecies about the end times. With an endless supply of differing opinions available for research and extensive study into the validity of these opinions, I am prepared to agree that the futurists probably come closest to what John saw while on the Island of Patmos. While I do agree with the essentials of the futurist’s beliefs, I must point out that I do not wholly agree in the way many futurists see the events taking place. I do not pretend to know how the Lord will bring about the end, but as I stated I do agree with the gist of the dispensational futurist view of the end times. I just currently disagree with many of their minute details. I say “currently lean” because as my study of the Scriptures continue, along with new insights and unfolding events presenting themselves, in time I might think differently then I do at the present.

As an historical and political enthusiast I tend to look at certain aspects of the end times prophecies in a different light than many futurists. I look at the time we live in as being dominated by the ‘Rule of the People”, and whether it be democratic socialism or democratic capitalism, it is still a system ruled by the people. This egalitarian type of political rule allows for many absurd and dangerous aspects of society to flourish that could not survive in a totalitarian system. A cursory look at the way Cuban dictator, Castro dealt with those afflicted with AIDS compared to how we deal with them in Democratic societies will make my point. Cubans who have AIDS are locked away in institutions to keep them from infecting the general population. While in America and Western Europe we champion the very act that spreads the sickness, homosexuality, in the name of freedom we allow the dreaded disease to promulgate through out our society. It is important to understand that Christ will not return because governments make us bad people. He will return because we have willingly refused to turn from our evil ways and follow His teachings. That is not to say there are no bad people living under tyrannical rulers, it just means that in places like America we have the freedom to practice our evil ways openly thus influencing others to follow suit. Our society is not unique in this aspect however, because history shows us that a similar problem caused Israel to continually fall out of grace with God during the time of time of Judges. (Jdg 17:6)

I also take into account the nature of man that always plays into God's prophecies. This nature is seen continually, from the time when Jacob schemed with his mother to steal Isaac’s blessings for Esau (Gen 27:26-35), on through to the time the Jews revolted against Rome and the Temple was destroyed fulfilling the prophecy of Jesus (Matt 24:2). The first act sent Jacob on a journey to His uncle’s home where he ended up with twelve sons and enormous wealth. The other act ended the sacrifice of animals for sins, something that was not needed anymore because the perfect Lamb had been sacrificed almost forty years earlier. With many other examples of prophecies fulfilled due to the desire of man to control his own destiny, one must take into account this desire when looking at the events of the end times.

Many look at the Scriptures that point to a rebuilding of the Temple with all the ceremonies that accompany it as an inevitable sequence in the end times. I look at how this could come to fruition and see, as I write this, many evangelicals supplying money to different Jewish organizations to make this prophecy come true. I know that God knew this would happen before He made the world and so He uses our controlling nature to bring us into His glory (1 Co 2:7)). I also look at the Scripture that states we will not be able to buy or sell without the mark of the beast (Rev 13:15-18). As I look at the world as it is today, I see things being set up for a One-World society, one that will inevitably usher in the return of Christ. However, I believe the mark spoken of is one of a common mind set. An example of what I mean is how we see the main stream media constantly agreeing with each other on various topics from pro choice advocacy to global warming. They do not have a mark to distinguish them from other forms of the media that disagree with them, but they are in accord just the same. This is the way I believe the “Mark of the Beast” will be seen. We all will know who agrees with the Beast and those who do not, and without being on his or its side one will not be able to buy, sell, or trade. All it will take is a personal denial of Christ as your Lord and Savior, as in the time of Emperor worship alluded to in the letters to the Seven Church’s. As for communism, it is on its way out. Like Russia and the Eastern Block nations before them, the few remaining communist regimes will wither away for Democracy to flourish. I also see the current threat of the Muslim extremist movement dying away and in time a more dangerous religion will take hold, that of Democratic Socialism. This new religion will, in my opinion, usher in the New One World Government that the people will demand.

I Then look at the signs that Christ mentioned in (Mark 13:8). As the world gets smaller and smaller we can be informed of what happens as the occurrence takes place. There was a time when an earthquake on the San Andreas fault would never have been reported because no one we cared about lived there. However, now we have millions of people living on and around the very epicenter of the world’s most dangerous fault. Through out our history there have been wars and rumors of wars, but without a modern media to inform us 24-7 we were not aware of them. I believe that the way we perceive events around us goes a long way to effecting our future reactions, and the outcome of our reactions to various events is what God knew ahead of time. It is these outcomes that work into the plans of God to show us His glory. A perfect example is when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery (Gen 37:18-28). God did not make it happen, but He used their evil for His good (Gen 50:20). Another example is the way God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to strengthen his resolve against Moses, thus using Pharaoh’s evil intentions for His Glory (Ex 10:1). In this way God uses man’s evil intentions to control his destiny, as a way to bring forth His will for our salvation and His plan for our eternal existence with Him.

As I have already stated, there are over a hundred million different opinions as to what will happen before Christ returns. However, regardless of how the end times unfold, or how I interpret the prophecies concerning these events, I am secure in the fact that they will have no effect on my eternal salvation. Christ said He will return like a thief in the night (Luke 12:39); (1 Th 5:2), for it is not our purview to know that which the Father has fixed for His own authority (Act 1:7). Now while the Revelation of Jesus Christ states that blessings come to those who read, heed, and understand the prophecies given to John, nowhere in the Scriptures does it say that anyone will know the time of His return Matt 24:36); (Mark 13:32). The best we can do is look to the Scriptures to prepare ourselves for His return. I guess that is one reason I have decided to be like Ezra (Ezr 7:10) and the Berean’s (Act 17:11) so as to follow Paul’s advise to Titus (Tit 2:7-8) and properly spread the Good News and help prepare others for His return.

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