Let me preface by saying I’m not here to give my opinion about the second coming of Jesus or the end times that you have heard so many others talk about. In fact, it is not my purpose to lure or convince you into subscribing to a particular persuasion at all—so relax.
The return of Jesus Christ … I’ve heard theologians and other Christian believers refer to it as “one of the most important and most frequently mentioned doctrines of the New Testament.” I once read a bold opinion from a “prophecy expert” that one out of every twenty-five verses in the New Testament refers either to the rapture of the church or to Christ’s coming to reign over the world. The problem with such a claim is that it’s nearly impossible to verify this because there are so many Scriptural interpretations that one will be forced to assume are referencing a “rapture” or a physical return of Jesus. In other words, once you are convinced or persuaded by the doctrine or the theory, you’ll begin to interpret Bible passages through that particular lens and the numbers become skewed.
Usually the opinions formulated about end times events will be based upon trying to apply a wide variety of “verses” and passages from the entire Bible to fit our predetermined viewpoints. Context can easily get lost, and this is not limited to second coming theology, but it’s often true regarding many mindsets about the Bible.
Here are just a few popular persuasions out of many thousands to consider:
- Jesus will return suddenly with little or no warning and believers will disappear or be taken away (raptured), followed by a great tribulation for 7 years.
- There will be a tribulation, but believers won’t be raptured until half-way through.
- There will be a rapture after the tribulation, but unbelievers will be taken.
- Jesus already returned … or prophecies and tribulation have already occurred in the first century church.
- There is no rapture, Scriptures have been misinterpreted or it’s more symbolic.
- You’re not sure about anything, but eschatology (the study of end times) causes confusion and fear in you—something from which God is not the source.
Therefore, you could be considered a futurist, preterist, partial preterist, historicist, idealist or none of the above. Add more subjects into the mix to include a millennium, judgement, and hell, and throw them into a blender for an even hotter debate. We could quarrel for centuries over something that is as clear as a London fog, woo hoo! Oh wait, we already have.
For those consumed with discussing (or arguing) their opinions on how the end of the world will play out, I’m exhorting you to stop wasting your time. I know that sounds a little rough, and I’m aware that this subject is practically an addiction for some who will be offended by what I just suggested. Therefore, I’m not intending to be critical of what people passionately believe, so please, hear me out all the way until the end.
As a child growing up in the 1970’s, I became consumed with the “second coming” topic. There was a movement at that time where bookstores were filled with a smorgasbord of end times material to feed upon with a wide variety of very different conclusions. I formed some pretty solid opinions that I carried with me for many years and I wasn’t afraid to dump them on anyone who would listen. And this was a Bible subject where almost anyone would listen, regardless of where they stood with faith. Understandably, people are intrigued and fascinated with the prospect that the world could suddenly end. Post something on social media about the finished work of forgiveness that came through the blood of Jesus, and it won’t get nearly the response about a post that a fresh news headline might be another sign of the end times. Over the years I’ve heard it said, “Your newspaper and your Bible are saying exactly the same thing.” Wow. Sounds intriguing, right?
More than twenty years after becoming a believer in Christ, as I began to discover and grow in the message of God’s abundant grace and His gift of righteousness, my opinions on the subject of the end times began to melt away. I’m not saying they changed—they just sort of disappeared. Why? I’ve often wondered the same thing, but I can say with confidence it had to do with the Spirit of God, as He overwhelmed me with revelation and a fresh understanding about the first coming of Jesus Christ. It consumes me daily with peace and joy. The gospel of grace completely engulfed my previous view on many things as I began to see and grasp the Word of God through a completely different perspective. This is why I don’t engage on this particular topic of the end times any longer. Frankly, some of the beliefs and theories just doesn’t always mesh or reconcile with the grace and truth that are realized in Jesus Christ … And that should raise enough concern to reconsider at least some predetermined theology.
The real problem: Many believers in Christ have fallen into a trap by focusing more on the second coming of Jesus than they have on the first coming. To a certain degree, it has parallels to legalistic roots which are always seeking something new and better from God, rather than resting in something God has already done. We’ve been programmed this way by those who pass onto others what was handed down to them, usually coming from hollow religious sources. Regardless of the Bible subject, we often continue to seek what has already been given. This is why I’ve placed the topic on the shelf in order to focus more upon proclaiming the gospel, while being immersed in the growth of knowing Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection (see 1 Corinthians 2:2 & Philippians 3:8-11). I understand we ultimately look forward to being free from a world of suffering, but this will certainly occur for each believer in Christ, notwithstanding the end of the world as we may think we know it.
Of course, we are free to express our opinions and beliefs. But do we really want to spend our time debating on something nobody is likely to fully know or understand in this life? Even within the very same study Bible, we can find any number of very different possibilities or unique scenarios being offered by contributors about the end times. The list of topics within the topic for us to agree or disagree are nearly endless, and I believe it usually profits little or nothing.
When Jesus said He was coming “soon” in the book of Revelation, what did that mean exactly? And more than twenty centuries later, when someone uses the phrase “Jesus is coming soon,” what are they specifically suggesting, and how does it compare to what Jesus said in Revelation? More than 2,000 years after the cross, are we really convinced this is the time of a second coming? Has all of history really been building-up for this event to occur in our earthly lifetime? If the apostles believed a return of Christ was imminent (“soon”), is it not possible it could be another 2,000 years before the event would occur … or much longer? Is it possible something already happened during their generation? Are some (supposed) end times Bible passages really referring to something else? Is the book of Revelation a revealing about what will happen or what has happened? I’m not seeking answers to these questions, I simply state them to show the division and uncertainty.
Let’s be honest. We really don’t know with any precision or certainty, do we? In a passage many will assume refers to a rapture, Paul called it a mystery (see 1 Corinthian 15:51-52). He didn’t say it was a mystery revealed as he did on other occasions when he looked back on the “first coming.” He said it’s a mystery. Many of the (once) respected and popular prophecy books I read earlier in life have already been proven wrong. No problem, oh look, here comes another book or blog that has been revised with new evaluations on the subject. We may think we see signs going on around us that point to the end of the world as we know it. It might be so, or maybe not. That’s why I’m encouraging grace-filled believers to go and share the good news about what Jesus accomplished for the human race the first time He came. Focus on that.
I’m amazed and saddened at how believers and church folks will lose fellowship with one another over the result of their disagreements on this subject. We begin to develop an assumption that our passionate points of view represent absolute truth. Here’s a revelation to ponder: Our opinions about the end of the world or a second coming won’t change how things will actually turn out. But there is something we can know and the Bible is very clear about it: God’s love was demonstrated for us by Christ dying in our place and He revealed the gift of righteousness, apart from works. The New Covenant has been established. He has fulfilled all of the Law, the Prophets and Psalms that were written about Him (see Luke 24:44). It’s a finished work. Christ in you Gentiles … This is a mystery that has been revealed (see Colossians 1:27 & Ephesians 1:9). Believe it, receive it, and let’s continue with having that conversation.
For more about avoiding the trap of religious bondage which leads to fear, and to gain a better understanding of what Jesus accomplished through the cross, get the book: Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee Find It Here On Amazon