By Denise Kohlmeyer, Crosswalk.com
The End Times can be both fascinating and frightening to think about. There is a lot of mystery (and confusion) surrounding the actual events, and those leading up to it. With so many books having been written about it, espousing divergent opinions, what’s a believer to think? Who’s right, who’s wrong? What can we know for sure about the End Times?
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1. God is in control.
All of God’s master plan for salvation is moving toward these singular events: the return of Christ as the fulfillment and satisfaction of prophesy, the ingathering of God’s elect, the supplanting of evil and the evil one, and the eternal establishment of his kingdom. Just as God has been and is in control of times past and times present, the future End Times will be no different. Like every other biblical event through the ages (from Creation to the Flood to Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection), “the day of the Lord” will be just as sovereignly and precisely orchestrated and executed by God.
2. It will happen.
Many believers have grown weary of waiting and watching for the end to come, even wondering if it really is going to happen. It is.
Just as the first prophets foretold Jesus’ first appearance, there remain prophesies regarding Jesus’ Second Coming that still await fulfillment and satisfaction. Seventeen Old Testament books mention it, as do 23 out of the 27 New Testament books. Scholars have identified 1,845 references to this one event. If the first-appearance prophesies proved true, so too will the second-appearance prophesies.
If the prophecies are hard to hold onto, grasp this: “I am coming soon!” Jesus said four times in the Book of Revelation (16:15; 22:7, 12, 20). Could it not be any more clear or more sure? Jesus—who is Truth and cannot lie—assures us with his own words of his return. It will come to pass, and it will be fascination to behold as we spy him visibly coming through the heavens, and “every eye will see” it in real time (Matthew 24:30, Revelation 1:7).
While Jesus assures us that he will return, he cannot divulge exactly when. “Soon,” was his cryptic hint. Whether it will occur in our lifetime or the next is unknown, and not for us to know. The eschatological timeframe cannot be rushed, and for good reason. Jesus’s tarrying is meant to give the maximum number of souls time “to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In this sense, Jesus’ delay is good news!
However, not knowing the deadline can be unsettling, yet it is this very unknowing that forces us to trust God and his timing, and to “walk by faith” as we claim the promise of Jesus’ return (2 Corinthians 5:7).
- The appearance of false “messiahs” who will deceive many
- Wars and rumors of wars, with nations and kingdoms revolting against each other
- Famines and earthquakes
- The appearance of false prophets
- Religious apostasy
- Intense hatred of believers
- Betrayals, persecutions, torturings, and executions of believers
- Increased hatred and rebellion within families
- Increased social decay and debauchery
- Peoples’ love will “grow cold”
- The “abomination of desolation” will set himself up in the rebuilt temple and demand to be worshipped
- Military invasion of Israel, causing great distress in that land and the massacre of its people
Yet, even when these things occur (and some of them are even now), Jesus gives this disclaimer: “Such things must happen, but the end is still to come…These are the beginning of birth pains” (Mark 13:7b, 8b, emphasis added).
In the meantime, we persevere, pray, and remain vigilant.
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2. It will happen. (Continued)
What about the sequence of the great tribulation (a seven-year period of intense discipline for Israel and judgment of unbelievers) and the rapture (when believers will bodily rise to unite with Jesus in the air)? Can we know the sequencing of these events, at least?
Not with one hundred percent certainty. But, again, we know they will occur, based on 1 Thessalonians 4:17, Matthew 24:21, Daniel 9:24, and Revelation 6-18. What makes knowing the exact sequencing difficult is that there is Scriptural evidence to support at least three different theories:
Pre-tribulational Rapture (Pre-trib)
This theory, which is the most widely held theory, states that the saints will be raptured prior to Christ’s return, and they will not in any way whatsoever endure the great tribulation. Scriptural support: 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 3:10.
Mid-tribulational Rapture (Mid-trib)
This theory states that the saints will be raptured halfway through the great tribulation, which means they will endure 3 ½ years of it. Scriptural support: Daniel 7:25; 9:24, 27; 12:7, 11-12; Revelation 12:14.
Post-tribulational Rapture (Post-trib)
This theory states that the rapture and second coming are one simultaneous event. Only after enduring all seven years of the great tribulation will the saints rise to meet Jesus in the air and accompany him back as the rightful king of the earth. Scriptural support: Revelation 6-18.
Regardless of what theory you hold to, you should not allow your difference of opinion on the sequence—whether pre-, mid-, or post-tribulation—to threaten your fellowship with other believers. It is not worth disrupting and potentially destroying the unity we share in Christ.
Says Pastor John Piper, “The things on which we agree are so stupendous as to overwhelm our hearts in common love for the Lord and his appearing. Let us not make the second coming a center of controversy, but a cause for worship and earnest hope and liberating confidence for the ministry before us!”
For more information on the great tribulation and the rapture, please read these articles:
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3. God will hand down judgment.
“God said, ‘I am the Lord. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord God’” (Ezekiel 24:14, ESV).
There is dual purpose in Jesus’ return. He will reunite with his sainted ones, yes, but he also comes “with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone” and to “bringing recompense…to repay everyone for what he has done” (Jude 1:14-15; Revelation 22:12; Matthew 25:31-33). Every single person—“great and small”—will stand before the Great White Throne, which Jesus will set up upon his return. Each person will give an account of his or her life and be judged, impartially and with equity, “according to their works” (Romans 14:10-12; Revelation 20:12).
This will be a frightening time for those who thumbed their noses at God and rejected his Son and his free gift of salvation. It will be a day of reconning, and their sentence will be swift and sure: Hell, a place of restless, endless darkness and “gnashing of teeth”—a metaphor for “extreme anguish and utter despair” (Luke 13:28; Revelation 14:9-11).
But sincere, born-again believers, who persevered faithfully (though not perfectly) until the end needn’t fear the Great White Throne, since their sins have already been forgiven by their faith in the shed blood of Christ, as far as the east is from west. Upon accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord during their lifetime, their names were permanently scribed “in heaven,” and on “the day of the Lord” they will receive their glorious crowns (Psalm 103:12; Luke 10:20b; James 1:12).
More details about the Great White Throne of Judgement and hell can be read here:
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4. Satan will be defeated.
Prior to Jesus’ thousand-year reign, Satan (also known as the devil, the god of the air, Beelzebub, and Lucifer) will be defeated during a battle known as Armageddon (Revelation 20:3-4). After his defeat, Satan will bound and thrown into a pit, “that he should not deceive the nations till the thousand years are ended.” During those thousand years, while Satan is imprisoned, peace and prosperity will ensue for God’s people on earth.
After the thousand years, however, Satan will be released to once again “deceive the nations for a short time” by gathering them together for one last coup against Christ and his kingdom. Yet again, Satan and his forces will be defeated, and Satan will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur…and will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:7-10).
At that point, Jesus’ mission is accomplished; he has “destroyed all dominion, authority, and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” He will then transfer the hard-won kingdom to his Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).
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5. A new Earth and Heaven will be established.
Just as Jesus ushered in the new kingdom with his earthly ministry, his second coming will usher in the new Earth and new Heaven (Revelation 21-22), which is the culmination of God’s story, the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, and the final reversal of the Adamic curse. The new Earth and Jerusalem is where our domain and God’s unite as one and when creation is at last liberated from the fall of sin and its effects. The new Earth will be a recreation of the Garden of Eden, but better, since the glory of the temple, which is “the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb,” cover it all (Revelation 21:22).
For more information on the new Earth and Heaven, read:
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6. We will be with God eternally.
On this new earth, we will reign “forever and ever” with God, who will once again walk among us, with us, just as he once did in Eden. We will feast with God at a lavish banqueting table and enjoy the fruits from the 12 trees. We will tend the grounds—free of thistles and thorns now—the trees, and the glorified animals within this “paradise” (paradeisos, “a park, a garden, a pleasure-ground, a grove”), much as we would have done in Eden before sin intervened. We will enjoy continual community with other glorified ones, which will include our forebearers—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Rahab, Mary, and many others—along with those martyred for their faith. And, a lastly but most importantly, we will worship and sing praises to our glorious God.
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Jesus’ return from heaven is approaching, day by day. It will be personal, visible, and glorious, a blessed hope for which we should not be caught unawares and ill-prepared. “Stay awake at all times,” Jesus admonishes in Luke 21:36 and 25:19, 27. “Praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man…Stand firm, and you will win life…stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
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