In this penultimate instalment in the series on heaven, we tackle two questions offered by congregants: first, the role of Satan in the end times; and second, the fate of people who have never heard of Jesus. Early in the service, we welcome three young ladies into church membership on their profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. The message is based on Revelation 20 and Romans 1 (and others). You can watch the whole worship gathering below, or just the message below that.
In every generation, there have been self-proclaimed prophets of the end times. In the time of Jesus and even before, people have thought they had the end of the world figured out.
So far, it seems, they didn’t. We’re all still here. Jesus has not returned.
Some people have dismissed the notion that Jesus will one day come back, that the world will be consummated. But other still look for clues.
Most who look for clues comb through the pages of the final book of the Bible: the Revelation. They think they can find answers there. And often, they create their own formulas to force upon the text.
In the end, though, they are frustrated.
Revelation is a hard book to understand, in no small part because of its genre. Apocalyptic literature is hard to understand for those who are not living in the time in which it was written. Revelation, having been written near the end of the first century, when Christians were experiencing severe persecution from the Romans, would have made perfect sense to its first hearers and readers.
It makes less sense to us.
But that hasn’t stopped people from trying to figure it out, or even imposing their own approaches to make it say what they want it to say.
When we think about the end times, the one thing we can know for certain is that we don’t know much about it. There are not fewer than five ways of interpreting the book of Revelation held by sincere, Bible-believing followers of Jesus today. (I talked briefly about these last Sunday.)
Commonly, in any given generation, one view will gain the upper hand among believers. (This is less true with scholars.) The predominant view in popular Christian culture today, despite its popularity, is somewhat confusing and is based on a very small portion of Scripture.
When will Jesus come back? We can’t know for sure.
In what order will the events of the end times take place? Some think they know for certain, others are unsure.
But this much we can know: if you have confessed Jesus as Saviour and Lord, and sought to live for him, and are ready for his return, nothing in the book of the Revelation should scare you.
Take comfort in that, if you’re a follower of Christ.
This Sunday, I will be tackling the question of what will happen at the end of time as we know it. I’ll look at some of the alternatives, and why I think the predominant view among many followers of Jesus is definitely not the only one, and might not even be the right one, from a biblical perspective.
Feel free to join us at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning if you don’t have another church to go to in person, and we’ll learn together. (If you are too far away to come, join us live online at 10, or watch the whole gathering or just the message, which will be posted to our YouTube channel later that afternoon.)
We know the end will come. We know Jesus will return. We know followers of Jesus will be safe for eternity. Beyond that? Let’s explore some options together.
“I say to you what I say to everyone: Watch for him!” (Mark 13.37, NLT).
Is the world going to end tomorrow? It could. But it probably won’t.
There has been a fair bit of press lately given to a small number of individuals who are predicting that on Saturday, September 23, 2017, time will be consummated. One of them calls himself a “Christian numerologist”, which is just a fancy term for somebody who makes it his hobby to study numbers in the Bible; there’s certainly no such thing as a degree in “Christian numerology”. It tends to be a rabbit-trail that some sincere followers of Jesus go down, usually with good intentions, but most often because what they really need is a decent hobby. I recommend model railroading.
Of course, the news outlets make a big deal of this – usually so they can make Christians look like fools (something at which some believers in the public square are actually quite adept). But will the world end tomorrow? Committed Jesus-follower and public thinker Ed Stetzer doesn’t think so (you can read his article here). I don’t, either. But that doesn’t keep me from believing that it could happen – and that we should be ready for it when it does.
There seem to be two solitudes when it comes to eschatology – the study of the end times – whereby people are either obsessed with the second coming of Jesus, or they don’t think about it at all. I think both are dangerous positions.
It’s dangerous to be consumed with consummation, and it’s dangerous to ignore the end times, too. Those in the former ‘camp’ tend to see every big phenomenon (like earthquakes and hurricanes) and every small detail (like numbers in the Bible) as signs that point to the return of Jesus, often on some particular date. Those in the latter ‘camp’ often don’t believe in a literal second coming, or they choose to see it as an incidental matter of faith.
As I understand Scripture, the truth is in the middle.
By trying to pinpoint the second coming, we pretend to know more than Jesus, who said that only the Father knows when that time will come (Mark 13.32). And by discounting the return of Jesus, we imply that it is unimportant, when clearly it is; after all, Jesus said, “Understand this: if a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected” (Luke 12.39-40, NLT – emphasis mine).
What that tells us is (a) Jesus is coming back; (b) we don’t know when it will happen; and (c) we need to be ready for it. How can we be ready for something whose timing is uncertain?
Confess and repent of your sins, live in relationship with Jesus, and seek to serve him. Trust him for your eternal salvation. Live a life pleasing to him, in response to his gift of eternal life. And share your faith. After all, if we really believed that Jesus was coming back, we’d want others to be ready too, right?
At St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, this Sunday is “Bring a Friend” day. If you’re in the area and you’ve been wanting to give Christian faith a try, please join us at 10:00 a.m. Be my guest for lunch – and let me know you’re coming so I can watch for you!
Wherever you are, assuming the world doesn’t come to an end tomorrow, I hope you’ll gather with God’s people to rejoice in what Jesus has done for you, so that you will be ready for when he does return!