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Are We Approaching The End?

November  11, 2011

Are we approaching the end - The "end times"?

The simple answer - yes.

Every second we get that much closer.

But --

There's all sorts of predictions about when "The End" will come.
For that matter - there have been all sorts of predictions about when it should have come - but obviously didn't - 'cause we're still here.

There's a problem with the predictions - at least one, probably more -

When Jesus talked about The End - He had this to say, from Matthew 24:36 -

Mt 24:36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

And there's the problem with the predictions.

If we think we know when - we're pretty much saying one of two things:

  1. Jesus lied.
  2. We're smarter than Jesus.

The first one's pretty obvious. If we think we know - and Jesus said only the Father knows - then we must believe that He lied. That's not a position I'd want to take.

The second one maybe isn't quite so obvious - but I think is true. One can say - OK - Jesus didn't know / wasn't told - so technically He didn't lie. But - somehow we were able to figure out something that He didn't. We found some secret code - or something of significance in the Word of God that Jesus didn't notice or couldn't figure out. Uh Oh. Don't think I'd care to take that position either.

OK - so what if we figure it out by somehow knowing what the events will be that trigger The End? That way - there's no lie - there's no claim that we're smarter than Jesus. Wouldn't that be OK?

Well - let's look at how Jesus continues in Matthew -

Mt 24:37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

Looks like - one more time - we're either calling Jesus a liar or claiming to know something / figure out something that He couldn't.He's saying that we're going to be just as surprised as the people in Noah's time. So how is it that we think we can figure it out?

It's a fun exercise.
It makes for good reading.
I've enjoyed reading several books on how The End will come.
I've had discussions with people over how it's more likely now than ever that the prophecies could be fulfilled.

Revelation is my favorite book in the Bible.

But -

the main reason I find the book so fascinating isn't the detailed descriptions of what's going to happen.
It's the seven letters to the seven churches.
And it's the fact that in spite of the letters -
and in spite of all the prophecies being fulfilled -
so many people won't see what's happening -
won't understand that it's from God -
won't understand that this really is the end.

Let's take a look at the entirety of the passage in Matthew 24:36-51 -

The Day and Hour Unknown

Mt 24:36 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

Mt 24:42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Mt 24:45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I think this is where it's really at - what's really important.

I've been reading this Fire of Heaven Trilogy by Bill Myers. I got into it originally because of his books being an interesting mix of science and Christianity. It wasn't until I started reading the third book in the series that I found out it's about the End Times.

When I realized that's what it was - I was disappointed. The first two books were fascinating. I really wasn't into reading it to find out that it was all going to lead up to another book on how one can recognize when the end is coming.

While I used to really enjoy reading them - eventually I realized that I was getting lost in the trees. You know that saying - can't see the forest for the trees? I think that's a danger with all of this. We get so into the little details of who - how - when - that we lose sight of the fact that the big picture is the Second Coming of Jesus.

Fortunately - I read the Preface of this third book - which is included here:

I wanted to try something different with this book. And I figured I should warn you up front so if you’re reading this in a store you can slip it back on the shelf before it’s too late, or if you’re already at home you can race back and get a refund before the pages get bent.

My point is. . .this book is not for everybody.

First of all, I wanted to try to write Christian fiction. Not just entertainment that you expect to be moral or that has a Christian theme. I wanted to write a piece of Christian fiction for Christians. Something that begins with what we already believe about God and explores Him from there. Something for the disciples after the crowds have been entertained and gone home. Something that assumes exploring God’s truths (some may call these portions preachy) can be just as engaging as the fastest car chase or steamy romance scene. So if you’re looking for some good, old fashioned, escapist entertainment, go ahead and sup this back on the shelf, no hard feelings. Maybe we’ll connect the next time around.

Also, despite what you may have thought, this is not an end-times prophecy book. My purpose is not to expound upon end-time events. Lots of other books out there claim to have those answers. This isn’t one of them. In fact, I’d be surprised if any end-times happenings unfolded the way they’re depicted here. That wasn’t my purpose. I wanted to explore end-times themes, not events. I wanted to touch upon end-times teaching as Christ might have when talking to his disciples. It seems nearly every time they asked him for the ear-tickling details, he gave a few generalities and then used the opportunity to springboard into a deeper truth. Instead of getting their flesh worked up and excited about the mark of the beast, or the timing of the Rapture, or who the Antichrist will be, he usually went for a deeper, spiritual truth.. .like encouraging them to be ready.

That’s what I’ve tried to do here. The rest is just backdrop, a little scenery that we may or may not see along the way to his Second Coming. As I’ve said, if you want a clearly marked road map, hundreds of other books claim to know the way. All I want to do with this one is to challenge us to examine our hearts as we make that journey.

I'm still only up to chapter 3 - don't know how it's going to work out - let alone how it's going to end for each of the characters.

But I like the concept - I hope he succeeds in what he's trying to do.

If we look at Revelation - each of the seven letters has the exact same sentence in the last paragraph of the letter -

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

The Spirit wasn't telling the churches anything about who - when - where - how.

Far from it.

The letters were warnings and or encouragement.

Here's an example from each letter -

To the Church in Ephesus -

Rev 2:2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.

Rev 2:3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Rev 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

Rev 2:5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

To the Church in Smyrna -

Rev 2:9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

Rev 2:10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

To the Church in Pergamum -

Rev 2:13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.

Rev 2:14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.

Rev 2:15 Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.

Rev 2:16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

To the Church in Thyatira -

Rev 2:19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.

Rev 2:20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

Rev 2:21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.

Rev 2:22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.

Rev 2:23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

Rev 2:24 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you):

To the Church in Sardis -

Rev 3:2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.

Rev 3:3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Rev 3:4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.

Rev 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

To the Church in Philadelphia -

Rev 3:8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

Rev 3:9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.

Rev 3:10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth.

Rev 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

To the Church in Laodicea -

Rev 3:15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!

Rev 3:16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Rev 3:17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Rev 3:18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Rev 3:19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.

Rev 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

This is the message.

Think not?

Check out the first 3 verses of Revelation -

Rev 1:1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John,

Rev 1:2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Rev 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

First - notice -

because the time is near

OK - it was written a couple thousand years ago.
But - when you've existed forever - near is a relative term.

There's another way to look at "near" as well.

The reality is - once we're dead - our decision is made.
We have either accepted Jesus - or not.
We have a relationship with God - or not.
We are in Heaven - or not.
For the people who were alive 2000 years ago - the fact that the second coming hasn't happened yet - does it really matter?
They've already died - they've already had their decision made - they've already reached their "end" on this earth.

For those of us who are still alive -
maybe we'll be here for the Second Coming -
maybe we'll be raptured -
maybe we'll die before either of the other two takes place.
In any case - the "end" is near.

Think about this too - from Luke 23:35-43 -

Lk 23:35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”

Lk 23:36 The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar

Lk 23:37 and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”

Lk 23:38 There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Lk 23:39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

Lk 23:40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?

Lk 23:41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Lk 23:42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’”

Lk 23:43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

"Near" is a relative term - that's what I proposed earlier.

Time - that's one of our dimensions - along with length, width and height.

But God - He's outside of our dimensions - including outside of time.

This thief on the cross - he was told by Jesus that he'd be in paradise "today".
soon -
not before too long -

Not convinced?

How's this - from Matthew 17:1-4 -

The Transfiguration

Mt 17:1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

Mt 17:2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

Mt 17:3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Mt 17:4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Jesus with Elijiah and Moses.
Not some time in the future - then and there -
a couple thousand years ago. already happened.

In Matthew 24 - when Jesus talked about the Signs of the End of the Age -
yes - He spoke about signs - He also told us why He gave those signs -

Mt 24:25 See, I have told you ahead of time.

Mt 24:26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.

Mt 24:27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

They weren't a prediction for us to determine when / how / where it would happen.
No - it was a warning to not be deceived. - there will be a Second Coming -
but -
for those of us who aren't alive when that happens - believe these are also words to hear and understand and take heed of.

Let's look at Revelation 1:3 again -

Rev 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

It doesn't say anything about blessed are those who are alive when the end comes - it says blessed are they who read these words - who hear these words - who take these words to heart. Because the time is near.

Yes - it's for all of us.
Because our time is near - it's at the end of our lives.
The really fascinating part - if we join God after this life ends - and He is outside of time - what does that mean for us?

I used to wonder - how can that thief on the cross next to Jesus be in paradise with Him that very day?
The judgment isn't coming until the end.
It just didn't make any sense.
But - if time only applies to life in our dimension(s) -
that could happen -
he could be with Jesus that very day.
And we could be with Jesus immediately upon our death -
not after waiting until some future time when the end comes -
but right away.

Rev 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Outside of time - time as we know it -
in God's time -
anything is possible.

The end for us could come at any moment.

The end of the age could come at any moment.

The Second Coming of Jesus could happen at any moment.

In any case - it's the end.

Does it really matter which comes first - in our definition of time as we know it?

No matter which happens first - we have a decision to make.

In any case - the Words apply.

Are we approaching the end - The "end times" -- the end of our time on this earth?

The simple answer - yes.

Every second we get that much closer - to both of them.

The simple question - are we ready?

Will we hear

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”