KEEPING OUR COOL AT THE END OF THE WORLD
“See to it that no one misleads you!”
I read it and groaned. Some poor soul, in anticipation of Christ’s return on May 21, withdrew his entire life savings and poured it into signage warning his neighbors of Judgment Day and the end of the world. Thankfully, he will live to regret it. God willing, he will live to learn from it, as well.
Why do so many saints fall for this kind of thing? You will reply, “Because they don’t take seriously Christ’s admonition that no one knows the day or the hour of his return” (Mark 13:32).
True enough. But actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that. That’s because for nearly a hundred years much of the Evangelical world has taken its eschatological cues from Dispensationalism, a system of theology that teaches that Christ will return not once, but three times: first, at the secret Rapture, when he removes his Church to heaven; second, at his Coming in visible glory seven years later, at the end of the Tribulation; and third, at the end of the Millennium, where he arises to the Last Judgment. (If your head is already spinning, learn from it: Does Jesus really want sheep with spinning heads?)
Now, please pay close attention. Dispensationalists say, “Yes, Christ and the apostles gave us lots of signs, signs by which the Tribulation saints can know that his Coming is near. But there are no signs to indicate the Rapture. It is ‘imminent.’ It could happen at any moment, without warning. For again, Christ gave us no signs by which to discern the nearness of the Rapture, only to discern the nearness of his Coming.”
Do you see how this plays into the hands of the date-setters? People get to thinking, “Yes, we cannot know the day or hour of Christ’s Coming, but maybe God has tucked away a secret code in the Bible, a code that some anointed end-time prophetic expert will crack, and so grace us with the knowledge of the day and hour of the Rapture.”
What I am saying is that the Dispensational eschatology is a fertile soil for deception; that it makes the saints vulnerable to every wind of eschatological doctrine, thereby exposing them—and the reputation of the Church—to serious loss.
But what if the classical Catholic and Protestant eschatology is true? What if the Bible teaches that Christ is going to come again ONCE at the end of the present evil age, to raise the dead, transform the living, judge the world in righteousness, and create new heavens and a new earth, the eternal home of the redeemed?
And what if Christ and his apostles have graciously given us a number of clear signs by which we can know, with absolute certainty, not the day or hour of his Coming, but that his coming is indeed at hand, even at the door? What a boon that would be! Then we could keep our eschatological cool right up to end of the world!
Well, check out 2 Thessalonians 2. The Thessalonians were going through precisely the same thing Mr. Camping’s followers are today. With regard to the Coming of Christ they had been quickly shaken from their composure, whether by a (demonic) spirit, a (prophetic) message, or a (phony) letter as if from the apostles, to the effect that the Day of the Lord had come (2:2).
So what was Paul’s antidote to the poison working its way through the Thessalonian system? In a word: SIGNS! He reminded them again of certain signs that HAD to occur before Christ would come; signs that would signal that his Coming really was near. And please note: In all this he did nothing more or less than what his Master done, carefully teaching the flock about the signs of the end, so that when things in the world got rough or spooky or tricky or hysterical, they would be well able to keep their cool (Mt. 24).
How I wish that the dear brother who cashed out his life savings had given me a call first. I would have said, “Dude, COMPOSE yourself! The Lord told us that he is coming back ONCE, and that before he does, certain key things HAVE to happen: The gospel must be preached to all nations (Mt. 24); the great mass of Jews must repent and turn in faith to their Messiah (Romans 11); a personal Antichrist must arise, and lead the entire world-system in a final battle against the Church (2 Thessalonians 2, Revelation 11, 19, 20). Have all those things happened? If not, put your money back in the bank. Better yet, dedicate a chunk of it to world missions.”
Saints of God, we have a good Shepherd. He leads his sheep beside still waters. He teaches them carefully, so that they will be calm, cool, and composed, even amidst the terrible tumults of the end times.
So then, in these last of the last days shall we not follow him?