If you spend much time reading the parts of the Bible having to do with the end times, it’s easy to assume you are living in the last days.
You may be. We will only know in hindsight, but what’s interesting is that every generation of Christians since Jesus ascended to Heaven has believed He would return before their death. My great grandfather believed with all his heart Jesus would return while he was alive because in his opinion sin was rampant, there were wars and rumors and wars, and the government was assigning social security numbers.
My grandfather felt the same way, especially when ATM Debit cards came out. My dad believes it too; he will often say, “The Lord is coming soon.” My grandfather and dad are still alive so they may be right, I’m not making light of their convictions, they’ve been right about most other things, so I probably shouldn’t doubt them. But it does bring up an interesting point, that we tend to assume whatever is happening to us is most important; we assume that our experience is always the most credible experience. In our view, sin has never been more prevalent, and nations have never been more unsteady, but I’m not so sure that’s true. A quick review of history tells some pretty awful stories.
During Bible times they used to castrate people regularly. They would take people into full stadiums and have lions eat them alive while people cheered. Our society has lived through slavery and racism so disgusting that it makes you sick, the Holocaust, and priests abusing children, just to name a few. In the middle of what feels like a decaying society, it’s easy to believe it’s never been worse, but when we suggest God must respond now because of current events, we’re suggesting slavery, Jim Crow, the Holocaust, and child abuse weren’t enough to get God’s attention. But now that Gay people can get a marriage license, or you’re allowed to say “God D*$#%” on TV, God has reached his breaking point.
Sin has been around since the beginning, and it’s always figured out ways to destroy people’s lives, but maybe the only difference now is we consume so much media and information we’re more aware of it. I’m not saying it’s not bad; I’m just saying sin has always been bad. But Jesus has always been good, and God is never losing, ever.
When the loudest voices are screaming “doom and gloom” it is easy to lose hope and assume God is losing and evil is winning. Accidentally, we paint a picture that God is reacting because He is losing market share. But when the disciples wanted to know when and what the end of the world would look like, Jesus made sure to add three very important words
And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic.
I refuse to live in fear, and I refuse to spread fear. Jesus is the hope of the world, and his transforming Hope is changing my life more and more every day. Let me give you three things that help me keep a clear head and block out the noise and confusion of prognosticators. Keep these three things in mind the next time someone is using the Bible to predict the end of the world or the return of Christ.
1. The Bible was written for instruction, not decoding
Every few years someone will claim to have found a code that reveals the “secrets of the Bible.” Even I have to admit sometimes some of the dots connect, but always remember God gave us the Bible for instruction
2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
Keep in mind the people who were considered experts at interpreting prophecies and “codes,” assumed they knew exactly when and how Jesus would arrive the first time, and they missed him. I’m confident if we as Christians will read Jesus’s words every day and try our best to do what He says, we will change the world, and never need a secret code key to find the “deeper” meaning.
2. Nobody knows when Jesus will return.
It never ceases to amaze me how we can study the Bible, read between the lines, and search for hidden meaning while skipping right past the literal words of Jesus.
“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.
According to Jesus, He doesn’t even know when He is returning, only God knows. If Jesus doesn’t know, I’m going to assume anyone who claims to know is confused. Keep in mind, every prediction about the Lords return has been wrong.
3. Bible prophecies quoted from the Old Testament are about Israel, not America
It’s easy to read a verse from Isaiah or Jeremiah and assume God is talking about America. When we read a verse like, “What sorrow awaits the unjust judges and those who issue unfair laws…. What will you do when I punish you when I send disaster upon you from a distant land?” it’s easy to assume God is talking about something that happened recently in our country, but He is not.
The Bible is not about America it’s about Israel. As a matter of fact, the USA is not mentioned anywhere in any scripture or prophecy in the Bible. Some people will tell you there are statements that could insinuate America, but they are making a best guess. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn through symbolic interpretation. There are things we can learn from the patterns of other nations, but anytime someone uses a verse from the Bible to suggest it’s a prediction for America they are confused or stretching.
But what if I’m wrong?
“But what if you’re wrong Jason?“ Ok, let’s assume for a moment I’m wrong. I guess I will see you in heaven. The best news would be that Jesus is returning, and we are going to be with Him for eternity. But there is no reason to fear either way. It alway surprises me when people who claim to want Jesus to return become angry when the events setting up his return occur.
Never forget “doom and gloom“ is a profitable business, and someone will always be around to capitalize on people’s fears. As a general rule of thumb, if someone is becoming wealthy from prophecy, I ignore them and move on.
I came across an old story a few years ago, while reading, that has stayed with me. It’s a Zen story used for teaching philosophy, but I think it applies to where we find ourselves currently.
There was an old with a small farm in China many years ago. He had one son, who did most of the work on the farm and a neighbor, himself old with a son.
One day the old man’s horse ran off, and the neighbor, seeing this, said, “how
terrible, your horse has run off, now work on your farm will be so difficult.”
To this the old man replied, “maybe good, maybe bad, we’ll see.”
The next day the old man’s horse returned leading a group of wild horses, and
the neighbor, seeing this, said, “how wonderful! You have many horses, now you
have great wealth and may live easily.” To this the old man replied, “maybe
good, maybe bad, we’ll see.”
The next day the old man’s son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke
his leg, and the neighbor, seeing this, said, “how terrible, your son has
broken his leg, now your work will be doubled as nurse and farmer.” To this
the old man replied, “maybe good, maybe bad, we’ll see.”
The next day the king’s men came to the farms seeking all able men to fight a
distant battle, and the neighbor, sobbing as his son marched off, said: “how
fortunate you are for having an injured son, mine will surely perish.” To this
the old man replied, “maybe good, maybe bad, we’ll see.”