There seems to be renewed interest in what’s called ‘end times’ prophecy of late. One website I visit regularly has made almost a cottage industry out of it. Their bookstore is full of volumes written about blood moons, Old Testament prophecies as applied to modern day America, and interpretations of every natural and man-made disaster as proof we are living in the end times as written in Scripture.
I’ll be honest: I’ve never concerned myself with end times prophecies, signs, or warnings. I’ve seen people get themselves worked into a frenzy both pro and con, arguing vehemently that their interpretation is the true one. They insist with holy fervor that you must either be “fer” it or “agin” it; there is no place for agnostics in their thinking. Those who support the teaching usually tie the prophecies in the book of Daniel to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 (probably the most extensive in the Gospels) and the book of Revelation, with a little personal interpretation thrown in for good measure.
I prefer the position of a brother I once heard say something like this: when Jesus returns, if he establishes an earthly kingdom, I’ll go to my premillennialist friend and say, “Hey, you were right”. I don’t see belief for or against the teaching as a salvation issue, except in one very crucial point. It may be so crucial as to cause the whole thing to collapse.
Those who follow end times prophecy tend to emphasize the first sections of Matthew 24 referring to signs, the great tribulation, and the cosmic signs accompanying the return of Christ. I contend the more important content begins in verse 36 and continues through the next chapter. Jesus begins in verse 36 saying this:
“Now concerning that day and hour no one knows- neither the angels of heaven nor the Son- except the Father alone. As the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be.”
He tells how mankind was engaged in their everyday activities, despite Noah warning them of coming calamity for a hundred years. They watched him build the ark; most probably scoffed and mocked him. The Bible doesn’t specifically state that Noah tried to warn them, but they had to notice what he was doing and would have at least asked about it- or should have.
Jesus continues with examples and parables that all emphasize the same thought: you need to be watching continuously and you need to be ready. Mark 13:33 is more emphatic: “Watch! Be alert! For you don’t know when the time is coming!“. Christ’s disciples shouldn’t need any signs to be ready for his return. We should expect it at any moment, and conduct ourselves accordingly. Matthew 24:46 says, “Blessed is that servant whom the master finds doing his job when he comes.” The parable of the Ten Virgins and the Parable of the Talents illustrate this. As disciples, we’ve been given a task to do until the Lord returns for us. There is no time limit attached: we must be busy attending to our job with the expectation that the boss may walk in at any moment.
That’s my disagreement with the premillennial viewpoint. According to the teaching, Jesus will return and set up an earthly kingdom for a thousand years. During that time, those still living will be given a second chance to believe, repent, and be saved. In particular, the nation of Israel will turn and be converted to Christ before final judgment is rendered. I find it troubling because as an interpretation of scripture it takes the urgency away from obedience to Christ and the need for spreading the Gospel. When placed beside other teachings of the Bible it seems almost contradictory.
Times and events should have no effect on the follower of Christ. Those who concern themselves with the signs of the end times have existed in every generation. There have been wars and rumors of wars, false Messiahs, famines and earthquakes throughout history. Some probably thought World War I was the Armageddon of the Bible. Some no doubt thought Hitler’s rise to power was the appearance of the Antichrist. “Prophets” have been predicting the date of Christ’s return for decades, if not centuries.
The bigger issue is this: if I am a blood-bought servant of Christ, or especially if I’m not, am I ready for his return today, this hour, this minute? Am I engaged in my master’s business, or am I killing time in my own pursuits because the “signs” aren’t right? We need to always have the mindset that our lives and this world could end at any moment. We need to have an immediacy about us and our mission. Don’t let yourself be distracted by speculations and predictions; the Bible tells us only God knows when it will all end. Be ready, and be about your Father’s business.