I already anticipate some of the mean-spirited, nasty e-mails and similar responses I will receive about this issue of The Traveler. I read all responses I receive each month, but I throw away all the mean, nasty ones after I read them. And I honestly appreciate those types of responses, as well as the positive and encouraging ones we receive each month.
It’s okay to send either type of response. If my thousands of readers all agreed with me, I would seriously question my own teachings about the Bible and related subjects. The main subject of this issue (and maybe the next couple of issues) is very controversial, and I don’t expect all my readers to agree with me. Just don’t make your negative comments mean-spirited and nasty or drive by my home and shoot out my windows. Maybe we can simply agree to disagree; that would be the civil way to handle disagreements, wouldn’t it?
Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Here we go . . .
Recently, in a local bookstore I picked up a popular, best-selling Christian book just to glance through it. The very first sentence in the book begins with these words: “No one can reasonably doubt we are living in the last days just before the Lord returns . . . .” The author went on to enumerate all the reasons why we can “know” for certain that Jesus will return soon because these are beyond doubt the “last days.” I immediately thought of all the other authors and preachers who have written and taught—for 200 years or more!—that Jesus would return during their times. They, too, enumerated all the reasons why Jesus would return “soon,” usually in their own lifetimes. For example, a preacher “proved” to his followers that Jesus would return in 1844. And then again during the American Civil War in the 1860’s.
There are more. Many people taught and wrote that Jesus would return in 1914 because of World War I. Then again in the 1940’s during World War II. How many of you remember the preacher who “proved” Jesus would return in 1988? How about those who taught Jesus would return in 2008? Interestingly, in 2009 one preacher’s books were still selling—even after Jesus failed to return in 2008 when the author claimed He would!
How about the well-known television preacher in Texas who has all the huge, amazing charts behind him onstage he uses to “prove” conclusively that the “Great Tribulation” will begin any day now. I’m beginning to write the first rough draft of this issue of The Traveler in September 2014. Maybe the “last days” will burst upon us before I finish writing it. Maybe the antichrist will begin to rule the world before I can send it to you in February 2015. Or not . . . .
Jesus Will Return
Do you get the picture? Up until approximately the year 1800, relatively few preachers, teachers, and authors taught that Jesus would return soon; there were some—not many—who taught Jesus’ soon return for the first 1800 years of church history. Oh, people have known for 2,000+ years that Jesus will return—because He promised He will! But before approximately the year 1800 very few people set dates for his return as they’ve been doing for the past 200 years or so.
How about you? Have you been fooled into believing that Jesus will return on a certain date or in a certain year? Have you been misled about Jesus’ soon return by some well-meaning person because they claim they’re the only one who has figured out some sort of mysterious timeline or secret “code” in the Bible? Or because they have an intricate set of timeline charts “proving” Jesus will return soon.
Don’t misunderstand me. The Bible clearly teaches Jesus will return to earth to establish his Kingdom . . . but no human being knows when that will be! Have you personally every really studied what the Bible teaches about the end times? I didn’t ask if you’ve ever studied what your Pastor or television preachers or other writers teach about such matters.
I asked: Have YOU studied for yourself what the Bible teaches about the last days? Honestly now, just between you, me, and God . . . where have you learned most of your views about end times and last days? From others . . . or from your own study of the Bible?
In this issue of The Traveler I will share with you what I have studied for myself about the last days. But, please, please, don’t merely read what I write. Please, please check me out; look up any biblical references for yourself. Do your own studies. I’m as human as any other teacher of the Bible, and I’ve made many mistakes through the years I’ve been teaching the Bible and related subjects. So . . . just use what I write as sort of an outline or as a foundation for your own studies; otherwise, you’ve just read one more person’s views—mine—about this subject. You must study end time biblical subjects on your own; if not, then I’ve failed what I want to do in this issue: get you to study the subjects for yourself.
There are many words, word combinations, and phrases throughout the Bible about the end: “last days,” “fullness of time,” “end of days,” “latter days,” “time of the end,” “Day of the LORD,” and other similar ones. All of these taken together clearly teach one fact: some day there will be an end to life on earth as we presently know it. When and how that end will occur has stirred much controversy, wrangling, and arguing for over 200 years.
So . . . if you believe the Bible is God’s written Word to all humanity, you really shouldn’t have any doubt that Jesus will return to establish his earthly Kingdom; the only disagreement between Bible believers is when He will return and the events leading up to and surrounding his return. The first thing you must understand is that most of what many people have come to believe about the end times comes from the Book of Revelation, the last book in the format of the Bible.
That being the case, it’s important that you know when the Book of Revelation was written, why, and to whom. For many centuries, Bible students understood Revelation was written around 65 or 66 A.D. That changed, however, a couple of hundred years ago when for various reasons Bible teachers began to teach that Revelation was written later—around 90 – 95 A.D. I won’t go into the reasons that date change happened; you can check out those reasons for yourself. Within the last few years, however, a number of well-known teachers and Bible students are returning to the view that Revelation was written about 65 or 66 A.D. Later, I’ll explain why those dates are important.
One more point about the Book of Revelation: recently, many people have claimed they have discovered various “keys” to the book—mysterious keys that unlock Revelation to prove their specific teachings. The only “key” to the Book of Revelation is the Old Testament portion of the Bible! The only way to understand Revelation is to return again and again to the Old Testament; it’s the only way to make sense of the Book of Revelation. There are no mysterious keys other than the Old Testament to which the Book of Revelation refers approximately 400 times, either directly or indirectly.
Keep in Mind
Keep in mind the entire Bible was written mostly by Israelites (also called Jews or Hebrews at various times). And . . . it was written to Israelites for the most part. Although written primarily to Israelites, its overall message is that God loves all humanity, both Israelites and non-Israelites (Gentiles), including both groups of people equally in what God has done for all humanity through Jesus. Thus, it can be said the Bible is largely a Jewish book, but includes Gentiles. Why is it important to know that? Because when the Bible teaches about the last days, it applies primarily to the last days of the Jews, climaxing in 70 – 72 A.D. when their Temple in Jerusalem and all Temple worship was destroyed.
To the Israelites of Jesus’ times, their last days ended in 72 A.D.! And those last days are—for the most part—the last days written about in the Bible. We are not now living in humanity’s last days. Jesus and his early followers lived in the last days—of the Jewish people—2,000 years ago!
Here’s just one example among many: the “Great Tribulation” isn’t something yet to come in the future. Rather, to the Jews living in Israel at the time, the real Great Tribulation occurred for seven years from 66 to 72 A.D. That can be readily verified simply from a historical perspective if one wants to take the time and effort to do the necessary historical research. For your historical research, one book I highly recommend for starters is a book by David Chilton entitled Days of Vengeance. I don’t agree with a lot written in that book, but it’s a good book to begin studying this subject. A real “eye opener.”
Continued next month
“What we know is that when Jesus returns, we’ll see Him—and in seeing Him, become like Him. All of us who look forward to his coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus’ life as a model for our own.” –1 John 3: 2 and 3
“Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy [wholesome] life? Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival.” –2 Peter 3: 11
To Think About This Month
“Thy Kingdom Come . . . .”
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Revised and Updated November 2020