Continued from last month
Last month we introduced the biblical subject of the “last days,” suggesting the real last days likely occurred 2,000 years ago during the lifetimes of Jesus and his early followers. Now, let’s examine some biblical references to support that suggestion. I’m not trying to push this view on you, merely asking you to check out some biblical references you may not have previously considered.
If the last days did occur during the first century A.D., where does that leave us who are alive 2,000 years later? Will life on this planet simply keep going on and on and on as it is? No! The next major event which will occur on God’s timetable will be Jesus’ return to earth to establish his Kingdom . . . as billions of people have prayed for centuries: “Thy Kingdom come . . . . The only differences from what many people believe is that Jesus’ return might not be surrounded by all sorts of calamities, plagues, wars, tribulations, mark of the beast, the antichrist, and the like. We have come to believe the Bible teaches those events occurred 2,000 years ago.
Bible Study Principles
Just as it’s true for any other type of literary studies of historical literature, there are certain basic “rules” or principles for studying the Bible. That includes rules or principles for studying what the Bible teaches about the last days or the end times. Here are just three of those many study principles that apply. First, study all the references on a given subject before arriving at a conclusion. Otherwise, you end up “finding” all sorts of “proof texts” to support what you’ve already made up your mind to believe. Second, let the Bible itself (not our own beliefs and theories) interpret itself. Third, Avoid building doctrines on unclear passages, and let clear teachings unlock the unclear. There are other “rules” for studying the Bible (or any other ancient literature, for that matter), but those are the three main rules for studying what the Bible teaches about the last days, as well as any other biblical theme.
Clean It Up!
Okay, here’s a very important point before we begin to dig around in the Bible to suggest what it might really teach about the last days: No matter your views about the end times, they should cause you to live a clean, wholesome life, according to 1 John 3: 2 and 3 and 2 Peter 3: 11 in the Bible. Yes, hold whatever end time views you’re convinced are the “correct” views, but whatever your views, they should cause you to lead a good and godly lifestyle. If not, then something is wrong with your views. Right now would be a good time to look up those two references for yourself and make up your own mind about what they say and what they mean. And, your search might lead you to other references about the same subject.
Too many people hold end time views they want to argue about and prove they’re right. If your views aren’t causing you to clean up your life in the light of Jesus’ return, then your views are skewed.
For example, I recently had a discussion with a person whom I know to be a disagreeable, ornery, mean-spirited, abusive person. He believes that what he understands about end times, last days, Jesus’ return, etc. is the absolute truth, and he will argue in a foul-mouthed way with anyone who disagrees with him. I asked him if his views about Jesus’ return help him to clean up his life and live in a godly manner; his response was another foul-mouthed tirade. So . . . whatever you believe about end times, they should cause you to live a clean and godly life; it not, then what good to you or anyone else are your end time views? Arguments about the last days don’t create light; they create heat. And most arguments are really about people wanting to get their own way!
Grab Your Bible
Let’s begin our study of Bible end times or the last days by first looking up some of the main references about the subject in the New Testament. Let’s begin, for example, by looking up all the references to “end times.” Surprise, surprise! There are no such references. Yes, the word “end” occurs numerous times, and the word “time” also occurs numerous times. But never together! The closest words to “end times” are a few occurrences of “last times,” “end of the age,” and the like—and in every occurrence it’s about the time people were living in when the phrase was written. For example, in 1 Peter 1: 20, we read that Jesus was made known to people in these last times—the times in which they were then living 2,000 years ago. (C’mon look up that reference for yourself . . . and all the context around it.)
There’s no way that such terms and phrases can be understood to mean times in the far distant future such as the times we live in. To those believers who lived shortly after Jesus’ return to heaven, they understood they were then living in the last times or the last days. I’ll explain that a little later in this study. Here’s another reference about the last days or end times. I encourage you to look up Acts 2: 17 – 21. The Apostle Peter is speaking in this reference. He is saying to his listeners that the events occurring in their lives that very day were in the last days as predicted by the Old Testament prophet Joel approximately 800 years earlier.
So . . . now we have 1 Peter 1: 20 and Acts 2: 17 – 21 referring to the last times, latter days, or end of the age happening then—not far off in the future. I’d like you to also look up 1 Corinthians 10: 11; 1 Timothy 4: 1; Hebrews 1: 2; and Hebrews 9: 26.
The first century readers of those references believed they were then living in the last days. If you doubt those were the last days during the times of Jesus and his early followers, well . . . you’ll just have to discuss your doubts with God. Again, almost all biblical and historical evidence points to the real biblical latter days occurring from the time of Jesus’ birth to approximately 72 A.D. We are not now living in the biblical last days. Instead, we are simply living in a time when we are awaiting Jesus’ return to earth to establish his Kingdom.
Yes, some day there will be the “last” days of human history as we presently know them, but they are not the biblical last days. We are simply living in a year labeled 2015, waiting for King Jesus to return to establish his Kingdom on earth. There will not be the antichrist, there will not be an Armageddon, there will not be the mark of the beast, not millions of people being slaughtered . . . no, none of those: only Jesus’ return! All those horrible events happened 2,000 years ago to the Jews and non-Jews living in the land of Israel. And, Jesus’ return will be a joyous event, when we will rise to meet Him in the air and then triumphantly return with Him to work with Him in establishing his Kingdom on earth.
The Book of Revelation
In the February issue of The Traveler, we introduced some thoughts about when, why, and to whom the Book of Revelation was written. We’ll expand a little on some of those thoughts without going into much detail because you can look up much of this information for yourself. I’m not going to attempt to explain the entire Book of Revelation. That would take an entire encyclopedia. Instead, I’ll just share with you my presentunderstanding and current awareness about the major divisions of Revelation. You can fill in all the details for yourself.
Evidence within the Book of Revelation itself and historical evidence clearly reveals it was written primarily to first century believers in Jesus. It includes both Jewish and non-Jewish believers as noted in the first three chapters. Those chapters were written to both Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus in 7 churches in present-day Turkey—people living then, not in the far off future. The first three chapters were written to strengthen and encourage them at that time.
Then, chapters 4 – 18 were written to tell the readers what would happen largely in the land of Israel from approximately 66 – 72 A.D. This was a period of great tribulation, mostly in the land of Israel, but touching upon other nations in that general part of the world. Only chapters 19 – 22 can honestly be said to be prophetic in the sense of what would happen in the far distant future after 72 A.D . . . maybe during our own times, our own “last days.” Again, don’t take my word about any of these statements I have made about the Book of Revelation. Check me out. Do some biblical and historical research on your own. I don’t have all the answers about the end times or last days.
You might be asking, “What about all I’ve read and been taught about ‘the antichrist,’ ‘the beast,’ the ‘mark of the beast,’ ‘the number 666,’ and similar matters?” All I can say is check these matters out for yourself. Hint: for example, the word “antichrist” never appears in the Book of Revelation! Okay, let’s bring all this last days information together in a practical way. If much about we’ve been taught about these matters has already happened, what do we do now?
First, let’s be optimistic, positive futurists, not negative pessimists cowering somewhere waiting for all sorts of bad things to occur. Life is not getting darker and darker on planet earth. God’s Light—Jesus—is dawning on earth’s horizon. Let’s realize we have a victorious future ahead of us through Jesus! Let’s encourage—not discourage—one another about the bright future God has in store for all of us. Let’s replace fear with faith. Let’s live good and godly lives while we eagerly await Jesus’ return. Let’s tell others the Good News about what God has done for us through Jesus. Let’s not live in a state of paralysis and inertia believing “the world is going to hell in a handbasket.” Let’s continue to do God’s work until Jesus comes. What a wonder-full day that will be!
To Think About This Month
“There is coming a day of no more heartaches. What a day, glorious day that will be!”
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Revised and Updated May 2019