This week Shelly dropped me an email and asked if I was afraid of the Revelation happening in my lifetime. I’m not sure that the reading public is much interested in my personal fears or not, but Shelly does raise a good question. Is there any cause to fear the end-time’s and all those prophesies related to those years?
The popularity of Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind book series along with the release of the movie by the same name has generated the most excitement about the rapture and the end-time’s since Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet Earth. Both LaHaye and Lindsey have used the gamut of apocalyptic literature from the scriptures to ply their respective trades. Lindsey tried to show the end was near, while LeHaye writes compelling novels about those same years—whenever they may happen.
There have been many, many scholars much brighter than I who have spent much of their lives studying this very problem, and the notion that we’ll answer all the related questions in this column would be ridiculous. However, we can do something, so let’s just touch the highlights.
First, the end-time’s in the Bible have myriad events associated with it, and placing them in some order has been enigmatic at best. For instance, there’s the rapture where all of those called by Jesus are spirited away to heaven. There are the appearances of false prophets who perform spectacular miracles and charm the world. There’s a period of terrible tribulations and troubles. Then there’s the emergence of the anti-Christ and the Beast. And let’s not forget the mark of the Beast which is a key element in most end-times accounts (even though it only amounts to a total of three verses). Many include a 1,000 year reign of Christ upon the earth followed by a reign of terror with the release of Satan and his minions. And although there are several other associated events, the one event that seems to be prominent at the end of every end-time’s account, Christian and non-Christian, is the judgment of the world before the throne of God.
Second, the end-time’s have been spoken of for at least two-and-a-half millennia. In the Old Testament Ezekiel, Amos and Joel all refer to the “Day of the Lord,” a common euphemism for the end times. During Jesus’ life, the end times were apparently quite a topic of conversation. Repeatedly, Jesus was asked about what the signs would be for the end. His answers were always enigmatic, ranging from “It’s not for you to know” (Acts 1.7), to be ready because the day is coming so “don’t be so blind, look at the signs that are all around you” (Luke 12). Later, when Paul first began to write his letters to the churches, there was an apparent expectation that the end-times would arrive before the end of their generation (1 Thessalonians 4.15), but Peter reminded his readers that the end times might be in the distant future, for “With the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day” (2 Peter3.8).
So, what does all that information tell us? Well, for one it shows that the dating of the end-times are up in the air—predictions of when it’s all going to happen have been made since years before Christ. Which brings us back to Shelly’s question about whether or not we should fear, or even be concerned about those times.
Tim LaHaye, and many like him, are of the “pre-millennial” school or thought. The pre-millennialists believe that the end times will begin when our society goes from bad to worse and more worse and even worser (okay, it’s not a word, but you get the picture). Only when the world is in such a state will the end times begin, the opening of which is Jesus’ second coming and the rapture of all his followers. Then, and only then, will all the terrible judgments recorded in the book of the Revelation take place, and these only on a faithless world. Now, if LaHaye and those who believe as he does are right, then the faithful have nothing to worry about.
On the other hand, what if the a-millennialists or the post-millennialists are right? The a-millennialists believe Jesus’ second coming, which marks the beginning of the end, may come at any moment—with no warning. Society doesn’t have to get any worse, and Jesus might come even if the world got better. What then? Well, again, the faithful are safe, since they are raptured before it all begins. The post-millennialists believe the world is going to get better and better and better and then Jesus will come. I like their theory, because I hope the world gets better, but again, the faithful are going to be okay.
The bottom line is this—those who are faithful
are going to be okay no matter what—whether
the rapture comes billions and billions of years
from now or before you finish reading this column. The
bottom line is this: We don’t know what the
future holds, but we do know that God’s promised
to be faithful to those who are faithful. And
personally, that’s enough for me.