Today is my 30th birthday. As I sit starring out at the clouds that seem to float faster than usual, I can’t help but remember that while I sit here relaxing, Christians around the world are worried that Jesus is coming back in two short days, on September 23.
For at least the past 5 years, pastors and people in the prophecy community have been counting down to this date. First it was the tetrad blood moons in 2015 which would definitely be the hallmark of Jesus’ return, despite the fact that these tetrads aren’t rare.
As those dates came and went, other heavenly “signs” were supposed proof that Jesus’ return is imminent. Now with the August eclipse, the multitude of hurricanes (during hurricane season) and North Korea, an enemy the US has been engaged with for more than 50 years, these are supposed to be the obvious hallmarks of Jesus’ return.
It frustrates me because the Bible is clear:
“6 You’ll begin to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See to it that you don’t panic. These things must take place, but the end won’t have come yet, 7 because nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 But all these things are only a beginning of agonies.” – Matthew 24:6-8 ISV
While of course some claim that this was only speaking of the destruction of the 2nd Jewish Temple in 70AD, we see that the Roman campaign wasn’t known for “famines and earthquakes in various places.” Likewise, the 2nd coming of Jesus won’t simply come because of war and natural disasters.
It seems as if the pre-tribulation crowd, the most common theology in Western Christianity, has simply forgotten the other things that must happen before Jesus’ return.
“9 “Then they’ll hand you over to suffer and will kill you, and you’ll be hated by all the nations on account of my name. 10 Then many people will fall away, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people, 12 and because lawlessness will increase, the love of many people will grow cold. 13 But the person who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the inhabited world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” – Matthew 24:9-14 ISV
While outside of the Western world, Christians face severe persecution, in Israel, Europe, most of North and South America, Australia, Russia, South Korea, the Philippines and South Africa, Christians are able to practice their religion as one of the majority faiths in their countries. We haven’t reached the point where Christians are hated by ALL nations. Christian families aren’t betraying each other as members of their family fall away from the faith. Likewise, there are major areas of the world where the Gospel hasn’t been proclaimed, such as the countries strangled by Islam and/or communism.
“15 So when you see the destructive desecration, mentioned by the prophet Daniel, standing in the Holy Place (let the reader take note), 16 then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. 17 Anyone who’s on the housetop must not come down to get what is in his house,18 and anyone who’s in the field must not turn back to get his coat.
19 “How terrible it will be for women who are pregnant or who are nursing babies in those days! 20 Pray that it may not be in winter or on a Sabbath when you flee, 21 because at that time there will be great suffering, the kind that hasn’t happened from the beginning of the world until now and certainly won’t ever happen again. 22 If those days hadn’t been shortened, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened.”
Has the 3rd Jewish Temple been rebuilt where there’s a possibility that a desecration in the Holy Place could even take place? Have those in Judea fled? Have Sabbath laws become the law of the land, so the city gates will trap believers inside the city of Jerusalem, when it’s time to flee? NO!
Too many churches erroneously teach that Christians won’t face hard times and Jesus will rapture us before things on earth get tough. The Bible teaches us otherwise. Throughout the Bible, both men and women of God faced trials, tribulation, uncertainty, yet God still had His hand over them. So while they had to go through hard times, they were never alone. Likewise, when we face trials and tribulations as Jesus’ return comes nearer, we can be confident that while God won’t remove these trials, He will be with us always. We will never face these persecutions alone. God will remember us as He cuts those trying days short.
Churches are doing a great disservice by teaching the erroneous doctrine of pre-tribulation rapture and devoting countless hours to working out the days or the times of Christ’s return. When people aren’t raptured and rather face persecution, the Church will experience the “great falling away” and the Church will have no one to blame but themselves.
It’s easy to hold people’s attention when you play into their fears – and their hopes – that Jesus will return on X date. It’s difficult to hold people’s attention when you tell them about the trials they’ll face and how they will need to hold fast to their faith. It’s hard to teach others about who Jesus is and how to defend their faith when most people want simple, inoffensive, non-committal answers. People want to feel safe without having to do anything, which… well, that’s not how God works. We’ll have to give up everything to follow Jesus – and that’s not always simple, inoffensive and it definitely requires commitment.
While the world may seem like a scary place, and the teachings of those who try to predict, to the day, of Jesus’ return may feel comforting, it’s important to remember that we can be strong in our weaknesses because Jesus is with us. We don’t need to be afraid. We don’t need to put our trust in bad theology. God has given us the tools to bravely stand up for our faith, even unto death. We can face this coming storm boldly, because we know that Jesus is with us until the end.
Until the Temple is rebuilt, ignore these fruitless arguments concerning Jesus’ return. Instead, rest in Jesus’ finished work on the Cross and the knowledge that He is with you until the end.