So, What About the End of the World?
Every generation of Christians since the time of Christ have thought that they were the Last Generation. Of course, one day, some one will guess right. The main danger when talking about the return of Christ is trying to force current events into possible Biblical prophecies. An example of this type of thinking was Hal Lindsey's 1970 bestseller, The Late Great Planet Earth. This book sold over 32 million copies and outsold all other books in the decade of the 70's. In this entertaining book, Lindsey examined current events through the lenses of Scripture. He predicted that Christ would return in the decade of the 80's but stopped short of setting a date. Lindsey still preaches, teaches, and writes about Christ's imminent return.
What can we know about Christ's return and the End of the Age? The New Testament does teach that Jesus will return and that His return will signal the end of this age and will usher us into eternity. There are many Scriptures that mention Christ's return. Here are a couple of examples. In Matthew 24, Jesus spoke extensively about His return. One of the things that He said was, "Just so, when you see the events I've described beginning to happen, you can know his return is very near, right at the door." (Matthew 24:33)
After Jesus had ascended back to heaven, an angel appeared to the disciples and said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. And someday, just as you saw him go, he will return!" (Acts 1:11) The Apostle Paul spoke about Christ's return in several of his letters. One example is from 1 Thessalonians 4:16: "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves." There are many other references to the return of Jesus throughout the New Testament.
There are several different schools of thought on the End Times. There is no common theology that all Christians hold to in regards to eschatology. It is important to have at least a basic knowledge of different views because they shape how their practitioners understand Biblical Prophecy. The most popular end times theology is the Dispensational Premillennial theory. This is the view that was made popular in the best selling Left Behind series of books. This view teaches that we are currently living in the Dispensation of the Church Age. At the end of this time period, Jesus will come back for His Church and will take them to Heaven. This event is called the "Rapture."
The proponents of this view believe that the rapture could come at any time. Those who are left on the earth will endure "The Great Tribulation" for seven years. It is during this time that the Anti-Christ will rise and create a one-world government and that the Mark of the Beast will be instituted. At the end of the seven year tribulation, Jesus and His followers will come back to earth, defeat Satan and Christ will set up His Kingdom for a period of a thousand years. This is the "millennium" that is referred to in Revelation 20. At the end of this thousand years, there will be the final judgment and God's Kingdom will be permanently established on a new earth. The Dispensational Premillennial theory has only been around for a little over a hundred years.
Another end times theory is the Historic Premillennial view. This has been the traditional view that most Christians have held to throughout Church History. This view understands that the Last Days were inaugurated with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Since that time, history has been steadily moving towards its culmination. The Historic Premillennialists believe that the Church will endure all of The Great Tribulation and that at the end of that time, Christ will return and set up His Kingdom for a thousand years. In this, their belief is very similar to the Dispensational Premillennialists. At the end of the thousand years, there will be the final judgment and the establishment of God's eternal Kingdom on earth. For more information on these two views, as well as others, check out this helpful website.
To be continued...
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