Saturday, April 30, 2011

Eschatology - living on the edge of time!

On my last post, I mentioned that the study of eschatology had led me into the study of our Jewish roots.  So, just for fun, I think I will elaborate a bit on how that happened and what I learned.

I had been a Christian for a few years when the Left Behind series came out.  Having never studied the end times prior to that, I simply took them as a fictionalized account of the way things were going to be.  It didn't occur to me to question their theology right away, until a pastor encouraged me to do so (without giving me his own viewpoint).

As I started digging,  I began to see that things did not seem to line up unless I did some "scriptural gymnastics."  I kept studying.  There are SO MANY verses in scripture regarding the end times (and almost as many viewpoints!), but I will try to be as brief as possible.

In Daniel chapter 9, the seventy weeks, or "sevens" (which is actually 70 seven-year periods) are foretold for God's people, to put an end to sin and usher in everlasting righteousness. Sixty-nine of them needed to pass until the time of Messiah (which they did), but then Messiah would be cut off and the city destroyed (which they were).  The seventieth week is yet to come - put off so that God can open up salvation to the whole world.  However, the seventieth week is portrayed in a variety of ways by the many different end-times viewpoints that exist today.

The Pre-Trib viewpoint of the Left Behind books has the church raptured away before the seventieth "week" begins.  It also believes that the entire seventieth week is The Day of the Lord, which includes the persecution of the saints by the Antichrist.  The viewpoint states that many will come to faith during this time, in order to fulfill Revelation 12:17, when the dragon (antichrist) makes war with those who follow Jesus Christ.

Here was my first problem.  Scripture says that during this time of great tribulation, many will fall away (2 Thes 2:3) and the love of most will grow cold (Matt 24:12).  I don't see anywhere in scripture that many will come to faith AFTER all the Christians are raptured away.  Quite the opposite.  It seems to me like the Lord is preparing His bride during this time, refining her and making her ready (Daniel 12:10).

Another problem that came up for me was this.  If the whole seven years is the Day of the Lord, then what about these references? 

Joel 2:31 - The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

Matthew 24:29-30 - "Immediately after the distress of those days 'the sun will be darkened,  and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.'  At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory"

Acts 2:20 - The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

These references show the sign of the darkening of the sun and moon happening just before the Day of the Lord begins and ushers in His return.  But in Revelation, it doesn't happen until after the sixth seal.

Revelation 6:12 - I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.

So what are these seals in Revelation?  They are the seals on a scroll.  Only the Lamb is worthy to open these seven seals on the scroll, and one by one as they are opened, the earth experiences wars, rumors of wars, famine, tribulation - everything that is outlined in Matthew 24.  After the sixth seal is opened, suddenly there are many in heaven from every tribe, tongue, and nation.  Scripture tells us that these are they that came out of the great tribulation.  (Rev 7:14)/  Again, this mirrors Matthew 24, where the elect are gathered from the four corners of the earth.  There is a great silence in heaven:  the wrath of God is about to be poured out on the earth.
Believers are told that we are not destined for wrath - see 1 Thess 1:10, 1 Thess 5:9.  But whose wrath?  God's!  God's wrath and satan's persecution of believers are two different things, but both are a part of Daniel's seventieth week.   Persecution of believers has gone on for millenia.  Why would we suddenly not be subject to that anymore?  Have you read Foxe's Book of Martyrs?  Are you familiar with Voice of the Martyrs?

The scroll represents the Day of the Lord - His second return to earth - and the wrath of God, to be poured out on a wicked and unrepentant earth.  As the seals are opened before the opening of the scroll, the earth is being prepared for His final return, as outlined in Matthew 24 and Revelation 6 (among other places).

So yes, I believe there will be a "rapture" (a word not found in scripture), or a gathering of the believers from the earth, before God's wrath is poured out.  But it won't be in secret.  And it won't happen before the seals are opened - with wars, famine, and persecution by the antichrist.  It will be ushering in the Great and Awesome Day of the Lord.  And we can know with certainty that the time is near!  Watch for my next post.

No comments:

Post a Comment