Eschatology/End Times

By Dave Palcsak

When I converted to Christianity about fifteen years ago, consuming information about theology probably became too much of a passion for me. I think knowledge was more important to me than relationship with the Lord for a time. I don’t regret that or consider it a bad thing; my enthusiasm was misplaced but it was a part of my process of growth that is ongoing still. When you read multiple books about faith and watch hours of content on TV and the internet featuring debates between creationists and naturalists, along with many other topics, you will inevitably learn the word eschatology (the study of end times events). I certainly did. One of, if not, the most discussed aspects of eschatology is the Rapture; or the catching up of saints to Christ. The last days are also known as the Great Tribulation. The Rapture, most believe, occurs before or sometime during this Great Tribulation which will also encompass the arrival and reign of the Antichrist. Exactly when and how these events unfold is the source of much debate. How much fruit does the debate produce? The following is my take on that question.

The book of Revelation promises: “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keeps those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3). Such a promise is found in no other book of the Bible. I decided discovering “facts” about the end of this age was what Revelation 1:3 was prompting believers to do. I have since learned many times over that beginning any sentence regarding things of our Lord with, “I decided” will only lead me astray. It’s much better when I can say, “Our Lord showed me,” or even, “I believe the Lord gave me this.”

In my pursuit of knowledge, I came upon a show by a man who has since passed away named Grant Jeffries. I absolutely believe he was a dedicated servant of the Lord. I believe that still. Mr. Jeffries frequently spoke of eschatology. It’s been many years, but if memory serves, I think that was his main, if not, sole topic. Through Scripture, he “proved” that the ultimate Antichrist would come out of some form of Christianity in western Europe. His proof was unassailable because it was impeccably supported by Scripture. No way any serious Christian could refute him. Sometime after that, I came across the teaching of a brilliant scholar named Walid Shoebat. His testimony is incredible. He was an Islamic terrorist who came to Christ because he read and could not refute the Bible. He knows both the Bible and the Koran inside and out. He boldly proclaims the truth of the gospel despite the fact that there is an enormous bounty on his head for his “infidelity.” He is absolutely a servant of God and I have the utmost respect for him. Mr. Shoebat “proved” that the ultimate Antichrist (I say ultimate because according to Scripture the spirit of antichrist is now and has always been at work) would be a Muslim from the Middle East. Again, he made his case from Scripture, and it appeared to be iron clad. Had I heard Mr. Shoebat before I heard Mr. Jeffries, I would have been as convinced he was right as I was convinced that Mr. Jeffries was right. Can you see the sticky wicket? If one is correct that means the other is incorrect. Or maybe both are wrong?

My goal is not to impugn the integrity or sincerity of Mr. Shoebat or Mr. Jeffries. I have seen many so-called preachers who turn my stomach because of money-grubbing or other such offenses. I never perceived any nefarious motivation from either of these gentlemen. Mr. Shoebat has to move frequently to avoid assassination. If that doesn’t demonstrate absolute conviction, I don’t know what does. I honestly believe the takeaway here applies to how we look at any man, me included. I will never intentionally lead anyone astray. I’m certain this is the case for any true Christian because we believe what Jesus says in Matthew 18:6. But the only infallible Man to ever walk this earth was Jesus. That means the only relationship you can trust absolutely without question or reservation is the one with Him.

Whose end time views do I now support? I won’t even fully endorse my own. With that in mind, I do want to share thoughts I believe that have relevance. I’ll start by saying differing views of eschatology can lead to arguments which can lead to division. Always feel free to engage in any Biblical topic with any brother or sister who will not get offended. But mature Christians should never steamroll those less experienced in the faith. I also think it’s dangerous to teach folks that they will not suffer persecution because they will be removed from times of trouble by way of rapture. People are being martyred for their faith today in other parts of the world. Why do we think saints will never face that in America? The answer may be hubris. It certainly isn’t Biblical.

I believe specifics regarding the end of this age are hidden. The overview we have is of utmost importance; but timelines and charts many folks have created can skew our focus and our faith. I do know one fact about end times: Every saint who has walked this earth and passed to the next realm has had their “end time” without experiencing THE end time. Perhaps some who are reading this will be around for THE end time, perhaps not. To this point, every single individual who has made any prediction of any specific last day has been wrong. Why would anyone even try to predict such a thing?! “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Speculation and conjecture aren’t necessarily bad, but it is extremely problematic when they run counter to Scripture. I also don’t believe anyone is called to sit on the sidelines and wait to be raptured. This way of thinking is more prevalent than you may imagine. It stems from the belief that Christians will be taken up to meet Jesus before the period of Great Tribulation begins. I do not claim that everyone who believes in what is known as the “Pre-Trib Rapture” thinks this way, but it isn’t hard to see the comforting allure of this viewpoint.

Now, we are to recognize the times – and we see society abandoning God and morality declining at an unprecedented rate. Things are deteriorating at an alarming pace, and personally, I do think the end is near. But some folks from every generation all the way back to Jesus’ day believed the same thing. The only certainty is that we are now closer than ever. Does this mean my current belief is correct? Were those who believed the end was near in the first century wrong? To me, there is no simple answer to either question. Consider 1 John 2:18: “Little children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.” John wrote these words under the unction of the Holy Spirit in the first century. Was he somehow incorrect claiming it was the last hour way back then? As Christians, we know the Word of God can’t be wrong. Therefore, we need to expand our spiritual minds to try and understand what John meant. Could he be referring to “the last hour” as it pertained to folks of his day? Is it possible that he is speaking of time in the spiritual sense of relativity – “one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like one day” (2 Peter 3:8) – for example? Could it be about both or maybe even more? Predicting the totality of a prophecy before its ultimate completion, and often even afterwards, can be risky business.

In the time leading up to WWII, many people believed that the Nazis were going to bring about the end of the world. But today, does anyone really think that Hitler was the ultimate fulfillment of the Antichrist? Of course not. He was an antichrist; he just wasn’t the Antichrist. If we look more intently on the spirit of antichrist that John mentions rather than the final Antichrist, I think we will be better able to arm ourselves for the ongoing spiritual battles spoken of in Ephesians chapter 6 which we are facing and will continue to face. 1 John 4:3 says: “And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of antichrist, which you have heard was coming and is now already in the world.” We have plenty to occupy ourselves with because denying Jesus is in vogue today more than ever. Anything that keeps us from diligently pursuing our daily work for Christ is of Satan. We’re all susceptible to his wiles; but all we need do is persevere in our callings and endure until the end. I’ll slip, you’ll slip. Simply get up, learn from mistakes and do better next time. Work as best you can until your end time, whether it’s THE end time or not. Our focus must be on God each and every day. We are blessed that our Lord has put us here and now. This is a time for bold action. Are you ready to give everything up, including your very life? I pray that I am because if that is what He requires of me, that is what I hope to do.

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