12 Jul 2024

Wow…hard to believe this is the last post in this series, eh, but here we are – the end of The End!

I hope that one of your biggest “take homes” from this series is the main thing we looked at – that studying the end times is ultimately studying Jesus and His working to bring this age to a close and usher in eternity. To arrive at that understanding, we looked at various end times perspectives and how those perspectives influence what we believe about the return of Jesus, the events surrounding his return, the interpretation of prophecy, and current world events. Understanding the end times is important because it impacts so many other aspects of our Christian belief.

But it should impact our walk as well.

However, as important as this topic is, it’s a bridge way too far to say that our salvation depends on what we believe about the end times. In almost every case, a view of the end times that would place someone outside of Christianity springs from a worldview or belief that is already outside of Christianity. For example, those who rely on Nostradamus, Mayan calendars, or purely secular views rely on them because they refuse to rely on the Word of God. Sadly, there are many professing Christians who add these charlatans to their understanding of the end times and come up with a whole slew of conspiracy theories and wrong beliefs. Ultimately, they end up preferring the mystical error over the revealed truth.

We have seen real and important differences in how Christians view the end of this age, not only as it relates to the kingdom (the various millennial positions), but also in how the church is affected (the various tribulation positions.) There are even differences within some millennial positions as to how everything will play out. Though a study of the end times involves navigating a slew of winding paths, all those paths should lead to the same place – in the end, Jesus will establish His eternal kingdom and crush Satan and his followers once and forever.

Remember when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness? I’m thinking of one temptation in particular…

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” (Matthew 4:8–10 ESV)

Satan took Jesus to a very high mountain to show Him the kingdoms of the earth. For some reason, Satan thought that these cities were his to give, or at least that Jesus would believe the lie and worship him regardless if the cities weren’t his to give. Jesus was not fooled then and He will return to make sure that Satan can never again tempt anyone, as John wrote in Revelation:

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 15And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. 16The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. 17He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. 18The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. 21And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. 22And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:10–27 ESV)

Satan took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him the kingdoms of the world that were not his to give.

John was taken to a very high mountain in the Spirit and was shown the city of God that is God’s to give.

And oh how He gives!

With all of the different interpretations, winding paths, and potential confusions, it may seem as if understanding the end of the age is hopeless. Ultimately, there is only one way that this age will end. Of all of the end times scenarios we have seen during this series, it may end up that none of them is correct. I doubt that, but even as I believe that some positions are more correct than others, I have no delusion that any one view has it all figured out. I expect there are elements of truth in all of the valid end times positions we have looked at.

It is easy to chase rabbit trails and get sidetracked when reflecting on the end times. Most of us were taught something very similar to the story in “Left Behind.” Some of us have been told that “the antichrist” has already been born. Still others believe that the church will enjoy a time of great influence and become a great force of good in politics around the globe. These beliefs can have pretty radical impacts on how we live our Christian life.

For example, how would you react to news of a microchip that could be implanted under the skin that could contain personal information such as bank accounts, credit cards, medical history, education, employment, and so forth? Sound familiar?

Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. (Revelation 13:16–17 ESV)

Or what if you expected to escape the tribulation and be caught up with the Lord in the clouds but instead saw that, in fact, nobody was caught up and the church suffered through the greatest tribulation in the history of mankind? Would you begin to doubt God’s words because He said:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17 ESV)

These are simply two of many, many examples of how our understanding of the end times affects how we live our Christian life. I know people who would become anxious to the point of near paranoia if they found out about a chip as explained earlier. In fact, such a chip exists today. You can get a chip implanted in your skin that contains a lot of information about you, and can even help rescue teams find you. Does the existence of such a chip make you nervous? Why? What if I told you that this chip is injected into your left hand or your shoulder, not the right hand or forehead? Would that make any difference? Would you force Revelation 13 into it anyway – “I know it says right hand, but the left hand is still a hand!!! It’s close enough!”

What if I told you that you already have a mark like it in the form of your credit or debit card? It contains a ton of info about you and you use it to buy and sell, don’t you? You’d even go so far as to drive clear back to your house to get it if you forget it! If you’d be willing to say a shoulder is “close enough”, then you had better be willing to say that a chip you carry around with you all the time, use every day, and can’t buy groceries without because you never carry cash counts too.

Sadly, many people, even professing Christians, waste their lives worrying about the mark of the beast and completely miss the intended meaning of that passage. Where else do we see “right hand” being used in Scripture? Unless actually describing a physical right hand, in every other case, the phrase “right hand” is to be taken as meaning power or authority:

For David says concerning him, “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. (Acts 2:25–26 ESV)

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? (Romans 8:33–35 ESV)

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. (Hebrews 10:12–13 ESV)

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (1 Peter 3:21–22 ESV)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. (Revelation 2:1 ESV)

And the use of “forehead” is often symbolic of will or mental assent:

Therefore the showers have been withheld, and the spring rain has not come; yet you have the forehead of a whore; you refuse to be ashamed. (Jeremiah 3:3 ESV)

But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. 8Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. 9Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” (Ezekiel 3:7–9 ESV)

“The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass. 4Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, 5I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’ (Isaiah 48:3–5 ESV)

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth. (Numbers 24:17 ESV)

Could Revelation 13 and 14 also be reflecting this “spiritual” usage? If so, then it is not a physical mark, but a spiritual one – one that represents giving allegiance and power to Satan. This makes much more sense, especially given the scenario of a true believer taking the mark (or being given the mark) if it were physical! Could that possibly happen? If so, would that Christian lose their salvation? Could Revelation 14 be describing the ultimate fate of a true Christian who took the mark?

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” (Revelation 14:9–11 ESV)

The bible clearly teaches that a Christian cannot lose the salvation that God has graciously gifted them. If you believe that Christians can take this physical “mark of the beast” and suffer the consequences, then you must also believe that a true Christian can be tormented forever and ever and have no rest day or night. That belief is utterly anti-gospel. You’d be believing a lie.

Instead, notice how Revelation 14 associates the mark on the forehead or hand with worship of the beast. That fits right in with the mark being a spiritual mark of assent and servitude, not a physical bar code or chip.

There is a very real-world, current, and important application of the study of the end times. Several years ago, I received a PowerPoint presentation about a chip developed by a company called “Mondex.” In a nutshell, it was the mark of the beast as far as the creator of that presentation was concerned. The author of that presentation was spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt, completely oblivious to the fact that this chip was what would eventually be put in credit cards, not injected into your body. Actually, I hope he was oblivious, but a big part of me believes that he didn’t care at all about truth and just wanted people to be scared enough to believe him and turn to him for guidance and understanding.

Oh, and to also buy his book.

In his acting as a “Christian prophet” he was behaving more like the antichrist he was trying to warn people of. He abandoned the bible and wandered off into myth and conspiracy, and caused much damage in his wake.

And because so many people are so quick to believe in every new conspiracy theory that comes down the pipe, the potential is there to make thousands upon thousands of Christians fearful of something based entirely on a wrong interpretation of an apocalyptic scripture passage. A good lesson for today – be mindful of the times, but be mindful with a firm foundation in God’s word, not in some sensationalistic and conspiracy-laden screed.

As this series draws to a close, it is important to remember that no matter what your end times position is, all of us must be prepared for the end of this age and Jesus’ second coming. An entire series could be written on the topic of “preparing for the end”, but I’ll leave you with this warning:

“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1–13 ESV)

and this encouragement:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31–39 ESV)

As Jesus said:

You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Luke 12:40 ESV)

So stop reading scripture through the lens of the daily news, rather, read the daily news through the lens of scripture. Let scripture interpret scripture, don’t let the daily news interpret scripture. You do not know the day or hour no matter what you think, and if you think you do, you claim to know something even Jesus doesn’t know!

What is sure is this – we are currently living in the end times, and have been since His ascension. Each passing day brings us one day closer to Jesus’ return. Don’t be led astray by this evil age and all its conspiracies.

Rather, be encouraged, strengthened, and emboldened by the gospel and the God who holds both you and the future in His infinitely capable hands, and go proclaim His truth to a world that so desperately needs to hear it!

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