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Showing posts with the label #EndTimes

Tribulation, great tribulation, and not-so-great tribulation.

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TRIBULATIONtri.bu.la.tionnoun. Great suffering.2. The cause of great suffering.3. An End Times period of suffering around the time of Jesus’s second coming.[Tribulational tri.bu.la.tion.aladjective.]Tribulation is an old-timey word which, to many people and Evangelicals in particular, has to do with the End Times. Hence writers find it useful: You wanna talk about suffering, but wanna make it sound like really awful suffering, as bad as suffering can be? You call it tribulation.Thing is, when “tribulation” comes up in the King James Version, it means any and every kind of suffering. Not just the worst-case-ever kind of suffering. I mean it is used to describe that, Mt 24.21 but it’s used for all the other kinds. ’Cause suffering is part of the world we live in.John 16.33 KJVThese things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.Life is suffering. But Jesus has conquered the world.So w…

Warnings when persecution comes. (Unless you’re American.)

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Mark 13.9, Matthew 24.9-13, Luke 21.12-19.In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus told his students about what’d happen before as predicted, the Romans destroyed the temple in the great tribulation. Many fearful Christians insist Jesus wasn’t speaking of the next 40 years, but our future; the events of the End Times. That’s largely because they don’t know first-century history, nor their bibles, and only believe other fearful Christians. If you aren’t as paranoid, peaceless, and agitated as they, they feel you’re too stupid to listen to. The End Times has gotta be all about fear, not hope—and they explain away the fruitlessness of fear by claiming it’s really “the fear of God” they’re about. Yeah right.Today’s passage tends to trigger ’em more than most, because here Jesus speaks about the active persecution of Christians. Which, at that time, was coming soon. Really soon; possibly before the year was out.Jesus gave this discourse during Holy Week, and he’d be killed at the end of that week. I…

Millennium: When Jesus rules the world.

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MILLENNIUMmə'lɛ.ni.əmnoun. Thousand years.2. One of the thousand-year periods after Christ’s birth: The first millennium, the third millennium, etc.3. Where one thousand-year period ends and another begins.4. [theology] Christ Jesus’s reign on earth, represented in an apocalypse as a thousand-year age.[Millennial mɪ'lɛ.ni.əladjective.]Whenever Christians talk about being “premillennial” or “amillenial,” no we’re not criticizing millennials, the kids born after the year 2000. We’re talking End Times theories. (We’ll use other terms to criticize millennials.)The idea comes from Revelation. In one of its visions of Jesus’s second coming (oh, you didn’t know there are multiple visions of the second coming in Revelation? Y’oughta read it sometime), Jesus returns, brings us Christians back from the dead, throws Satan into the abyss for 10 centuries, and rules the world. At the end of that time, Satan gets out, starts a fight, Jesus ends it, judges the world, and ends the world—to be…

Our Father who art in heaven.

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MATTHEW 6.9-10.The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew begins with πάτερἡμῶνὁἐντοῖςοὐρανοῖς/páter imón o en toís uranoís, “our Father who’s [located] in the heavens,” Mt 6.9 ’cause we’re addressing—duh—our heavenly Father.Matthew 6.9 KWL“So pray like this: Our Father who’s in the heavens! Sanctify your name.”Some Christians wanna make it particularly clear which god we’re praying to. Partly because some of ’em actually think they might accidentally invoke the wrong god (and y’know, if they’re Mammonists or some other type of idolater, they might). Sometimes because they’re showing off to pagans that they worship the Father of Jesus, or some other form of hypocrisy. But Jesus would have us keep it simple: Just address our heavenly Father. There’s no special formula for addressing him; no secret password we’ve gotta say; even “in Jesus’s name” isn’t a magic spell—and you notice “in Jesus’s name” isn’t in the Lord’s Prayer either. You know who he is; he knows who he is; he knows what our relationsh…

“Discerning” the news: Seeking “signs of the times.”

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End Times prognosticator Hal Lindsey is fond of saying when we read the bible, particularly Revelation, we oughta do it with the scriptures in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Because the events of his End Times timeline are happening. Right this instant.Even though every five years or so, he has to write another End Times book to update all the predictions of his previous End Times book. For some reason they keep not turning into the harbingers of the End he insists they are.Y’see, what Lindsey does, and what many other End Times fixated Christians do, is what they call “discerning the news.” What they’re doing, they claim, is what Jesus tells us to: They’re looking at the signs of the day. Or as the KJV puts it, “the signs of the times.”Matthew 16.1-4 KWL1 Approaching Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a heavenly sign to show them.2 In reply Jesus told them, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It’s red; clear sky.’3And in the morning, ‘Storms today, for the sky is red and gloo…

Ascension: When Jesus got raptured.

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Forty days after Easter, Jesus left. For now.On Thursday, 15 May 33 (if we take Luke’s count of 40 days Ac 1.3 literally, and not as an estimate) this happened.Acts 1.6-9 KWL6 So when they came together, the apostles questioned Jesus:“Master, is it at this time you’re restoring the Kingdom of Israel?”7Jesus told them, “It’s not for you to know times or timing.That, the Father sets by his own free will.8But you’ll all get power: The Holy Spirit is coming upon you.You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the world.”9 Saying this as they watched him, Jesus was raptured.A cloud concealed him from their eyes.Christians call this Jesus’s ascension, and celebrate it 40 days after Easter—and 10 days before Pentecost Sunday. ’Cause it’s when Jesus went up, or ascended, into heaven, to stand in service or sit in judgment, at the Father’s right. Ac 2.33, 7.55-56Various people who don’t believe Christians are getting raptured when Jesus returns love to point o…

Purgatory: When our works are tested with fire.

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Some Christians believe there’s no such thing. Here’s why the others believe it exists—in whatever form they imagine it. Many Christians figure they’re C.S. Lewis fans ’cause they read his Narnia books, as I did in fifth grade. In high school I read his Mere Christianity, and in college I took advantage of its much-larger Lewis collection to read everything I could find. Including, it turned out, his academic stuff… which leads to another story I’ll tell another time.One of his books was The Great Divorce, Lewis’s attempt to tell a Divine Comedy-style tour of purgatory, with George MacDonald as his guide instead of Virgil. It’s interesting because it gives examples of the sort of people who aren’t ready for heaven. But the book is a big hurdle for various Christians—in particular Fundamentalists—because they don’t believe in purgatory. Depending on how gracious they are (or aren’t), they’d assign Lewis’s case studies to either heaven or hell, and that’s that.I’ve since found a number …

Doggy heaven.

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We don’t know the details of God’s relationships with his other creatures. Probably shouldn’t speculate. Years ago, in my junior high school bible class, one of the students asked about doggy heaven. And just for evil fun, I horrified her by quoting Revelation 22.15, which describes New Jerusalem in the new heaven and earth:Revelation 22.15 NIVOutside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.So, I joked, all dogs apparently don’t go to heaven. Looks like they go to hell.No, that’s not the proper context of the verse. The text does literally have oikýnes/“the dogs.” But you have to remember what dogs were to ancient Judeans. Some of them did have pet dogs, a practice they picked up from the nations round them. But generally dogs in Israel were scavenger animals: They ate garbage, roadkill, and picked off rats and other vermin. They were ritually unclean, not to mention physically uncle…

Near-death experiences, and the afterlife.

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Funny how everybody sees the afterlife they expect. In yesterday’s article, “How long does hell last?” I brought up the subject of near-death experiences, those cases where people died and came back, and have a tale to tell about what they saw in the afterlife.And they have all sorts of tales. Like of an out-of-body experience, where their ghost watched the doctors or EMTs trying to bring ’em back to life. Like a spirit-realm experience, where they met angels, dead loved ones, Jesus, or the Father. Like an afterlife experience, where they travel through a tunnel of light and get to poke around heaven for a bit. In some cases it’s the bad afterlife, and they’re in hell.These stories are really popular, and people share them and cling to them for hope. Books about them sell. Movies too. Since we have big questions about the afterlife, we figure near-death experiences help answer these questions.This is also true for Christians. The scriptures don’t tell us a whole lot about the afterlif…

How long does hell last?

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Some say forever, some say temporarily, and some say no time at all. As I explained in my article “The four hells,” there are four words translated hell in the scriptures, and the one I mean by “hell” is ge-Henna, the trash fire outside Jerusalem, reimagined in Revelation as a pool of fire and sulfur outside New Jerusalem. Rv 20.10-15 Into it go Satan and its angels, the Beast, the fake prophet who promotes the Beast, the personifications of Death and Hades (i.e. the afterlife), and everyone whose name isn’t listed in the life scroll—everyone who refused to turn to God for salvation, and therefore don’t get to enter his kingdom.The Beast and prophet are explicitly described as being “tortured there, day and night, age to ages.” Rv 20.10 Though this lake is known as the second death, Rv 20.14 it doesn’t have a sense of finality like death seems to. Death feels like an absolute stopping point—when you’re dead, you’re not alive, you’re not moving, you’re not breathing, you’re not thinkin…

What’s America’s role in the End Times?

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Same as the rest of the world.The bible, in entirety, was written before the middle east, Europe, Asia, and Africa knew the western hemisphere existed.True, God knew it was there. But his apostles and prophets had no idea. And God didn’t see any point in informing them. It’s not like the Americas, nor any other yet-to-be-discovered islands in the world, were excluded from the scriptures’ blanket statements about humanity. The LORD is God, and Jesus is King, of the whole earth. Known and unknown lands alike.So North and South America—the Indian nations then, and the current nations now—aren’t in the bible. At all. Neither suggested nor alluded to in it.So even if you’re citizen of the United States, loyal and patriotic, or even just a big fan of all things American like so many of our resident aliens, I gotta break it to you: Other than the bits about “all the world,” we don’t figure into End Times predictions whatsoever.But you’d be surprised how many American prognosticators simply c…

There’s a rapture, but it’s no secret.

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When Jesus returns, everybody’s gonna see it. Which is kinda the point.“People are missing,” she managed in a whisper, burying her head in his chest.He took her shoulders and tried to push her back, but she fought to stay close. “What do you m—?”She was sobbing now, her body out of control. “A whole bunch of people, just gone!”“Hattie, this is a big plane. They’ve wandered to the lavs or—”She pulled his head down so she could speak directly into his ear. Despite her weeping, she was plainly fighting to make herself understood. “I’ve been everywhere. I’m telling you, dozens of people are missing.”“Hattie, it’s still dark. We’ll find—”“I’m not crazy! See for yourself! All over the plane, people have disappeared.”“It’s a joke. They’re hiding, trying to—”“Ray! Their shoes, their socks, their clothes, everything was left behind. These people are gone!”So goes the first chapter of Left Behind, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ 1995 End Times novel. In the middle of a cross-country flight, where…

Set your hearts for Jesus’s return.

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Before Jesus returns, there’s a whole lot of lawbreaking.Different scholars have different ways they wanna interpret the Greek word parusía/“[second] coming.” Most of the time “appearance” or “coming” or “return.” When used to describe what Jesus is up to, it has more of a sense of “arrival,” or even “invasion.” Certain gutless commentators leave it untranslated, and just refer to Jesus’s parousia, as if it’s too difficult a concept to convert into English. Rubbish: The popular idea of “second coming” works just fine to describe it, 1Th 3.13 so that’s how I translate it.Today I wanna point to Jesus’s brother James, and how he referred to it:James 5.7-8 KWL7 So be patient, fellow Christians, till the Master’s second coming.Look, the farmer awaits the land’s precious fruit,patient about it till they can get early- and late-season rain.8 Be patient yourselves as well. Strengthen your minds:The Master’s second coming has come near.So. Ever since Jesus’s rapture, Christians have expected h…

Apostasy before the second coming.

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Before Jesus returns, there’s a whole lot of lawbreaking.Before Jesus returns, bad stuff was predicted to happen. Both by Jesus, who described some of the events 40 years hence when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem; and here by Paul, Silas, and Timothy when they reminded the people of Thessaloniki that there’d first be a time of apostasy.2 Thessalonians 2.1-12 KWL1 We should ask you, fellow Christians, about the second coming of our Master, Christ Jesus,and how we’ll be gathered together with him.2It’s so your minds won’t be shaken up, nor go into a panic,whenever some spirit, message, or letter (like those from us) claims the Lord’s Day has come.3 Don’t let anyone trick you in any way: Nothing happens till the apostasy comes first,till the lawbreaking person, the child of destruction, is revealed—4 the antagonist, the one exalting himself over everything called “god” and “worshipful,”so much so he sits in God’s temple and claims he’s a god himself.5 Don’t you remember the things I told…