Posts

Showing posts with the label #EndTimes

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

Image
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 th

Millennium: When Jesus rules the world.

Image
MILLENNIUM mə'lɛ.ni.əm noun. 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.əl adjective .] 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

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

Image
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 KWL 1 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.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘Storms toda

Ascension: When Jesus got raptured.

Image
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 KWL 6 So when they came together, the apostles questioned Jesus : “Master, is it at this time you’re restoring the Kingdom of Israel?” 7 Jesus told them, “It’s not for you to know times or timing. That, the Father sets by his own free will. 8 But 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, 7.55-56 Various people who don’t believe Christians are getting

Purgatory: When our works are tested with fire.

Image
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

Doggy heaven.

Image
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 NIV Outside 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 oi kýnes /“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 men

Near-death experiences, and the afterlife.

Image
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 abou

How long does hell last?

Image
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’r

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

Image
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 L ORD 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 prognost

Set your hearts for Jesus’s return.

Image
Different scholars have different ways they wanna interpret the Greek word παρουσία / 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 KWL 7 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 him to retur

Apostasy before the second coming.

Image
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 KWL 1 We should ask you, fellow Christians , about the second coming of our Master, Christ Jesus, and how we’ll be gathered together with him. 2 It’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 you when I wa

No, seriously: When’s Jesus returning? He’s taking forever!

Image
2 Peter 3.1-9. I’ve been writing about the scriptures on Jesus’s second advent, or second coming. And of course I had to point out we don’t know when that’ll be. The events which were meant to come before his return, happened. There’s nothing left to hinder it—so it can happen at any time. This being the case, people want that day to be today . Right now. ’Cause they’re suffering, or ’cause current events are awful, or ’cause they’re in a hurry to live under Jesus’s direct rule. Either way, come Lord Jesus! But he hasn’t yet. And sometimes people give up hope of him ever returning. Which was the mindset Simon Peter had to deal with in his second letter. 2 Peter 3.1-4 KWL 1 Now this, beloved: I wrote you a second letter in which I awaken you to a purely-thought reminder— 2 to remember the words the holy prophets and your apostles foretold, commands of our Master and Savior. 3 Know this first: In the last days, mockers will come to mock, following however their

When is Jesus returning?

Image
Jesus is returning. But when? That’s the question every Christian asks, whether it’s in the front of the back of our minds. When’s Jesus coming back? Sooner rather than later, we hope—though considering the past 20 centuries, he’s taking an awfully long time to get round to it. What did Jesus himself have to say about it? Well, this. You’re not gonna like it. Mark 13.32-37 KWL 32 Nobody’s known about that day or the hour. Neither the heavenly angels, nor the Son. Just the Father. 33 Look. Stay awake. You don’t know when it’s time. 34 It’s like a person abroad, who left his home. He empowered his employees to do their jobs— and he ordered the doorman so he’d stay awake. 35 So stay awake! You don’t know when the master of the house returns. Evening? Midnight? Sunrise? Morning? 36 When he suddenly arrives, don’t let him find you asleep. 37 What I tell you, I tell everyone: Stay awake!” In short: “I dunno. And even if I knew, I’m not telling. You just need to

The Son of Man’s returning. And everyone will see it.

Image
When Jesus returns, it’s not gonna be a secret second coming. It’s not gonna be an event which only takes place metaphorically, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses claim; where they believe God’s kingdom began in 1914 but Jesus isn’t coming to earth till the final battle. It’s not gonna be a secret gnostic event, which only the chosen few know about. It’s not gonna be a secret rapture, where the Christians vanish and go to be with Jesus, and the rest of the planet has to wait seven years. It’s not secret. It’s nice and visible and obvious. As Jesus himself describes. Matthew 24.23-28 KWL 23 “Then when anyone might tell you, ‘Look! Here’s Messiah!’ or ‘ He’s here!’ don’t believe it: 24 Fake messiahs and fake prophets will arise, and will give great signs and wonders to deceive you . If possible, to deceive God’s chosen people too. 25 Look, I’m forewarning you 26 so when people tell you, ‘Look, he’s in the wilderness!’ you don’t go out; ‘Look, he’s in the inner room!’

Jesus describes his second coming.

Image
The first hint we have that Jesus is arranging a second coming —that he’s not taking possession of his kingdom during his first coming—appears in the Olivet Discourse, the bit in Mark 13, Matthew 24-25, and Luke 21, where Jesus answered his students’ question about a future disaster he’d just casually referred to. Mk 13.1-2, Mt 24.1-2, Lk 21.5-6 In each gospel’s version of the discourse, Jesus brought up the persecution of his followers, a particular time of great suffering which’d take place in Jerusalem, and fake Messiahs and prophets who’d try to lead them astray. But afterwards, this: Mark 13.24-27 KWL 24 “But in those days after that suffering: ‘The sun will be darkened and the moon won’t give its light.’ Ek 32.7 25 The stars will be falling from the skies; the heavenly powers will be shaken. 26 Then people will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ Da 7.13 with great power and glory. 27 Then he’ll send angels, and gather together his chosen ones fro

“Prophecy scholars”: Neither prophets nor scholars.

Image
I’m Pentecostal. So whenever I see an notice or ad for an upcoming “prophecy conference,” they tend to refer to prophets. Actual prophets. Meaning people who’ve learned to listen to the Holy Spirit—and thereafter share with others what he’s told them. True, some of ’em practice some really iffy methods of identifying his voice. But when Penecostals, charismatics, and most continuationists refer to prophecy, we literally mean the same thing we see done in the bible by Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Simon Peter, and Paul of Tarsus. They heard God; they shared what they figured he told ’em; that’s prophecy. Outside Pentecostal circles—though not far outside Pentecostal circles, ’cause from time to time it gets in here—is a whole other type of “prophecy conference.” There, they aren’t at all talking about hearing God. They mean predictions about the End Times. They’re throwing a conference ’cause they wanna tell you what they think the apocalypses mean. Um… didn’t God delib

The wealthy, their crimes, and their coming judgment.

Image
James 5.1-8. This next bit of James was directed to the specific people of James’s day. Problem is, not every Christian has understood this. You know how we humans are; we wanna make everything about us . So we’ve looked at this passage and tried to figure out how it applies to us and the people of our day. Especially the people of our day, since rebuke and judgment are involved: We definitely want those bits to apply to other people. Since James dropped a reference or two to Jesus’s second coming —an event which’ll take place at any time, a belief Christians have held since the beginning, and even Jesus’s first apostles watched out for it, as Jesus instructed—historically we’ve interpreted this bit as an End Times reference. It’s not really. In the New Testament, “the last days” doesn’t refer to the End Times, but the Christian Era. Ac 2.17, He 1.2 The “first days” were before Christ; the “last days” are after God’s kingdom has come near. As historians call ’em, BC and

Paradise: The nicer part of the afterlife.

Image
Where Christians go when we die… and why we prefer other ideas to that of paradise. Paradise /'pɛr.ə.daɪs/ n. In the afterlife, the place of the blessed. [Usually equated with heaven.] 2. The garden of Eden. 3. An ideal, happy, peaceful, or picturesque place or state. [Paradisal /pɛr.ə'daɪz.əl/ adj. ] Perdís was an ancient Persian word for “a park.” Persian parks were particularly known for their decorative, ornamental gardens. Both Hebrew and Greek borrowed the word. Late Biblical Hebrew turned it into pardés , which is found in the bible thrice. Sg 4.13, Ec 2.5, Ne 2.8 Ancient Greek turned it into parádeisos , also found thrice. Lk 23.43, 2Co 12.4, Rv 2.7 It’s where we get our English word paradise . Of course in English a paradise refers to any nice place. I tend to hear it describe tropical beaches, which are hardly garden-like. But the Pharisees grew to use it primarily to describe Eden, the place of the first humans. And the afterlife. Like Ecclesias

When pagans die.

Image
Have they no hope? Well, let’s not rule that out. Yeah, this is gonna be a bummer of an article. Sorry. It needs saying. When Christians die, it’s sad. ’Cause we’re never gonna see those people again in this lifetime. We often say, “We’ll see ’em in heaven,” and that’s true—though not quite as pop-culture Christianity imagines it. We’ll see them in the kingdom of heaven. Once Jesus returns to establish that kingdom, we Christians are all getting resurrected, and they’ll be back, better than before. As will we. That’s our hope. But it’s not pagans’ hope. The Latin word paganus meant someone from the country, and therefore not from the city. Christians adopted it to refer to people who don’t live in the city of God, or civilians who aren’t in the Lord’s army. By definition a pagan isn’t in the kingdom. Not going to heaven. They’re outside —and outside isn’t good. So when pagans die, it’s a profound loss. Not only are we not seeing them again, we’re likely not seeing them in