We are not living in the ‘last times’. The Biblical prophecies concerning the ‘last days’ have been kidnapped and held hostage by the church for 2000 years.
The perpetuation of apocalyptic warnings and prophetic teachings on ‘the second coming’ have become a manipulative tool for the religious community. It’s constant focus on future judgment and continual updating of ‘the signs of the times’ are designed to keep Christians in quiet obedience to a well developed organizational ‘machine’. Despite the veneer of a ‘loving community’ of Godly men and women, there is an undercurrent of deception. And even though the religious leadership can confidentially proclaim the concept of the whole world being in the ‘spiritual darkness’ of unbelief, they would be seriously offended if anyone dared to suggest that they, the Christian world, may be the victims of deceit.
When it comes to the prophetic teachings about a ‘second coming’ of Christ and all that follows, the church has created a full curriculum of nervous anticipation and doctrinal trauma. The sincere seeker of God’s favor is never completely sure of his or her state with the divine because they are not allowed to think for themselves. Although the church would deny this, it can be demonstrated easily by simply asking pointed questions to the leadership that express thoughts counter to church dogma.
The Bible reveals the true path to inner freedom and peace that leads to the genuine salvation experience and a life of abundance and success. One of the first things it teaches is that each individual believer is capable to receive divine truth without any intermediary; that is, without the “wisdom of men”. We are “risen with Christ” according to Colossians 3:1. The word ‘risen’ is the word for ‘ascended’. This is not just a cliche’. The Bible does not contain cliche’s. It is a spiritual reality that when Christ went to glory we went with him. And now we are “seated together in heavenly places…” (Ephesians 2:6)
This equates to a ‘renewed state of mind’ which gives a heightened sense of cognitive thought. The ability to think more clearly than before. We then can establish a more comprehensive awareness of the bigger picture. This is important since we have been given an incomplete and sometimes inaccurate perspective on Biblical topics throughout the formative years of our learning.
After decades of being told what to believe we have a ‘head in the clouds’ mentality. All the confusing theological talk and multitudes of overlapping metaphors of spiritual concepts have crowded out the “simplicity that is in Christ” as described by the Apostle Paul as being a serious matter of concern. (II Corinthians 11:3)
The ideas concerning the ‘last days’ and the prepositional thoughts around them are now to be seen in light of our expanded repertoire of thought processes. We can step outside theological walls of implanted learning and get the bigger, better picture of divine knowledge.
The Bible does not teach that we are in the ‘last times’. Nor does it teach that there are terrible tribulations ahead, major natural disasters killing a third of the Earth’s population , riders on a horse of death or mountains being ‘cast into the sea’. Certainly there have been “wars and rumors of war” as Jesus mentioned but it doesn’t take a prophet to see the foreseeable future of human violence. The writings of the first century speak of events that were expected to take place within that first century, within the lifetimes of those living then. All of those who speak of things related to our word Eschatology placed those events within ‘their near future’ not ours.
The recorded words of Christ, the writings of Paul and those of the Apostles Peter and John all have phrases that reveal a second coming and apocalypse as imminent or ‘likely to occur at any moment’. Here are a few of them.
“But the end of all things is at hand” (I Peter 4:7); “the hour is coming and now is” (John 5:25); “things which must shortly come to pass” (Revelation 1:1); “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God” (II Peter 3:12); “we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (I Thessalonians 4:17)
Connected to these prophetic utterances were either words of comfort or dire warnings of final judgment. In either case there was also a connection to a change in lifestyle or as the Bible calls it, ‘conversation’. It was assumed that a readiness or preparedness plan was to be begun to avoid the punishment side and receive the ‘blessedness’ side of future events.
Jesus is recorded as saying, “Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” (Matthew 24:44) And in John 5:28-29 “all that are in the grave shall hear his voice. And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” Peter cautions the Messianic Jews to “be sober” and “above all things have fervent charity among yourselves” since “the end of all things is at hand.” and they would have to “give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead”(I Peter 4: 3-8) In his second epistle he makes the connection clear. II Peter 3:11-14 says, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness. Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless.”
The words of the Apostle Paul give both comfort and warning. He tells the Thessalonians to “comfort one another with these words” concerning the ‘catching away’ event of the rapture, then encourages them to “watch and be sober” since the event will happen quickly, without warning and will involve “sudden destruction”. (II Thessalonians 4:16-5:6)
Christians are taught that the end of all things is still in the future because the events predicted to happen have not yet happened. This is a conclusion based on the ‘settled conviction” that those things must happen and will happen because they’re in the Bible and the Bible is from God and God doesn’t lie. None of these so-called ‘truths’ have any basis is reality but are assumed to be true. The more accurate and honest view is that the prophetic material in the Bible is what the writers believed would take place and should not be automatically accepted as genuine and accurate. This position should be easy to accept when we compare the details of the content of each ones record of expected events. Jesus spoke of a general resurrection and a judgment based on the value of a persons works. His teachings are in stark contrast to the Apostle Paul with his, ‘dead in Christ rising first’ construct. The only things they had in common were that it was to happen within their lifetime and that it would be both a blessing for those who were ready and a curse for all the rest.
One of the flaws of the Christian interpretive model is that it attempts to transport this ancient text into our modern age as if it were just published for the first time. At the same time they are inconsistent in it’s application and interpretation. Any teachings or recommended actions that make the modern Christian uncomfortable are relegated to the file marked ‘okay for them but not for us” through creative exegesis and a dash of human rationalism. (foot washing, selling possessions to give to the poor, sign gifts, etc.) It is not honest exegesis to do this. It must be allowed to exist in it’s own timeframe to be either heeded or ignored by those who originally heard or read the narratives. There is an element of universal application which provides a guide for people of all ages. this is what we should be looking for in Bible study. (the golden rule, seek spiritual treasures rather than financial gain) If the New Testament were applicable ‘across the board’ in our present generation the judgment of a ‘fire breathing ‘ God would weigh heavy on virtually every Christian in the world.
In that first century, those who truly believed in an imminent return of their Messiah began selling all possessions and giving to meet the basic needs of all the poor. they suspended further business deals, cleared up all personal conflicts, made apologies, spent much time in meditation and constantly kept short accounts with others, not ‘letting the sun go down upon their wrath’. They wanted to meet Jesus as pure, meek and mild as possible. Every day they expected him at any moment. Preachers of prophecy tell us that we need to live as though we might ‘meet our maker’ at any moment and should live accordingly. This would involve selling our homes, lands and possessions and being content with “food and rainment” as Jesus said. It would mean going about our day as simply existing as ‘pilgrims’ passing through this world. Waiting for our heavenly home. It would also translate into ‘purifying’ ourselves as “a bride adorned for her husband”. In short, if Christians insist on making the prophecies of the second coming still in our future, they are condemning themselves as complete failures in the obedience to all the Biblical injunctions to ‘deny self, take up your cross and follow Christ’.
You see, Christians do not “live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world”(Titus 2:12). To be fair, the early believers only managed to do this for a few months, maybe a year or so. Then the cares of the world choked the ‘word’ and they succumbed to human frailty. The promise/warning of the return of Christ was not adequate as a motivator to righteous living. Perhaps a fresh look at the Biblical model for living and the restoration of genuine community compassion and care would spark a movement in the spirit of the vision of Jesus on the Mount of Olives. He shouldn’t have to come again. We should have followed him the first time around.
Connected to these prophetic utterances were either words of comfort or dire warnings of final judgment.