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The Signs of the Time

July 7, 2016

Orologio-ApocalisseAs a pretribulational premillennialist I find myself sharing a theological house with some very odd characters. End times teaching on the popular level is dominated by pretribulationalist who share with me the same basic view of the order of future events. I believe Jesus will rapture His church before a seven year period of intense judgment on the world. I believe Jesus will return to the earth at the end of the seven year tribulation and will then establish his kingdom on earth. Jesus will rule over a worldwide empire of peace and prosperity from the city of Jerusalem. After Jesus reigns for 1,000 years Satan will lead one final rebellion, fail spectacularly, be sentenced to the Lake of Fire along with every lost person who has ever lived. God will then destroy this current universe and build a new one, eternal and untainted by sin. Sometimes those men who share this same basic view of the end say some things I wish they wouldn’t. High on my list of things I wish pretribulational premillennialists would stop saying is that God commands us to know the times and seasons.

This particular statement is troublesome because it is used as justification for rampant speculation about how current events are setting the stage for prophecy to be fulfilled. While it is conceivable that the things we read about in our newspapers today are the precursors to the rise of the antichrist, it is equally conceivable that current events have nothing to do with the antichrist. A crucial tenet of the pre-tribulational view is that of imminence. Jesus could return at any moment, it is imminent. This doctrine is amply attested to in the New Testament in verses like, “For the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” (James 5:9) If Jesus return is imminent then no amount of political speculation is going to clue the Christian into the proximity of Jesus’ return. Imminent can not become more imminent.

Those who teach that Christians should study the signs of the times often point to Matthew 24:32 and Matthew 16:1-3. In Matthew 16 Jesus rebukes the Pharisees because they refused to believe Jesus is the Messiah. The Pharisees could tell by looking at the sky what the weather was going to be like, but they refused to recognize the power of God on display in Jesus’ life. Jesus was not telling them they should have studied the signs of the times better. He rebukes them for demanding a sign. Jesus was telling them to stop ignoring the obvious. In Matthew 24 Jesus tells his disciples that when the fig tree starts putting out leaves then summer is near. Likewise, when they see certain events take place they will know Jesus’ return is near. When they see the abomination of desolation in the temple, intense persecution of the Jews, horrible worldwide catastrophes greater than anything the world has ever seen and the sun darkened then they will know His return is near. Since all the things Jesus describes will be obvious no studying the times is necessary. Since these things will occur during the tribulation pretribulationists are wasting their time looking for signs of things that are going to happen after they have departed the earth. There are exactly zero signs that the rapture is getting nearer. Why look for them?

The Christian is not commanded to know when the end is at hand, he is told the end is at hand. Peter declares, “But the end of all things is at hand.” (1 Peter 4:7) Paul says, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” (Romans 13:12) Basic Christian teaching insists that Christ will return soon. The Christian needs not wonder if Jesus’ return is near. We have been told it is. What exactly are you looking for? You should be looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior. Don’t look to the newspapers, pundits and commentators. Look to your own life that you will be living “soberly, righteously and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:12) ready for the return of the Lord.

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