The end is the new beginning
If there were no future, Paul writes, it would be foolish to believe in Christ (1 Corinthians 15,19). Prophecy is an essential and very encouraging part of the Christian faith. Bible prophecy tells us something very hopeful. We can draw a lot of strength and courage from it if we concentrate on its key messages, not on details that can be disputed.
The purpose of prophecy
Prophecy is not an end in itself - it articulates a higher truth. Namely that God reconciles mankind with himself, God; that he forgives us the sins; that he makes us again friends of God. This reality proclaims prophecy. Prophecy exists not only to predict events but to refer to God. She tells us who God is, what He is, what He does and what He expects of us. Prophecy calls on man to achieve reconciliation with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Many specific prophecies have come true in the Old Testament period, and we expect more to come. But with all prophecy, the focus is on something completely different: redemption - the forgiveness of sins and the eternal life that comes through Jesus Christ. Prophecy shows us that God is the guide of history (Daniel 4,14); it strengthens our belief in Christ (John 14,29) and gives us hope for the future (1Th4,13-18).
Among other things, Moses and the prophets wrote about Christ that he would be killed and raised (Luke 24,27:46 and). They also predicted events after Jesus' resurrection, such as preaching the gospel (Verse 47).
Prophecy points us to salvation in Christ. If we do not understand this, all prophecy is of no use to us. Only through Christ can we enter the kingdom that will have no end (Daniel 7,13: 14-27 and).
The Bible announces the return of Christ and the Last Judgment, it announces eternal punishments and rewards. In doing so, she shows people that salvation is necessary and at the same time that salvation will come safely. The prophecy tells us that God will hold us accountable (Judas 14-15) that he wants us to be redeemed (2Pt3,9) and that he has already redeemed us (1 John 2,1: 2). It assures us that all evil will be conquered, that all injustice and suffering will come to an end (1 Corinthians 15,25:21,4; Revelation).
Prophecy strengthens the believer: it tells him that his effort is not in vain. We will be saved from persecution, we will be justified and rewarded. Prophecy reminds us of God's love and faithfulness and helps us to remain faithful to him (2 Peter 3,10: 15-1; 3,2 John 3). By reminding us that all material treasures are impermanent, prophecy warns us to appreciate the still invisible things of God and our eternal relationship with him.
Zechariah refers to prophecy as a call to repentance (Zechariah 1,3-4). God warns of punishment, but expects remorse. As exemplified in the story of Jonah, God is ready to withdraw His announcements when people convert to Him. The goal of prophecy is to convert us to God, who has a wonderful future for us; not to satisfy our tickle, to find out “secrets”.
Basic requirement: Caution
How can Bible prophecy be understood? Only with great caution. Well-meaning prophecy "fans" have discredited the gospel with false predictions and misguided dogmatism. Because of such abuse of prophecy, some people ridicule the Bible, even scoff at Christ himself. The list of failed predictions should be a sober warning that personal belief does not guarantee the truth. Because mispredictions can weaken belief, we must exercise caution.
We shouldn't need sensational predictions to seriously strive for spiritual growth and Christian living. Knowledge of times and other details (even if they turn out to be correct) is no guarantee of salvation. The focus for us should be Christ, not the pros and cons, whether this or that world power may be interpreted as the "animal".
Prophecy means that we put too little emphasis on the gospel. Man must repent and believe in Christ, whether Christ's return is imminent or not, whether there will be a millennium or not, whether America is addressed in Bible prophecy or not.
Why is prophecy so difficult to interpret? Perhaps the most important reason is that she so often speaks in allegories. The original readers may have known what was meant by the symbols; since we live in a different culture and time, the interpretation is much more problematic for us.
An example of symbolic language: the 18th psalm. In a poetic form he describes how God saves David from his enemies (Verse 1). David uses different symbols for this: Escape from the realm of the dead (4-6), earthquake (8), sign in the sky (10-14), even a rescue from distress (16-17). These things have not really happened, but are used symbolically and poetically in a figurative sense to visualize certain facts and to make them “visible”. This is what prophecy does.
Isaiah 40,3-4 says that mountains are degraded, roads are made - that's not literally meant. Luke 3,4-6 indicates that this prophecy was fulfilled by John the Baptist. It was not about mountains and roads at all.
Joel 3,1: 2 predicts that God's Spirit will be poured out "over all flesh"; according to Peter, this was already accomplished with a few dozen people on Pentecost (Acts 2,16: 17). The dreams and visions that Joel prophesied go into every detail in their physical descriptions. But Peter does not require that the external signs be met in accounting terms - and we should not do that either. If we are dealing with imagery, then no verbatim entry of all the details of the prophecy is to be expected.
These facts influence the way people interpret Bible prophecy. One reader may prefer a literal interpretation, the other a figurative, and it may be impossible to prove which is correct. This forces us to focus on the overall picture, not the details. We look through milk glass, not through a magnifying glass.
There are no Christian consensus in several important areas of prophecy. Thus z. For example, on the topics of Rapture, Great Tribulation, Millennium, Intermediate State and Hell quite different views. The individual opinion is not so important here. Although they are part of the divine plan and important to God, it is not essential that we get all the right answers here - especially not when sowing discord between us and dissenters. Our attitude is more important than the dogmatism in individual points.
Maybe we can compare prophecy to a trip. We don't need to know exactly where our goal is, how and at what pace we get there. What we need above all is trust in our “travel guide”, Jesus Christ. He is the only one who knows the way, and without it we go astray. Let's stick to him - he takes care of the details. With these omens and reservations in mind, we now want to consider some basic Christian doctrines that deal with the future.
The return of Christ
The great key event that determines our teachings about the future is the second coming of Christ. There is almost complete agreement that he will come back. Jesus announced to his disciples that he would "come again" (John 14,3). At the same time, he warns the disciples against wasting their time with date calculations (Matthew 24,36). He criticizes people who believe that the time is near (Matthew 25,1: 13), but also those who believe in a long delay (Matthew 24,45: 51). Morals: We always have to be prepared, we always have to be ready, that's our responsibility.
Angels announced to the disciples: As sure as Jesus went to heaven, he will come again (Acts 1,11). He will «reveal himself ... from heaven with the angels of his power in flames of fire» (2 Thessalonians 1,7: 8). Paul calls it the "appearance of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2,13). Peter also speaks of “Jesus Christ being revealed” (1 Peter 1,7: 13; see also verse), as did John (1 John 2,28). Similarly in the letter to the Hebrews: Jesus will appear "for the second time" to those who are waiting for him for salvation " (9,28). There is talk of a loudly sounding “command”, of the “voice of the archangel”, the “trumpet of God” (2 Thessalonians 4,16). The second coming becomes clear, becomes visible and audible, will be unmistakable.
It will be accompanied by two other events: the resurrection and the judgment. Paul writes that the dead will be resurrected in Christ when the Lord comes, and that at the same time the living believers will be brought up in the air to meet the descending Lord (2 Thessalonians 4,16: 17). "Because the trumpet will sound," writes Paul, "and the dead will be raised again and again and we will be transformed" (1 Corinthians 15,52). We are undergoing a transformation - we are "glorious", powerful, imperishable, immortal and spiritual (Vv. 42-44).
Matthew 24,31 seems to describe this from a different perspective: "And he [Christ] will send his angels with bright trumpets, and they will gather his chosen ones from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other." In the parable of weeds, Jesus says that at the end of the age he will "send his angels, and they will collect from his kingdom everything that leads to waste, and those who do wrong and throw them into the furnace." (Matthew 13,40: 42).
«Because it will happen that the Son of Man comes in the glory of his father with his angels, and then he will reward everyone for what he does» (Matthew 16,27). In the parable of the faithful servant belongs to the return of the Lord (Matthew 24,45: 51) and in the parable of the entrants entrusted to them (Matthew 25,14: 30) also the judgment.
When the Lord comes, Paul writes, "He will also bring to light" what is hidden in darkness and will reveal the heart's striving. Then everyone will be praised by God » (1 Corinthians 4,5). Of course, God already knows every person, and in this respect the judgment took place long before Christ's return. But it will then be "made public" for the first time and announced to everyone. The fact that we are given new life and that we are rewarded is a tremendous encouragement. At the end of the “Resurrection Chapter” Paul exclaims: “But thank God that gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my dear brothers, be firm, steadfast and always increase in the work of the Lord, because you know that your work in the Lord is not in vain » (1 Corinthians 15,57: 58).
The last days
To arouse interest, prophecy teachers like to ask: "Are we living in the last few days?" The correct answer is "yes" - and it has been correct for 2000 years. Peter quotes a prophecy about the past few days and applies it to his own time (Acts 2,16: 17), as did the author of the letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 1,2). The last days have been much longer than some people think. War and need have plagued humanity for thousands of years. Will it get any worse? Probably. After that it could get better and then worse again. Or it gets better for some people and worse for others. Throughout history, the “misery index” has been moving up and down, and this is likely to continue.
Again and again, however, some Christians apparently could not get "bad enough". They are almost thirsty after the great distress, described as the most terrible emergency time that will ever exist in the world (Matthew 24,21). They are fascinated by the Antichrist, the "animal", the "man of sin" and other enemies of God. In every terrible event, they routinely see a sign that Christ is coming back soon.
It is true that Jesus was a time of terrible tribulation (or: great distress) predicted (Matthew 24,21:70), but most of what he predicted was accomplished during the siege of Jerusalem in. Jesus warns his disciples about things that they should still experience themselves; e.g. B. that it would be necessary for the people of Judea to flee to the mountains (V.16).
Jesus predicted constant times of emergency until his return. "You are in trouble in the world," he said (John 16,33, crowd translation). Many of his disciples sacrificed their lives for their belief in Jesus. Trials are part of Christian life; God does not protect us from all of our problems (Acts 14,22:2; 3,12 Timothy 1:4,12; Peter). Even then in the apostolic period, Antichrists were at work (1 John 2,18:22 and 2; 7 John).
Is a great tribulation predicted for the future? Many Christians believe that, and maybe they are right. But millions of Christians around the world are already persecuting today. Many are killed. For each of them, the distress can not get any worse than it already is. For two millennia terrible times have come over the Christians again and again. Maybe even the great tribulation lasts much longer than many people think.
Our Christian duties remain the same, whether the tribulation is near or far, or whether it has already begun. Speculation about the future does not help us become more Christ-like, and when used as a lever to force people to repent, it is badly abused. Who speculates about the distress, uses his time badly.
Revelation 20 speaks of a millennial reign of Christ and the saints. Some Christians understand this literally as a kingdom that lasts a thousand years and is established by Christ on his return. Other Christians see the "thousand years" symbolically, as a symbol for the reign of Christ in the church, before his return.
The number thousand can be used symbolically in the Bible (Deut 5; Psalm 7,9), and there is no evidence that it must be taken literally in Revelation. The revelation is written in an extraordinarily pictorial style. No other Bible book speaks of a time-limited kingdom to be established at Christ's return. On the contrary, verses like Daniel 50,10:2,44 even suggest that the empire will be eternal without any crisis 1000 years later.
If there is a millennial kingdom after Christ's return, the wicked will be raised and judged a thousand years after the righteous (Revelation 20,5). However, Jesus' parables do not suggest that there is such a gap in time (Matthew 25,31: 46-5,28; John 29). The millennium is not part of Christ's gospel. Paul writes that the righteous and the ungodly are resurrected on the same day (2 Thessalonians 1,6: 10).
Many more individual questions on this topic could be discussed, but that is not necessary here. For each of the cited views can be found in the Scriptures. One thing is certain, whatever the Millennium may imply: At some point, the time span mentioned in Revelation 20 comes to an end and it is followed by a new heaven and a new earth, eternal, glorious, greater, better, and longer than the millennium. Therefore, when we think of the wonderful world of tomorrow, we may prefer to focus on the eternal, perfect kingdom, not a temporary phase. We have an eternity to look forward to!
An eternity of joy
How will it be - eternity? We only know that in fragments (1 Corinthians 13,9: 1; 3,2 John) because all of our words and thoughts are based on today's world. Jesus has illustrated our eternal reward in a number of ways: it will be like finding a treasure or owning a lot of goods or rule over a kingdom or attending a wedding banquet. These are only approximate descriptions because there is nothing comparable. Our eternity with God will be more beautiful than words could say.
David puts it this way: «Before you joy is fullness and bliss on your right forever» (Psalm 16,11). The best part of eternity will be living with God; how to be him; to see him for what he really is; to know and recognize him better (1 John 3,2). This is our ultimate goal and God-willed sense of being, and it will satisfy us and give eternal joy.
And in 10.000 years, with tens of millions before us, we will look back on our lives today and smile at the worries we have had, and marvel at how quickly God was doing His work when we were mortal. It was only the beginning and there will be no end.
by Michael Morrison