The end is the new beginning

386 the end is the new beginningIf there were no future, Paul writes, it would be foolish to believe in Christ (1Kor 15,19). Prophecy is an essential and very encouraging part of the Christian faith. Bible prophecy proclaims us extraordinary hopefulness. We can draw great strength and courage from it, if we focus on their core statements, not on details that can be argued.

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 already been fulfilled in Old Testament times, and we still await the fulfillment of others. But the focus of all prophecy is on something else: salvation - the forgiveness of sins and the eternal life that comes through Jesus Christ. Prophecy shows us that God is the driver of history (Dan 4,14); it strengthens our faith in Christ (Joh 14,29) and gives us hope for the future (1Th4,13-18).

Moses and the prophets wrote about Christ, including the fact that he would be killed and resurrected (Lk 24,27 and 46). They also predicted events after Jesus' resurrection, such as preaching the gospel (verse 47).

Prophecy refers us to salvation in Christ. If we do not understand that, all prophecy does us no good. Only through Christ can we enter into the kingdom that will have no end (Dan 7,13-14 & 27).

The Bible announces the Second Coming of Christ and the Last Judgment, announcing eternal punishments and rewards. In doing so, she reminds man that salvation is needed, and at the same time that salvation will come for sure. Prophecy tells us that God will call us to account (Jud 14-15), that he wants us to be redeemed (2Pt3,9) and that he has redeemed us (1Joh 2,1-2). She assures us that all evil will be conquered, that all injustice and suffering will end (1Kor 15,25, Offb 21,4).

Prophecy strengthens the believer: She 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 (2Pt 3,10-15; 1Joh 3,2-3). Reminding us that all material treasures are transient, the prophecy reminds us to cherish the still invisible things of God and our eternal relationship with Him.

Zechariah refers to the prophecy as a call to repentance (Sach 1,3-4). God warns against punishment but expects remorse. As exemplified in the story of Jonah, God is willing to take back 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 tickling, to get behind "secrets".

Basic requirement: Caution

How to understand Bible prophecy? Only with great caution. Well-meaning prophecy "fans" have discredited the gospel with false prophecies and misguided dogmatism. Because of such misuse of prophecy, some people mock the Bible, even scoff at Christ Himself. The list of failed predictions should be a sober warning that personal beliefs still do not guarantee truth. Since false predictions can weaken faith, we must exercise caution.

We should not need sensational predictions to earnestly seek spiritual growth and Christian living. The knowledge of dates and other details (even if they prove correct) is not a guarantee of salvation. The focus should be for us Christ, not the pros and cons, if this or that world power is perhaps to interpret 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 18. Psalm. In a poetic form, he describes how God saves David from his enemies (verse 1). For this David uses different symbols: escape from the realm of the dead (4-6), earthquake (8), signs in the sky (10-14), even a rescue from distress (16-17). These things did not really happen, but are used figuratively and poetically in the figurative sense to illustrate certain facts in order to make them "visible". This is how the prophecy proceeds.

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 has already been fulfilled with a few dozen people on the day of Pentecost (Act 2,16-17). The dreams and visions prophesied by Joel go into detail in their physical accounts. But Peter does not require an accounting-accurate fulfillment of the outer signs - and we should not do that either. If we are dealing with imagery, then we can not expect to hear all the details of the prophecy verbally.

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 the prophecy with a journey. We do not need to know exactly where our goal is, in what way and at what speed we get there. What we need above all is trust in our "guide", Jesus Christ. He is the only one who knows the way, and without him we are going astray. Let's stick to him - he takes care of the details. Under these omens and reservations we now want to look at some basic Christian doctrines that deal with the future.

The return of Christ

The big key event that determines our teachings about the future is the second coming of Christ. That he will come back, there is almost complete unity. Jesus announced to his disciples that he would "come again" (Joh 14,3). At the same time he warns the disciples against wasting their time with date calculations (Mt 24,36). He criticizes people who believe the timing is imminent (Mt 25,1-13), but also those who believe in a long delay (Mt 24,45-51). Morals: We must always be prepared, we must always be ready, that is our responsibility.

Angels announce to the disciples: As sure as Jesus went to heaven, he will come again (Act 1,11). He will "reveal himself ... from heaven with the angels of his power in flames of fire" (2Th 1,7-8). Paul calls it the "Appearance of the Glory of the Great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Tit 2,13). Peter also speaks of "revealing Jesus Christ" (1Pt 1,7, see also verse 13) as well as John (1Joh 2,28). Similarly in Hebrews: Jesus will appear "for the second time" to those who are waiting for him salvation "(9,28). There is talk of a loud "command", of the "voice of the archangel", the "trumpet of God" (1Th 4,16). The second coming will be clear, will be 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 with them the living believers will be carried into the air, towards the coming Lord (1Th 4,16-17). "For the trumpet will sound," Paul writes, "and the dead will rise incorruptible, and we will be transformed" (1Kor 15,52). We are undergoing transformation - becoming "glorious," powerful, incorruptible, immortal, and spiritual (v. 42-44).

Matthew 24,31 seems to describe this from another perspective: "And he [Christ] will send his angels with bright trumpets, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." In the parable of Weeds tell Jesus that at the end of the age he will "send his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom all that is deceiving, and they will do wrong and throw them into the furnace of fire." (Mt 13,40-42).

"For it will happen that the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then he will repay everyone according to his doings" (Mt. 16,27). In the parable of the faithful servant (Mt 24,45-51) and in the parable of the entrusted hundredweight (Mt 25,14-30), the judgment belongs to the second coming of the Lord.

When the Lord comes, Paul writes, "He will also bring to light," which is hidden in the dark, and will reveal the desire of the hearts. Then everyone will be praised by God "(1Kor 4,5). Of course, God already knows every human, and so far the judgment has taken place long before Christ's return. But it will then be "made public" for the first time and will be proclaimed to everyone. Giving us new life and being rewarded is a tremendous encouragement. At the conclusion of the "Resurrection Chapter," Paul exclaims, "Thank God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm, unwavering, and always grow in the work of the Lord, because you know that your work is not in vain in the Lord "(1Kor 15,57-58).

The last days

To arouse interest, prophecy teachers like to say, "Are we living in the last few days?" The correct answer is "yes" - and it's been right for 2000 years. Peter quotes a prophecy of the last days and applies it to his own time (Act 2,16-17), as does the author of Hebrews (Hebr 1,2). The last days last much longer than some people believe. For millennia, war and hardship are plaguing humanity. Will it get worse? Probably. After that it could get better, and then worse again. Or it will be better for some people, for others at the same time worse. Throughout history, the "misery index" has been pacing up and down, and it will continue to do so.

Again and again, some Christians were apparently "not bad enough". They almost thirst for the Great Tribulation, described as the most terrible time of emergency ever to occur in the world (Mt 24,21). They are fascinated by the Antichrist, the "beast", the "man of sin" and other enemies of God. In every terrible event, they routinely see an indication that Christ is returning soon.

It is true that Jesus foretold a time of terrible tribulation (Mt 24,21), but most of what he predicted was already fulfilled at the siege of Jerusalem in the year 70. Jesus warns his disciples about things that they should experience themselves; z. B. That it would be necessary for the people of Judea to flee to the mountains (V. 16).

Jesus predicted constant hardships until his return. "In the world you have affliction," he said (Joh 16,33, crowd translation). Many of his disciples sacrificed their lives for their faith in Jesus. Exams are part of Christian life; God does not protect us from all our problems (Apg 14,22; 2T in 3,12; 1Pt 4,12). Antichrists were already at work in the apostolic era (1Joh 2,18 and 22; 2Joh 7).

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.

The millennium

Revelation 20 speaks of a millennial reign of Christ and the saints. Some Christians literally understand this as a thousand-year kingdom built by Christ on his return. Other Christians symbolize the "thousand years" as a symbol of Christ's reign in the Church, before His return.

The number one thousand can be used quite symbolically in the Bible (5Mo 7,9, Ps 50,10), and there is no evidence that it needs to be taken literally in Revelation. The Revelation is written in an extraordinarily richly illustrated style. No other Bible book speaks of a temporally limited kingdom to be established at the time of Christ's return. On the contrary, verses like Daniel 2,44 even suggest that the empire will be eternal, without any crisis 1000 years later.

If, after Christ's return, there is a millennial kingdom, the wicked will be raised and judged a thousand years after the righteous (Rev. 20,5). However, Jesus' parables do not allow for such a temporal divergence (Mt 25,31-46, Joh 5,28-29). The millennium is not part of the gospel of Christ. Paul writes that the righteous and godless would be resurrected the same day (2Th 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 that be - eternity? We only know this fragmentarily (1Kor 13,9, 1Joh 3,2) because all our words and thoughts are on the world today. Jesus illustrated our eternal reward in various ways: It will be like finding a treasure or possessing many 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 the fullness and bliss of your right forever" (Ps 16,11). The best part of eternity will be to live with God; to be like him; to see him as he really is; to know and recognize him better (1Joh 3,2). This is our ultimate goal and God-given sense of being, and this will satisfy us and bring 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


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