Signs of the Times
I was heading into work one morning and I began to think about the Mel Gibson movie Apocalypto. Not sure why exactly that movie popped into my head, but I have watched it several times. If you have not seen it, I will not spoil it for you, but the theme (at least to me) was about regime change and a family’s way of life coming to an abrupt end. Although the movie dealt with the Mayan’s, it got me thinking about a contemporary of theirs, the Aztecs. They were known as the people of the sun because they violently worshipped the sun-god Huitzilopochtli through bloody, ritualistic human sacrifice.
I then began to think about all the empires that have come and gone. How all those people thought that the way they lived then, would be the way people always lived. How far have we come since? We know for most of history that people’s lives were brutal and short. How much of that history was shrouded in the darkness of paganism and the worship of false gods? If God had to destroy Noah’s world with the Flood because of the conditions then, how much worse does ours need to get before He acts again? Everywhere we look today, we can see war, violence, starvation, perverseness, corruption, and human misery. I wondered how much longer this would continue and when would the Church wake up?
Back in 2012, I wrote an article titled “The Watchman and the Wall.” My estimation then, as it is now, is that our world is increasingly becoming immune to the signs of the times. Not only that, but we are finding ourselves increasingly surrounded by other believers who refuse to accept the times we live in as prophetically significant. As frustrating as it is living in a world who is blind to the signs of the time, even more perplexing is how people who profess to believe in Jesus as Lord, seemingly have no interest in actually meeting Him.
The bottom line is that we cannot make anyone understand anything, prophetically or otherwise. We can only point out the signs to our friends and family, but we cannot make them believe they mean anything. I remember asking Jack Kinsella years ago about how a Preterist can be so utterly wrong in their understanding of eschatology, yet possess the same Holy Spirit as I do. Doesn’t the same Holy Spirit guide us into the same truth?
About the only Christian doctrine upon which there is more or less universal agreement is that we are saved by grace through faith in the shed Blood and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. BUT, that is the only doctrine, in the final analysis, which really and truly bears eternal consequences. Preterists that trust Jesus for their salvation will meet up in heaven with futurists who trusted Jesus, who will fellowship with pre-tribbers, mid-tribbers and post-tribbers, who will fellowship with Calvinists and Arminians together. Because if you trust Jesus Christ for your salvation, then you will go to heaven. That is the central message of the Gospel. The rest is the product of our longing to know God, and know the things of God, while blinded by the limitations imposed on us by our earthly perspective. As the Apostle Paul put it, seeing the things of God ‘through a glass, darkly’. Paul says we know only ‘in part’ but the part that we all agree on is the only part that really counts. Salvation by faith. In the story of the Tower of Babel, God explains how the various ethnic nations came to be.
“And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:6-7)
By scattering man ‘among the nations’ and removing the common bond of language and ethnicity, God ensured that no one man could ever again rule all men, as Nimrod did until the construction of the Tower of Babel. It prevented any one culture or worldview to dominate all mankind. That diversity is what allowed Christianity to flourish at the point when it was introduced into history. The reason is because Christianity is a personal relationship with Christ, rather than a commonly-accepted cultural duty. God built that same diversity into the Church, which accounts for how and why sincere Christians can read the same Scriptures and come up with such widely divergent doctrines as preterist, historicism, and pretribulationist futurism. It prevents any one teacher from becoming the only accepted source of information of the things of God.
If everybody agreed on every point of doctrine, then the guy who articulates it the best becomes the Great Oracle of God. (And what if he was wrong?) So we have diversity of understanding, but the same Scripture. And we have diversity of teachings, but share the same salvation by grace through faith. And we are equally sincere, because we share the same awesome responsibility of accountability before the Lord. In the end, we will be judged by how we used the doctrine God delivered to us to lead others to salvation in Christ. The necessity of diversity of understanding in the Church Age is adequately demonstrated by a peek across the divide into the coming ‘Time of Jacob’s Trouble’ after the Church Age is concluded. During the Tribulation, that diversity of understanding is replaced by a universal religion imposed by the false prophet and directed toward the worship of antichrist. (Jack Kinsella, Letting God Sort it Out)
Eschatology is a biblical doctrine focusing primarily on the study of last things. It is a component (or subsection) of Bible prophecy specifically dealing with the future events centering on the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Any eschatological position outside the confines of the Biblically ordained Pre-Millennial, Pre-Tribulation (or Pre-70th Week) Rapture (Harpazo, catching up), is just plain old bad eschatology. Eschatology, like other doctrinal positions in the Bible, are not taught in multiple, contradictory ways. In other words, there is only one correct position for any given doctrine. How WE interpret those Scriptures is what drives the multiple variations we currently see taught today. Bad interpretation equals bad doctrine.
Bad eschatology is equivalent to the Flat-Earth Theory in terms of its misguided and erroneous proposals. Yet, as ridiculous as the flat earth theory is these days (given what we now know), it was at least understandable for those in ancient times. They might have believed the earth was flat because they had no way to prove one way or the other until Magellan’s expedition.
Bad eschatology from the 2nd – 20th centuries was equally understandable, given the dormancy Bible prophecy seemed to find itself. Without Israel in her land and a Jewish temple standing, we (humanity) lost our prophetic timepiece and no longer knew when or where we were on God’s prophetic calendar. Unbeknownst to us though was that God was busy building the stage for the final drama which is about to unfold. It was “understandable” that for most of Christian history, the Church did not understand where they were prophetically speaking, since they had nothing to base their position. From that confusion, arose numerous flawed eschatological positions that dominated for different periods.
- Amillennialism: First promoted by Augustine around the 4th-century (City of God circa 426AD) that there is no literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth. Hence the ‘A’ as used as a negative like atheist or apolitical).
- Postmillennialism: First promoted in the 17th-century (Savoy Declaration circa 1658) that it was the duty of the Church to build the kingdom up here on the earth so that Christ could return and claim His throne and rule for an unspecified period of time.
- Preterism: Praeter means past in Latin and was held as an unofficial view by many around Christendom from the 3rd century until now. They viewed the events of Revelation having found either full or partial fulfillment with the destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent Jewish diaspora of the 1st century. First officially promoted by the Roman Catholic Jesuit priest Luis del Alcázar in 1614 (published after his death) entitled Vestigatio arcani sensus in Apocalypsi. This was considered the first major counter-eschatology to Protestantism’s Historicism.
- Historicism: First promoted by the Protestants of the 16-19th centuries, they believed that prophetic fulfillment had found/is finding its fulfillment throughout the centuries. Thus major events such as Roman Catholicism, Napoleon, Hitler, etc., are actual fulfillments of the Revelation.
The aforementioned positions are complimentary and often used in conjunction with each other’s position. They each (in their own variation) replace Israel with the Church. They each put the onus of Christ return on the church’s ability to set the conditions on the earth. They each deny the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church.
However, the ones listed below are erroneous views found solely within the confines of Premillennialism. Premillennialism is the only truly Biblical eschatological position and it teaches that Christ will return at the Second Coming to establish His own kingdom. However, where there are errors, they primarily center on the Church’s role inside Daniel’s 70th Week, and when the Rapture occurs.
- Pre-Wrath: First promoted in the 1970’s by Robert van Kampen, this view posits that the Church goes through 3/4th’s of the 70th Week (i.e., the wrath of man and Satan), but then is spared the Wrath of God (presumably only the Bowl Judgments) via Rapture.
- Mid-Tribulation: First promoted by many of the Early Church Fathers (ECF) that viewed the entirety of the Tribulation only lasting three and a half years. This was later repackaged in the 20th-century and is currently being absorbed into the Pre-Wrath view.
- Post-Tribulation: First promoted by some of the Early Church Fathers who failed to distinguish between the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming. Aside from the Pre-Trib Rapture position, the Post-Trib position is probably the second most popular.
- Partial-Rapture: This view has been around since the first century, and it promotes the view that Christian’s will be raptured according to their faithfulness.
- Pan-Tribulation: Primarily a belief held by 20th-century believers in rejection of the increased attention and focus on Bible prophecy. Promotes a laissez faire attitude of “why bother study” as things will all pan out.
While born-again Christian’s CAN hold to any of the above views and remain saved, the equivalence of adhering to them is akin to 21st-century believers continuing to believe the earth is flat despite the evidence.
- According to Scripture, Israel is back as nation in her ancient land. (Ezekiel 37, Amos 9:14-15, Isaiah 11:11)
- The Jew’s have reclaimed Jerusalem as their ancient capital. (Zech. 12:1-3, Luke 21:24)
- Modern technology is pushing the world towards a singular system of government, economics, and religion. (Rev. 13)
- Modern culture continues to digress morally, politically, ethically, and theologically. (2 Tim. 3:1-7, 2 Peter 3)
- Nations are aligning themselves according to biblical geopolitics. (Ezekiel 38-39)
- The world is experiencing an increase (like birth pangs) in natural and man-caused disasters in the form of wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, droughts, fires, and pestilence. (Matt. 24:3-14)
Instead of the signs of the times being big neon signs that seemingly illuminate the darkness for everyone to see, maybe we should see them as appearing in a hallway that is increasingly growing darker. Proper eschatology (Premillennial/Pre-Tribulation) then is the flashlight by which makes what was unseen or hidden, easier to see and understand. The purpose of a flashlight is to see in the dark when all the lights have gone out. All born-again Christian’s have this innate “flashlight” potential, but most refuse to use it properly.
The Aztecs and Mayans were heavily into prophecy and took every sign they believed in seriously. Too bad they followed after false gods and believed in human sacrifice, we could have used some of their enthusiasm today amongst our ranks (minus the human sacrificing). I, like you, are probably very thankful that we were not born the people of the sun, but rather, the born-again people of The Son.
The principal reason why God gave us a Bible full of prophecy was so that He could tell us beforehand what would happen, and WE would believe (John 13:39). God does not need prophecy for His benefit, He already knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10). It was meant to be light in a dark place for us, as the Apostle Peter would say.
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 2:19-21