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The Timing of the End
Understanding how your future unfolds–from the gospel of Mark 13:4
What in the world is going on? A recent book on prophecy says, “Never before have we read such jarring headlines, distressing news analysis, or dire predictions for our world. There are food shortages, record high fuel prices and natural disasters from volcanoes to cyclones to tsunamis. Longtime antagonists China and Japan announce a pledge of peace and friendship, while a newly belligerent Russia makes pacts in the Middle East. The president of Iran claims Israel must be wiped off the map, while world leaders sit by and say nothing.”
Are we coming to the end? There are all types of prophets, seers, clairvoyants, diviners, fortunetellers, and soothsayers making all kinds of predictions since the time of Christ. I’m certain you’ve seen them as you check out of the grocery store–which is where I catch up on all my crucial reading. Let me give you some of the highlights.
Martin of Tours predicted the world would end before AD 400, writing, “There is no doubt that the antichrist has already been born, is firmly established in his early years and will after reaching maturity, achieve supreme power.”
Mathematician Michael Stifel predicted that Judgment Day would begin at 8 am on October 19th–coming soon? No—that was in the year 1533.
Christopher Columbus predicted the world would come to an end in 1656–then later adjusted it, when it didn’t happen, to 1658.
Puritan Minister Cotton Mather predicted the world’s end in 1697, and when it didn’t come about, adjusted it to 1716, then his third prediction of the end of the world was 1736–then he died.
Herbert Armstrong predicted the end in 1936, then 1943, then 1972–then finally said it would be in 1975, the same year the Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted the end of the world.
Infamous murderer Charles Manson said it would end in 1969.
TV evangelist Pat Robertson said the world would end in 1982.
Harold Camping started off with the end coming September 6, then September 29, then October 2 in 1994, then on March 6, 1995, then May 21, 2011, and finally, October 21, 2011–way to go.
Nostradamus said the world would end in July of 1999.
There was a whole bunch of conservative guys who went crazy for the end of the world on January 1 of the year 2000 with Y2K.
And today, Mark Hagee along with a murder of other magpies have all gone crazy over the blood moons coming in 2014 and ’15. Others, because of the formation of Israel as a nation in 1948, figure somewhere between 2021 and 2028, not 40 years after its start, but 70 to 80 years after the formation of the nation. There’ve been thousands of prophetic darts thrown in the dark–so what do you believe? Who do you trust? Who will you listen to?
Just two Sundays ago, a gal came up and wanted me to know about the prediction of an asteroid destroying a big part of the planet, which coincides with the coming blood moons. She was intent on warning me. I told her, as a church, you and I here do not put our trust in the predictions of men, but only in the revealed Word of God–amen? Then let’s look at what Jesus says is going to come in Mark 13, and help you to understand the timing of the end.
If you’re new with us, we’re studying the gospel of Mark, verse by verse, word by word, not skipping anything, seeking to determine only the author’s intended meaning. And we have arrived at Mark 13, where Jesus teaches His men the Olivet Discourse, or the end of the world. We believe what Christ says, because He’s already been there. He is eternal, He lives outside of time, He’s not bound by time. He is not a prophet predicting what is going to happen–He is the Sovereign God who is totally in control of what’s coming.
What is coming? Stand in honor of the Word of God and read aloud with me from your outline, verses 1 to 8 of Mark 13. “As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’ 2 And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.’ 3 As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, 4 ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?’ 5 And Jesus began to say to them, ‘See to it that no one misleads you. 6 Many will come in My name, saying, ”I am He!” and will mislead many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. 8 For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.’” Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, we ask you to help us understand your plan for the future. Help us grasp why a study of end times is so difficult and controversial. Move us to trust your Word above all other voices. And motivate us to not be hearers, but doers of your Word. We want our worship today to not merely be about what we know, but for your Word to penetrate our heart affections and our willful decisions. We desire that you would change the way we live now as a result of being impacted by what is coming in the future. We ask, Lord, that you’d help us to not waste the opportunities you give us in this life, on this planet, but to bring you glory now, and be as impactful for your Gospel as we can. And we pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Two events occur in the first four verses of chapter 13–what are they?
#1 Christ PREDICTS the Temple’s future destruction Verses 1 to 2
It’s Wednesday, early evening of the Passion Week. Christ just finished indicting the religious leaders for their external hypocrisy, when one of the disciples says, verse 1, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”
Look at this Temple, Lord—it’s awesome! And it was. The Temple was one of the architectural wonders of the world. Anyone here enamored by buildings? I appreciate the art and science of architecture! I love the history. But when it comes to religious buildings, like cathedrals, I have the opposite response. No matter how amazing the building, no matter the incredible history, I can’t help but think of the thousands of people who went to those buildings, thinking they were headed to Heaven, only to wake up in torment.
So in spite of its splendor, the temple was not pleasing to Christ, because like the Jewish leaders, the Temple had become an empty shell. It was a swap meet to embezzle money for greedy religious leaders. So now instead of a place where broken sinners can go for help, the Temple became a modern day shopping mall right before Christmas.
So Jesus says, verse 2, “’Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.’” Very soon this great building will be reduced to a pile of rubble, predicting the Temple’s coming destruction by the Romans in 70 AD–about 37 years later than when Jesus predicts it here in verse 2.
In Luke 19:43 to 44, Jesus says the same thing. “’Days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.’”
Josephus said of this coming destruction by the Romans in 70 AD, “The temple and the city walls, except for a few towers, were so thoroughly dug up to the foundation, that there was nothing left to make those who came to it, believe it had ever been inhabited.” So Jesus gives this stunning prophecy of the Temple’s destruction. The disciples were shocked. So as soon as they got the opportunity, within an hour, they were on the Mount of Olives, looking over and slightly down at the Temple Mount. And there, verse 3 tells us, I’m sure in deep silence, contemplating the coming doom . . .
#2 Christ is questioned PRIVATELY by His disciples Verses 3 to 4
They ask the Lord in verse 4, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?” Four disciples ask two burning questions. Verse 4, “Tell us.”
First The Question of CHRONOLOGY: “When will these things be?”
They wanted to know the when! One writer said, “They were so excited. They could sense that the child of Isaiah 9 was ready to take on His shoulders the government of the Kingdom of God. They could sense that the stone cut out without hands of Daniel was ready to crush the power of evil men, that the Messiah was ready to make an end of sins and make reconciliation for iniquity and bring in everlasting righteousness. They could sense that the Son of Man would be given dominion and glory in a Kingdom that was everlasting. They could sense what Isaiah had said, what Daniel had said, what Ezekiel had said was about to happen. What Zechariah had said was about to come in the day of the Lord. And they think it’s going to happen now, or very soon.” When, Jesus–when? Then . . .
Second The Question of INDICATORS: “and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”
What sign shall we look for? When will all these future things happen? What will clearly tell us the end has arrived? How do we know they’re asking about the end of the world? Matthew’s gospel tells us, in His description of the Olivet Discourse. Matthew 24:3, “As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’”
“The end” here refers to the final consummation, full completion, the end of the present age. This Greek word, “the end”, is used five times to refer to the concrete end, the final end–the end of the world. So are you paying attention? You gotta get this–this discourse begins with the Temple’s destruction, but then moves beyond that theme to describe the end of the world, featuring the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Turn to Zechariah 14. Apparently the disciples thought the destruction of the Temple and the end of the age would be the same event. Why did they think this way? Because the disciples read their Bibles, and were directly influenced by the prophet Zechariah. I’m sure they read Zechariah 14:1, 3 and 4, “Behold, a day is . . . I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, . . . 3 Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, . . . 4 In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which . . . will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley.”
This same passage goes on to describe the coming of the Lord to destroy the nations which warred against Jerusalem. In Zechariah 14:3 to 8, “Then the Lord will . . . fight against those nations.” Then after that, Zechariah 14:9 to 11 describes the establishing of the millennial kingdom, “And the Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one.”
After studying that, in their minds, the disciples would have developed a chronology of events in the following sequence:
1) the departure of the King
2) after a period of time, the destruction of Jerusalem
3) then immediately after Jerusalem’s devastation, the revealing of the Messiah to rule
The disciples had merged these events–the Temple’s destruction, the Tribulation, and the end of all things into a single time period. But Jesus Christ did not–there is a gap in the time frame. The gospel writer Luke makes this very clear in Luke 19:11, “While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.”
There is a gap between the coming Temple destruction in AD 70, and the return of Christ and His coming 1,000-year Kingdom. The disciples didn’t foresee the long interval between the two events. Typically in biblical prophecy, a local event is a prequel to the final eschatological event, but always separated by time. In this case, the local crisis of the Temple’s destruction is a type of the end of the world, but not the actual end.
Like viewing a mountain range off in the distance, you can get confused as to how far apart the mountains really are. That’s where the disciples are at. The local event, the Temple destroyed in 70 AD is in the foreground, but the end of the world is in the background. But it is difficult to tell them apart, and impossible to see the giant valley of time that exists in between them—so asking?
Does Jesus really mean to refer to more than the Temple’s destruction here? Yes, friends–you already read the gospel of Matthew’s reference to the end of the age. Now look closely at verse 4 again, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?” The Greek phrase, “all these things”, stands emphatically at the end of the sentence in the Greek, stressing the total consummation of future events.
Though Jesus spoke of the Temple, the disciples are thinking about more than the Temple, since “all these things” is plural–they know this catastrophic event will be related to other events. “These things” relates to the Temple, but their question assumes the destruction of the Temple will be part of a series of complex events culminating in the end of the age, and the beginning of the Messianic kingdom.
As Hendrickson says in His commentary, “Jesus does not limit himself to the events that occurred in 70 AD. His prophetic eyes scan the centuries that lie ahead, and as you read on, the Lord clearly sees His own glorious Second Coming among these events”– He is coming. So in reply to their questions, Jesus skillfully wove together a prophetic scene involving two perspectives:
- a) the near event–the destruction of Jerusalem (in AD 70) Verse 4
- b) the far event–the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds with power and glory Verses 5 to 27
The former local event was a forerunner of the latter universal event. In this way, Jesus followed the pattern of the Old Testament prophets by predicting a far future event in terms of a near future event, whose fulfillment some of His hearers might actually see. What Jesus masterfully does is address these questions in reverse order. He addresses the sign of His coming (actually a series of signs) in verses 5 to 27. Then He addresses the first question about the timing of these events in verses 28 to 37. That’s all from verses 1 to 4. But now I can hear some of you, “Chris, why is understanding the end times so difficult?”
#3 Embrace the DIFFICULTY of understanding Christ’s future plan
Let me show you why eschatology is controversial and difficult–why so many solid believers have abandoned understanding the future.
First You need to know the entire Bible
The Bible is inspired by God Himself–one author. Yet the Bible contains 66 different books, written by 40 different human authors in different places, with different cultures, over a 1,500-year period. And our understanding of the end times was revealed over that entire time. During that 1,500 years, the Holy Spirit was giving special revelation to His chosen servants and revealing God’s plan. Therefore, the end times is not merely unveiled in the book of Revelation, but throughout the entire Bible. So in order to understand end times, you need to really understand the whole Bible.
John MacArthur writes, “Of the one-fifth of Scripture which is predictive prophecy, one-third speaks of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to judge sinners and reign with the righteous. There are about 660 general prophecies in the Bible, half of them are about Jesus Christ. Of the 330 that are about Christ, 110 of them are about His first coming and 220 of them are about His Second Coming. Out of the 46 Old Testament prophets, ten of them spoke of matters related to His first coming, 36 of them spoke of matters related to His Second Coming. Someone estimated that over 1,500 verses in the Old Testament looked to the return of the Messiah in glory and judgment. Every time Christ mentions His first coming, He mentions His second coming eight times.”
He is coming back friends. Part of the reason it is difficult to understand the end times is you must correctly understand the purpose of each Bible book, then labor to maintain a consistent, literal/normative approach of interpretation, exegeting each verse in its context, in order to see how it relates to the overall teaching of the end times. In other words, it takes a lot of work and requires a lifetime of study.
Second You’re limited to TIME, where God is not
Jesus prophesied the destruction of the Temple, then went beyond the Temple’s destruction to the end of the world, including His Second Coming. Often in Old Testament prophecy, the writers move from a very close time at hand to a very distant future, almost as if they are looking at events the way the Lord, who exists outside of time, sees them.
Turn to Luke 4. Again, you are looking at a mountain range, and one mountain peak appears to be right next to the other, but in fact they’re miles apart with a giant valley in between them. When interpreting Scripture, it is often difficult to say where the historical leaves off and the eschatological begins.
Let me show you an example of this in Luke 4. Jesus is in the synagogue, and in verse 16 it says, “He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17 And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ [Stop] 20 And He closed the book . . . 21 And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” Today your Messiah is in your midst.
Now turn to Isaiah 61:2. You probably don’t know this, but the Lord stopped His reading from Isaiah 61:2 right smack dab in the middle of verse 2. In verse 19 of Luke 4, Jesus is reading from Isaiah 61:2, but stops in the middle of verse 2 from Isaiah 61. He only reads half the verse, then stopped and put the book down. Jesus left out the very next line of the verse He’s reading. What did Jesus leave out–what didn’t He read from verse 2?
Isaiah 61:2, “To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord”—He left out, “and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn.” Why did Jesus leave that part of the verse off in His reading? Because it’s in His future–it was not fulfilled at that moment. That part of the verse was not about His first coming, as He’s standing there, but it was all about His second coming. So He stops reading in the middle of the verse so He could say, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The first half of Isaiah 61:2 is describing Jesus’ first coming, and the second half of Isaiah 61:2 is describing His Second Coming. That’s why He closed the book after preaching “the favorable year of the Lord”, and did not read, “and the day of vengeance.” The first time the Savior came, He came to preach the Gospel. The second time the Savior comes, He is coming to judge. This is why it is difficult to understand the end times.
As the gospels unfold, we begin to understand the distinction between the first and Second Coming. As you read on in the epistles, the first and second comings become distinctly clear. Progressive revelation means as God continues to reveal Himself through the Scriptures, we learn more about Him. And as the Lord reveals more and more about the end times through the Old and New Testaments, we understand it better.
The disciples failed to properly understand the distinction between the first and Second Coming of Christ. They expected Jesus to come as King and immediately set up His Kingdom. They thought it would all happen at the same time. Messiah comes, crushes His enemies, game over—the end! The disciples failed to understand there was a huge valley that separated the mountains of His first and Second Coming.
And we know the Scripture is written at times without time indicators. This is a common practice with prophecy. In the book of Daniel, there’s one immediate coming prophecy, and then the prediction jumps into the eschaton–the future to us, the end of the world, just like Jesus does with the Temple, then the end of the world here in Mark. In chapter 11, Daniel predicts the coming of Antiochus Epiphanes, who is a type of anti-Christ in verses 20 to 35, then jumps to our future as Daniel describes the coming, final, most awful, true Antichrist in verses 36 and following.
It was often the practice of God through His prophets to first predict some person or event coming that could be confirmed in recent history–sometimes even by those who hear it. And that recent event will be a foreshadow, or a type, to a person or second event that is coming at the end of the world. Coming soon, Antiochus Epiphanes, an evil murderous leader–then coming at the end, the Antichrist, the worst evil leader ever. Coming soon, the total horrific destruction of the Temple, Mark 13:2–then coming at the end, the most horrific destruction of the Tribulation, Mark 13:5.
The timing can be difficult, and the way the prophets wrote, sometimes it makes understanding the end times difficult. Another reason why eschatology, the study of last things, can be so difficult to understand is . . .
Third You’re dependent upon DIFFICULT descriptions
Can you imagine living during the time of Daniel and trying to describe the iPhone 6 Plus? It takes videos and pictures, it speaks to you, you can text people on the other side of the world, you can purchase coffee at Starbucks with it, board planes with it, study the Bible with it, have it play music, wake you up, and give you directions where to go. People of Daniel’s time would be asking, “What’s a plane? Coffee? Text?” You have never seen anything like it–nothing exists like that, but now they have to describe it in detail for others. That’s a tough task!
The prophets had the same problem. They saw things they didn’t understand–then under the inspiration of the Spirit, perfectly and accurately described these things sometimes with symbols, pictures or images, but also within the limitation of their own culture and time. When we want to describe someone with bad character, we might say, “He’s a monster.” The ancient authors of Scripture might call the Antichrist a beast with multiple heads.
Okay, eschatology is difficult to interpret. But why are there so many different opinions? Why do men that I love and respect differ on this topic? How come they don’t all have the same view? Doesn’t that prove it’s impossible to be certain about the end times? No, it does not, and here is why.
Fourth You must understand the RULES of interpretation
Do not get discouraged when you hear Premil, Amil, or Postmil–you’re gonna say, “That’s just too difficult!” Then you might say, “I’m gonna be a pan-millennialist.” You know what that is, right?” A pan-millennialist says, “It’s just gonna all pan out in the end!” Don’t go there–don’t give up. Seek to understand the Word, and develop a healthy theology. If you want to know God, then you must learn theology, which is the study of God.
Broadly speaking, there are four main views on the end times–premillennial, amillennial, postmillennial and preterist. Before I explain them, understand three of them are embraced by people we love (though I don’t agree with them), and the main three share some crucial and common truths.
1 Three views are held by people who believe Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords, and that He rules or will rule over a glorious Kingdom.
2 Three views hold (and this is crucial)–they believe one day Christ will return to this world, literally, physically, as glorified, visible God, and the Judge of all the earth.
So there is no need to go to war with someone who holds a different position on eschatology, but realize that not only do these views affect how you understand the end times, but believing them can dramatically alter how you live now. Depending on which view you embrace will determine if you accept a literal 1,000-year Kingdom. Will there be a 7-year Tribulation before the Kingdom? Will there be an Antichrist? Is Satan bound now or later? Will the Church be successful in evangelizing the world prior to the return of Christ, and more?
And depending on which view you embrace on end times can determine how you educate your children, what your view of the family and church is, and how you actually live for Christ on this planet. In your outline–your beliefs do affect your behavior. Now there are three points of disagreement on the three main views.
1 WHEN will Jesus reign? or, the TIMING of His reign
2 HOW will Jesus reign? or, the NATURE of His reign
3 WHERE will Jesus reign? or, the PLACE of His reign
What are the three main views–and a fourth I’ll mention
First The AMILLENIAL view
The prefix “A” before the word millennial indicates a negative, so amil literally means no millennium. Technically, amils do believe in a Kingdom where Christ reigns–it’s just not a literal, physical thousand-year Kingdom. This view is the dominant view. If you prefer majority rule, amil is your position. Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and most of the reformers held this view, which was started by Augustine.
Concerning when, amils believe the Kingdom of God is right now, between the first and second comings of Christ. The Kingdom is not a literal 1,000 years, but a symbolic long period of time. Amils also believe Satan is bound right now as a result of the work of Christ, plus they reject a literal, coming 7-year Tribulation. As to how and where, amils believe the reign of Christ on Earth is in the hearts of believers and in the Church. Amils believe that Christ will return at the end of the Church age, judge all men, and usher us into eternity.
Second The PREMILLENIAL view
The prefix pre indicates that premils believe Christ will return before the Kingdom, and that Kingdom will be Christ ruling in a literal, physical, one thousand years on Earth, reigning from a throne in Jerusalem. Premil was the position of the Early Church fathers, like Clement, Papias, Polycarp, and Justin Martyr. By the third century, with the willingness of Augustine to allegorize, the premil view was replaced by amil–but in the last 200 years it’s made a comeback.
Men like Boice, Pentecost, MacArthur, Mueller, Pleasnick, Fabarez, Shailer, Dodson, Farrell and Shackelford all hold this view. When? Premils teach the Second Coming of Christ will occur before, pre, the 1,000-year Kingdom reign of Christ on Earth. He will return at the end of a literal seven-year period of terrible judgment, called the Tribulation.
How and where? The Kingdom will not be established by the conversion of souls, but suddenly and powerfully by the glorious coming of Christ from Heaven. During that thousand literal years, Satan will then be bound for a thousand years, and the curse will be reversed on the planet, the Jews will be restored to Israel, and Christ will reign over the earth in righteousness, peace and joy. Most premils believe Christ is ruling now in the hearts of His people and through His Church, but that is but a type or a small taste of what is to come.
Third The POSTMILLENIAL view
The prefix post indicates that postmils believe Christ will return after the Kingdom has been established on Earth. But their view of the Kingdom is different. Postmils are like amils in that they maintain the Kingdom is a period between the first and second coming of Christ, and not a literal one thousand years. How are postmils different? Postmils believe the Church will actually Christianize the world during this present time, and in a real way have Christ rule through us, as we follow the Law of God. Things get better and better, paving the way for Christ to return to a utopia under the rule of His Word through His Church.
This is a recent view, which grew popular during the Industrial Revolution, when science and learning convinced everyone that mankind could actually usher in the Kingdom of God. Sadly, WWI and WWII dampened this view, but it still is held by men like Voddie Baucham and Doug Wilson, who strongly promote training your kids like our founding Fathers, so that they will take over the planet spiritually and politically.
When–postmils maintain that Christ will return to Earth after (post) the millennium, meaning they view today, the period between the first and Second Coming of Christ as the Kingdom. How and where? Postmils maintain that the Lord’s reign is both spiritual and political, and not a literal thousand years, but will actually be a golden age which will be ushered in by the Church during this present age by the preaching of the Gospel.
Fourth PRETERIST view must be mentioned
My least favorite, but since partial Preterism is held by RC Sproul, you should know what it is. Full preterism maintains that all the Old Testament and New Testament prophecies about the future have already happened. The resurrection is spiritual, and we are now living in the new Heaven and new Earth, with no return of Christ, and no judgment. This is heresy, and not Sproul’s position.
RC believes partial preterism, which maintains that most of the prophecy of the book of Revelation was fulfilled during the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. They maintain Jesus came in the clouds to destroy Jerusalem, Nero was the beast of Revelation 13, and Christ’s coming was “a” coming, but not “the” final coming of Christ. Partial preterists still hope in a future second coming, a true resurrection and a coming judgment–it’s sort of orthodox, but it is wrong.
Why do we have these different views? You could say . . .
Amil and postmil view Israel and the Church as one people, whereas premil views Israel and the Church distinct.
Amil and post focus on the continuity between the Old Testament and New Testament, whereas premil sees some distinction. What do I mean?
Amils see circumcision in the Old Testament being replaced by baptism in the New Testament, so they will baptize infants in the same way infants were circumcised. Premils view circumcision and baptism as distinctly different, and only baptize believers (not infants) in the New Testament.
Amils presume a covenant of works and a covenant of grace, which would allow them to see all the promises made to Israel, of a literal return to the land as symbolically fulfilled in Christ–where premils would view those Old Testament promises made to Israel as still binding, since God will keep His Word literally.
So now, let me give you the secret–the key to understanding these views, and the reason why our favorite authors disagree. This is worth bucks. The reason for the differences between these views is hermeneutics. Do we interpret the Bible normally in each setting, or when it comes to prophecy are we allowed to spiritualize the text? The main reason there are different views on how the end times actually work out is simply because of a change of hermeneutics.
Hermeneutics refers to the rules you use to interpret. If you change the rules, it changes your view of the end times. It is like switching your phone camera mode to panorama–when you do that, it dramatically changes what you see. Your end result picture will really look different than regular mode. So depending on what rules you use to interpret the Bible, will determine your view of the end times. Ready?
If you’re amil or postmil or preterist, for theological reasons, like Augustine did so long ago, you can spiritualize or allegorize the Scripture when it comes to prophecy, and say all those literal promises were fulfilled in Christ, so they’re no longer binding. So a one thousand year Kingdom only means a long time–Christ merely reigns in your heart, but will return literally someday.
If you’re premil, you take every passage normally when it comes to prophecy–God will keep His promises to Israel and the Church. So when the Bible speaks of a thousand year Kingdom, it means a literal one thousand years. Look at this example . . . Revelation 8:8c says, “…and a third of the sea became blood.” In an amil/postmil commentary, you might read this means, “Corruption of deadly error; introduction of false doctrine; spiritual death and apostasy”–not a red sea, or bloody sea, or a poisoned sea.
In a premil commentary you’ll read in some manner, like it did with the plagues of Egypt, “Now the oceans of the world suffer red tide, caused by billions of dead micro-organisms poisoning the water. Or it may be actual blood, a clear act of eschatological judgment.” Do you see the difference? One is spiritualized, one is literal. The main reason for the differences is because some have allowed themselves, for theological reasons, to spiritualize texts—the amil, postmil and preterist do this. The premil just interprets the Bible at face value, interpreting in a normal fashion in context, allowing for symbolism to be taken in the most natural, normal or literal manner. So today . . .
A. Are you faithful to daily READ/STUDY God’s Word?
To be filled with the Spirit, to be a growing Christian, to keep your heart right, to be fed spiritually, to be led by God daily, you must read the Word of God, daily. Try a paragraph a day, read ahead in Mark, read entire books until God grabs your heart with a truth to live for that day, but be faithful to read God’s Word. Psalm 119:11, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”
B. Are you willing to study THEOLOGY?
To grow to maturity as a believer, to be a Christian who is not tossed to and fro as the immature are, you need to move from reading the Bible to studying the Bible, and developing a sound (meaning healthy) theology. The Greek word “sound” gives us our English word for hygiene, which is what I say to Jean every morning, “Hi, Jean!” Sound means clean, healthy, that which makes you like Christ. This is why we want you in an RMG, to attend Men of the Word and Women of the Word. And if you’re crazy, to join the Training Center–get sound, get stable. Study the Word with the same intensity you devour your double double!
C. Do you understand your relationship RESPONSIBILITIES?
Inside the church, this is your immediate family–closest family. Outside the church, a Christian is your distant family–third cousins. Inside the church, we love each other as we dig in and we help each other to work through our theological differences. Outside our church, we love the saints and make sure they genuinely know Christ, but don’t try to correct everyone with the 2×4 of sound theology. Remember, not only do you represent Christ, but you also represent FBC.
D. Do you know the CHRIST who will return?
You are not going to meet Jesus meek and mild, but your Creator who holds the universe together in all His glory. Is that the Christ you know? Do you follow the Lord, Savior, Master, Judge, Creator? Do you submit to His will over your own will? Are you relying on His death on the cross for your sins?
E. Are you excited for the RETURN of Christ?
Only those whose lives are focused on eternity now are truly excited about the return of Christ? Is it obvious you live for eternity? Finally . . .
#4 What is the end of the world going to be LIKE?
To learn the answer to that, you have to come back next week. Let’s pray.