by Jiim Hutchens
What do you think about the future? In light of Iran’s stated objective to “wipe Israel off the map” – of their stated intention of escorting a flotilla to Gaza this weekend – of Israel and the US making noises about a preemptive strike on Iran – of nuclear proliferation, etc. etc., what do you think about the future? That was the question posed in a series of recent surveys in World magazine.
Joel Belz is the founder of World magazine, certainly one of the top three Christian magazines. He writes an article for each issue. His June 5 article entitled, “DON’T HEAD FOR THE HILLS!,” was Belz’s response to three informal surveys he had conducted asking the question, “in today’s gloomy climate you are (1) a bit of an optimist, (2) a bit of a pessimist, or (3) a doomsday cataclysmist.” These are valid questions for these days.
Mr. Belz was alarmed to find that 75 percent were pessimistic about the future and more than half of those were in the “really bad cataclysmist” category. My own response is, I’m alarmed that he is alarmed. My sense is that his respondents may have a more realistic understanding of what is happening in the world today and what is about to happen than he does. In the long term, Christian’s indeed do have an optimistic view of what will take place. Jesus returns and wins. As they say, “We read the end of the book and the good guys win.” And if you know the Messiah, you are one of the good guys. To his credit, Mr. Belz does point to that kind of positive ultimate ending.
However, Marvin Olasky, Editor in Chief of World, commenting on Belz’s survey said in the July 3 issue, “Joel’s attitude and mine, is that horrible times might come, or might not: God is in control and none of us knows the future.” Of course God is sovereign but this begs the question, what about the short term? In His sovereignty, what will God allow in the near term? What has God already allowed? Is anything written about the in between time? Do the Scriptures indicate what is to take place between now and when Jesus returns? Is it really true, as Olasky claims, “None of us knows the future?” Can anyone know anything about the future? The answer is an emphatic, yes we can. Or else the prophetic scriptures have no validity for today.
However, they are valid for today and at this point one’s understanding of the end times comes into play. Yes, Virginia, eschatology is important. A correct understanding of the times between now and when Messiah Jesus returns is essential for the peace and well being of God’s people. It is imperative that we dig into the Scriptures, be realistic and be free from naive and false hopes about the future. Further, logic tells us all of the prevailing views of the end times cannot be right. As a matter of fact, some are mutually exclusive. The key is found in a correct understanding of Revelation 20.
Like many of us, the disciples wanted to know what they should think about the future. They asked Jesus, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” His immediate response was, “Watch out that no one deceives you.” He then proceeded to teach them that deception will be the order of the day – it will be pervasive until he returns. The Apostle John wrote that the whole world order is vulnerable to being deceived because “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” . Further, the Scriptures teach that Satan’s control will come to an end only when Jesus returns to rule and reign. At that time, Satan will be bound for a thousand years. Why? “To keep him from deceiving the nations anymore – until the thousand years are ended” . Deception is the modus operandi of the evil one until Messiah Jesus returns.
Now, one of the most prominent end-time theories is Amillennialism (which says there is no earthly reign of Christ for a 1000 years). They would have us believe we are presently in the millennium. They say the 1000 year reign of Christ actually refers to the reign of dead believers in heaven, not on earth. This view teaches that since the gospel is being preached, Satan is bound. In other words, the clear intent of the Bible is spiritualized. It doesn’t really mean what John taught. He just said that. But, look around you. If we are in the millennium now, how is that deceit reigns supreme in almost every human activity? Actually this teaching arose, primarily with Augustine (AD 354-440) and it continues today in much of Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity. To endorse this notion that Satan is bound today – that he is no longer in control of the world and that the world is no longer plagued with universal deception – only confirms that one is deceived. On this point, the evil one has gained a convert to deception.
Then there is the view called Postmillennialism. These people cling to a utopian vision that “Every day in every way, we are getting better and better.” They see the world as progressively becoming Christianized and that when that is successfully accomplished, Jesus will return. For one to seriously believe this he would have to be living in a parallel universe or in a cave, totally out of touch, and yes, deceived. With the world’s state of progressive spiritual decline, the wars and rumors of wars that abound, as well as the rapid rise of Jihadist Islam occurring in the world today, he is oblivious to the fact we are racing toward Armageddon and that no one can stop this inevitable catastrophe.
A third view, called The Preterist view, is convinced all the prophecies of the New Testament, including everything written in the book of Revelation have already been fulfilled. They teach that all prophecies were accomplished by AD 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. Jesus has thus been stripped of all prophetic insight. The only thing one can say to a Preterist is, “You are in for a rude awakening.”
The end-time scenario that makes the most sense from a normal, face value, literal understanding of literature is Premillennialism. That is that Jesus will return pre (before) the millennium (1000 years) kingdom is established. It also makes the most sense from the realistic facts on the ground as we see them today. Here are given clear indications as to what we can expect between now and the time Jesus returns. Basically, it teaches that things on earth are going to get increasingly worse – until Jesus comes in power and great glory to establish God’s kingdom on earth. Only then and finally, the prayers of millions for centuries will be answered, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Before that, here are some things that must take place, many of which are prophecied in the “Trumpet and Bowl judgments” of Revelation 8-16.
• “A third of the earth is burned up, a third of the trees are burned up and all the green grass is burned up.” (8:6)
• “A third of the sea turns into blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea die, and a third of the ships are destroyed.” (8:9)
• “A third of the waters and springs of water turn bitter and many people die from the waters that become bitter.” (8:10-11).
• “Two hundred million troops are released to kill a third of mankind” (8:14-19). As of today, that would equal over two billion people.
• God sends two “witnesses” who prophecy in his name and any who oppose them are killed. “These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying and they have the power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want…” (11:3-6).
• An Anti-Christ will rise up in the world – one who is “given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them.” (13:7)
• And finally, Jesus said, “For then there will be great tribulation, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:21-22).
Is it any wonder that 75 percent the respondents to Mr. Belz’s survey were pessimistic about the immediate future and over half were in the “really bad” category? My guess is many of these people have been reading their Bible and are taking seriously what it teaches will occur before Jesus comes. My guess is most of these are people who are “not deceived.” The rest no doubt are looking around and seeing what is happening and will find their intuitions are correct and they should act on them. Anyone who chooses to allegorize these prophecies or sees them as symbols or metaphors and does not see them as literal coming events, does so to his own peril and to the peril of his loved ones.
Here are suggestions for looking at the future:
1. Do not be deceived.
2. Repent (turn around), place all your hope and confidence in God alone.
3. Put your faith in Jesus, the Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world. Acknowledge him as the covering (kippur) for your sin.
4. Then, as believers, pray what Jesus said to pray, “Be always on the watch and earnestly pray that you may be enabled (given power) to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be enabled to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:36).
Even so, come quickly LORD Jesus! This is a good way to think about the future.