Starting to Look at the End (Part 7)

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I wish to conclude with a few comments in response to two questions, the first asked frequently and the second infrequently.

When Will These Things Be?

This question was one of three asked of Jesus by the disciples in Matthew 24:3. He did not answer this question but responded to the other two: What will be the sign of your coming (Matthew 24:29–31)?, and What will signal the end of the age (Matthew 24:4–28)?

If we examine what things Christ was talking about prior to the first question (Matthew 24:3; Mark 13:4), we find that he was in fact stating that the temple buildings would be torn down with not one stone left upon another. This occurred in AD 70 during the destruction of Jerusalem. However, some Christians have always been asking when would the signs of his coming, and signs of the end of the age, be. For most believers, the strongest objection to any inquiry into the time of these events is the statement of the Lord (Matthew 24 :36; Mark 13:32) that “of that day or hour (when the Lord returns in glory!) no one knows … but the Father.” At the time of speaking this was certainly true. Jesus was speaking here to his disciples as Jews about future events concerning their nation Israel, and the Gentile nations present on earth at that time. We must remember that this statement is made before his crucifixion, before the existence of the Church, and before the New Testament was written, providing further prophetic details, especially in the book of Revelation. Is this statement therefore universal and for all time? Surely it cannot be for those saved during the tribulation period. Anyone with access to a Bible will know with certainty that, from the time the rebuilt temple is desecrated by erection of an image of the beast, with a command for all to worship him, exactly 1260 days later, or 42-months, or three and a half biblical years, the Lord will come. The closing chapter of the book of Daniel reveals that it will only be in the time period just before the end that believers will understand the things he prophesied.

Is the Lord’s statement valid at the present time? Yes, of course it is, since as yet the Church is not complete, and no man knows when the Rapture will take place. There are no signs leading up to the Lord’s coming in the air, as there are prior to his return to the earth. Note that it is the latter which is the Second Coming of the Lord. Therefore, until the Church is taken up, the tribulation period, initiated by the infamous peace treaty, cannot begin. Note, this is one of the reasons why I am a pretribulationlist, since once the peace treaty is signed that date of the Lord’s return to earth can be determined. However, there are several Scriptures that state believers are to be alert and watchful, and aware of signs indicating that his return is imminent. In 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11 we read the Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night, but we are not in darkness, or of the night, and hence as sons of the light we must be alert and ready. Paul says that God has not appointed us to wrath and we should comfort and encourage one another because of these facts.

What is My Response?

Having a knowledge, and some understanding, of the facts a prophecy is surely not enough for any Christian. As with any Scripture subject, we should in some way be responsive to it. Read and meditate on the following Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 15:51–58; Philippians 3:20, 21; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18; Titus 2:11–15; 2 Peter 3:13–18; and 1 John 2:28–3:3.

Surely the thrilling words of prophecy concerning our incredible future with him should cause us more diligently to 

  • worship,
  • witness,
  • work, and 
  • watch for his coming.

When the Lord said to John, in Revelation 22:7, “… Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy in this book,” he fell down in worship. Three times in the final chapter of the Bible, our Lord Jesus Christ says “Behold, I am coming quickly.” Our response should be “Come, Lord Jesus.”

This series of posts has been adapted with permission from F. J. Hopton, From Here to Eternity: What Every Christian Should Know, Canada, 1999.