July 2012 Yavoh

The first time I ever heard anyone talking about the end of the world and the “Day of the Lord” was in my first year of high school. I was 14 years of age then and looking forward to the rest of my life. I remember a man from Florida who predicted that the world would suddenly come to an end at 1:30 pm (my time in Kansas) on a particular day. The news media picked up on the story and everyone was talking about it.

For me, I was genuinely concerned about the news. At that age I was looking forward to the rest of my life. I wanted to drive a car and join the Navy. I eventually wanted to get married, have children and have a home of my own. I had plans for my life!

I didn’t want God to stop the merry go-round at that time. Further, the prediction of 1:30 pm on that particular day was going to force me to sit for the last hour of my life in Miss Edberg’s Latin class. I couldn’t think of a worse place to be for the last hour of my life.

I remember various people debating in those days. Some were hoping that the world would end but others, like me, called it all “doom and gloom” and seemed just as confident that it would not end. I remember Miss Edberg telling me that Latin class was not the “end of the world.”

Well, as you well know, the world did not come to an end back then and I did survive Latin class.

About two years later, I had an English teacher who gave us a compelling writing assignment. We were to assume that we had only 24 hours to live and we were to describe what we would do with those 24 hours. She was looking for us to describe what we would do – kind of like a last meal time with the chaplain as a condemned prisoner might request. This assignment truly bothered me. I didn’t want to think about dying and what I would do in the last 24 hours of my life. I had plans for my life!

I didn’t do the assignment. Instead, I wrote the teacher a note telling her about my plans and that I didn’t want to think about anything that was doom and gloom and interfere with them. I was surprised by her response. She said my note satisfied the assignment.

As I remember my youth and these two incidents, I recall the elements of fear and apprehension I felt. I remember the concern and the conflict with my ego. I also remember how different people reacted in different ways. I found myself joining others to mock the prediction and the thought of the world suddenly ending as a bunch of foolishness called “Doom and Gloom.”

Whenever a Bible teacher addresses the subject of the return of the Messiah, the Day of the Lord, or the end-time prophecies, many believers don’t deal with it well. If you teach about it frequently as I do, some of those believers will turn away and go elsewhere so they won’t hear it anymore.

To a certain extent I don’t blame them. I know the feeling I had earlier in my life, and many of those who turn away have plans and want to live out their lives. They don’t want any doom and gloom interfering with their plans.

On the other hand, the prophecies of the end are part of the Bible and core doctrines of our faith. If God is not going to return and bring this all to a just conclusion, then our faith is in vain, and we could feel justified to ask ourselves why are we believing in this stuff? Let’s go look for the truth somewhere else!

As I see it, the end of the world as we know it is just as foundational to our faith as believing in the creation. Believing in the redemption of the Messiah expects that we believe His promise to return.

Now, a considerable amount of time has passed since God made those promises in Scripture. You can interpret it two ways: Because of the amount of time that has passed, the promises of His return and the Day of the Lord are not true. Or, you can say that because of the large amount of time that has passed, this suggests that His return is soon and we should be anticipating it more than ever.

It comes down to whether you believe what is said in the Scripture or not. It also comes down to examining what the Scripture really says about the signs of the end because the Bible clearly wants believers to anticipate and prepare for the return.

On this last point let me elaborate...

The prophets of Israel spoke directly about the triumphant appearing of God and the Day of the Lord. Look how the prophet Daniel described it.

I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. DAN 7:13-14

Interestingly enough, even Daniel had his own level of concern upon hearing this prophecy.

As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. DAN 7:15

But if you think that is distressing consider the prophet Zephaniah as he defines the Day of the Lord to us.

Near is the great day of the LORD, near and coming very quickly; listen, the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and battle cry, against the fortified cities and the high corner towers. And I will bring distress on men, so that they will walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; and their blood will be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them on the day of the LORD's wrath; and all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, for He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, of all the inhabitants of the earth. ZEP 1:14-18

If you are looking for a Biblical definition of doom and gloom, you don’t have to look any further. All who read these words have a sense of dread and fear at some level.

Looking back to Daniel, he surmised that the doom and gloom would be worse than the world has ever seen before.

And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; DAN 12:1b

Yet the prophets also speak of believers surviving this doom and gloom to be part of God’s victory and future kingdom. The prophet Zephaniah follows his definition with this:

Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances; seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the LORD'S anger. ZEP 2:3

An even more positive message is given by other prophets on this subject. Daniel followed his time of distress that the world has never seen before with this:

...everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. DAN 12:1c

Joel echoes this same comparison.

The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be those who escape, as the LORD has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls. JOEL 2:31-32
 
Upon closer examination, we see the prophets who speak of doom and gloom also speak of deliverance and salvation for the believers of God. They speak of a wonderful and glorious return with a kingdom that reigns in righteousness and peace.

Before we leave this point let us also hear from the Messiah as He defines His own return. He too reiterates the words of the prophets.

...for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short. MAT 24:21-22

The Messiah gives some additional information by sequencing some of the events of the end.

But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. MAT 24:29-31

This  is what we call eschatology (the study of last things). It is more than just a belief that the Lord will return and there is an end to this world. The Scripture actually gives us clues of how the end comes, what actually happens in the sequence of events, and calls for preparation by the believers.

On the other hand, if you reject the doom and gloom and you want your plans to prevail, then you never hear anything that Biblical eschatology has to offer. You won’t hear about the specific prophetic signs to see the end coming, you won’t know what God will do or what others will do during that time, and you won’t hear the warning to prepare nor will you prepare for what will come. Instead, you will stop listening to the instructions and warnings.

Yeshua knew this about us when He spoke of His return. That is why He gave us specific warnings in the Book of Revelation, warnings that are intended for the believers who will see the end and His return. Listen to some His warnings from chapters 2 and 3 as He warns the end-time believers.

Repent therefore; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them [unbelievers] with the sword of My mouth. REV 2:16

Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. REV 3:3

I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, in order that no one take your crown. REV 3:11

The repeated warnings from the Messiah concern believers who are caught completely off guard by the end-time events. These believers are not paying attention to world events and how they match the prophetic scenario. They are not focused on a hope and transition to the Messiah’s kingdom. Instead, they are focused on their lives and their plans and either by decision or ignorance they are not knowledgeable about the Messiah’s plan to return.

This is why the Messiah refers to those listening to and heeding His warnings as overcomers.

He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. REV 3:21

Since the days of my youth, I have heard many different eschatology teachings offered by many believers. I am sure that you have shared the same experience. Many people in the past have predicted or prophesied that the Lord would return on such-and-such date and time only to continue on somewhat embarrassed. This is not a phenomenon limited to the Christian religion. In particular, this year in December brings the conclusion of the Mayan Calendar, a calendar of an extinct ethnic group. Secular people believe the world is coming to an end based on this calendar. The Shiite Muslims are announcing with videos that the Mahdi (their Messiah figure) is about to appear. I could go further with even more examples, but I think there is consensus that doom and gloom messages are not limited to the Bible.

As I write this article, I am watching a number of believers who are reaching the “full line” of end-time prophetic teaching. Many of them are now are turning away, not wanting to hear it anymore. They are separating themselves from fellowship and not wanting to deal with it anymore.

I understand some of what is happening with them. Some still have plans for theie lives and they don’t want the Messiah to return and mess everything up. Some are genuinely afraid. Like the children of Israel who feared for the safety of their children going into the land, there are many brethren who fear the dangers and hazards of the Great Tribulation. They have heard just enough about the Great Tribulation to conclude that they want nothing to do with it.

This may be part of the reason why the Pretribulation rapture theory is still held by many believers despite Biblical evidence to the contrary. At the foundation level, many brethren rejecting the prophecies of the end do not have confidence in God to deliver them or their families.

In the Egyptian exodus, the children of Israel actually cried out saying that God hated them and had brought them into the wilderness to die. They actually proclaimed that it would be better for them to die in the wilderness than go into the promised land!

And all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! And why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.” NUM 14:2-4

God obliged their proclamation. That generation died in the wilderness and the children they feared for joined the Lord and took the land.  I fear that end-time brethren who reject the end-time prophecies, who don’t want to see the Messianic kingdom, will repeat this very lesson. By the way, the Apostle Paul says the lessons of the wilderness are for our instruction and will fall upon us at the end of the ages.

Why did the children of Israel who left Egypt after the Passover, crossed the Red Sea, heard God’s voice from Mount Sinai, followed the pillar by day and fire by night, then reject the promised land? Didn’t they leave Egypt to go to the promised land?

Yes, but some of them never really left Egypt.

I have shared this statement for many years: If you are not willing to leave Egypt, then don’t plan on going to the promised land. Some believers today don’t want to leave Egypt, but they are tagging along with other believers talking about the promised land. “Leaving Egypt” means that we leave the world system we are currently slaves to.

As we get closer to the end, when events begin to get a little scarier, when believers begin to prepare, they won’t want to go beyond the talking level. “Let’s talk about salvation and our other fellowship plans instead of all that doom and gloom stuff.”

Some brethren just want to dismiss the prophetic part of the Scriptures unless the prophecies are already fulfilled.

Is it wise to turn away from the subject of eschatology and ignore the prophetic warnings?

Yeshua spoke to this very point when He shared the parable about a Master going on a long journey, leaving a servant to care for His house in His absence.

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you, that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him, and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, shall receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” LUK 12:42-48

Part of being faithful and sensible is to get ready and act in accord with His will. The key to escaping the Great Tribulation is knowing when it begins and being ready to escape when it happens. Escaping too early or too late, or not being prepared to escape, results in personal disaster. This is the embarrassment others have suffered in the past and will suffer in the future.

The military uses a special word to describe being faithful and sensible. They call it readiness. Military readiness is the watchword for all military preparedness and actions. The Lord has called every one of us to get ready and be ready for His return.

If we do get ready, then the doom and gloom is not for us and we bypass it. Doom and gloom is for the unbelievers. The wrath of God described by the prophet Zephaniah is not for believers. The Apostle Paul gave this encouragement:

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, who died for us, so that whether we are awake [alive] or asleep [have died], we will live together with Him. 1THES 5:9-10

As we get closer and closer to the start of the Great Tribulation, many brethren will begin to fall away and not want to hear the doom and gloom. In fact, the prophecy specifically says that many will fall away from the faith at that time.

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, and our gathering together to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 2THES 2:1-4

Interestingly, Paul was dealing with those suggesting that the end times were upon the brethren. Paul’s correction was to go back to the prophecies, setting the record straight that the end-time prophecies have a planned sequence. If that sequence of events was not happening, then one could not conclude that the Day of the Lord was occurring. In sharing that information, we also learn that when the end-time events do occur, there will be a falling away from the faith, just like when the antimessiah comes to power.

What is meant by “falling from the faith?” I believe part of the falling away from the faith will be based on many brethren wanting to deny the reality of the end times being upon them. Let me share a personal example that backs that up.

Early in my public ministry I was discussing the end-time prophecies with a Baptist pastor. He felt strongly that the pretribulation rapture was the proper interpretation of the prophecies for the last generation. Despite my best arguments and examples, he continued to resist moving from that conclusion. To end the argument and yet to keep the door open to the future, I posed a final question. “Let’s say that you do see the events of the start of the Great Tribulation such as the altar being shutdown, the antimessiah coming to power, his image set-up, etc. If the rapture has not happened, what will you do?”

I expected him to say that he would re-evaluate his eschatology and look for plan B. Instead, he abruptly announced that he would give up the faith! I was stunned. I asked him why.

He answered, “I don’t want to believe in any God that would make me or my family go through the Great Tribulation!”

I don’t believe that this pastor’s conclusion is an isolated one. I have watched others walk away from their faith when other stresses came into their lives, such as death of a loved one, divorce, great disappointment, bankruptcy, and other issues of life. I know that the start of the Great Tribulation will shake every believer’s faith because God has said that He is going shake everything and everyone.

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. LUK 21:25-26

I believe the proper way to approach the end times and the stresses that are inherent in the subject (Doom and Gloom) is to do it in a balanced way. We should resist to a certain degree off-the-cuff prophesies. We already have a Bible full of end-time prophecies given by God; what we need is a better understanding of what is written. We should consider all of the prophecies, not just a couple of phrases or verses. Our conclusions must be weighed with all of the prophecies about the return of the Messiah. It’s interesting to note there are more verses describing the return of the Messiah in the Old Testament than in the New.

We should be balanced in our conclusions and never take the position that we have come to a final conclusion. Until the prophecies become history, we are still processing our understanding.

We should always remember that God has been faithful to His word and He will do what He says. This point was emphatically made by the prophet Isaiah and serves as mainstay for understanding end-time prophecy.

Remember this, and be assured; recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure”; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it. ISA 46:8-11

The first principle of comprehending any end-time prophecy is to understand that God has purposed it as part of His overall plan to establish His kingdom. Every prophecy has a part in the plan. Our goal, therefore, is not to tell God how to accomplish His kingdom, but to understand His plan and cooperate and be in parallel with His efforts.

But, as we have addressed here, there are some who shrink from the faith for reasons of fear or personal preference. There are also others who simply balk at the idea altogether. Some even go so far as to try to interfere with the warnings and mock those who give warning.

This is what Peter was referring to when he spoke of the last days.

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 2PE 3:3-4

One of the most effective ways to stop the doom and gloom message of end-time prophecy in a community is to have someone start mocking the message or the messenger. Many will tend to shrink away.

Whatever the reason—fear or personal agenda—speaking against the Biblical plan for the Messiah’s return is not wise. I am reminded of a passage from Isaiah that addresses this point.

Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded, who are far from righteousness. I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel. ISA 46:12-13

Whenever you hear a brother complaining about a prophetic teaching as being too much doom and gloom or this thought crosses your mind, step back. There is no reason for you to complain; doom and gloom is not the future for believers. It is probably your own fears, weakness of faith, or personal agenda interfering with God’s plan. Doom and gloom are God’s judgment upon the world. That is not God’s plan for us; we are to receive the kingdom.

Zephaniah, the doom and gloom prophet, says it this way:

Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you will fear disaster no more. In that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “Do not be afraid, O Zion; do not let your hands fall limp. The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” ZEP 3:14-17