SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVES


IS JESUS COMING VERY SOON?

GARY W. SUMMERS

   
With the new millennium coming, as well as the publicity surrounding Y2K, there is a renewed fervency in the discussion of the second coming of Christ. From Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth, published back in 1965, to 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could be in '88 to the current best-seller, Storming Toward Armageddon (a collection of essays published in 1996), people's fancy has been absolutely captivated by the doctrine of premillennialism, which is false at its basic core, as well as in all its facets. Never have so many been so deceived by something with so substance.

In the first place, Jesus refused to be an earthly king over Israel (John 6:15). Like the misguided premillennialists of our day, Jews in the first century were looking for someone like David to deliver them from Roman rule. Jesus did not come for that purpose. The Bible states several reasons for His coming, and they are all spiritual: 1) to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10); 2) to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37); 3) to do the will of the Father (John 6:38); and 4) to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). Nowhere did He say that He came to set up an earthly kingdom and rule in Jerusalem.

In John 18:36 He stated rather plainly: "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews, but now My kingdom is not from here." What words could Jesus have used to make it clearer that He has no interest in a fleshly kingdom?

Furthermore, when Jesus does return, it will be to receive His saints in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-17), and no one knows when that day will be: "But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only" (Matt. 24:36).

But despite the assurance of Jesus on this matter, the advertisement insists He is coming very soon. Although the Lord said no one knows the day or hour, one "scholar lists 167 converging clues" regarding that moment. Why, here is a marvelous thing--a man more scholarly than all the angels of heaven. The reader should be awestruck over this news. For someone to know the unknowable, he must be excessively intelligent--or moonstruck.

So what are the eight (out of 167) clues of that coming in this ad? The first one cited is Israel's rebirth.

Also prophesied to occur before Christ's return, the nation of Israel was miraculously reborn on May 14, 1948. Israel is called "God's time clock."

Exactly who called Israel "God's time clock? That terminology is not even found in the concordances to some of the new paraphrases. Obviously, some man made up this designation. Also, there is no Scripture cited here for the reformation of Israel; so there is nothing to refute. [Luke 21:24 was cited previously, but it does not state that the nation of Israel will be reborn, either.]

The second sign is "plummeting morality" (2 Tim. 3:1-4). Anyone who does not think that morality in America has plummeted during the past 30 years has probably been in a coma. But the fact is that morality has plummeted a number of times since the first century in various nations. There could be a restoration and a return to standards of decency (although it seems unlikely). The current DeGeneresy, however, could result in nations being punished for their sins (Pr. 14:34). For Christians the end of the world would be an ideal solution, but punishment could come in the form of annihilation or captivity. The earth could continue another two thousand years.

Anyway, this "sign" hinges on the phrase, the last days. We have been living in "the last days" since the first century. The former days would include what occurred up to the time of Christ. The writer of Hebrews proclaims that God has spoken to us by His Son in "these last days" (Heb. 1:2). Christians have being living in "the last days" since the first century. This "sign" has already occurred time and again.

The third clue is "famines, violence, and wars." These conditions have likewise occurred over and over. The passage cited is from Matthew 24:6-8. Once again, it helps to look at verses in their context. All of the things Jesus lists here are things that occur before the destruction of the Jewish world--not the end of time. Matthew 24 begins with Jesus making this observation about the temple in Jerusalem: "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another that shall not be thrown down" (verse 2). What Jesus predicted in verses 4 through 34 all occurred before the destruction of Jerusalem.

Why are premillennialists appealing to these things as future events when Jesus plainly said, "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled" (Matt. 24:34)? Just as they do with salvation, so do they with this subject. They lift verses out of their context to suit their purposes. The famines, wars, violence, and the earthquakes (which constitute reason #4, from Matthew 24:7) all occurred in the first century before the destruction of Jerusalem. That day was foreseeable. All of these signs that Jesus gave helped Christians to be aware of the time to flee Jerusalem. "But of that day [the end of the world] no one knows..." (Matt. 24:36). There are no signs for that day; it comes as a thief in the night (Matt. 24:42-44).

The fifth clue is "the explosion of travel and education" (Dan. 12:4). Once again the context is not the end of the world. The objective reader must take into account that the events described in Daniel 11 refer to actions that will occur between the two testaments. As Dub McClish pointed out in Southwest's lectureship book on The Book of Daniel (1994):

It is important to note that the time span covered by the book of Daniel is circumscribed and limited by events related to these four empires of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, the last of which was the Roman Empire.... The point I want to keep before us is that just as the beginning point of Daniel's prophecy is identified as the Babylonian Empire, the ending point is also identified as sometime in the Roman Empire and no later! (209).

Of course, this interpretation can and would be disputed, but it is consistent with the text. How solid a case can premillennialists build on phrases of an ambiguous nature? No major doctrine should be constructed upon verses that contain highly figurative language.

The sixth sign is the "explosions of cults and the occult":

Counterfeit spirituality is everywhere with cults and false Christs (Matthew 24:24), psychic phenomena, spiritism, Satan worship, witchcraft, nature worship, and the New Age movement (1 Tim. 4:1).

Once again, Matthew 24 has already been fulfilled, but the reader is probably amazed to find all of those modern things listed there. Any reader will be surprised therefore upon actually READING THE VERSE: "For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect." The description in the ad does not sound anything like the Scripture. If the verse had not already been fulfilled, we would suggest that it would be more applicable to Pentecostalism than nature worship.

The seventh sign is the now-popular "New World Order." This idea is erroneously based again on Daniel 7-12 and Matthew 24. This time, however, Revelation 13 was also thrown in. The idea is that an incarnation of Satan, called the "Antichrist," is rising to political power--perhaps even before the reader finishes this article! All of this fanciful hodgepodge of nonsensical immediacy overlooks John's observation: "And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and even now is already in the world" (1 John 4:3b). The word, Antichrist, never appears in the book of Daniel, Matthew 24, or Revelation, the three sources cited as evidence for this assertion. [By the way, the reader is invited to send for a free report on "the mark of the beast" from the sponsors of this ad. Their address is Christ's Soon Return, and they are located in Bloomington, Illinois.]

Is Jesus Coming Very Soon? (Conclusion)

The last "clue" is the "increase in both apostasy and faith" (2 Tim. 3:5). We are in no greater apostasy than occurred during the Dark Ages, and this verse does not mention an increase in faith, "virtually unnoticed by the media."

This advertisement certainly does have positive value: It illustrates better than mere warnings ever could that what someone says or writes needs to be evaluated in light of the Scriptures. Truly, people need today to have the spirit of the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul taught them was the truth (Acts 17:11). It is not even essential that one be a great Biblical scholar; the errors in this advertisement could be spotted by a novice.

Premillennial doctrine is nothing more than a highly speculative conglomeration of apocalyptic material sewn together by a blind seamstress. But for those who, as Israel of old demanding a king, insist upon it, be sure to get your Rapture Insurance from us.

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "IS JESUS COMING VERY SOON? (8/15/99)."


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