Q & A
Dr. Lewis Gregory
Q. What’s all the fuss about? Why are some Christians giving so much attention to the end times? There seems to be so many different theories about it. And of course, everyone thinks his or her theory is right. Where did these theories come from? It is all very confusing to me.
A. Depending on what you’ve heard, it certainly can be confusing. However, it should give us great comfort to know that God has a plan for our world, and it is all coming together according to His Divine purpose. Almighty God, who knows the end from the beginning, will make sure that everything turns out right in the end! First I will give you a little Historical background, and then I will offer my personal thoughts on the subject.
The theories about the end times are sometimes described as Eschatology. Eschatology is the Theological term for the study of the end times or last days. One of the most prevalent theories regarding the end times espoused today is called Dispensationalism. This theory is fairly recent in terms of the span of Christian History. It was not until the late1800’s that it came into prominence by a man named John Nelson Darby. Darby was an Anglo-Irish evangelist, originally associated with the Plymouth Brethren. In 1848, he became involved in a complex dispute among the Plymouth Brethren that resulted in a split between “Open” Brethren and “Exclusive” Brethren. After that time, Darby was recognized as the dominant figure among the Exclusive Brethren. The Exclusive Brethren has been described as a separatist Christian group, a controversial offshoot of the Plymouth Brethren.
John Darby is considered the father of modern Dispensationalism. Its name comes from the fact that dispensationalists see biblical history as best understood in light of a series of dispensations in the Bible. Each dispensation is said to represent a different way in which God deals with man. According to C. I. Scofield, “These periods are marked off in Scripture by some change in God’s method of dealing with mankind, in respect to two questions: of sin, and of man’s responsibility”.
John Darby taught, and most subsequent dispensationalists have consistently maintained, that God looks upon the Jews as his chosen people and continues to have a place for them in the dispensational, prophetic scheme of things. While many traditions of Christianity teach that the Jews are a distinct people, dispensationalism is unique in teaching that the Church is a provisional dispensation, until the Jews finally recognize Jesus as their promised Messiah during the trials that dispensationalists envision coming upon the Jews in the Great Tribulation.
Darby also proposed a teaching that he called the “secret rapture”. The term rapture, which means to transport or carry away, is of Latin derivation. The word rapture is not found in the Bible. It is possibly a reference to a Scripture verse in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 “we shall be caught up.” The rapture is an event in certain systems of Christian Eschatology whereby it is believed that Jesus Christ will return and take all Christians living on the Earth up into Heaven. The term “rapture” is usually applied specifically to the belief that Christians will be taken into heaven prior to the Second Coming of Christ.
Of course there have many many variations on this subject since then. But even from this brief summary, you should be able to see that it can easily get rather involved.
When I studied Christian Eschatology in Seminary we examined various theories regarding the end times. I was introduced to the Pre, Mid, and Post Tribulation theories. I could best relate to the Pan theory that my professor also mentioned. As he said, according to the Pan theory, it will all pan out. And I agree! I am by no means being facetious. I am confident that the Lord God Almighty is in complete control, and it will all pan out in the end! This may be a simplistic approach, but I do believe it is at least an honest one. Only God knows the real outcome of this old world, and there is nothing we can do about it.
Will the Lord return? Yes He will! That has already been foretold. But when, where and how; that’s His prerogative. Jesus Christ himself said that only the Father knew the time. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36) Furthermore, when Christ ascended the angel of the Lord gave this admonition. “And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, You men of Galilee, why stand you gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven. Then they returned . . .” (Acts 1:10-12)
We need to stop gazing up into Heaven trying to figure out when He will return, and get about the Father’s business. I adhere to the admonition of the Apostle John, author of Revelation, the book about the end times. “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”1 John 3:2,3 Therefore, let us concentrate on our present life and walk in the Lord; and do as Jesus instructed by taking no thought for tomorrow. We must seek God and His kingdom, and let Him take care of the details (Mathew 6:33). The future is God’s responsibility. He does all things well!
Furthermore, as new creations in Christ we are the new Israel (Romans 9:6-8, Galatians 6:16). Therefore, our primary emphasis should be on the spiritual kingdom of Heaven (which is eternal) rather than the earthly kingdom of God (which is temporal). “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28,29).
Also, since the promise was given by God to Abraham and his seed (singular) “which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16), it behooves us to be sure that we are in Christ. This means we must receive Jesus Christ into our lives as our Lord and Savior, so that we can be brought into vital union with Christ. Thus by virtue of the fact that we are made one with Christ “we are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).
Well so much more could be said. Suffice it to say that the kingdom God has for us is not of this world; because the kingdom of God is within us, where King Jesus has come to rule and reign in our hearts. God has given us eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. And that is sheer GRACE! So because of the grace of God that has been imparted to us through Christ, we need not be fearful of such things as the end times nor consumed by them. Therefore, we simply must not give in to curiosity, vain imaginations, and speculations regarding the end times.
The only time we’ve got is now! So we should redeem the time, living now, by faith instead of by sight. That is how the Apostle Paul lived, “the life I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20). May God grant you the grace to live accordingly!