Sunday, July 27, 2014

The End Times – The Place of the Church

End times timeline

The whole creation points towards the end times. So, to study the end times covers the entire study of the universe. Every event recorded in the Scripture is a part of fulfillment of the end time. We cannot therefore be able to do justice to the study of the place of the Church without a study of the end times as shown in the Old Testament. We shall leave this to another post. But it will be helpful for everyone to attempt this study on his/her own. In such study you may want to look at:
  • The rise of evil against good in Cain and Abel
  • The disobedience of God in Adam and the fallen angels
  • The destruction of the then known world through flood and the salvation of Noah and his family
  • The confusion called Babel
  • The people of God which started with the call of  Abraham and all the promises given and you should be able to trace the call and the fulfillment of these promises through the Old Testament. Why, for instance, was Egypt destroyed so that Israel would live?
  • The use of the expression “The Day of the Lord”
  • The prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the Messianic hope
  • Prophecies about the restoration of Israel
  • Why does the human life, no matter how blessed, have to be cut short by death?
  • Life and after life
  • The Messiah and His Kingdom
  • The Resurrection and the Judgment.
We have raised these issues to enable us think more widely and exhaustibly. Eschatology is not as limited as some of us think. It is the study of the entire history of the world and all events point towards it. We shall, for this short time, limit ourselves to the place of the Church.

The Eschatological Hope

In eschatology, as in all things the New Testament grows out of the Old Testament. According to the New Testament, the Incarnation is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of salvation (Genesis 3:15). This fulfillment is of such a nature that it anticipates a final consummation that is still future. The historic work of Christ (His life, death and resurrection) may be called a realized eschatology, yet it is a partial realization that anticipates a final realization at the Second Coming of Christ, an event that is still in the future. According to the writer of the Hebrews (1:2) the last days of which the prophets spoke, is here. As the promise of the Spirit (Joel 2:28) has been fulfilled in the outpouring of Pentecost; those who have the Spirit of Christ have already experienced the powers of the age to come (Hebrews 6:5). Therefore, the final eschatological hope of the return of Christ is not merely a hope, as though it were altogether a future event; it is a hope that has already become a historical reality. It is more of a process that has already begun. It is the consummation of what was already accomplished in the first coming, especially in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

One of the hopes of the end times is the realization of eternal life which as at now is still in the future; yet it is a historical reality. Jesus said: “I am the life, and the resurrection ...” It is a past reality that the apostles have seen with their eyes, looked upon, and touched with their hands (First John 1:1); yet they confess that they still walk by faith not by sight (Second Corinthians 5:7), and that only when “When He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (First John 3:2) In the resurrection of Christ and the quickening by His Spirit are the first fruits of the heavenly order; believers are those upon whom the “end of the age has come” (First Corinthians 10:11). At the same time, the last day still lies in the future; Christians are still looking for the Saviour (Philippians 3:20) and confess that beyond this world, there is a world to come. (Ephesians 1:21)

Jesus believed that the eschatological teaching of the Old Testament prophets recorded its fulfillment in His life and ministry. He began His ministry, therefore, by proclaiming that the Kingdom of God was about to be revealed among men. “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2) In fact, in the person of Jesus Christ, the Kingdom was already present (Luke 17:21) “The Kingdom of God is in the midst of you”. At the same time, there is a sense in which the Kingdom was not fully realized in Jesus’ own life time, but remains a future hope. The day is yet coming when all men will be judged, and their final destiny determined. (Matthew 11:21-23; Luke 10:13-15) Men are admonished to prepare for the day that shall usher in the glorious Kingdom (Mark 13:33-37); Luke 12:42-46). There is in Jesus’ teaching respecting the Kingdom both present reality and future expectation! Therefore, the eschatological hope of the Second Advent, so essential to the Christian faith, is grounded in the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself, and this teaching is by no means an illusion.

The Signs of the End Times

End times prophesy
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The Second Advent is really a whole complex of events some of which proceed, some of which follow the appearing of Christ in glory. The events leading up to the Second Advent should not be used to predict the time of Christ’s coming as some have vainly done. Indeed, Jesus said that no one except the Father knows the day or hour of His return (Mark 13:32) Though one cannot know the time and seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority (Acts 1:1); yet the New Testament has much to say about the manifestations of evil prior to the coming of the Lord, an evil that will be intensified as the time of the end draws near. Although hope is already a reality in this age, yet it is an evil age. (Galatians 1:4) Living in an era that is under the power of Satan, Christians are to beware of false messiahs (Matthew 24:5); and Antichrists (First John 2:18, 22; 4:3; Second John 7) Jesus compared the time of the coming of the Son of Man to the days of Noah (Luke 17:26ff); and Paul warned that “evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse” (Second Timothy 3:13)

As early as the Book of Daniel this demonic principle of evil, opposed to Christ and His Kingdom, an evil that will especially characterize the end time, begins to take on personal embodiment. Daniel’s prophecy of the little horn (Daniel 7:8, 23-26), is perhaps a veiled, apocalyptic reference to Antiochus Epiphanes, typifying some evil eschatological personage who will appear at the end of the age. Jesus warned of the “desolating sacrilege” (abomination of desolation) Matthew 24:15 cf Daniel 11:31; 12:11) and Paul spoke of “a man of lawlessness” (man of sin) who will be revealed in his own proper time (Second Thessalonians 2:3-4)

This “son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (Second Thessalonians 2:3-4), may be the subject of the visions of evil in Revelation 13, which describes two beasts appearing one coming up out of the sea, the other out of the land; the former representing world empire, the later religious apostasy. Both were empowered by the dragon, who symbolizes the devil. This evil triumvirate – beast, false prophet, and dragon – comprise a sort of demonic counterpart to the Trinity. Many interpret both the first “beast” in Revelation and the “man of sin” in Paul as a political ruler of great power appearing at the end of the age, who will use apostate religion to serve  his blasphemous ambition to be worshipped as God (Revelation 13:8,12), following the example of the ancient Roman emperors. Not only will he impose economic sanctions on all who will not submit to his sacrilege (Revelation 13:16-17) but he will also threaten a general and ruthless persecution against all that is godly. Thus the Church of the end time, as was the Early Church will be a martyr Church sealing its witness with its own blood. This dire threat of persecution has often been seen as a fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecy of a time of “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21), which will be shortened for the elect’s sake. (Verse 22)

This time of bold defiance of heaven and persecution of the saints is also pictured in Revelation as a time of divine judgment upon the wicked, which shall culminate in the final destruction of Satan and his emissaries. Under the symbolism of trumpets and bowls the seer of Revelation sets forth the plagues and disasters with which God in His wrath, shall vex and destroy the beast and those who worship him (Revelation 8, 9, 14 and 16) Against these terrible visitations of heaven the people of God will be protected, being sealed as His own (Revelation 7:1-8) and beautified by martyrdom. (Revelation 7:9-17)

The climax of this period in which this age will end bringing in the full salvation of the righteous in the age to come is the Advent of Christ.

What Should the Church do?

We have so far been discussing the events leading to the end, and all these would happen during the Church age which began at the Pentecost and would end at the Rapture. (Acts 2:1-Revelation 5:14). What is the Church expected to do?

The church would be expected to show a persistent love of God (Revelation 2:4). It is to glorify God and this is despite the persecution or whatever may be done to it. (Second Thessalonians 1:12)
It is important to remember that one of the ways God expects us to glorify Him is through our suffering (John 21:18-19; First Peter 4:14-16)

Before the actual end comes, when it will be increasingly difficult to be a Christian, the Church should:
  • Display God’s grace – Ephesians 2:7; 3:6-10; First Peter 2:9
  • Evangelize the world – Matthew 28:19- 20; Mark 24:46-48
  • Baptize and instruct believers (Matthew 28:19
  • Discipline Believers– First Corinthians 5:6-13;11:31; Ephesians 5:26-27
  • Edify believers – Ephesians 4:11-16; Second Peter 3:18; First Corinthians 14:26
  • Provide Fellowship for believers First John 1:3-7; Galatians 2:9
  • Prepare rulers for the Millennial Kingdom – Romans 8:17; Second Timothy 2:12
  • Care for the needs of poor believers  - First Timothy 5:1-16
  • Act as a restraining and enlightening force in this present world  - Matthew 5:13-16; Second Thessalonians 2:6-7 and Genesis 19:12-25
  • Promote all that is good – Galatians 6:10
  • Provoke Israel to jealousy – Romans 11:11-15
The Church at the end times is as the Church in the first Century. It is a Church full of responsibility, but persecuted. It will be well for the Church to remember - “Return to your first love” It will be well for the Church to remember “When the Son of Man comes, shall He find faith?” May the Lord help you to think of how you, as a member of the Church, are required to make more people like Christ in the shortest possible time! Let us redeem the time for the days are evil.

God bless you all.

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