The Thomas Pages homepage
Chapter 1 WHAT THIS STUDY IS? Chapter 1
Summary Overview  
• 
Doomsday predictions are common in our world. We've had warnings of nuclear war, asteroid collision, acid-rain devastation, global warming, eco-collapse, and more, as possible end-of-the-world scenarios, or at least of civilization as we know it. This study shows that the Bible teaches there is an End. But that its date is by God's decision alone and not by the force of any natural circumstance.
 
• 
The Bible also shows that this date is not arbitrarily pre-determined by God but that it is synchronized to the mission task, still to be accomplished, through the people of God – the spiritual Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. This does not mean, of course, that we are not endangered by either natural or man-made catastrophes. But the Bible makes it plain that it is Heaven that rules the parameters within which our choices, even the worst of them, are being made.
 
•  The thesis of this study then is that – 
1.
It is specifically the spiritual obedience/maturity of God's people which will precipitate all the end-time events prophesied in Holy Scripture;
2.
As a consequence, Heaven answers this completion of the Church's obedience by terminating Satan's access to accuse God's people before the God's Throne;
3.
The resultant limitation of Satan to our world then unleashes his anger in a devastating horror across this planet, and beyond; wherever human beings are found. In this horrific time God's culminating moral judgment upon human history is fully implemented;
4.
But this worst of all times is interrupted and brought to a complete end by the return of Jesus Christ, which inaugurates an incomparable newness in all things, beginning with His Church.

See
Terminal Sequence
Misleading Teachings (see also The Darby Deception)  
• 
In 1988, a very sincere Christian family were stirred up in anticipation of Christ's return by teachings they had received. They excitedly sold their home and possessions and left for Israel to be in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles for Christ's glorious return. He did not come, and they and their children were financially ruined! Does God make fools of His people? Certainly not!
(We are still waiting for restitution from those who misled them!)
See
Chronology of Confusion
• 
Yes! Jesus did encourage awareness of "signs of the times" in which we live (Matt.16:2,3). But tragically, the Bible's voice has been confused on this issue even by the most sincere. It has been just too tempting to find signs of an imminent end in world politics (especially about Israel), and in world catastrophes and epidemics. When the Bible is then approached from this alarmist angle for evidences, it is easy (particularly because of its rich symbolism and different cultural background to our own) to read into the Bible what is actually not there.

 
Illustrated Errors  
• 
Two examples from one chapter in Matthew (Matthew 24:5-12, 32-34) and another from Luke (13:31-34) illustrate perhaps the commonest misunderstandings.
 
• 
From each Matthew 24 passage a list of end-time signs is often assembled and then illustrated in international events to raise expectation among the uninformed of a fearful imminent end.
 
• 
For instance the wars, earthquakes, famines, etc., of verses 5-12 in Matthew 24 are often illustrated in our modern wars and present threatening conflicts (v.6), and in modern earthquakes and famines (v.7), as signs of the nearness of the end. Yet Jesus specifically bracketed these statements between –
 
  "See to it that no one misleads you" (v.4) and "But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs" (v.8).  
1.
Without quibbling over individual words, the clear intention of Jesus is to avoid alarm, which false interpretation causes. Concerning these phenomena He said –
 
  "see that you are not frightened" (v.6).  
• 
Knowledge of history makes it quickly clear that these signs cover the whole period of the Christian church's mission. The people of God in each generation were not to interpret the cataclysms of their time as heralding an imminent end but simply to be reminded by these events to be alert to alarmist deception and faithful to their Lord.
 
• 
All the more is this true to our time. There is no earthquake of recent times in the Mediterranean area that can be compared to the devastating earthquake and its tsunami/tidal wave of 21 July 365 AD. Nor can our current epidemics (as frightening as Ebola is) compare to the Black Death that ravaged North Africa, Europe and Scandinavia from 1347 to 1351 destroying a third of the population, more people than any other known epidemic or war in human history, and which affected the social structure and economy as never before or since.
 
• 
Only an ignorance of history could mislead us to think that we are now in a worse state than this and therefore at the end of the world.

 
2. NO Secret Date Set!  
• 
Similarly, verses 32-34 in Matthew 24 are often used to present the State of Israel as God's prophetic clock, by which we can count-down to the end time. This is supposed to be the budding of the "fig tree" (v.32), the modern (Zionist) State of Israel without defined borders was born at 4PM on Friday 14 May, 1948. It is claimed that the "generation" that was then alive is not to end before the End comes. A generation was thought to be 40 years (which in its context simply means 'this people'), and so Christ was, therefore, to come in 1988 (1948 + 40), probably at the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.
 
• 
Sadly, as it was with the October 22nd 1844 calculated date-fix of the Seventh-day Adventists, and the 1914 calculated date-fix of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and so on, so this 1988 'prophetic' date-fix also passed in futile and foolish expectation, to once again make Christianity look foolish in the eyes of that community, as the purveyors of the error scrambled to find other explanations!
 
• 
Our local South African variety of this error (which stretches the "generation" to 55 years) fixes the beginning of the Tribulation "op die laaste" in September 1995 (Malan 1991:33), or for others, March 1999. There are certain to be other date-fixes, definite or approximate. For instance, the approach of the end of the millennium (exploited by writers of books on prophecy) too easily led the gullible astray and brought dishonour on the church's expectation of Christ's return.
 
• 
However, this fig-tree metaphor of Jesus in Matthew 24:32 is not an allegory, as it is usually treated by these blind guides. Not even the parables are that. Its a simple analogy!
 
  "Learn the story from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and it sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the door." Matthew 24:32, 33.
• 
Jesus' words, "all these things" (v.33), refer to His statements earlier in this same chapter, from verse 15 onward, and not, as has been foolishly propagated, to a budding of Jewish nationalism. The "these things" are not Jerusalem's glory. They are her end-time agony!
 
• 
By this metaphor Jesus is simply reinforcing what He has already said –
 
  "the disgusting thing that will cause destruction will stand in the holy place. ...
How horrible it will be for the women who are pregnant or who are nursing babies in those days. ...
There will be a lot of misery at that time, a kind of misery that has not happened from the beginning of the world until now and will certainly never happen again. ...False christs and false prophets will appear. ...Immediately after the misery of those days, the sun will turn dark, the moon will not give light, the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the universe will be shaken."
Matthew 24:15-29.
• 
In order to counter the danger of date-fixing many wise pastors have emphasized to their people that no one knows the date or time of Christ's return. This is good, but it is certainly not enough to protect the Church from being misguided, especially by those who claim discoveries of hidden truths and special revelations. There will always be those who believe they have been led to discover this hidden date or have received it by divine revelation. The sincerity and zeal of Christians can only be protected from exploitation on this issue by adequate pastoral teaching.
 
• 
It urgently needs to be made known that there is no set date – not even in the mind of God! Of course God knows 'when' as He knows all things in the future. This is the Father's knowledge to which Jesus here refers –
 
  "No one knows when that day or hour will come. Even the angels in heaven and the Son don't know.
Only the Father knows."
Matthew 24:36.
• 
It is simply God's total knowledge of all things, His omniscience. However, it does not imply a set-date, any more than God's knowledge of the future denies our human freedom of choice and the variables that go with it. There is no secret appointed time.
 
• 
Otherwise, Jesus would never have told us to pray in order to influence which day of the week and which season of the year that this worst-of-times will begin on – that set period of horror which ends this age. That is, that in Israel it should not begin on a Sabbath day or in a northern hemisphere winter for the sake of the refugees in Judea (Mat.24:20).
 
• 
Christ's return is not attached to a special date, to any date at all. But, it is attached to the fulfilment of the command He gave to His people!

 
3. No Secret Time-formula  
• 
A third example of date-fixing is the extraction of a hidden formula. A three-thousand-year chronology is found in Jesus' "third day" rebuttal of Herod's death-threat (Lk.13:32). There is supposed to be two thousand years of His ministry through the Church, followed by a thousand years of Kingdom of God on earth (Malan 1991:31). For those hungering to fix dates, this may be exciting news as we approach the end of this second millennium. But, the Scripture actually reads:
 
  "He said to them [Pharisees] 'Go and tell that fox (king Herod),
Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach my goal.
Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem ...'."
Luke 13:32-34.
• 
Jesus' message to Herod is that He will not be deviated from His task by the intimidation ("Herod wants to kill You", v.31). If there is any oblique allusion in this passage, it is to the completion of Christ's work on "the third day", which runs in interesting parallel to His earlier statement to the Pharisees that He would raise "this" temple "in three days" of its destruction at their hands (Jn.2:19), – that is, His resurrection. In verse 33 of Luke 13 He specifically shows that this "third day" is not in three days time! He states that He will still journey on the third day (Hebrew idiom for the day-after-tomorrow) even though He reaches His goal on the "third day". It is as cryptic as His raising-of-the-Temple saying in John, to the same audience, and for the same effect. This idea in Christ's mind, of a personal resurrection, is the inspirational root of His inner composure toward death-threats and challenges.
 
• 
But, to turn these three days into a thousand years each is to totally disregard their Scriptural context! This 'proof' in 2 Pet.3:8 is not the cipher for a code. It says only that God is not hurried or slowed by our time-frame. He is God! But this method treats God's Word, given to us all, as if it were a mystical book of secret meanings understood only by the specialist in allegory.

 
God's gracious
faithfulness
 
• 
I thank God that – He who truly loves us, has not left us to guess-work and clever mysteries of hidden messages in order to be ready for His glorious return. Hallelujah!
 
• 
His clock of end-time events is not in political agendas, or any national or international event. It is only in His people – the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ – those alone in whom His own Spirit dwells!
See: A Biblical
Structure of History

Copyright © Lloyd Thomas  1997-2015. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
Feel free to copy, as long as this full copyright notice is included.

FOR A ROUGH TRANSLATION SIMPLY CHOOSE A LANGUAGE