By Jeremy Thornton Guest Commentary
“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (I Cor. 14:33) The Bible very plainly states that God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33). We are told that we are to study the Word of God in order to be able to “rightly divide” the Word (2 Tim. 2:15). We are told that God has not given us a confusing Word, but something that pertains to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), and a Word that is profitable for doctrine and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16), however there seems to be so many that say they “cannot understand” the Bible, and others that have “different opinions” or “interpretations” of God’s Word. This fact can be seen when people begin to discuss all matters of the Bible, but one of the most noticeable is the different teachings of what will happen at the “End Times.” Men have taken the Word of God and added their interpretations and begin to teach things that cannot be found in the Bible, which has led to a multiplicity of doctrines concerning the matter, but may we submit that there is only one doctrine regarding this issue and that doctrine is the all inspired, breathed out Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16). Let us notice the Word of God and what we can KNOW about the End Times. What We Cannot Know If we are going to address the things that we can know from Scripture regarding the End Times, we should first look at a few things that are taught by men but are not found within the Scriptures. We cannot know when the “End Times” will be. Jesus made this very clear. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:35, 36). Jesus did not tell His apostles, when this time would be, the angels of heaven were not given this information, but, as Jesus stated, only the Father knows when this will take place. Men have tried to predict this time, and have been very successful at being wrong in their predictions, which is proof that only the Father knows. He will return as a thief in the night (I Thess. 5:2). We cannot know how God will use situations in this world to fulfill His will (if at all). Many have stated that China’s rise as a world power, the situation in the Middle East, that Russia will have some bearing, or that there will be a nuclear bomb that will explode and begin the End Times. These statements are not only far fetched ideas of man, but they cannot be found anywhere in the Scriptures. As Jesus stated in Matt. 24:36, “of that day knoweth no man,” and then Jesus will use the illustration of time of the Great Flood: “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away: so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37-39. Men and women, nations and militaries will continue their daily lives, and will be all taken away when the Son of Man shall come. What Will Happen The Lord Will Return. We can know from Scripture that the Lord will return. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16 KJV. This was the situation addressed in Matt. 24 and 25, as the disciples asked Jesus “when shall these things be” (alluding to the statement made about the temple. V.2, which would be destroyed by Rome in AD 70), which is answered beginning in verse 35 through chapter 25. The fact that Jesus would return is also mentioned at His ascension. “And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye me of Galilee why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10, 11), I Thessalonians 4:17 states that we will meet the lord in the air, in the clouds, which is exactly the way that Jesus ascended into heaven. Jesus will return but He will never step foot onto this earth again to establish a kingdom; He has already come to this earth for that purpose (Matt. 16:18), the apostles were given keys to the kingdom (Matt. 16:19-20), and the Lord began adding people to this kingdom when the Gospel began to be preached on the earth (Acts 2), and it is this kingdom that will be able to enter into heaven at the End Times. The dead will be resurrected. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (I Thessalonians 4:15). Those that have died will be resurrected from the graves at the End Time. “And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15). “But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (I Corinthians 15:23-26). The living will meet the Lord in the air. “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:17). As we are reading of one continuous event that tells of the dead rising, it also states that those that remain will be caught up with them. This is something that will happen at one time, there will not be a “rapture” of the saved, a seven year tribulation, a thousand year reign, or any other teaching of man, but rather this is one continuous event “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice. And shall come forth; they that have done good, into the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28, 29). The earth will melt with fervent heat. Something that so many have taught, erroneously, is that there will be this seven year tribulation after the rapture occurs, and others teach there will be this one thousand year reign on earth, but this is not what the Bible states. Peter writes of the “day of the Lord” also, telling us why these teachings cannot be so. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10). If the statement Jesus made stating that all will be resurrected at once (John 5:28-29), and this statement from Peter is correct that the earth will melt with fervent heat at the time of the resurrection, then there is no place for any tribulation to take place and there will be no souls left on earth for the thousand year reign as they have all gone into either reward or punishment. There will be a great separation. Jesus states that after the resurrection has taken place then there will be a great divide as a shepherd would divide the sheep from the goats. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all natons: and he shall separate them one from another as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matthew 25: 31-33). Jesus gives several parables also in Matthew 13 that give us the heavenly meaning of the separation that will take place at His coming. Names will be read from the book of life. On that great day of judgment as we are all standing before the thorne of Christ receiving the judgement due, some will have their names read from the book of life (Rev. 20: 13-15). Those that have been faithful until death will receive their crown of life (Rev. 2:10) having their names read from this book. This was the same crown the apostle Paul was ready to receive as he was writing his final words to Timothy (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Satan and the lost will be cast into hell. “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9). Just those who have been faithful will receive their reward, those that have done evil will receive the punishment that is prepared for them. An interesting fact about this punishment is that it was never intended for man, as God desires that all will come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), but this punishment was prepared for the “devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41). The redeemed will “ever be with the Lord.” Some of the most comforting words for Christians are the words found after the warning of the coming of the Lord. “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:17, 18). Paul exhorted the brethren at Thessalonica that they were to comfort one another in the fact that the Lord will return for them someday and then we will always be with Him. We may not know the day the Lord will return, as we are told He will come as “a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2), but we do know that He will come. We do not have to look to this day as a day of fear if we have done as God has commanded in His Word in order to have salvation on this day. We can know from Scripture what God requires of us: 1) Hear His Word (Rom. 10:17); 2) Believe that Jesus is the Christ (John 8:24); 3) Confess that Jesus is the Christ (Matt. 10:32-33); 4) Repent of our sins (Acts 17:30-31); 5) Be baptized (immersed) into Christ (Mark 16:16); 6) Be faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10; 1 Cor. 15:58) all of which is done in order to have the Lord add us t the body/kingdom of Christ, having that lively hope of the inheritance that is reserved to heave. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:3, 4).