To understand life one must understand death. The teaching on end times in the Bible is the Christian understanding of ‘death.’ I put death in quotes as the Bible teaches death to be an unnatural state resulting from sin. There is an over reaction to teachings about end times, but running from it is unwise. Here are some often heard objections to teaching the end times:
None of your business
When the disciples asked Jesus if now was the time for the kingdom, Jesus said it wasn’t their job to worry about a timeline. At the end of this narrative angels asked what on Earth the disciples were doing, just as Jesus went up into the clouds he’d come back in a like manner. While me must hold a timeline loosely, there is still the expectancy of Christ’s return. Hold fast to Christ’s return, hold loosely a timeline.
There is little in the Bible that isn’t divisive. 25% of Scripture deals with prophetic events in the future. It’s a major thing. The teaching on end times focuses on three critical themes: 1) The person and nature of Jesus. 2) The restoration of peace and harmony as Jesus makes all things new. 3) The punishment of evil and the vindication of justice. These are no small themes and the Bible speaks to them. Christianity isn’t about an eternal fight of good vs evil. Evil has an end date.
Left behind series is annoying
Lot’s of things are annoying in life. I don’t fault someone with trying to communicate what they believe artistically. There are weird or annoying things in all aspects of life. Just look at Facebook and you’ll see what I mean. Anytime we place a major emphasis on one doctrine over the others there will be issues. Further, anytime we move the Gospel from being first and central things get messed up. However, that doesn’t mean other doctrines are unimportant or shouldn’t be discussed. Our culture tries to run and hide from death and that’s unhealthy.
End times focuses on fear
No doubt the study of end times should be sobering. In it we see the outpouring of God’s wrath but we also see the outpouring of God’s love. For those in Christ the teaching on end times should be motivational and push us to place our trust in Christ. Not merely for our salvation, but also that he will work all things together for good. Fear is not all bad. Losing our fear of God is dangerous, as is over emphasizing the fear of God. A significant portion of passages on the end times is for encouragement and hope, not fear.
About that timeline
Jesus chastises leaders for being able to predict the weather but not understand the times. While we should hold our timelines loosely, it is not sin to think through one. Jesus expects us to be aware of what’s going on. We should be careful to not have it cause undue division within the church or play guessing games that force current events into our timeline. Having an idea of a timeline is part of having an answer for the hope that is within us.
Allegorical vs Literal
This seems to be the real crux of the problem and worthy of a post. Briefly stated, I don’t think end times passages are allegories about good vs evil and that the Gospel is social justice. Such is a massive misunderstanding of the Gospel and the nature of God. (I also believe that Christians have wrongly viewed the Gospel as divorced from social justice.) I do believe that end times passages often describe the indescribable and should be approached with an air of humility, not certitude, when taking a literal approach to Scripture.
The bottom line:
How we view ‘death’ determines how we view life. In things I’ve seen or heard recently it seems there is an overreaction to those who emphasize teachings on the end times. However, it is a significant aspect to the Bible, Jesus and the apostles taught on it, and ignoring it is not an option. Like so much in life, we need discernment.