To what end is the pastor referring? The beginning of what end? Though many would automatically presume it to be about the last days of planet earth and the end of human history, did you know that nowhere in John’s vision is such an end stipulated.
Matter of fact, since most presume the book of Revelation to be a more comprehensive treatment of Olivet Discourse found in the synotpics (Matthew 24; Luke 21; Mark 13), it may come as a surprise to some (it shocked the heck out of me!) that the end of the world (kosmos) is not only never mentioned in the Gospels, but is not found in the entire Bible. Jesus frequently referred to the “end of the age” (Matt 13:49; Matt 24:3; Matt 28:20) but never the end of the world. And though that may seem like hairsplitting, it is anything but. Since the KJV (King James Version) wrongly translated “aion” as world, most Christians throughout the past hundreds of years, have mistakenly thought that the end of the kosmos was plainly in Jesus’ cross-hairs. So, though the Revelation may in fact be about the “beginning of the end”, it’s extremely important to determine what end is actually in view.
Based merely upon the sermon title, “The beginning of the end”, quite a few additional questions immediately spring to mind:
- Doesn’t 2,000 years seem like an ?very long “last days”?
- Weren’t the last days, which were
first spoken of in Genesis 49, supposed to be at the tail end of the Old Covenant age which began at Sinai?,? 1,600 years before the last days began? If you’re like me, you might have to read that again to get the full impact.
If the first verse of John’s Revelation speaks of “things which MUST take place SHORTLY”, what in the world does “shortly” really mean if we’re still looking for these events to take place?
Yes, the Bible clearly warns against “private interpretations”, but since John is told repeatedly in the first and last chapters in the Revelation of the “things that MUST take place shortly”, I’m not certain why it would be wrong to determine if these things did in fact take place shortly. Matter of fact, I think it’s imperative that we do that.
C.S. Lewis thought verse 34 was so misleading that it was really embarrassing (World’s Last Night). So much so that it called it the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. Most, instead of being embarrassed by it, do everything in their power to ignore it or alter it’s plain meaning. C.I. Scofield tried to do a little slight of hand, writing that “generation” (genea) actually meant “race” (genos). However, since that effort has been so summarily discredited, people choose other avenues like, “It’s the generation that sees the signs”. It never ceases to amaze me, the excuses people try to come up with to make the Bible fit into their little box. The disciples asked one question, not three, and Jesus gave one definitive answer. At that point we have a choice. We can either attempt to change what Jesus actually said, or we can believe Him.
Matthew 24:32-33 (NASB) “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.
?Does this sound as if the disciples were not to know the season of His return? 22 times in the first 44 verses in this Matthew’s 24th chapter, Jesus referred to “you” as He warned them (His beloved disciples) of the impending events that would lead to the end of the age and the razing of the temple. So what hermeneutical (science of interpretation) principle would license us to assume that the “you” in “when you see these things” is not specifically referencing the disciples, but instead is some sort of generic “you” representing those of us living in the 21st century?
When I was first confronted with the interpretive principle, “reader relevance”, I was shocked to notice the number of times Jesus referred specifically to His disciples. From start to finish there is a contiguous reference to Jesus’ disciples. So to make this passage about us seems arrogant and myopic.
- Do YOU see all these things? (verse 2)
- Truly I tell YOU (verse 2)
- Watch out that no one deceives YOU (4)
- YOU will hear of wars and rumors of wars (6)
- but see to it that YOU are not alarmed (6)?
- Then YOU will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death (9)
- YOU will be hated by all nations because of me (9)
- “So when YOU see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation (15)
- Pray that YOUR flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath (20)
- At that time if anyone says to YOU, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. (23)
- See, I have told YOU ahead of time. (25?)
- So if anyone tells YOU, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. (26)
- As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, YOU know that summer is near. (32)
- Even so, when YOU see all these things (33)
- YOU know that it is near, right at the door (33)
- Truly I tell YOU, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened (34)
- Therefore keep watch, because YOU do not know on what day your Lord will come (42)
- So YOU also must be ready (44)
- because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (44)
James 5:8-9 (NKJV) You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!
1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 (NASB) 2 For YOU yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But YOU, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake YOU like a thief; 5 for YOU are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let US not sleep as others do, but let US be alert and sober. “But YOU are not in darkness that the day would overtake YOU as a thief, for YOU are all sons of light and sons of the day.”
Luke 17:20-21 (NASB) 20 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!‘ or, ‘There it is!‘ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”
Luke 21:20-22 (NASB) 20 “But when YOU see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. 21 “Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.
However, would you not agree that once Jesus ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father (AD 30), that at that very moment He knew the day and the hour of His imminent visitation? Jesus’ glory was clearly restored to that His prior status before the foundation of the world. So to argue that, even after His ascension, He would never know the day or the hour of His return, is to assault the deity of Christ and the oneness of the trinity.
John 17:5 (NKJV) And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
Jesus had already been glorified and was no longer encumbered by human constraints. So, when the Revelation was written (approx AD 62-64), I’m not certain how we can argue that Jesus was still unaware. Therefore, when we read the first 3 verses of the Revelation, what should our conclusion be? The King is telling us WHEN He will return. This is not a guess. “MUST soon take place” gives us no wiggle room. When the Creator of the universe says something must happen, do we have the nerve to question like the serpent did i.e. Hath God said?…
Revelation 1:1-3 (NASB) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.
Luke 9:45 (NASB) But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement.
“Trying to make the Bible say something that it does not is the point of Frank Gumerlock’s The Day and the Hour. Its historical documentation is overwhelming. We read how decade after decade of prophecy writers, over two millennia, assured their followers that their generation was the last generation. How could so many well-intentioned and seemingly well-informed Christians be so wrong on such an important topic? Is the Bible that unclear? Not at all. The Bible is not at fault. The fault lies with those who refuse to take it’s The result is that God ends up being a liar.
The Day and the Hour forces us to reevaluate the constant claim that today’s signs are certain indicators that Jesus is coming soon, that He is returning in our generation. Some might say, “Well, today is different. Conditions of the world are much worse than they were 500 years ago. There are more earthquakes, famines and wars. As you read The Day and the Hour, count how many times this same argument is used to support the claim that the end was near for Christians in long-past generations.
The Day and the Hour is an ever-present reminder that if the history of date setting teaches us anything, it teaches that everyone who has ever made a prophetic claim has been wrong. In the final analysis, the Bible is the true standard, not the prophetic prognostications of prophetic speculators.”