Does it matter what you believe about the End Times

(Tabitha Gallman) #1

Within the last few months or longer maybe, I have been forced to consider different interpretations of the Bible concerning End Times. I have always believed in certain end time events and them happening in certain sequences. I am wondering if it really matters whether we believe in events such as the rapture, tribulation, the anti-Christ and/or whether these events have already occurred (well I hope the rapture hasn’t already occurred).

With a split happening within the community I live in, primarily concerning new seeker churches, I find myself in conversations more and more that are very negative concerning “new movements” within our churches. People are talking about “false doctrines and teachings” within our churches and it is becoming very discouraging as I listen to both sides of these conversations.

I just listened to one of Steve Gregg’s recent sermons called: “What In the World Was Jesus Talking About” and it is about the Kingdom. He talks about 20th century preaching and it’s influence on modern Christians. I read along with him on his Bible references and I can understand what he is saying about Jesus’ teachings concerning the Kingdom, but I honestly haven’t come to a consensus about what is the right way to believe and what is the wrong way to believe about the Kingdom referenced in Luke 17:20, Matthew 6:33.

Here is an article I came across about how the End Times impacts your work. I am not sure if that may be part of the reason that we are encouraged to participate church wide in the Purpose Driven Bible study.

Concerning those who are negative and argumentative about the new Seeker churches that are teaching that the kingdom is already here, are they just "spinning their wheels and being unproductive in spreading the good news, or do they have legitimate concerns about false doctrines?

Should I be concerned about my skills and work here on this earth as it crosses over into the Kingdom? Or, if I am looking to a rapture or to a total destruction of the world, should my evangelizing be more urgent?

I think I am torn about it all more than anything because how do I know who is right and who is wrong with different interpretations of the end times especially Matt 24? How do we even begin discussions within my community and church about this topic to keep us focused on Jesus?

(SeanO) #2

@tabby68 Our view of the end times is non-essential doctrine. Christians can disagree and still worship together. Below is a sermon by Tim Keller on a theology of work and why our work matters to God. May Jesus bring peace and guidance and grace into the struggle your community is facing.

Theology of Work

Levels of Doctrine

Not all doctrine is equally important. Some beliefs are at the very center of our Christian faith and to deny them is to deny Christ. Other beliefs are important to how we practice our faith and are therefore the cause of disagreement between many denominations, but these beliefs do not place us outside of Christ. Still other doctrines, such as eschatology, are difficult even for very learned and godly people to understand clearly and are therefore a matter of opinion.

The below article offers a fuller explanation of levels of doctrine and gives a helpful summary list of 4 levels of doctrine.

  1. absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;
  2. convictions , while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;
  3. opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and
  4. questions are currently unsettled issues.

Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least seven considerations:

  1. biblical clarity;
  2. relevance to the character of God;
  3. relevance to the essence of the gospel;
  4. biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it);
  5. effect on other doctrines;
  6. consensus among Christians (past and present); and
  7. effect on personal and church life.

(Tabitha Gallman) #3

Thanks @SeanO. I will look over this and I know you have given me lots of other good resources in the past. This is all something I need to “lightly” educate myself on so that I can enlighten some of the more traditional dispensationalists here about … or better yet point them to this community.

Although I have to admit, much of these new (new to me) revelations have not been easy to swallow, I am learning to read the Bible with more of an open mind than my parents or grandparents. Maybe that’s because of more easily accessible resources concerning Bible study today - I don’t know, but I hope our divisions here in this community don’t cause a stumbling block to anyone.

I also found this link today:

One of the quotes from the article reads:
"If you believe in the Rapture, “there are only two groups, the righteous and the unrighteous, or the godly and the ungodly,” said Valarie Ziegler, a professor of religious studies at DePauw University. “It leads to very binary thinking. Any other religion will be a false religion, by definition.”

(This link should probably should go into the politics category under the tribalism post) This ideology is what I grew up believing and fits the thinking of many evangelicals that I know here around where I live.

Do you believe that believing in the rapture causes binary thinking?

(Matt Western) #4


As some background, I grew up with, and still worship in a denomination that states (in as shortly as I can summarise); as you say a traditional dispensationalist

  • Israel was temporarily put aside for a time (Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy), during which the church age happens
  • the rapture is the end of the church age
  • 7 year tribulation (peace treaty between anti-Christ (revived Roman Empire) and Israel for half that time, and the second half the peace treaty is broken and there is war, culminating in the return of Christ to start the literal millennial kingdom

I’ve also been aware of the 3 other views of end times, and haven’t really looked deeply into alternative viewpoints or the basis for them. Replacement theology says that the church has completely replaced Israel - if that is the case then why isn’t the church also being blessed with the promises of being physically in the land of Israel. Also, don’t worry, I have a whole bunch of much harder questions I could ask of the traditional dispensationalist viewpoint too…

We have a certain ministry come to our church each year and have a prophecy conference. One thing I have noticed (with all due respect and I can say I’m joining the club as years go by), the general age of attendees of the conference are slightly more senior - but I do wonder if these things become more interesting because people don’t want to go through death, but would like the Rapture to happen.

For me personally, I have not changed views on end times prophecy, but have come to terms with

  • either end times events will happen in my life time or they will not
  • i have no control over these events, therefore I will rest in the fact that it doesn’t matter whether I will live a full life, or see the end time events, or actually I have absolutely no guarantee personally that I will live to any particular age.

I personally pray that we will see a revival like we did in 15th century reformation.

I don’t think a view on the rapture causes binary thinking - it’s the entire Christian message that is binary. Either you are saved or you are not saved. Jesus statement “I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me” - is the most exclusive statement there is. It has nothing to do with end times prophecy. The question of course is much bigger; is Christianity true, and did Jesus actually rise bodily from the grave?

I think it matters more what your entire worldview is, not on your viewpoint of how things will wrap up as time changes to the eternal state. I also want to echo Sean’s comment - I hope there will be unity in the church groups over this difference of ideas. I hope that these things will be a discussion of ideas, and if needed an agreement to disagree, and not a side track to the Great Commission. I think for me, prophecy is a level 3 and level 2 in Sean’s scale of importance, and of course there are plenty more questions (level 4) as we all learn more in all these areas.

Also, out of interest, the Paul was writing to the Christians in the early church, who were worried that they had missed the return of Christ - I can understand that as they were under intense persecution. As the Bible Project summarises it:

While they also worried they had missed Jesus’ return, Paul clarifies that they should not fuel apocalyptic speculation but recall Jesus’ words in Mark 13 about the public and obvious events leading up to His return. They should also remain faithful, hopeful, and confident and not fearful while waiting for Jesus’ return and deliverance from the evil ruler.

I do think that as soon as any ministry, group or individual starts to try to match a current world event and set a date for Christ’s return, they’re in trouble. :slight_smile: Only one thing is sure in my mind; the return of Christ, or my own death is one day closer than yesterday - I’m looking forward to seeing Jesus face to face. It’s going to be amazing - as ‘death is swallowed up in victory’, and ‘mortality takes on immortality’. (from 1 Corinthians chapter 15)

(SeanO) #5

@tabby68 There is a difference between not being willing to listen to other perspectives (perhaps what your grandparents struggled with - I / my church believe it, therefore it is so) and what the article author calls binary thinking. When it comes to truth claims, everyone’s thinking is binary - we all think certain things are true and other false. For example, the author of this article might say, “It is true that no one knows what is true”. But his statement is self-defeating - he could not know that a certain religion is not true unless he himself holds the truth. In that sense, binary thinking is typical - the only question is what truth you hold on to - Christianity, humanism, relativism, Islam - they all make truth claims.

Your community sounds more like it is struggling with making a secondary / less important doctrine into the main thing. They are majoring on minors. They need to follow the old saying:

In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity

(Billie Corbett) #6

Hello Tabby68,

Thank you for your question.
Yes, there is a fair amount of contentious ground regarding the pre tribulation/post tribulation…rapture/non rapture question.

I don’t have an answer…other than, a few years ago, I started praying for clarity for myself. Not for anyone else. Mainly because it is one of those areas where I think it is easy to not hear the Good Shepherd’s voice …because of the noise level around who is biblical and who isn’t.

From my knowledge of scripture…I can’t see anything that clearly defines or gives rise to a specific order of events.
So, to get into that…I think is dangerous ground …

In my opinion, many modern Western denominations have been seriously affected by fairly recent (late twentieth century) beliefs around end times. (These ideas if they turn out to be wrong…could be a part of the great falling away from the faith…which is talked about in Scripture…for many who believe in them will be disillusioned by the suffering of tribulations…after they have believed they would be raptured.)
Nonetheless, God alone knows what the truth is in these matters. We can ask Him.

  • **[Luke 21:34-36
    “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

  • **[Matthew 24:42-44]
    Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

  • **[Matthew 25:1-13]
    "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. “And at midnight a cry was heard: “Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!” Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise answered, saying, " No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.” And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us!” But he answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.” "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

  • **[Matthew 26:40-41]
    Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

  • **[Mark 13:33-37]
    Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”

  • **[Luke 12:37-40]
    Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

(Tabitha Gallman) #7

@matthew.western - Hey thanks Matthew for that reply. Your answer eases my mind especially sharing how you believe personally. Thanks for your prayers because I have been overly stressed about the discord this is causing even among friends here in our community.

(Tabitha Gallman) #8

@SeanO - I like where you said “They are majoring on minors.” Thanks

(Tabitha Gallman) #9

@Billie - Thanks Billie for your reply. I can’t help but wonder also if somehow Satan will use the belief in different interpretations to his advantage somehow in the end times. I hadn’t thought about the possibility of the disillusioned by the suffering of tribulations. I do wonder if it would be possible to deceive some as mentioned in point number 7 of this article:

(Matt Western) #10

I often have thought - 'What makes us in Western civilization so special that God’s Kingdom rises and falls on western civilization?". Israel of the Old Testament who as a nation had gotten so far away from Him, God allowed to be conquered by the Babylonians.

If Western civilization as a whole actively rejects God, why would God not raise up the next 1000 years of world history with huge revivals in Eastern culture (India and China have 2.3 billion people alone). God is not constrained by our little issues and squabbles in the West. He is Sovereign, and in control of world history - and He is moving it towards it’s conclusion. To us these are huge things, and yes I also feel your discouragement, having been through a gradual church split which at it’s core was whether members were to completely abstain from alcohol. It wasn’t a huge sudden blowup, but a mostly mature discussion ending with a church vote as to whether to make a change to church documentation, but sadly as a result of a failed vote a large percentage of the church, on both sides of the discussion, have now left - and it is very very discouraging, no question about it.

I have been thinking about this a lot recently over the last 3 or 4 years - I ask myself ‘Where is my focus?’ and secondly ‘where is my hope?’.
If I focus on a local church, it may fall apart.
If I focus on a denomination, I may be disappointed when it dissolves into argument.
If I focus on politicians to put in place good policy, I will always be disappointed . :slight_smile: ( and both politicians that jump on the Christian band-wagon for votes, and Christian pastors that align themselves too closely to politics)
If I focus on environmental causes, security in money, security in living in a safe country, and all that thing - it may be taken away from me at a moment’s notice.

We can only focus on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith - Hebrews 11:1-2 - everybody else will eventually grow old, fade, disappoint us, and everything else is subject to the 2nd law of thermodynamics, it is fading away and breaking down.

My hope is on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and the fact that one day God (actually it says that the Father has given all judgment into the hands of the Son I believe) will rightly and justly put everything right. It is fixed, and cannot be taken away. It’s not a ‘I hope so’ hope, it is a certainty based on Christ’s ressurection, and who 'now makes intercession for us at the right hand of God.

There is the idea that Christians are to be in the world, but not of the world ( , and theBibleProject talks about the Theme of ‘Exiles’, and ‘the Way of the Exile’. How do we live life with our focus on Jesus, and engage meaningfully with our broken and very messy world. It can be difficult and discouraging.

Hopefully you are encouraged where you are, and you can have some deep meaningful conversations with the people where you are called to serve, and be involved in… :slight_smile:

(Tabitha Gallman) #11

By the same thought process, what makes any generation think they are so special that certain end time events will occur during their life time? Growing up I have always heard it preached and taught that we are living in the end times and it has been so heavily engrained in my whole Christian life that now it almost seems as though maybe (maybe way to speculative) verses or passages were almost interpreted to fit into a certain time frame.

But in my Christian journey I hope to continue allowing the Holy Spirit to guide my reading God’s word not to fit my journey, but that I would allow the Holy Spirit to work in me to give me the same ‘mindset as Christ Jesus’ (Phil 2:5).

I have really learned a lot from the Bible Project. Those young guys and gals know their Bible and what a humble spirit they seem to have.

Thanks, I hope to be able to articulate and share God’s word in loving conversation without letting my own selfish nature get in the way (that happens a lot when I try to share in Biblical conversations.) From what I am gleaning here from this community, the key is listening, showing genuine concern from where each person is coming from, and asking questions to encourage thinking.

(Matt Western) #12

Funny you should say that ; I asked the exact same question of a person who was certain things will wind up in the next 20 years (before they die)… :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

I think that the so called ‘end times’ is just referring to the time after Christ - the church age (you can see my dispensational viewpoint coming through here of course) : Hebrews chapter 1 first few verses : and the Book of Hebrews was written almost 2000 years ago and it refers to ‘in these last days’…

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

In John 14 Jesus talking to his disciples said

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”

All that to say; in my opinion; too much speculation about the end times isn’t heathy if that is all that is talked about. We can rest in the fact of the resurrection of Christ ; and actually ‘if Christ be not raised, we are of all men most miserable, and our faith is vain, and we are yet in our sins’ - as the Apostle Paul says.

Anyway, if you are interested, I did enjoy the bible project videos on the book of Revelation, and the books of Daniel and Ezekiel and the other prophetic books. It’s quite balanced and where there are different interpretations of a section they seem to do their best to talk about that in a balanced way…
hope this is helpful…

(Heather) #13

This was a super helpful picture for me too, thanks