Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Things We Think We Know

Many claim to know all the details of the Second Coming of Christ. In the same way many thought they had figured out the First Coming but were clueless when it happened (John 7:25-53; Matthew 2:4-6; John 9:13-34). Even the disciples who followed Jesus seemed to be unclear on what was happening until after the resurrection (Mark 9:10; John 16:29-32; Matthew 16:21-23). Now it is clear from Scripture that Jesus is coming back (Acts 1:10,11; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 3:3-13). It is also clear that this coming will be blatant and obvious and even the unbelievers will recognize it (Matthew 24:23-31; Revelation 6:15-17; 16:9). This eliminates the idea of a mysterious spiritual coming. But up to the time when it becomes obvious, Scripture makes it clear we will not know the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36-51; Acts 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). (The passage in 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8 does not say believers will not be surprised because we know the time, but because we are always alert.) The point is that until the clear-cut fulfillment of the prophecies, we should always be prepared but will never be certain.

Now we are told of the sign of the man of sin seating himself in the temple (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; Matthew 24:15; Revelation 11:1,2). This has been interpreted as many different things, from the destruction of the Jewish temple by Titus, to the papacy, to various individuals up to the present day. As it is given as a sign, I would see it as involved in the blatant arrival of the Second Coming, and perhaps we should wait until this occurs before reaching a definite conclusion. (There is also the question of whether the temple is the church or a physical temple in Palestine. I would prefer a physical temple, as there have been so many apostasies in the history of the Christian church it would be difficult to know which one is referred to. Another sign, depending on your theology, may be the creation of the nation of Israel (Romans 11:25-32; Matthew 24:16-21; Revelation 11:8-13). But even if we consider it relevant (and I do), apart from fanciful interpretations it does not indicate a time table. All we can say is that salvation is nearer to us then it was before 1948 (Romans 13:11). As for Matthew 24:1-14, I would take it as warning against regarding every war or disaster or persecution or instance of false teaching as a sign, because these are the beginning of birth-pangs and the end is not yet. There are difficult things here, and while I certainly would not discourage people from studying them (2 Timothy 3:16,17), perhaps this is not something we should be dogmatic about or divide over. For I suspect when it happens we will all be wrong. Including me.

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