Happy near-end of June to everyone. Now that we have survived Harold Camping's debacle because of his failed prediction of the end of the world, I thought it would be a good time to discuss the Bible's signs of the last day / end-times. There are two main camps in Christianity discussing Christ's Return and the end of times: first, we have the Pre-Tribulationists, who believe that a rapture of believers can take place at any moment. They also see many events taking place as "signs" that the end is near. An example of this is 'The Rapture Index' link here, which lists 45 signs that the Rapture is really near. Based upon these signs, this website also post a "Rapture Index" to show how close we are to the Rapture. Today, they have listed our Rapture Index as 182, with anything above 160 described as "fasten your seatbelts". So Pre-Tribulationists see many Bible verses as pointing to the imminent return of Jesus Christ and the rapture of believers.
Now the second group is the Amillennialist camp. An excellent example of this line of Christian thought was published in a recent 'Modern Reformation' magazine. The article is by Pastor Kim Riddlebarger (link to his blog is here), and he is a top Reformed thinker on end-time's issues. In his article entitled "You are Here", he discusses the Biblical signs pointing to the Last Day. He finds only three signs that "herald the end of the age and the return of our Lord." Here are Pastor Riddlebarger's three signs pointing to the End of the Age:
- The first sign is that the Gospel is preached to the end of the world; Matthew 24:14 (ESV): And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Tom's Thought: The New Testament Gospel is translated and published in over 1,200 languages, which covers over 75% of the world's population (Wycliffe.org). So this looks as though we have met or are close to meeting the completion of this first Sign;
- The second sign that foretells the end is the salvation of "all Israel"; Romans 11:25–26 (ESV): Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
"The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob";
Tom's Thought: This sign is not yet met. When we see mass ethnic Jewish conversions to Christianity, we should know that the end is near. I assume this mass conversion would take place in a relatively short timeframe, because although we are given the signs of the end, we are also told that the end can come upon us at any moment – Matt. 24:37. So for this one, we need to wait.
- The third sign of the impending end is the age of the great apostasy, and with this the appearance of the Man of Sin, who is the Antichrist. The final Antichrist will be given Satan's power and great authority (Revelation 13:2). There will be a great persecution of Christians during this time.
Tom's Thought: This sign is also not yet met. Although I think many would agree that we are seeing the beginning of the Great Apostasy – with even in the Church there is the denial of sin, denial of Hell, and all sorts of date-setters of Jesus' Return. So again for this one, we must wait. But the wait may not be long…
So here you see the stark contrast between the two main schools of thought that deal with the end-times – Pre-Tribulationists see many Bible verses as showing the "signs" that the Rapture of believers can take place at any time. While on the other hand, the second school of thought is Amillennialism, which sees perhaps as few as three signs which point to the Last Day and Jesus' Return. So there you have it. I found Pastor Riddlebarger's article helpful in discussing the signs that point to the coming of the end of the age, and I hope you have as well. God bless you, today and this week. /s/Tom Wolff