Beloved of God, in introducing this series, we first need to respectfully yet boldly expose those who have obfuscated (lit. darkened, obscured, bewildered, stupefied) our minds as to the reality of Christ’s return. Regarding this event, it’s not so much about correct doctrine, though important in itself, but correct attitude. We live in a time of many, largely-Western, self-appointed and fear-mongering ‘apostles,’ ‘prophets,’ ‘teachers’ and ‘end-time specialists.’ One of our humblest, Spirit-taught house church members, when asked by her work colleagues, ‘Where are the prophets and why is God abandoning us to the pandemic?’ she calmly pointed them to Micah 3:4-7! Amid all the ‘white noise’ and ‘dark noise’ of our day, we need to fine-tune our radio dials to clearly hear the ‘gentle whisper of the Lord’ (1 Kings 19:12). What are our ultimate reference points? Surely God’s self-revelation in creation, history, the Bible and supremely in the person of Christ, the ultimate fulcrum. It will also help if we grasp the ‘big-picture narrative’ of God’s loving purpose for humankind (Jn. 3:16-17).
There are ‘end-time’ voices which immediately trigger all kinds of ‘red flags’ in my mind and spirit. These appear when:
- Well-meaning, believing folk, interpret Scripture with no/negligible reference to its historical context, the original languages, different literary forms such as narrative, poetry, apocalyptic imagery, etc. We read general literature alert to the last-named, but when it comes to Bible-reading, oh dear! In addition, we love to proof-text without the ABC of ‘comparing scripture with scripture.’
- Believers are so arrogant as to think that all Christians up to the late 19th century were complete nincompoops as to Bible interpretation. I refer to modern dispensationalist teachers like J.N. Darby, C.I. Schofield and, in more recent times, Tim la Haye. It is essential that we recognize that scholarly and saintly Bible students have embraced differing stand-points on Christ’s Return: e.g. ‘pre-millenial’ (complicated by pre-/mid-/post-tribulation variations), and yes, horrors, even ‘a-millenial’ and ‘post-millenial’ positions . The esteemed Dr. Graham Scroggie once suggested that most, if not all of these views, shed at least some light on a complex topic.
- Believers totally dismiss those who dare question the ideology that God’s sovereign salvation-purpose in his world hinges on Israel’s national (‘real estate’) role, to the extent of ignoring the Israelite, Jesus of Nazareth. “Luke insists (Lk. 24) that, since Jesus really was raised from the dead, the ancient scriptures of Israel must be read as a story which reaches its climax in Jesus (my emphasis) and will then produce its proper fruit not only in Israel but in Jesus’ followers and, through them, in all the world. That’s why, when Jesus appears to his disciples in the upper room in v. 36-49, his opening of their minds to understand the scriptures (vv. 44-46) results directly in the new commission: that ‘repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.’ This is not something other to the Jewish hope. It is woven into the scriptures from very early on that when God finally does for Israel what he’s going to do, then the nations of the world will come to share in his blessing. This, indeed, is one of the central keys to unlocking New Testament Theology’ (N.T. Wright, ‘Surprised by Hope’). Israel exists for Jesus, not vice versa (cf. Jn. 3:16). [my personal eschatology allows for a ‘remnant’ comprising faithful Israelites and Gentiles to fulfill God’s saving-purpose on earth] 
- Believers imagine that the biblical ‘last days’ are relevant only to us, ignoring that most basic biblical fact that the ‘last days’ commenced with Christ’s birth and the outpouring of his Spirit at Pentecost: cf. Joel 2:32-38; Acts 2:14ff. Does this mean that prophecy can’t repeat itself? Of course not, it does and will, to a lesser or greater extent. The NT and history testify clearly that many of Jesus’ prophecies were fulfilled almost immediately in the catastrophic ‘Fall of Jerusalem’ in 70 AD. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to argue that there may not be recurring fulfillments of these prophecies (Mt. 24; Lk. 21) to the end of time as we know it.
- When a huge section of the Church today believes that prophecies were written only for post-modern America, South Africa and Israel. As someone put it recently (with respect to my gracious American friends and blog-followers), “Jesus was not a white, American man. The U.S. flag is not a symbol for the Church of Christ. The National anthem is not a Christian hymn. And He (Jesus) began to teach and say to them, ‘Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?”
- On the basis of sound biblical exegesis and Church history, for me and many others, the popular Western ‘rapture theory’ remains just that. Sorry to disappoint comfy Christians: most/all Jesus-followers will not escape some suffering and persecution: 1 Pet 4:1a. 2,000 years of history support that. ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!’ [I have often had my personal salvation in Christ questioned on the basis of believing differently re the ‘rapture’ of believers. I’ve also witnessed the sadness, depression, negativism and neurosis bad eschatology brings: as goes our eschatology, so goes our life]
- Many teachers who insist on their nation being a ‘Christian nation.’ Frankly, there is no such thing as a ‘Christian Nation,’ whether that refers to the US, South Africa, Israel, or any other nation under the sun. As a South African I have experienced first-hand ‘a Christian nation’ trying to justify ‘Grand Apartheid!’ Just a few mornings ago I listened to a prophetic guru, going on about the fact that South Africa is essentially ‘a Christian nation’ and quoting the hopelessly out-of-date statistic that 80% of our citizens are ‘Christians’: that survey included those in every sect imaginable, the many African syncretistic religions, ancestor-worshipers, nominal believers, ‘church-goers,’ etc. Scot McKnight, the respected American theologian, has recently written in Christianity Today:
- Nation-State and Christianity are too much at odds to become partners.
- We have become a politicized Church, left wing and right wing.
- The Church is a Church for all nations. Jesus wants to be Lord of all or not at all.
- Nation-states are bounded by geographical borders, whereas the Christian Church is trans-national.
- Nation-states build walls, literally or procedurally, the Church welcomes all, literally and procedurally.
- Nation-states maintain their existence through military might, the Church bears witness to suffering love.
- Nation-states seek their own partisan agenda, the Church’s most fundamental calling is ‘the ministry of reconciliation.’ The USA is not the hope of the world.
Let’s also clear up so much confused thinking re ‘the kingdom of God.’ The kingdom of God/heaven is not only future: it’s past, present and future. Right now we live in the tension of the ‘already’ but ‘not yet!’ (G.E. Ladd). Jesus reigned as King before the OT came into being, in his incarnation and at Pentecost, he comes again as the one who abides in his suffering Church, and he’ll come finally at his second Advent to consummate all things in himself. A few nights ago my wife and I started reading John’s Revelation: 1:4ff/MSG, “I, John, am writing this to the seven churches in Asia province: All the best to you from THE GOD WHO IS, THE GOD WHO WAS, AND THE GOD ABOUT TO ARRIVE, and from the Seven Spirits assembled before his throne, and from Jesus Christ – Loyal Witness, Firstborn from the dead, Ruler of all earthly kings… The Master declares, ‘I’m A to Z. I’m the GOD WHO IS, THE GOD WHO WAS, AND THE GOD ABOUT TO ARRIVE… Don’t fear: I am First, I am Last, I’m alive!'”
I acknowledge that we’re living in intensely dark days with accelerating evil, pain and persecution. At the same time, I and many others around the world, see God doing ‘a new (yet ancient) thing’ in his Body across the globe. “One day people were standing around the Temple, remarking how beautiful it was, the splendor of its stone work and memorial gifts. Jesus said, ‘All this you’re admiring so much – the time is coming when every stone in the building will end up in a heap of rubble… Watch out for the doomsday deceivers… Don’t fall for any of that… keep your head and don’t panic. This is routine history… It will seem like all hell has broken loose – sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic… And then – then! – they’ll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style – a glorious welcome! When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads held high. Help is on the way!'” (Jesus of Nazareth: Lk. 21:5ff, 25ff/MSG) There is indeed light at the end of the tunnel for the repentant, and it’s not an oncoming train.
Hoping you’ll join me for my soon-to-be-posted Part 2 of this series. And if you’ve never bowed the knee to King Jesus, do so now, in the assurance of his great mercy and love!
 ‘Millenium’ means ‘a 1,000 years.’ The term is used a few times in Rev. 20, and significantly, nowhere else. It can be interpreted either literally or symbolically. Revelation being largely written in ‘apocalyptic’ (lit. ‘a lifting of the lid,’ ‘disclosure’) form, I hold to a symbolic view of God’s eternal reign. For brief and fair definitions of the different millenial views, see YouTube ‘The Millenium: The Last Days According to Jesus’ with R.C. Sproul. https://youtu.be/Ejd4ZAnXmMM
 Treat yourself to a brief but beautiful YouTube on-site introduction to ‘The New Testament in It’s World’ by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird.
[Motto of the renowned Moravian Community based at Herrnhut, 1722ff]