Summary: Jesus told us no man knows the day or hour of his return - so why do we insist on speculating when the end will come? Jesusï¿½ emphasis to us is readiness.
REPENT, FOR THE END IS NEAR! (or is it?)
October 18, 2009
What do all these people have in common?
Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Adolph Hitler, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict 16, Bill Gates, Prince Charles, John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Martin Luther, Mikhail Gorbachev, Benito Mussolini, Napoleon, Pat Robertson, Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
All these people, sometime, somewhere, have been named by someone as the antichrist. In the past several years, we tend to think weï¿½ve never seen such a time as this in history. And in some ways, thatï¿½s certainly true.
But in a general sense, people through most of history have thought the same thing. The same is true of interest in the end times. As Jim Garrett noted last week, weï¿½re in the midst of yet another resurgence in fascination with the end times. Best selling fictional book series, or many other non-fiction end-times books, fill the Christian bookstores. Movies and videos are being released with these themes, including the next big one telling us the world will end in 2012, just three years from now.
Among Christians, that interest in the end times takes the form of what one writer called ï¿½newspaper eschatology.ï¿½ As a result, we have many so-called prophets or prophecy teachers (many of whom unfortunately have a large audience through television or books or radio or the internet, or all four) searching the scriptures for specific meaning behind the news of the day, and this often leads to what weï¿½ve just discovered.
Just about anyone, anywhere, can be the antichrist. Some have called this dangerous game ï¿½pin the tail on the antichrist.ï¿½ In fact, let me tell you about how Ronald Reagan was supposedly identified as the antichrist (at least one version of this story).
If you count the letters in the late presidentï¿½s full name, youï¿½ll discover a sinister pattern. Ronald (six letters) Wilson (six letters) Reagan (six letters). Thatï¿½s 666.
If thatï¿½s all it takes for someone to seriously consider someone as the antichrist, then Iï¿½m in trouble. For all I know, after todayï¿½s sermon, someone will accuse me of being the antichrist. Bruce has promised never to reveal the number which was assigned to me on the churchï¿½s computer payroll system.
But this morning, in the presence of all of you, Iï¿½m going to reveal it. Itï¿½s number 66. If you take that, and add the six letters of one of my email names, bsully, you come up with, yes, thatï¿½s right, 666. Make of that what you will.
We can laugh about this today, but thereï¿½s a real problem with the popular eschatology of the day.
Eschatology is the fancy word for the study of the end times. A quick look through a Christian bookstore, or a quick google search, will tell you just how much stuff is out there on these topics. The prospect of imminent doom for sinners,is apparently significantly more popular than the day-to-day following of Christ.
Without judging the motivation of the authors of these kinds of books, one of the things I want to accomplish this morning is to help us think critically about these teachings, and to look carefully at what scripture says about our general stance toward the end times, what it should be. Well meaning, yet unbalanced or unbiblical teaching, is still unbalanced or unbiblical, despite being well-meaning.
Let me first of all state this so there can be no misunderstanding this morning. I believe Scripture teaches the return of Jesus Christ. The things I say today are not meant to undermine that in any way. Jesus is coming back to take his children home with Him. The TCF leadership takes no official position on how this will all happen, or when. We might have opinions, but theyï¿½re just that, opinions.
So, some of you may be disappointed, because what I will not do this morning is offer you an alternative to some of the speculation thatï¿½s out there, or a guess as to who might be right. I wonï¿½t name anyone as the antichrist. I wonï¿½t give a date, or even a month or a year or a decade for the second coming or the rapture. I wonï¿½t try to match the symbols in Revelation or Daniel,or any other passages of scripture, with current events.
Thereï¿½s a sound reason why I wonï¿½t do these things. Because Jesus said itï¿½s none of my business. And even if it was, I canï¿½t know it anyway. Jesus Himself says He doesnï¿½t know it.
In Acts 1:7, Jesus told his disciples, just before He ascended into heaven: ï¿½It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.ï¿½ In the Greek, this means literally ï¿½it does not belong to you.ï¿½ Or, ï¿½it is not of you.ï¿½ This nuance reflects the idea that Jesus was telling his disciples ï¿½it is not your concern to know the times and dates.ï¿½