When the circumstances of life
become more threatening and precarious - we humans begin longing for a way
to control what is going on around us. We start looking for answers. There
is a feeling that we are approaching the "end-times," "the last-days" and
we want to know what precisely will happen and when.
A Movie Genre
An example of increasing interest in these matters can be found in the
movie industry. Before the 1950s, there were only four feature-length
movies made that could be classified as apocalyptic. Since then, the number
of "last-days" movies has steadily increased, to an average of 5 every
year. Even the titles of the movies reflect this intense fascination:
The End of the World, The Day After, Armageddon,
End of Days, Doomsday, etc.
Though this would seem to be a relatively new phenomenon, largely
represented by movie-makers, the truth is that long before people began
making movies, they were foretelling "The End." Throughout the centuries,
there is an extremely long list of failed predictions by diverse peoples
due to speculation, misinterpretation and wishful thinking.
Bible-believers are guilty of the same weaknesses. Pride is often the root
that causes "believers" to claim that they have had hidden Bible mysteries
revealed to them. In the face of such claims we need to be able to
recognize what Yeshua said about these predictions and the limitations He
has placed on us and our understanding.
There have been many societal uprisings and panics as a result of
apocalyptic predictions. Here are a few examples out of a list of over 300:
The Essene sect of Jewish ascetics saw the Jewish revolt against the Romans
in 66-70 as the final end-time battle before the arrival of the Messiah. In
parallel, Simon bar Kochba had coins minted declaring the arrival of the
redemption of Zion at the same time.
The Millennium Apocalypse on January 1, 1000, at the end of the Christian
Millennium. Various Christian clerics predicted the end of the world on
this date, including Pope Sylvester II. Riots occurred in Europe, and
pilgrims headed east to Jerusalem.
Following the failure of the January 1, 1000 prediction, some theorists
proposed that the end would occur 1000 years after Jesus' death (1033
C.E.), instead of his birth.
Pope Innocent III predicted that the world would end on 1284 C.E., 666
years after the rise of Islam.
Martin Luther predicted the end of the world would occur no later than 1600
Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of the Worldwide Church of God told
members of his church that the Rapture was to take place in 1936, and that
only they would be saved. After the prophecy failed, he changed the date
three more times.
Minister William M. Branham predicted the Rapture would occur no later than
Chuck Smith, the founder of Calvary Chapel predicted the generation of 1948
would be the last generation, and that the world would end by 1981. Smith
admitted that he "could be wrong" but continued to say in the same sentence
that his prediction was "a deep conviction in my heart, and all my plans
are predicated upon that belief."
Both well-known people and religious denominations, both aberrant groups
and legitimate teachers, have predicted the coming end. Among them:
Jehovah's Witnesses, Adventists, Pat Robertson, Lester Sumrall, Hal
Lindsey, Edgar C. Whisenant and his "88 Reasons," Harold Camping, Y2K, etc.
When are the Last Days Coming?
What are we to learn from all this? Well, the Bible does tell us that
there is a time period called the "last days." We are even told when it
begins. On the day of Shavuot, fifty days after Messiah's death and
resurrection Peter stood in the Temple and said, "... this is what was
spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last
days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh
...'" (Acts 2; 16, 17). He goes on to say that what was happening
that day in the Temple was the manifestation of Joel's word. So we
already know from Peter's words that we have been living in the
"last days" for the last 2000 years.
I believe that Matthew 24 is the key passage that tells us what to expect.
As the disciples were admiring the Temple, Yeshua spoke of its coming
destruction. Astonished, they asked when this would occur. What would be
the sign of His return and the culmination of the age? The answer to
the first part can be found in the following verses in that same chapter.
Those verses predominately point to the time of the Jewish revolt
against Rome in 68-72 C.E. and the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 C.E. and the
resulting worldwide exile and dispersion of the Jews from Israel.
The Focal Point
We are clearly told that our focal point in the last days should be Yeshua:
"At many times and in various ways, God spoke long ago to the Fathers
through the prophets. At the end of days, He has spoken to us via a Son
whom He appointed heir of all things, and also through whom He made the
worlds. He is the radiance of His glory, the very image of His nature;
upholding all things by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:1-3).
This a time of conflict because the proclamation of the Kingdom of God with
Yeshua on the throne is at odds with the kingdom of this world with Satan
ruling. So we can expect difficult times, false messiahs, false prophets,
persecution, extreme moral depravity, plagues, earthquakes (II Timothy 3).
Even without these prophetic scriptures, we know that we live in
challenging times. So through it all, what kind of people should we be?
That's the key. We are encouraged to continue in the faith. We
must "endure hardship as good soldiers of Messiah ... and pursue
justice, faith, love and peace with those who call on the Lord out of a
pure heart" (II Timothy 2: 3, 22). It is interesting to note that
exhortations to do right far outnumber the passages pointing to signs
of the end.
So where does us leave us regarding the last days? There are many signs of
things to come. Shmita years, blood moons, natural disasters and
wars all over the globe. Yet in spite of our desire to be in control and to
know it all, we cannot. It is up to us be a witness for Yeshua and to be
ready for His return at any time.
"I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who
is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke,
exhort, with great patience and instruction" (II Timothy 4:1-2).
"But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in
heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert;
for you do not know when the appointed time will come ..." (Mark