This post is part two of a series, see part one here.
Rule number one of Eschatology was: It’s none of your business.
Rule number two: No one has it right.
No one really understands how the End will come except God the Father. Even Jesus, God the Son, does not know the hour when it will happen. How then can mortals expect to understand it? Indeed, it is truly a conceited person that believes he has the end-times figured out completely, or believes his theory is without fault. Each of the major Eschatological theories have some major flaws and places where they appear to contradict Scripture. This is because the mystery of the End is so beyond us that even it appears to contradict itself at points (though this apparent contradiction is entirely due to the inability of Man to comprehend it.)
So I will freely admit here and now that my own theory on the End may not be totally right, or even partly so. I do believe that some of my interpretations are very close to correct, and that others might be partly correct, but I also think that a few are completely speculatory at best. Examine my claims, and you will find that there are discrepancies and apparent contradictions, and even passages which appear to directly contest what I am suggesting.
But here’s the thing, that will be true for any human interpretation of the Scriptures concerning the end-times. Ultimately, the total Truth of the End escapes us all, and this is precisely how God wants it. He has said several times that the End is not to be our focus and the details are not for us to know. Therefore, we cannot expect to understand it fully. Nevertheless, God has given us information concerning the End, and even tells us in Revelation that we shall be blessed by studying it. We shall not know the full truth of it until it happens, and I guarantee that all of us who have dared study Eschatology will look on in awe at all the things we missed or got wrong.
Consider for a moment the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. In Luke 24:13-27 these men encounter Jesus, but do not know it is Him because they were kept from recognizing Him by God. Jesus talks to them about what just happened in Jerusalem. They confess their disappointment and sorrow that the man they had hoped would be the Messiah was recently put to death. Jesus rebukes them for their ignorance, because the suffering and death of the Messiah and his Resurrection were all foretold by the prophets. Yet these men, learned in the Bible, did not see it until Jesus personally taught them and supernaturally revealed it to them. They had reasoned in their human thinking that the Messiah would be a totally different kind of person, conquering with armies and power, not with suffering and death on a cross. I think it is similar with the end-times. All the prophecies are clearly laid out before us, but we cannot see them until God wants us to see them, just like the ones about the Messiah were essentially hidden from man until God revealed them at the proper time. Until then, we bumble through them using human logic to puzzle it out, forgetting that it is written, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ says the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8
The study of Eschatology is in fact so nebulous that the group of Christians I started with years ago did not even bother to study it at all. The Church of Christ takes no official stance on the matter, and in fact leaves the entire book of Revelation (after the letters) to gather dust on the proverbial shelf. It’s a can of worms that they believe only causes division and profits nothing in practical Christian living. I do not know if they are entirely correct in those assumptions, but neither do I believe they are entirely wrong. The end-times is a can of worms that does often cause division and contention within the Church, and while it may profit us to study it, that profit is not worth the price if we cannot learn to agree to disagree. I absolutely refuse to discuss the end-times with anyone I believe will make it into a point of contention, or are so closed to the idea they might not be right they cannot accept a different point of view.
“I’m fully prepared to change my Eschatology mid-air.”
I heard that comment from a round-table discussion of pastors once, and it stuck with me. I take those words now as my own. I will not die on the hill of my own end-times beliefs. I freely admit that any of the major interpretations could be right, and I wrong. If it comes to pass that nothing I assumed about the End was correct, I shall accept it with joy. For when the End comes, I shall hardly care how right or wrong I was, and care only that my Lord has come for me to take me home with Him. It matters not to me how He accomplishes it.
Nevertheless, one cannot study the Bible or what it says about the End and not form a belief about it. In my next post, I will discuss what I believe to be the proper way to approach the study of Eschatology and the erroneous ways people approach it. I truly believe if you approach the Scriptures with an open mind and with a clear understanding of the how and why certain things were written they way they were, you can reach reasonable conclusions about the end-times.
*(A thanks to John Gardner for helping me find the author of this quote.)