Eschatology: The Return of Jesus Christ

sunriseIn reviewing the foundational posts here at Faithful Stewardship, I am so grateful for the opportunity to share these bible studies with you, the reader. No doubt we have disagreed in some of the interpretations and asides, but it is my sincere hope that such matters remained auxiliary to the Word shared here. I look forward to moving on to daily musing, discussing passages of scripture and keeping up with the Complete the Thought (CTT) posts. However, there is one topic that we haven’t discussed so I wanted to share my approach to the topic. Eschatology, the study of end times, is an important part of our Christian faith. I’ve noticed that while we don’t like to spend a lot of time talking about the end times, our view of the end times affects our perspective on the Great Commission and to some extend even how we read the Scriptures. Many questionable doctrines can be traced back to an eschatology based more on personal philosophy than scripture.

For starters, the Old Testament Jews were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, the Promise of God to Abraham. They didn’t have much planned beyond that, and for them the coming Messiah was an end-time event, not that they were expecting the world to end; rather, they were expecting the Messiah to reestablish the throne of David and the might of Israel. They were ill prepared for the Messiah, the Son of God, that actually came to earth. As a result, many a Jew missed the fulfillment of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. We who acknowledge God the Son, Jesus Christ, have received the of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He gave us a New Covenant, and a new Promise, that He will Return.  With that said, the best place to start our eschatology, is by looking at what Jesus said was going to take place. What Jesus said about the end times was recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. For this post, I will be following the Matthew account primarily, with portions of the Mark account included.

Matthew 24 (ESV) [with passages from Mark 13 included]
Jesus Foretells Destruction of the Temple

1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. Mrk13:2 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Signs of the End of the Age

3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Mrk13:3 And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

Mrk13:9-13 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. 10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. 11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. 13 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 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.

So, here we have Jesus answering a direct question from the disciples regarding the end times. I find it interesting that His first topic was false christs who will lead many astray. He goes on to point out that wars and rumors of wars would only be the beginning of birth pains. Christians will be hated by all nations, and many false prophets will lead many astray. But those who endure to the end will be saved.

The Abomination of Desolation

15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

The Coming of the Son of Man

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Tribulation is coming, and it will be horrible. Praise God that those days will be cut short. Also notice that Jesus makes it clear that if you are wondering if Jesus returned, He hasn’t. Immediately after the tribulation, then the end will come, and Jesus will return to gather his elect.

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

No One Knows That Day and Hour

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Amen. I didn’t want to comment a lot, just highlighting some of the statements that I find significant. Our role is to remain faithful as stewards of the Gospel, ready for the unexpected return of Jesus Christ. Those who endure until the end will be saved. The endurance will be through tribulation, trials, being hated by the nations, and resisting the false prophets, false teachers, and false christs. Only God the Father knows the timing of these events. Jesus reminds His disciples of this fact before ascending into heaven in Acts 1:6-8 (ESV), “So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Now that we’ve read through what Jesus has said about His return, we should read every other discussion of the end times in light of what Jesus said. For example, lets look at what Paul had to say in 1 Thessalonians.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV) 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

I find it interesting that Paul refers to those who have died as those who have fallen asleep. I don’t know about you, but I often wonder what it will be like when we die. Based on this description, I think that when we who are in Christ die, we fall asleep until the day of our resurrection, the day of Christ’s return in glory. We will meet the Lord in the air, and will always be with the Lord. I think that for us it will be instantaneous, like when we fall asleep at night, and then wake up the next morning not even realizing hours had passed by. This is conjecture on my part, and incomplete due to what we see described in Revelation 6:9-11.

Based on what we’ve read here, I do not agree with a pre-tribulation rapture of the saints. I believe we who live during the time of the tribulation will endure it until the end. I also didn’t see any mention of the church doing anything to spur on the return of Jesus. The faithful servant doesn’t know when his Master will return. Our task is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to make disciples, and to keep to the faith until the end.

May the Lord Bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge

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