Friday, May 20, 2011

Is The End Near? (Part 2)

This post is a continuation of my response to the prediction that the End Times will begin on May 21.

III. We Are Not to Know the Time

What should we do about predictions such as the one for May 21? We shouldn’t believe any predictions about specific dates because Jesus said even he didn’t know the time, only the Father (in Mark 13:32-33):

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come.” NRSV

So I feel it is very presumptuous for any human being to predict a date for the End Times if Jesus himself said he didn’t know. Jesus, just before his ascension into heaven, reiterated that it’s not for us to know the time (Acts 1:6-8, NRSV). He said our job is to be his witnesses in the power of the Holy Spirit:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set 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, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus warned his disciples about those who would deceive them (Mark 13:5): “Beware that no one leads you astray.” That’s why I believe we have all these biblical prophecies about the End Times. They are in the Bible to enable us to read the signs, so when events do unfold, we’ll have some idea of what’s going on. In addition, being informed gives us hope for the future and it helps us not to be deceived by false prophets and the Anti-Christ making false claims.

IV. Signs of the Times

There will be many signs in the sky, as Jesus said in Luke 21:25:

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.”

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus told his disciples and us (Mark 13:6-8):

"Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs." NRSV

Note that Jesus said certain things must happen “but the end is still to come.” So the natural disasters we have been seeing do not necessarily signal the End is here, but can serve as a reminder that the End will come eventually. We are to always be prepared, as Jesus himself told us, because we can’t predict when he will return (Matthew 24:44):

“Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” NRSV

V. Establishment of the State of Israel – 1948

I believe we are getting close to the end, because one thing happened in the 20th century that, in my opinion, started the End Times countdown. It is the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Why that? Because most End Times scenarios have Israel existing and the temple rebuilt in Jerusalem if you take many of the prophecies literally. Israel now exists but the temple still needs to be rebuilt – so when you see that temple going up, you’ll know the time is very close!

More on the End Times in a future post.

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