THE LAST DAYS?
by the late Richard A. Wiedenheft (1946-2007)
Our world has serious problems. Environmental pollution has
reached global proportions. We're being poisoned: acid rain,
dying oceans, destruction of the ozone layer, and the "greenhouse
effect." We have a one-world economy based on the precarious
foundation of fractional-reserve banking, high interest rates,
and inflation. Then there are serious moral and social problems:
abortion, pornography, immorality, divorce, diseases, drugs,
malnutrition, terrorism, and the possibility of nuclear
destruction. What a depressing picture!
But do all these problems prove that we live in the last
days just before the return of Jesus Christ? Many Christians
believe they do. Daily, preachers and writers cite the latest
disaster or environmental problem as a prelude to the end. Many
have accepted a scenario of specific events that supposedly lead
to a rapture and then the Second Coming. Some use biblical
numerics to set a timetable.
To be sure, the end may be near, but there is great danger
in so much preoccupation with eschatology. Let's consider more
evidence - from the Bible and from history.
Most students of the New Testament recognize that Paul and
other apostles thought that the Messiah would return in their
generation. Frequently New Testament writers referred to their
time as the "last days" or as the "last hour" (Acts 2:16,17;
Romans 13:11; James 5:3; 1 John 2:18). These references, with
Hebrews 1:2, might be taken to mean that all time since the
coming of the Son of Man can be considered the "end time." For
all the New Testament writers, it was the end. They all died, but
the world went on.
(Indeed, we need to note by the verses given above that in one
real sense the "last days" began in the time of the first
apostles. So we must then see that although we are living in the
last days, the last days to God may not be the last days as we
humans would like to have it mean. After all what is 50 or 100 or
more years to God? In the context of eternity such time is as
nothing to the Eternal One - Keith Hunt)
Paul warned Timothy that in the latter times some would
abandon the faith and terrible times would come (1 Timothy 4:1; 2
Timothy 3:1). Peter and Jude said there would be scoffers in the
last days (2 Peter 3:3-14; Jude 18). While these passages are
frequently cited as prophecies for our day, the problems
described have existed in every age.
A close look at the context indicates the verses were in
fact intended as warnings for first century Christians. For
example, after warning Timothy about the kind of people there
would be in the latter days, Paul wrote, "Have nothing to do with
them" (2 Timothy 3:5; cf. v.6). He considered his day as the
prophesied latter days and warned believers accordingly.
Down through the centuries Christians have typically
believed that they lived at the end of the age, that they would
live to see the second coming of Christ, that the turmoil and
problems of their day were sure signs of the end. Many
Christians, including well-respected scholars, have even set
dates based on various "Bible" chronologies. Periods of 2300,
2520, 1260, 1290, 1335, and 1000 years have been manipulated in
various ways to predict the end in the years 1000, 1033, 1356,
1572, 1365, 1533, 1648, 1847, 1844, 1914, 1975, 1988, and others.
All these dates have two things in common: They made good sense
to people at the time, and they were all wrong.
(They may have made good sense to the proponents of these dates,
but the foolishness was not just on their part, to set dates in
the first place, but the people who swallowed their date setting
predictions were to blame also, for they were unwise to have been
taken in by the date setters - Keith Hunt)
Why is there such a preoccupation with dates and chronology,
with figuring out when Jesus will return and seeing every evil as
a sure sign of the end? One reason is that Christians long to be
united with their Savior at the resurrection - a blessed hope
indeed. So they look for evidence of the nearness of the event
they hope for. In the process, however, they may be inclined to
see only the evidence that supports their hope.
Another reason is not so godly. It is the same reason people
consult fortunetellers and astrologers: They are curious about
the future. Unable to rest securely in the loving arms of their
Creator, they want to know what lies ahead. And for every such
individual, there is some Bible teacher ready with new proofs of
how near the end is or of exactly when and how it will occur.
(Oh indeed! Books are still being published by Protestant
prophets at least, on what they claim are the signs right now
taking place that means Jesus will return very soon. One guy has
stated, Jesus will return in the life time of those reading his
book. A nifty move on his part for it could be a seven-year old
reading his book. This gives the author maybe 70 years, if the
child lives to be 77. By that times, if Jesus has not returned,
everyone will have long forgotten about his book, and the author
will be dead also - Keith Hunt)
Pitfalls of prognostications
Someday someone might hit the right date. But in the
meantime, millions of Christians are falling into pitfalls
associated with a preoccupation with the nearness of the Second
Physical vs. spiritual protection.
Christians have their priorities wrong by being more
concerned with physical protection (from a great tribulation)
than with spiritual protection from eternal death. The fear of
suffering, not the fear of God and His ultimate eternal judgment,
motivates them to be active in religion. Having a stockpile of
staples, alternate sources of energy, land for growing food, etc.
may prolong one's comfort for a few months or years in this life,
but it is useless in eternity.
"Signs" vs. the gospel.
Preaching the "signs" of the end can replace the preaching
of the gospel of eternal salvation. For many, gloom and doom have
become their gospel. The whole focus of their conversations and
periodicals is what is wrong with our country and our world.
These people are so preoccupied with the problems that they
have little time or energy to preach the ultimate solution:
salvation through Jesus Christ and the eradication of sin from
our lives through the power of God's Spirit.
Preoccupation with the end of the world can lead to a biased
perception of the real world. People so oriented see in history
and in contemporary life only what fits their idea of what the
end times will be. They see evidence of things getting
increasingly worse, ignoring evidence of advancements in various
areas of life. Those who see only one side of what's going on in
the world become a laughingstock to those who see another side to
Nationalized gospel and prophecy.
Some Americans in particular tend to nationalize the gospel
and prophecy, to see the fate of America as the fate of the
world. In reality, the end of the U.S. or Canada could come
without the end of the world. History reveals that nation after
nation, civilization after civilization, have decayed and
crumbled. Given enough time, ours will undoubtedly do the same.
But to equate the demise of America with the end of the world is
a presumptuous leap of logic.
(I would have to disagree with the author here. When you
understand who Britain and the USA are in prophecy, then the
destruction of these two mighty powers, does mean prophecy has
reached a huge mile-stone, and we are into the last 42 months or
so of this age - Keith Hunt)
Disasters and judgment.
Some who proclaim gloom and doom tend to equate all
disasters with the judgment of God. For sure, America deserves
judgment. But to equate natural calamity anywhere with God's
punishment belies the important part such happenings have always
played in balancing creation. For example, powerful hurricanes
wreak destruction in some areas, but they also suck tons of
moisture and drop it as life-giving rain in other areas.
(True there has always been disasters of various kinds in all
decades of all ages. And so disasters will be there when the last
42 months or 1260 days or time, times, and half a time [as
mentioned in the book of Revelation] comes to reality for the end
of this age and the return of Christ - Keith Hunt)
Those who believe the Second Coming is immediate often adopt
a fatalistic attitude and fall prey to a siege mentality:
"There's nothing to be done about the world's problems. Don't
prepare for any future; just hold up and wait." Instead of
working to solve problems, they say, "This is prophecy being
fulfilled. The end is almost here; there's no need to do
anything." By sitting on their hands when they should be actively
involved, they fulfill their own prophecies and assure a worse
world for their children.
(Sad to say, but this "do nothing" or "plan nothing" mentality
has been around in all generations from the time of Christ. Hence
you've always had people selling their homes or land and giving
it "to their church" because Jesus was about to come. And you've
always had "churches" quite willing to take their savings, and/or
money from selling homes or land - Keith Hunt)
People make lifetime decisions based on the belief that the
world will soon end. I have talked to people facing old age
without children or mates or resources because in their youth
they believed the end was imminent then. Others have rushed into
ill-advised marriages because they thought time was short.
Preoccupation with the end inevitably leads to date-setting
and other foolish end-time scenarios. All these have failed in
the past. Those who espouse them are an embarrassment to God's
(They are an embarrassment to just about everything that goes
under the name of "Christian" - Keith Hunt)
The above article is only part of a fuller article, but the main
focus is what I've given you. You need to plan your physical life
as if you will live to be 70 or more, and also to be watching the
signs of the times as Jesus instructed us to do, and so know that
His coming is at hand, even at the door.
The article first appeared in the 1998 "The Bible Advocate" - a
publication of the Church of God, Seventh Day, Denver, CO. USA