Looking Into End Times

Question: Our Bible study group at church studied Revelation, but I want to know more about the end times. How or where do I start?

Discussion: To learn what's yet to come, people often try to decipher the book of Revelation, which has some rather heavily coded clues. Besides that last book of the New Testament, the apocalyptic book of Daniel in the Old Testament speaks figuratively and mysteriously of the end times too, but Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, Joel, or Habakkuk may be somewhat clearer. To hear what Jesus says about the subject, check out the Gospels, especially chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew and chapter 13 of Mark. In addition, some biblically-recorded writings to the early Church, such as I John and II Peter, talk about times still to come.

To locate further references, you might look up phrases like the "Day of the Lord," "judgment day," or "later time(s)" in a Bible concordance. Or find the Bible posted in full on the Internet then search for verses that include the above phrases or relevant words like "end," "times," or even "not yet."  For instance, that type of Internet search of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) produced Isaiah 46:9-10, which says, "Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose'."

Meditating on such verses or reading the related footnotes in a study Bible will give you more information and also a sweeping view of what to expect. You might investigate another potential puzzle piece, too, by researching the Jewish feast days that have not been clearly or ultimately fulfilled. As previously suggested in Bible Talk, the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit obviously fulfilled the Feast of Lights, Passover, and Pentecost.

Some scholars also see a Christian equivalent existing for the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles), but if those connections do not seem readily apparent, it could be because the remaining feasts foreshadow events yet to come. For example, this could be the "judgment day" or "day of atonement" each person faces at his or her own death, while ultimate fulfillment might occur with Christ's return. Regardless of the interpretation, as you investigate topics related to the end times, consider how the remaining Jewish feast days might point to the day or possibly the season when the Lord Jesus comes again.

 No one, of course, knows exactly when that will be. As Jesus himself said in Mark 13:32, "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come." But, just in case the last trumpet sounds during the Feast of Trumpets or Judgment Day fulfills the last Day of Atonement, you might watch September and October as they are the months on our present-day calendar in which those feasts occur.

Inevitably, discussions about the future involve a certain amount of speculation or interpretation and, for some, fear. For Christians though, the Bible's encouraging word on the end times comes in countless assurances given to those who remain faithful to God. For example, the last chapter gives lasting words of comfort, but those final verses also include warnings that indicate the ongoing choice we're given — to be faithful to God or not. As Revelation 22:16-20 (RSV) says: "'I, Jesus, have sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star.' The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come.' And let him who hears say, 'Come.' And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price. I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"

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