All of the truths and information about the upcoming end-times events are contained within the pages of the Bible that we hold in our hands and can study every day (excepting the upcoming Joel 2:28-29 dreams, visions, and prophecies). Like the Jews of the first century leading up to the ministry of Jesus, the problem is that we do not yet fully understand the prophetic verses that point forward toward the future.
Mark 15:29-30 records the amazing (in hindsight) failure of the people to comprehend the meaning of what Jesus had said prior to His crucifixion:
29 And they that passed by railed at him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,
30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross.
Jesus was in the process of destroying the temple that was His body, at the precise moment these people were taunting Him, because they had no conception of what was happening. They had no idea that when He referred to the destruction and rebuilding of the temple a few days previous to His crucifixion, that He was speaking about His own bodily death and resurrection. The meaning of His words was locked up within an understanding of His fulfillment of age-old scriptures as the atoning Lamb of God sacrifice for sin. It took people looking backward in hindsight, including the disciples, to get this right. The same thing may be true in our day, as we attempt to look forward and figure out with precision the upcoming events of the last days. We may not put all of the pieces perfectly together either as we attempt to construct a preview of end-of–time events.
Jeremiah 23:5-6 reads: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.” This important prophetic verse clearly applies to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Messiah and our Savior. But it shows how mistaken we can be when we apply prophetic verses to the wrong time period. Jesus did not “execute justice and righteousness in the earth” in the immediate political and social sense. Jesus was crowned with thorns and crucified by the religious and civil authorities.
The timing of this verse is critical to its correct application. This Jeremiah verse applies not to the first advent of Christ in the first century A.D., but to His second advent at the end of the ages. How would anyone know this beforehand without further clarifying information? We understand this verse today only through the benefit of hindsight. Scholarly erudition before the actual events unfolded in first century Jerusalem tragically fell short of a clear understanding of these prophetic Jeremiah scriptures.
The themes contained within the biblical narrative stories of faith are not about worldly conventional pursuits of normalcy in full possession of all of the future facts upfront. These narrative stories are risk-filled adventures into the partially unknown in tentative faith and trust in the competency and foresight of God, often in the middle of life-and-death circumstances balanced on the edge of a precipice. The uniquely biblical “journey of faith” is a God-composed, divinely inspired enterprise aimed way above our individual self-interests involving self-sacrifice for the eventual good of others and ourselves beyond anything humans could or would invent.
It goes without saying that we are to study and become familiar with the end-times prophecies found in the Old Testament, in the gospels, in the epistles, and in the book of Revelation. We are instructed by scripture to do this. But we are also instructed by Jesus (Matthew 24:36-51, Mark 13:32-37, Luke 21:34-36), by Paul (1 Corinthians 1:7, 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6), by James (James 5:7-7-8), by Peter (2 Peter 3:11-14,), by John (1 John 3:2-3, Revelation 1:3), and by Jude (Jude 21), to watch and to pray always until the coming of Jesus Christ. In addition to studying and knowing the scriptures, this admonition to watch and pray gives a dynamic, fluid, flexible, in-the-moment element to our eventual fuller understanding of the upcoming end-times events.
In Luke 21:7, the disciples ask Jesus what everyone today wants to know: “when will these things be?” and “what sign will there be?” before these things happen. Jesus does not answer these questions directly. Instead, Jesus tells us what we actually need to know, and by doing so, He indirectly implies that the main Christian church will be on the earth for some of the tribulation period and the reign of the Antichrist.
“Take heed that ye be not deceived” (Luke 21:8), for example, has no special relevance or application to the uniqueness of the last days, unless the entire church is still on the earth. There has always been some form of deception on earth threatening the Christian church starting from the first century onward. This particular warning relates to the end-times, because Luke 21:8 above includes the statement by the false deceivers, claiming to be Christ, that: “the time draweth near.” If the main church is raptured before this, who is Jesus addressing this critical statement to…some “left behind” group of tribulation saints? The gravity and magnitude of this warning implies that it is intended for the worldwide Christian church, Gentile believers and Messianic Jews as a whole.