From The Cross in the End-Times
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 (Mt. 24:36-51; Mk. 13:32-37; Lk. 21:34-36), by Paul (1 Cor. 1:7, 1 Thes. 5:4-6), by James (Jas. 5:7-7-8), by Peter (2 Pet. 3:11-14,), by John (1 Jn. 3:2-3; Rev. 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” (Lk. 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.
A Journey by Advance Prior Knowledge
One of the underlying principles of dispensational premillenialism is that we have the ability through the large volume of end-times prophetic scriptures to figure out in advance most of the last-days scenario. What this approach proposes to give us is static advance knowledge, in place of dynamic, in-the-moment faith.
A biblical journey of faith is obviously based on the concept of faith. A journey of faith is a creation of the true and living God intended to produce the context of life events and circumstances to build a relationship. This is a key element that validates and authenticates the God of the Bible as the one true God. Uniquely crafted journeys of faith set up routes and outcomes within the context of relational trust and faith that reveal the true nature of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Person of the Holy Spirit. Through ups and downs, good times and adversity, a personal relationship with God is developed that is beyond our human capacity to self-orchestrate. A biblical journey of faith is beyond human imagination or invention, by purposeful design.
This is part of the massive gulf of divide between a new covenant revelation of God given directly to us (Jer. 31:31-34) through a God-composed and guided journey of faith, compared to man autonomously seeking to discover God through self-realization or a program of self-assigned good works. This is central to our understanding of the upcoming end-times.
If the reality of a personal relationship with the living God is to take place, God has to fulfill His half of the relationship with something that is divinely above and outside of our ability to manufacture. God has to bring to the relationship His divine, originally creative higher ways.
But if we have our whole story upfront…if an Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, or Paul in the Bible have the complete details of their stories ahead of time…then in-the-moment, risk-filled trust in God morphs instead into an entirely different kind of journey according to advance prior knowledge. Having complete, advance prior knowledge renders a journey of faith horizontally conventional and flat. If we can assemble the complete package of our upcoming life-script in advance, then our journey of faith following God shifts into a “paint-by-the-numbers” meritorious exercise of who can follow the script the best according to our own talents and abilities.
A journey-by-advance-knowledge homogenizes the divine components of a God-composed and orchestrated journey of faith down into a humanistic, self-energized, flat-line enterprise. Only a biblical style journey of faith can insert the divine components of God’s higher ways in a timely and sequenced way that completes the union of our relationship with God. A progressively unfolding revelation that sets up the uniquely biblical context of an adventure of faith is the norm in the inspired, innovative, and instructive narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible.
The contemporary pretribulation rapture teaching misses a basic fundamental concept in this regard. We walk by faith not sight because this is the route that produces a lasting and meaningful relationship with God. A journey according to advance prior knowledge places us as captains at the helm of the voyage. A journey according to static advance knowledge invites merit, pride, and self-performance back in as unwanted companions in our spiritual journey, which are the very components a God-crafted adventure of faith is designed to displace. If we have all the information upfront, and can thereby maintain complete control over our lives, there is no room remaining in fully revealed upcoming life events and circumstances for God to personally step-in and dynamically present the unmistakable fingerprint of His foresight in our unique callings.
If the purpose of this present world is to set-up the environment for the discovery of enduring truths though a fact-finding mission best understood as a journey of faith into the partially unknown (because the higher ways of God are divine and not human), then a premature removal of the Christian church off the earth pretribulation is inconsistent with this biblical template.
Mark 12:35-37 reads: “And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said, by the Holy Spirit, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David, therefore, himself calleth him Lord; and how is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.” Jesus left this question hanging for His audience to ponder, and did not go on to elaborate further… scripture records that Jesus spoke often to the people in parables (Mt. 13:34).
It is okay to admit “we don’t know” everything about end-times prophecies. This is not a cop-out. It is not a retreat from scholarship or genuine truth-seeking. In light of the foregoing discussion, it is not theologically or historically accurate to say that if certain end-times prophecies are in the Bible that this implies in each and every case that God intended us to have perfect understanding of their meaning. In some things we can only take our understanding so far. We then leave it up to God, and walk the rest of the way by faith and trust. Often it takes the actual events to unfold within the expanse of time to reveal truth, as patterned for us in the Bible, and as experienced in our own Christian lives.