Why we are Fascinated with the End of Time
The end of the world has haunted our minds for millennia. Predictions have ranged from the gruesome to the sublime. But despite the wide ranging appeal, the end of times has always remained a source of debate, not consensus. So what is it about the end times that draws yet divides us? Let’s get to know some of the end time visions, debates, and major players and begin to draw some conclusions of our own.
End of the World Predictions
The End of the World in its Varied Forms
Here is where most people start. Someone over the air waves or television makes a startling prediction by setting a date for the Second Coming – and end of the world hysteria catches hold. Rapture fever sets in, and pretty soon you have people cashing in their life savings.
Take Harold Camping, as an example. His “end of world predictions” cost many people dearly. The Huffington Post reported that “In recent years, the organization spent millions of dollars – some of it from listeners’ donations – putting up thousands of billboards plastered with his prediction of the Rapture.” Sometimes we brush over words like “millions.” We forget that represents peoples hard earned money. Money for retirement, college, mortgages, and groceries.
But these end of the world theories are not just a recent affair. Consider the “Great Disappointment” of 1844. Based on William Miller’s end time predictions of Daniel 8 and 9, many people believed that Christ’s physical return would happen in the year 1844 AD. Miller, a Baptist preacher, specified the date to be October 22, 1844. Thousands of adherents, quite a few of whom had sold or given away all of their possessions, waited. Their hopes were dashed when October 22, 1844 came and went – just an ordinary day. It became known as the “Great Disappointment.”
And ever since the Great Disappointment, people have been revising this date to have Jesus come back within their lifetime. To date, all predictions have had 0% accuracy…
Blurry End of Days Visions
Why We Have a Hard Time with Bible Prophecy
In order to understand why we have so many opinions about how end times prophecy will come about, we need to look at one prophecy that has been declared to be fulfilled – by Jesus. Let’s consider this passage from Luke 4:16-21 when Jesus went to Nazareth:
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'”
Now here is the full passage from Isaiah 61:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.”
Jesus, in declaring that the Scripture had been fulfilled in His First Coming had to literally stop mid sentence. If he had continued that thought in Isaiah, he would have had to admit that portion of the Scripture would not be fulfilled for another 2,000 years or so until His Second Coming. This is the problem with prophecy – it has no proportion of time.
End time prophecy, after all, was filtered from God’s mouth through the ears and mind of humanity. The problem is, we melt at the mere whispers of our God. God after all, is utter Authority.
Let me tell you what I mean. Remember back to your early childhood, say at the age of 4-7 years of age. When your father or mother spoke and told you to clean your room – your immediate impression was that thee did not mean 2 years from now. They meant now. You knew this because you had felt the consequences of taking their words lightly. When they spoke – they meant it.
This is how we were trained, and also know innately, to respond to authority. Now imagine hearing from Authority. All your courage would melt like a tub of margarine on a hot August day. Your knees would buckle, and all your composure lost. Now imagine, while in that state, you were tasked to record prophecies concerning the end of the world. It would be a monumental task, to say the least.
So prophecies concerning the end are notoriously compressed. They do not have a good sense of timescale. Everything seems immediate – now. Nothing seems to be put off for a later time. And yet, Jesus, by declaring only one portion of a prophecy completed – shows us that prophecy must be taken as a mystery to be unraveled through time – not a clear cut, immediate, roadmap.
End of World Constructions
Eschatology and You
In the next few posts, we will be looking at more than one end times timeline. We must because their are competing eschatologies. And each has their strong and weak points. With this in mind, we will be looking at the four main views of the end times: Amillennialism, Historic Pre-Millennialism, Dispensational Pre-Millennialism, and Post-Millennialism. We will dive into each of these in-depth and get a feel for each. I have not decided if I will say where I land in all this… because my view is not as important as the discussion. I probably will, but only to agitate others to take and stand and discuss these views … reasonably.