End of Days Part 3
Future Imperfect
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
June 15, 2003

 

Main Passage: Hebrews 9:24-28 (NLT)

 

Before I get into the message this morning, I want to take a few minutes for kind of a “sidebar” on this whole End of Days Series. This is our third week in this series dealing with some of the Biblical passages in reference to the End Times, and over the first two week I made a number of references to different interpretations of prophecies and points of debate, and I thought I’d take a few minutes to show you some of the different theories.

As I’ve said before, I don’t want to endorse any of these theories because people smarter than me can’t agree on what the prophecies actually tell us. And the Bible didn’t intend to tell us. The Bible basically tells us that bad things are going to happen, but in the End God wins. We don’t know the whole process that will take place. We know of a few specifics but we can’t say exactly how they fit into the big picture. We don’t even know when it will all begin, whether it be today or a million years from now.

So let me show you some of the different theories. If this is something that interests you, that’s great. If not, ask your neighbour to wake you up when we’re done. If you start to glaze over, well, just stick with us as best you can.

 

Various Theories Regarding the End Times:

 

Theory 1: Historic Premillennialism

Here’s a timeline of this theory:




A few terms you should be aware of:

Second Coming. We talked about this our first week of the series. It’s when Jesus returns in all His glory to bring reward and judgment.

Tribulation. Last week we talked about this. It’s a seven year period of great suffering and distress.

Antichrist. We also talked about this last week and we figured out that Barney the Dinosaur is the Antichrist. (If you’re confused, go online and read that message on our website.) The Antichrist is the Big Bad Guy of the End Times. The Antichrist will be a person or world power that rises to a position of authority and will lead many people away from the true God. At first it will seem like he’s doing some great things through a series of peace treaties and unifying the world, but then he’ll break those treaties and send the world into chaos. All that will happen when the Abomination that Causes Desolation is found in the Holy Place.

Abomination that Causes Desolation. The NLT calls this the Sacrilegious Object that Causes Desecration. We don’t know what this will be, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Rapture. We’ve also talked about the Rapture. It’s when God takes His Church… all the people on earth who believe in Him, love Him, and live for Him… and He takes them in an instant to be with Him.

Now we’ll get into some things that we haven’t discussed much before…

Millennium. This will be an extended period of peace under the rule of the Kingdom of God. It may be a literal period of 1000 years, or it may be an undefined length of time. In fact, some theories which we look at later would say we’re already in the Millennium… the Church Age.

Judgment. At the end of the Millennium, you’ll find the Judgment. The fact that there will be a final judgment of humankind is one area that is generally not debated by Christians. Jesus Himself will be the Judge. Those whose names are found in the Book of Life will enter into eternity with God; those whose names are not found there will be cast into the Lake of Fire (hell). We’ll be talking about this more a bit later.

Eternity. And then we have Eternity. You and I will spend eternity in one of two places: Heaven or Hell. Which one it is depends on how we come through the Judgment. We’ll be talking more about Heaven and Hell next week when we wrap up this series by discussing Final Destination: Eternity in the Balance.

Okay, so in the theory of Historic Premillennialism, You have the Antichrist appearing and kicking the whole thing off. His appearance is followed immediately by the seven-year Tribulation with the Abomination that Causes Desolation showing up half way through. At the end of the Tribulation, the Rapture and the Second Coming will happen simultaneously and a millennium of peace will be ushered in. At the end of this time we’ll all face the judgment and then on to eternity. That’s the first theory.

This was the teaching of the early church for the first 300 years. And it taught that believers would spend eternity not in heaven but on a new earth. This theory was ruled as heresy when Christianity became official religion of Roman Empire.

 

Theory 2: Dispensational Premillennialism, Pre-Tribulation

This is a revised form of Historic Premillennialism, emerging around 1830. And I would say that at least here in Western Society it seems to be the most common viewpoint. The main thing about this one is that the Rapture takes place at the beginning of the Tribulation and eternity is spent in heaven or hell.

The main objection is that this theory contradicts passages which seem to refer to Christians being present during parts of the Tribulation.

 

Theory 3: Dispensational Premillennialism, Post-Tribulation

This one is pretty much the same as Historic Premillennialism. The chief difference is that eternity again would be spent in heaven or hell, plus there are a few other minor revisions we’re not getting into this morning.

A problem with this theory is that the Bible talks about the Second Coming being an unpredictable event. And since some of the events during the Tribulation will be well-defined dates, it could make the timing of the Second Coming predictable.

 

Theory 4: Dispensational Premillennialism, Mid-Tribulation

The big thing here is that the Rapture takes place halfway through the Tribulation, at the time that the Antichrist send the world into complete chaos. Again, the problem here is that the Second Coming could become predictable based on well-defined dates.

 

Theory 5: Dispensational Premillennialism, Pre-Wrath

This is a newer theory. The premise is that believers will have to endure the Wrath of Satan, but God will not require them to endure His wrath. According to this theory, the Rapture will take place close to the end, not at the end of the Tribulation, before the battle of Armageddon.

 

Theory 6: Dispensational Premillennialism, Partial Rapture

According to this theory, there will be two parts to the Rapture. At the beginning of the Tribulation, all the existing believers will be raptured and spared from going through the Tribulation. Through the course of the Tribulation, several other people will become believers. Perhaps they would be familiar with the Bible but had always written it off as a fairytale. Well, they would become convinced and would experience a second phase of the rapture, either mid-trib, post-trib, or pre-wrath.

 

Theory 7: Postmillennialism

According to this theory, our world will move more and more toward social perfection until a massive spiritual revival takes place, the entire human race converts to Christianity, and a millennium of peace and righteousness is the result. This theory emerged early in the 1800’s, and really was sparked in response to the Wesley revivals sweeping throughout Great Britain and North America at the time. John Wesley, who incidentally the Wesleyan Church is named in honour of, was a preacher in the Church of England who was the most influential man of his time in the English speaking world. Over a span of 40 years he would ride an average of 8000 km per year on horseback, travelling throughout England preaching. In fact, the revival that swept through England under his ministry is credited with keeping England from experiencing the same violent revolution that France went through.

Anyway, with this huge revival sweeping throughout the world, it seemed that society was approaching a level of perfection. So this theory arose that we would gradually move toward a social perfection until we entered into the Millennium. And after the Millennium is when the Rapture, Second Coming and Judgment would occur.

Of course, this theory seemed pretty good until society took a nosedive again and entered into two World Wars. Plus, this theory ignores critical part of the End Time Prophecies.

One more theory…

 

Theory 8: Amillennialism

This theory states that most of the events prophesied in Matthew 24 and in Revelation have already happened or are to be regarded as merely figurative or symbolic. The Millennium, the Church Age, and the Kingdom of God are all synonyms meaning the same thing, and are merely references to the existence of the Church, the presence of the Holy Spirit with His Church, and the access we have to the Word of God, the Bible. So according to this, we’re already in the Millennium and will someday experience the Rapture and the Second Coming, face Judgment, and then to Eternity and beyond.

This belief was present in the early days of the church, but was popularized by Augustine around 400 A.D. It became the formal belief of the church and remained essentially unopposed until the 1800s. In fact, it still remains the dominant belief of the Roman Catholic Church and is also promoted by some Reformed theologians and Baptists.


There are some other theories, too, but from what I can see they largely ignore sections of the Bible that describe the End Times. But those are eight different views.

So maybe that helps you understand my reluctance to endorse one view over another. There are just so many theories out there that no one seems to be able to agree on, and I’m just not going to contribute to the fighting.

Besides, it’s not like choosing an Ice Cream flavour. You can’t just look at all the options and choose the one that’s the most palatable for you. Because when the End Time comes, it’s not going to be on our schedule and in all likelihood it’s not going to happen the way we expect it to.

But remember two things:

1. Bad things are going to happen.

You may or may not have to go through them, but bad things are going to happen. Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst.


2. You can spend eternity with God.

But it’s a choice you make now to accept the life He is offering you, to love Him, to live for Him, to be faithful to Him no matter what, and to trust Him to fulfill every promise He has made to you in His Word.


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Okay, that took a bit of time. But that’s okay because what we’re going to talk about this morning won’t take that much time.

How many of you saw Canadian Idol this week? You know, we have some pretty good talent in Canada, and I’m glad that the people who tried out were brave enough to do it because I enjoy watching it.

But How about you? Would you want to be a contestant on Canadian Idol? What do you think would be some of the fears you would have?

PARTICIPATION

One of the big things for me is that I wouldn’t want to face the judges. And the reason I wouldn’t want to face them is because I know I wouldn’t get through. But there will come a time when we will all have to stand before a Judge, whether we want to or not. And it’s not going to be the Canadian Idol judges, Judge Wapner, Judge Judy, Judge Mathis, Judge Dredd or Judge Reinhold. The Judge will be Jesus Christ and He will judge everyone.

Listen to this:

Acts 10:42 (NLT)
“And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is ordained of God to be the judge of all--the living and the dead.”

 

Three Facts about the Judgment:

 

1. The Judgment Will Be Fair.

There will be no appeal, because you will know you have not been unjustly judged. There will be no influencing the judge and no giving of bribes. Only the truth will be taken into consideration. And there won’t be any cover-up.

1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT)
“The LORD doesn't make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at a person's thoughts and intentions.”

There’s no hiding from a judge who knows your inner character, your thoughts, and your motives as well as your deeds. And the truth is that no matter how good we try to be, we have all failed at one time or another to live up to the standards of God.

Romans 3:23 (NLT)
For all have sinned; all fall short of God's glorious standard.

We have all missed the mark and let Him down. We have all rebelled against Him in one form or another. And because of that we all deserve punishment.

But take a look at this. We’ve already looked at Acts 10:42… let’s look at it again with verse 43.

Acts 10:42-43 (NLT)
“And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is ordained of God to be the judge of all--the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”

He is our Judge, but He has also provided a way for us to be forgiven. He has already served the penalty in our place by dying on the cross, and all we need to do is turn to Him, accept that He did that for us, and choose to live for Him. But that’s a choice we have to make now. It’s not one we can put off until we’re standing before Him on the Day of Judgment.

Steve Winger from Lubbock, Texas, writes about a final exam he took in a logic class at the university he attended. The professor was well-known for his difficult finals. Winger writes, “To help us on our test, the professor told us we could bring as much information to the exam as we could fit on a piece of notebook paper. Most students crammed as many facts as possible on their 8 ½ x 11 inch sheet of paper. But one student walked into class, put a piece of notebook paper on the floor, and had an advanced logic student stand on the paper. The advanced logic student told him everything he needed to know. He was the only student to receive an ‘A.’” At our final exam at the last Judgment, we are allowed to bring with us Someone who will answer the questions on our behalf. We could never pass the exam on our own, but we have someone who will stand in for us.

His Judgment will be fair. In fact, it can be more than fair, because He has provided a way for us to get off much better than we deserve.

The second thing about the Judgment is…

 

2. The Judgment Will Be Full.

Everyone will be judged… the living and the dead, great and small, rich and poor, good and bad… no one will avoid the judgment. And Jesus will take all things into account… nothing will be passed over.

Luke 8:17 (NLT)
For everything that is hidden or secret will eventually be brought to light and made plain to all.

Hebrews 4:12-13 (NLT)
For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are. Nothing in all creation can hide from him. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes. This is the God to whom we must explain all that we have done.


Karl Barth, a Danish theologian, says;

“Whether the achievement of a man’s life is great or small, significant or insignificant, he will one day stand before his eternal judge, and everything that he has done and performed will be no more than a mole hill, and then he will have nothing better to do than hope for something he has not earned: not for a crown, but quite simply for gracious judgment which he has not deserved. That is the only thing that will count then, achievement or not.”
~ Karl Barth

I know some of you have questions about how those who are too young will be judged, or how those who are mentally disabled will be judged, or how those who have never heard about the forgiveness Christ offers will be judged. I don’t know, and I’m glad I’m not the one who has to figure all that out. But I do know the character of Jesus, and from everything I know I would say He’ll take all of those things into consideration.

 

3. The Judgment Will Be Final.

You won’t have any more chances. There’s no such thing as a reincarnation where you get to come back and try again until you get it right. The Bible says:

Hebrews 9:27-28 (NLT)
And just as it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again but not to deal with our sins again. This time he will bring salvation to all those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Let me ask you a question. What are some things that you tend to put off until the last minute?

PARTICIPATION

A poll I read about ranked the top five things that people put off…

1. House chores / yard work (47%)
2. Holiday gift shopping (43%)
3. Making doctor / dentist appointments (35%)
4. Calling relatives (31%)
5. Changing oil in the car (29%)

Something I’m pretty sure the poll didn’t cover but a lot of people put off is this: they put off getting ready for the Judgment.

We will all face the Judgment once, and the ruling will be final. We will either go through the Judgment and enter into an eternity with God in Heaven because we have established a relationship with Him now, or we will go through the Judgment and enter into an eternity apart from God in Hell because we have rejected His forgiveness and have chosen to live apart from Him.

Now, I’m not a big fire and brimstone preacher. I don’t want to scare you into making a decision to live for Christ. I’d rather you respond to His love and the life He’s offering you. But you need to understand the stakes are high. And there’s no escaping it. We will all face the Judgment. Are you ready?

 

I want to give you a moment right now in silent prayer to express yourself to God. If you’re living inside a relationship with Him and have received His forgiveness, thank Him for that and rejoice in the assurance you have of an eternity with Him. If you haven’t experienced His forgiveness and you have rejected the life He has offered, why not make today the day you enter into a relationship with Him? Simply express that you’re sorry for the times you have rebelled against Him and have hurt Him, accept the forgiveness He’s offering you, and start living for Him today.
 

 

 

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