FAQ: Is the End of the World Imminent?

Today we are going to deal with some questions that are more theological in nature than last week. Thanks for all of you who proved my point last Sunday – I suggested that our attraction for beautiful things is a hint that there is a God. And I said that there is a reason we post pictures of rainbows on Facebook.  And that was really something that a few hours later we were treated to quite the rainbow blowout.  So that was timely and cool.

Today we are going to talk about the end of the world.  What will happen?  What’s the story with prophecy.  but first we need to race through a bunch more questions..  as many as I can get to before we finish up with one theme for the day… Which is that you can trust God with your future.

Is it a sin to kill our enemy in war?  

About 400AD there was a brilliant theologian named Augustine who sat down to try to answer the question of whether it was ever right for a country to go to war.  And the answers he came up with became known as the Just War theory.  And I will put the seven qualifications that mus be met before a country can consider a war to be a just war.  I’ll put the seven qualifications up for you to read.

Of course the question still remains, can you be a Christian soldier?  Can a christian join the army and kill people justly?

And the answer is that it is not a sin to kill the enemy in war.  It is a sin to murder the enemy – and there is a difference.

The justification for my answer comes from Romans 13 implies that the governing authorities of a country ‘hold the sword for a reason.’  it is the responsibility of a government to protect it’s people from wrong doers.  And so any christian that belongs to the army can and should fight on their countries behalf and it would be considered Just.

Now some might feel a conviction from the Lord not to pick up a weapon.  And that’s okay – one can still serve their country in other ways – medics and clergy are examples.   But I would say that there are times when warfare is necessary to confront evil.  Hopefully though it would be very very rare and always a last resort.

I never understood why we cannibalize the Savior during communion. (Sorry but it’s true!)  

Now I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the person who write this probably has a catholic background.  Because the Catholic Church believes that when we celebrate communion, the wafer we eat actually transforms into the actual body and blood of Jesus on the way down.

And I’d say that this belief comes from a too literal interpretation of John 6:56 56 Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.

Interestingly, this issue is the basis of one of the earliest criticisms of Christians.  People said they were cannibals because when they celebrated communion they would say, This is the body of Jesus broken for you.”

We here at Journey believe that the cracker and the juice are symbols, and only symbols, reminding us of the tremendous price Jesus was willing to pay to forgive us our sins.  So it’s a different understanding and I think the right understanding.  There is no theological need for this piece of cracker to turn into anything other than a piece of cracker for the practice of communion to be meaningful and important.  I think communion is a clear symbol and serves as a reminder of the death and burial and resurrection of Jesus, which is the most important even for any Christian.

When the Bible says that one man shouldn’t be punished for another man’s sins, why then is everyone punished for Adam’s sin of eating the apple?

Well the Bible doesn’t say that you will be punished for Adam’s sin.  All of us are guilty before God because of our OWN sins.  Romans 3:23 puts it this way.  23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 

We own our own garbage.  And one day we will stand before God and at that time we aren’t going to be able to say – “Well my father was mean, or my mom pampered me, or my friends were bad influences”, or anything else.  Just me and God.  The only finger that could be pointed is at me.

Romans 6:23 puts it this way…  23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

This is the bad news – as a result of our sin – we have earned death.  Physical death.  Spiritual death.  Eternal Death.

We look at Adam and Eve as the first cause of this trouble.  They started it all.  They introduced sin into us.  But I am now gleefully picking up where they left off.  I’ll take it from here, Adam!

Now the good news of Jesus is that through faith in Jesus our past crimes are forgiven.  The charges against us have been dropped.  Romans 8 put it this way…  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 

Jesus says I’ll pay the fine.  I’ll pay the penalty and so when you appear before God the judge will say – there are no charges against you.  So the curse of sin that began with Adam can be broken through Jesus.  

The good news is that – legally speaking – the charges against us have been dropped.  The Bible reaches into a wide array of metaphors to help us understand the Financially speaking – the debts against us have been forgiven and erased.  In the world of cleanliness – the sins have been washed away.  See the Bible uses a bunch of metaphors to explain the same thing.  There is nothing now standing in the way of a good and strong relationship between us and God.

If God knew beforehand that Adam and Eve were going to eat the apple, why would he give them the option?  

One of the most memorable moments in my life was late May 1991 as we sat in a park in South Nyack, New York.  After months of dating Jody, I took the risk of telling her that I loved her.  And when I did I asked her not to say anything back – because I didn’t want to feel like the first time Jody told me she loved me was because she felt compelled to do so?  I didn’t want her to feel compelled to have to respond in a way that was anything other than genuine.

Jody respected my desire not to say anything in response, but she couldn’t wait.  She just had to respond – and she told me those magic words – she said, Well that’s nice.  No – She said I love you too!  Yes I do!  Now ain’t that sweet?   Well Gawly!

Now let’s run that same scenario but a little different.  I have discovered a pill that will force people to fall heads over heels in love with you.  And I saw Jody and I gave her that pill and she said to me – I love you!  Ain’t that sweet?  No – it’s kind of creepy, right?

Love is always a matter of choice.  I choose to love.  And that is what makes a relationship with God so electric – is that he chose to love you!

Well, the tree in the garden makes the relationship between God and Adam and Eve real.  Makes it honest.  Without the tree, what choice do Adam and Eve have in the matter?  The tree in the garden is what keeps anyone from accusing God of forcing people to love him.

And God was willing to risk it all – even rejection – for the honor of loving us and for the honor of having us love him back.

It’s why worship is such a beautiful thing.  Worship is the voluntary display of public affection from us toward God.  No one is forcing us to do it.  But we choose to say to God – we adore you.  We join with you in the divine dance.

So why do we have a tree in the garden with the potential of ruin?  Because without that tree – God’s relationship with man will and would have always been accused of being forced.  Which fairly brings us to the next question…

Did I choose God or did God choose me?

And the answer is both.  Biblically the bible claims both are true.  And it has to be both.  That’s how love works.  That’s how relationships work.  Did I choose Jody or did Jody choose me?  Well the answer is we chose one another.   We didn’t meet on an episode of the bachelorette.  I wasn’t like, Oh Jody, please choose me.  Give me a rose.  I want to be in the final 12 guys kissing you on national tv.  It would be so special…  

Jody didn’t line me up with twelve guys and say – well three of you losers are going home.  Oh please, please let me make the cut.  Well, you make me laugh, but that guy has a dimple on his chin…  so…   Sorry funny guy – No rose for you!

Love doesn’t work like that.  Jody and I met and spent time with one another and then after some time we realized – there’s something special going on here… And this is how a relationship with God works too.

Can someone lose their salvation?

Okay – so this question has to do with a person.  This person is the person on the stage who at one time followed Jesus with all their heart.  And then one day woke up and said – I’m not a christian anymore.  I have decided there is no God.  

And so what happens is that people try to dissect what happened to the guy theologically.  And one side of the room will say, “He was never a Christian to begin with, because a true Christian will never be able to walk away from God.”  After all doesn’t Jesus say that no one will be able to snatch you out of his hand when we place our faith in Jesus?

Or there might be a faction within this side of the room who says, “He is STILL a Christian, and one day will be with God in heaven.  Because once you are saved you are always saved.”  

The other side of the room says – no that guy, he made a decision to follow Jesus, and he made a decision to walk away.  He is an apostate!  And sure no one can snatch us out of God’s hand – doesn’t mean we can’t jump out of it ourselves!

And so this side of the room argues with that side of the rom and the front of this side argues with the back of that side.  And whatever section of the room you are in theologically you are peeved that I’m not representing your view better right now…

You know why?  Because I’m just not much for theologically dissecting people – it’s like CSI – we just have to dissect everything down to microscopic levels.  

By the way – and I feel a little bit of a rant coming on.  Will you let me rant just a few minutes here?  I call these questions crowd thinners – because inevitably people will judge a church or a pastor based on how they respond to these questions.  

As a matter of fact every once in a while I will get an email from someone saying, “We are newer to the area and looking for a church, can you answer these top ten theological questions for me?”

You know what I’m waiting for?  For an email from someone who writes to say – we just moved here and we are trying to find a new church – so a couple of questions:  What are you doing to care for the poor and widow and the orphan?  

Is this church the kind of church I can bring my doubting friend to without the fear of you embarrassing them?  Is this the kind of Church who will teach us to do what Jesus told us to do?  Is your church display grace to people?  See – I like these kinds of questions so much more than – where do you stand on transubstantiation.  

Now does this mean we don’t take theology seriously? Of course we take theology seriously – but to what end?  If at the end of the day we don’t love people?  

So here’s the answer to the question.  You do not need to worry about accidentally stepping on a land mine of a sin where God says – I’m sick of you.  He loves you, truly and forever.  You will not lose your salvation by dipping below an acceptable line.  

Next and last question:  I had a number of questions regarding the end times.  What’s going to happen at the end?  And it also included a question regarding the latest installment of the end of the world.  

What does the Bible say about the blood moon and how it is predicted to end the world? 

Okay – I had to do some research on this, and when I did I discovered the latest installment of what can only be described as “It’s the end of the World as we know it.”

And without going deeply into the theory – I will say that it is a theory proposed by two guys – Mark Biltz and John Hagee – and it has to do with full lunar eclipses all occurring on four Jewish feasts, therefore it’s an obvious sign that something major is about to happen and that Jesus is coming back.  And of course I cannot possibly do justice to the theory in such a short amount of time.

But it’s nothing new.  Listen, in your lifetime you have had to endure many count-downs to the return of Christ.

Remember the Mayan calendar? in 2012?  Remember Harold Camping in 2011?

The first time I was introduced to something like this was when a Nasa rocket scientist came out with a pamphlet called 88 reasons why Jesus is coming back in October 1988.  The second time I was introduced to it was when the same guy wrote a slightly less popular 89 reasons why He is coming back in 1989.

But this isn’t a new thing.  The first time we see something like this occuring is in 1843 – the Millerites.  They had a leader who seemed to come to an understanding of scripture and an understanding of prophecy regarding the second coming of Jesus – and he began teaching this to christians in all kinds of churches.  And in 1843 the story is at least that many had come to the conclusion that Jesus was in fact returning and they sold all of their materials and went up on a hill to await the coming of the Lord.

When it didn’t happen – he too had a sequel – oh it must be in 1844.  And again many waited, and when dawn came the next day – it became known as the Great Disappointment.  

And it’s been going on ever since.

So why do these kinds of things seem to find some traction? I’d propose a few reasons…

  1. First – the people who propose these things often sound incredibly smart.  They appear well learned – and in many cases they really are.  
  2. Their argument, sounds like a god argument.  Apart from the silly Mayan Calendar end of the world people, I’ve never heard a theory that didn’t sound plausible.  If you were to go to one of their presentations, or if you were to read this book that John Hagee wrote –  at the end you would say, seems to make sense to me.
  3. All of us are apt to want to read ourselves in the pages of the Bible.  I remember reading the book of revelation and saying – okay, what right now in my life is happening that could be read into the book of revelation.  So for instance in 1990 during the Gulf War we had professors who would tell us – hey Revelation talks about babylon – Babylon is in Iraq you know…  And I remember listening to my professor with a doctorate – and leaving the class saying, Makes sense to me.
  4. These theories of the end time seem to tap into our desire for Jesus to come and make everything right.  Or it taps into our fear that Jesus is going to come back and not everyone I know is ready, and so sometimes it leads to worry or anxiety until the date is past and you can let out a slight whew.  Or you can suffer your own mini-great disappointment.
  5. Every person who holds these theories – they give themselves outs.  You know in the OT if you made a prophecy that turned out to be wrong they stoned you to death?  Really slowed people down from standing up in the village square to pronounce a prophecy.  There was a built in accountability that we don’t have today.  

With this in mind I can assure you that the people presently who are busy predicting the end oft eh world are already trying to figure out how to explain themselves when the date comes and goes.  Because, like everything in Hollywood – if you make money on an endeavor- there has to be a sequel.  And so these four blood moons people will be sure to have a sequel in place – and it will not be as good as the first, but they will still make some money on it.

Now I don’t need to go on more about this present threat – other than to tell you that the people who are promoting the theory – they don’t believe it themselves.  If in fact Jesus is returning shortly, then why is this gentleman scheduling trips to Holy Land?  

And if this gentleman who is a pastor in a church in Texas really believes that the end is coming at the end of this month – then why the need to promote the carousel, ferris wheel and cotton candy celebration at the end of October.  And the answer is they don’t really believe their own teaching.  They are hedging their bets.

If the end of the world were coming – would you find the need to sell your book at $10 a pop?  No – you would say – I’m going to give all my money towards efforts of getting the word out.  Here’s a PDF version – send this to everyone you know…  

But no – these guys are making lots of money and they are hugging that money real tight.

So, I don’t find their arguments credible.  I don’t their scholarship credible.  I don’t find their handling of scripture to be credible.  But I understand why people believe them.  It taps into one of the greatest mysteries yet to occur – and may in fact occur in our lifetime – and that is the return of Jesus.  

Jesus will return someday.  Acts 1 tells us that he will return again someday.

And Jesus spent time addressing this as well in Matthew 24.  Let’s look – and we find him teaching a number of things in Matthew 24, but let’s just notice a few things.

First – he tells us as plain as day that No one will know the day or the hour.

Matt 24:36 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.

Okay – so if you find someone – anyone who stands up and says that on this date He will return – they are claiming knowledge that even angels don’t have.  Even the Son says – I leave that call to the Father.  And to be clear he repeats himself again in 42.

42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.

Okay  – these guys – disqualified if they claim a date.

Now to be fair – Jesus does tell us that we will know the season of his return – meaning that there will be signs that we are getting close to his return.  He does tell us in this verse to keep watch.  

Well what are we watching for?  Signs.  Okay – but the signs are going to be obvious. Earthquakes, stars falling – sun darkened, and yes moon turning to blood – but you can’t look at just one – all of them need to be occurring.   You can’t say – see a lunar eclipse – moon will be red – end of the world.  There’s way more that needs to be occurring.

Revelation says that there will be an angel proclaiming the gospel in the sky – see that would be something you’d say – well, it sounds like the end is near.  An eclipse?  Happens twice a year.  Granted four eclipses on our major jewish holidays?  Not frequent, but neither is it spectacular.

Jesus says – be discerning.  23 “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it.

26 “So if someone tells you, ‘Look, the Messiah is out in the desert,’ don’t bother to go and look. Or, ‘Look, he is hiding here,’ don’t believe it! 27 For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. 

You will not need someone to crack the bible code – his return will be obvious.

 You should be ready at any time for his return.

44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.

What does it mean to live every day as though it might be your last?  You know for some it means hey – forget work – let’s get out and party.  The end is near – eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.

For the Christian it means another day when I can trust God with my life.  You can trust God with your life.  No one knows the day when God will either take us home or come back again.  Either way these things are out of our control.  Either way today is a day we can trust that God knows what he is doing with our life.  

We can trust God with out future.  He is our good shepherd.  He has us in the palm of his hand.  We have no fear – no need to worry about tomorrow.  God cares for us.  God cares for you.  

Every day is a call to trust how God governs our life.  

Have you come to the place where you have trusted him with your life?  

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