The End of All Things

I’ve been reading through the book of 1 Peter slowly, pausing to contemplate the verse or phrase that jumps out at me in each section. I’m up to Chapter 4, and what strikes home with me is this:

:”The end of all things is at hand...” 1 Peter 4:7

At the time this was written, many Christians thought that Jesus could return very soon, maybe even during their life time. Of course, this didn’t happen. Most Lutherans believe that we are in the end times now, a period which began when Christ ascended. We don’t know when the final end of things will come — it could be any minute, or it could be a thousand years from now. Our time is not God’s time.

For me personally, this phrase has a different meaning — I’m over 70 now and according to Psalm 90:

“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” Psalm 90:10

Realistically, the end of all thing things for me is near. Modern medicine has pushed our life expectancy up a bit, but not that much. Both my husband and I lost younger brothers this year — our generation is now the one that is dying off.

Now, I could find this depressing, but I don’t. I look back on my life with satisfaction and gratitude for the things I’ve accomplished, and the friends and family I’ve known. I am looking forward to seeing people who have gone before me again; I certainly yearn for that time when aches and pains, anxiety and grief, all the “toil and trouble” of life are removed. Suffering hold fear for me, but not death. It will lead to a new and better way of life.

Peter has some advice for those of us nearing the end (and really that’s everyone because life could end any minute, not matter what our age). Here’s what you and I should be doing:

*Be self-controlled and sober-minded — life is serious business

*Love one another– so much quarreling and tension will be removed this way

*Show hospitality without grumbling — everyone needs some help and understanding now and then

*Serve each other, using our gifts for the good of mankind –leave the world a little better than you found it

It’s simple, really, but important. Your time is precious. Don’t waste it — the end is near.

For more about death see:

Martin Luther on God’s Victory Over Death

death is but a dream by Christopher Kerr, MD—Book review

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Death

Stay Awake!

As I read prayerfully through the book of Mark, what stands out for me in Chapter thirteen is this phrase: Stay awake! Rather ironic for me, since I suffer from insomnia and staying awake is not what I want to do. However, in this context Jesus is not telling us to refrain from sleeping; He is saying we must be alert, be observant, pay attention.

It’s easy to get caught up in our daily lives and routines. The expedient often becomes the important in our human minds. Things like our jobs, our work at church, taking care of our families, even vacationing and hobbies. It’s not that these things are wrong, but here Jesus is warning us not to lose sight of the bigger picture.

All of this in in the context of the last times. Most Lutherans say we’re in the last times now — they started when Christ ascended. So now is the time to stay awake. Bad things will happen (they are happening) — wars, false teachers, persecution, earthquakes, famines. This means we need to remain strong in our faith. We need to study the Bible and know what it says; we need to be firm and not give in to heresies that may seem to make sense in our culture; we need to prepare to be persecuted by maintaining strong Christian communities.

The end of all time is coming. We clearly don’t know when. All we can do is be prepared. STAY AWAKE!

“But concerning that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” Mark 13:32-22

For more lectio divina study on the book of Mark see:

He Said This Plainly

Rest a While

Why Are You So Afraid?

The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn–Book Review

A friend asked me to read this book, and I had to force myself to finish it.  The author is obviously a clever man, well-versed in the Bible and history, and therefore able to come up with many connections that seem “amazing” on the surface.  He relates a variety of prophecies from Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah to present day events starting with 9-11.  These are “harbingers” or omens of a coming judgement on the United States.

Do I agree that our country is going down sinful paths?  I do.  Do I believe that like other powerful societies ours will eventually end and that collapse may be brought about by our own pride and arrogance?  Very possibly.  What I don’t believe is that we need to discover exactly when and how it will happen by decoding secret information hidden in the Bible..  This smacks of Gnosticism, a heresy that obviously still persists.

There is no biblical reason to connect America with Israel.  The Bible is clear that the church has replaced Israel as the chosen people of God, not the United States or any other nation or ethnic group.  Scripture should now be read in light of that understanding.  We may like to think of the United States as a “Christian nation”  but in actuality that has never been the case.  Many of the first settlers did not come for religious freedom at all, and while some of the founding fathers were Christians, others weren’t.

In the final chapters of the novel, the main character is told by the prophet that he must “choose” his destiny before judgement day.  This goes against Lutheran belief that God chooses us.  In fact, the whole premise of the book, that we can repent and turn from our errors is wrong  The point of the entire Old Testament, is that the people of Israel couldn’t do this, not matter how hard they tried  Sin will always prevail in both national and personal life — that’s why we need a Savior.

I suppose, like some other books, it might be possible to simply enjoy The Harbinger as fiction, ignoring the glaring theological errors.  Fiction is not theology, after all.  In this case, however, the author specifically says in his introduction that while the form of his work is a story, the information contained is real.  It is not meant to be read as a fanciful or interesting tale.  Furthermore, in my estimation, it also fails as a novel.  It is repetitious, slow and has very little dramatic suspense or plot.

VERDICT:  No stars.  My advice is don’t bother to read this.

For see what Lutherans believe about the end times see:

Lutherans and the End Times

 

 

Perhaps Today

I live in an area where there are a pretty large number of Mennonite families, and some of them are fond of posting little signs at the end of their farm lanes with Bible verses or religious sayings.  Recently my husband and I passed one that simply read, “perhaps today.”  This refers, of course, to the fact that Jesus is coming again (Lutherans believe we have been in the end times since Jesus ascended into heaven) — but we don’t know when.

Over the course of history, many have tried to predict when Christ would come again.  Because the number 666 is described as “the number of the beast” in the book of Revelation, many Christians in the 17th century believed the world would end in 1666.  Of course, that didn’t happen (although the great fire of London did).  In 1831 religious leader William Miller predicted that Christ would come again in 1843.  When that didn’t work out, he went for 1844.  Wrong again.  More recently, Harold Camping made predictions based on numerology — 1994 and then 2011.  Neither of those dates proved to be correct (notice, we’re still here).

There’s a good reason why all our human attempts to determine this date have failed.  The Bible tells us quite clearly, that the time of Christ’s Second Coming will remain unknown.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”  Matthew 24:36-39

So don’t worry and fret and try to figure out what God doesn’t want us to know.  Live with the uncertainty.  Just be ready.  Perhaps today.

For more on the end times see these posts::

Lutherans and the End Times

Unraptured by Zack Hunt — Book Review

 

 

 

Revelation

If you want to read about God’s final triumph over evil, turn to the book of Revelation in the Bible.  Written by the apostle, John, it recounts the vision given to him by God.  It should be interpreted in a general way,  and attempting to draw specific connections concerning the time frame and nations involved is futile.  The genre is “apocalyptic”  and this is a type of Jewish literature that is highly symbolic.  It was meant to communicate hope in God’s ultimate victory to Christians in the midst of persecution.  For further study, my husband, who is a Lutheran pastor, recommends More Than Conquerors by William Hendriksen, as the best book he has read on the topic.

What we do know is that in the conflict between God and Satan, evil will be defeated:

“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”  Revelation 20:10

God’s people will live with Him and death will be banished:

“Now the dwelling f God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will by His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain ….” Revelation 21:3

Creation will be restored to its’ original perfection:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.  On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.  And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse.”  Revelation 22:1-4

What more can be said?

“These words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 22:6

That means, you can believe it!  Take comfort.  Whatever is happening now, the best is yet to come.

Lutherans and the End Times

Until I was grown, I never heard much about the end times at church.  All I knew about the rapture came from bumper stickers (In case of the rapture, this car will be unmanned) and I never heard of the 1000 year reign.  All this is probably because most Lutherans are amillenialists (big word for the day).  This means that unlike the pre- and postmillenialists, Lutherans don’t believe there will be a 1000 year reign of Christ on earth.  We believe that when Jesus comes again, that is the end.  What comes next is the New Jerusalem, the earth perfected.  Lutherans also believe that we are in the end times now, the time that began with Christ’s ascension into heaven.  How long will the end times last, and when will Christ come again?  As Lutherans the correct answer is, “I don’t know.”

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your LORD will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.  Matthew 24:36-44

It seems pretty plain to me — nobody know when Jesus will come again, not even Jesus himself!  The truth is, we probably won’t be expecting it.  Instead of spending time “predicting” when the end will come, we should concentrate on being ready today because it may happen at any time.

Of course, some believe these verses to refer to the rapture, but most people don’t know that this reading of Scripture wasn’t even around until the 1830’s.  It was developed by John Nelson Darby, a Plymouth Brethren pastor, who edited a study bible which popularized his theories.  There are no other verses in the Bible to support or further explain the rapture (Lutherans say when in doubt, compare Scripture to Scripture) and so Lutherans do not accept this interpretation.  We are decidedly “unraptured.”

All this being said, I must point out that I am a layperson without seminary training.  I don’t claim to have all the answers about Lutheran theology and doctrine, but should any readers have questions, I will earnestly try to obtain the answers!

 

Things We’re Not Meant to Learn

“Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.  For you yourselves are full aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”  1 Thessalonians 5:1-2

Well, I guess you’ve all heard, once again someone is predicting the end of the world.  The date?  September 23rd, 2017.  Tomorrow!  Yikes.  There have been many, many predictions of this sort, and it’s plain to see they’ve all been wrong. Not surprising when we actually examine what the Bible has to say. In the verses above, the apostle, Paul, says there is no need for Christians to concern themselves with this question.  The end will come without warning.  Jesus, in the book of Mark says that even HE does not know the exact date:

“But concerning that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  Mark 13:32

Trying to figure out what God has specifically told us we can’t know is pretty presumptuous, not to mention downright sinful;  probably right up there with Eve eating the apple.  There is however, one big thing Jesus wants us to learn about the end of time, and here it is:

“Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know what day your Lord is coming.  But know this, if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.  Therefore, you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  Matthew 24:42-44

Don’t waste your time speculating about when Jesus will come again.  Simply be ready ALL THE TIME.  This passage is immediately followed by two parables:  the Ten Virgins and The Talents.  The wise virgins didn’t wait to purchase oil for their lamps;  the good servant used his talents to produce more. Don’t put your relationship with God on hold for the things that seem more important today.  Be faithful now.  Stay awake.  The Lord IS coming.  We just don’t know when.

P.S.  I fully expect to be blogging tomorrow!