Why Study End Times?

Before I start to look at the main variables in the end time puzzle, you may still be asking why it is so important to study end time prophecy? Is there any real benefit in understanding it? Surely it will all eventually pan out according to God's plan, so what difference will it make whether we anticipate end time events correctly or not?

It is because of these kind of questions than many churches deal with eschatology on a very superficial level, teaching that one day Jesus will come back, but without delving deeply into details of how, or of the signs and circumstances we should expect beforehand.

Let me give several brief answers to these questions:

1) Titus 2:13 tells us that the second coming is 'our blessed hope'. Personally, this is the number one reason I have been motivated to study end times. The bible gives us hope of spending an eternity with Jesus in a new heaven and new earth. This hope changes the way I think about life and the future. If you have an enquiring mind like I do, it is only natural to want to know and understand whatever details the bible reveals about it.

2) End time events were a very significant focus of Jesus’ teaching and parables in the Gospels. In his Olivet discourse, he gave us 35 end-time signs to watch for (see my commentary on Matthew 24), and told us we should know when his coming is 'right at the door' (Matthew 24:33). It is true that he also said we cannot know the 'day or the hour' (Matthew 24:36) or the 'times or periods' (Acts 1:7). But we are supposed to recognise when his coming is near.

3) Jesus criticised the Pharisees and Sadducees for paying attention to the weather forecast but failing to evaluate the signs of the times (Matthew 16:1-3).

4) When John the Baptist began his ministry in 28 AD, and two years later publicly proclaimed Jesus as the awaited Messiah, the Jews should have recognised the fulfilment of Daniel's 69 weeks.

5) When Jesus prophesied the judgment that would fall upon the Jews in 70 AD, he blamed it on their failure to recognise the time of their visitation from God (Luke 19:44). In other words, their failure to study and understand biblical prophecy contributed to their national disaster.

6) Jesus warned us in Matthew 24:10-11, "Then many will be led into sin, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will appear and deceive many". In other words, a lack of regard for biblical prophecy may contribute to spiritual disaster for many in the Church, just as it contributed to Israel's national disaster in 70 AD. In 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Paul also warns us that a 'great apostasy' will happen in the end times.

7) In Luke 21:8 Jesus commanded us to watch out that we are not deceived. In Matthew 24:24 he warned that even some of the elect may be deceived. Revelation 13:14 also warns of the deceptive power of the end-time Antichrist. We need to be prepared for lots of 'fake news' when the time comes.

8) After talking about 'the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him', the Apostle Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:5, "Surely you recall that I used to tell you these things while I was still with you". It appears from Acts 17:2 that Paul only stayed in Thessalonika for three weeks. And yet he indicates that in that short time details about the second coming constituted a regular part of his teaching. In other words, the second coming was part of Paul's core message to new believers, not an advanced topic for mature believers.

9) In Matthew 24:43, Jesus warned that he will come back like a thief in the night and that we should stay alert so that we do not suffer loss. Commenting on this in 1 Thessalonians 5:4, Paul said, “But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the darkness for the day to overtake you like a thief would.” Paul said this to people whom he had already taught about the second coming in detail. But if Churches fail to teach Christians about the second coming, is it not reasonable to conclude that they are still in the dark about it and may suffer loss?

10) The beginning and end of the book of Revelation stress that it is 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ'. Jesus appeared to John in his glorious state as the Angel of the Lord and showed him what will one day take place. It is 'The Revelation of Jesus', not merely 'The Revelation of John'. Surely we should pay attention to the Book of Revelation, just as we do to Christ's teaching in the Gospels.

11) Revelation 1:3 says, "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near!" This envisages Church leaders publicly reading and teaching the book of Revelation, and congregations being blessed as they respond to it and obey it.

12) 1 Peter 1:10-11 says, "Concerning this salvation, the prophets who predicted the grace that would come to you searched and investigated carefully. They probed into what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified beforehand about the sufferings appointed for Christ and his subsequent glory". If the prophets searched and investigated with such diligence in order to understand prophecies about future events, should we not do likewise?

13) 1 Peter 1:12 says that the 'angels long to catch a glimpse' of the things announced to us through the Gospel. Should we not share their longing?

14) In terms of the 'big picture' of end time events, it is surely true that it will all pan out in the end according to God's plan. But how will it pan out for you? Or for people you love? Paul told the Thessalonians that they were not in the dark for that day to overtake them like a thief. But that was after he had taught them about end time events in some detail. How will end time events pan out for Christians who have only a very basic or inaccurate understanding of them?

Churches are often afraid that teaching their congregations about end times will lead to arguments and division. And so they place end times in the 'appendix', as though it is an advanced topic only appropriate for mature Christians. However, to Jesus and his Apostles, end times was a core part of the Gospel message. I would argue that it is negligent to ignore it.