Why Study End Times?

In my experience as a Christian in the UK and abroad, most churches have little interest in teaching about the second coming of Christ, except perhaps on a very superficial level. This contrasts with the teaching of the Apostle Paul. After talking about 'the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him', 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 it was a regular part of his message.

So why do churches place end times in the 'appendix' rather than treating it as core component of the Gospel message? They appear not to see its relevance to daily life in the here and now. And they often fear that teaching on it will cause division. By default, end times has become a taboo subject. The following are some reasons I think we should study end times:

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. It contributes enormously to the hope that I have for the future.

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 can and must recognise when his coming is near.

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

4) The Jews should have understood from Daniel 9:25-26 that Messiah was due to come and to be killed in 33 AD. This was 483 Jewish years (476 solar years) after the decree given to Nehemiah by Artaxerxes in 444 BC to rebuild Jerusalem (see my commentary on Daniel 9).

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.

8) 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 expected us to study and understand scripture so that Christ's coming will not surprise us and cause us to suffer loss.

9) 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.

10) 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.

11) 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?

12) 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?