THE END TIMES: INTRODUCTION
A. Introduction: We want to begin a study of the end times.
1. When we talk about the end times, we are talking about the return of Jesus
Christ to earth, or the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
a. This subject includes topics such as the Antichrist, mark of the Beast, etc.
b. But always remember -- the end times is about Jesus, not the Antichrist.
2. Eschatology is the theological term for a study of the end times.
a. There is definitely an increased interest in the end times -- among believers
and unbelievers alike -- as we approach the new millennium.
b. And, the Bible clearly teaches that we are in the last days.
1. The last days began when Jesus came to earth the first time.
2. Acts 2:14-21; I Co 7:29; I Cor 10:11; Phil 4:5 (His coming is soon--
Amp) Heb 1:2; Heb 9:26; Heb 10:25,37; I Pet 1:20; I Pet 4:7;
I John 2:18; Rev 22:7,12,20
3. However, there is all kind of misinformation floating around the Body of
Christ today, and it has created fear of the end -- even among Christians.
a. If any teaching you hear about the end times scares you, Christian, it isn't
based on the Bible. End times teachings based on God's word should
inspire you with faith, hope, excitement, and expectancy.
b. A study of the end times should increase your awe and reverence for the
written word of God, the Bible, and for the magnificent God who has
chosen to reveal Himself to us through the pages of this book.
4. The Bible is a unique book. Over 25% of it was prophetic or predictive when it
was written. No other religious book contains prophecy, because only God
knows the future -- and the Bible is the only book written by God.
a. Depending on how you count it, there are from two to eight times more
prophecies concerning Christ's Second Coming than His First Coming.
c. Jesus came the first time. He'll be back the second time.
d. And, just as Christ's first coming resulted in tremendous blessing for His
people, so His Second Coming will mean tremendous blessing for us.
B. Why should we study the Second Coming of Christ?
1. We want to remove fear from the minds and hearts of God's people.
2. There has been a tremendous attack in recent years (from Christians) against
the idea of the rapture of the Church -- the idea that Jesus is going to come and
take His Church off of the earth before the Tribulation begins.
3. Clear understanding of the Second Coming will help you know how to read the
Bible and increase your confidence in God's faithfulness to keep His promises.
4. The Second Coming a basic doctrine of Christianity. Heb 6:1,2
a. There are 27 NT Books. Only four do not refer to the Second Coming,
and three of them are single chapters or personal letters: Philemon,
II John, III John, Galatians.
b. I and II Thessalonians were Paul's earliest epistles, written about AD 50,
shortly after he left Thessalonica. Acts 17:1-15; 18:1-11
1. Paul was only at Thessalonica about four weeks when severe
persecution broke out and he had to leave the city. Yet in just four
weeks, Paul taught them about the Second Coming. I Thess 1:10
2. As we'll find out, both epistles were written to answer questions about
the Second Coming. I Thess -- What about our loved ones who die
before the rapture? II Thess -- Has the Tribulation begun?
3. Paul mentions the coming of the Lord in every chapter of I Thess.
1:10; 2:19,20; 3:12,13; 4:13-18; 5:1-11,23
c. Only the doctrine of salvation is mentioned more often in the Bible than
the promise of Jesus's Second Coming.
5. We are to be looking for Jesus. That is a Bible theme. I Cor 1:7; Phil 3:20; 4:5;
I Thess 1:9,10; Titus 2:11-13; Heb 9:28; 10:25; James 5:7-9; I Pet 4:7;
II Pet 3:10-12 (hasting = earnestly desiring, eagerly awaiting).
6. Jesus's first message after He returned to heaven was: I'll be back. Acts 1:11
a. Jesus knew He would not be back during the life time of those to whom
this first message was given. Why then, did He give them that message?
b. To create a hope and an expectancy in them. Jesus did not want that
generation to miss out. He doesn't want any generation to miss out.
7. A clear understanding of the end times, the Second Coming of Christ, will also
help you keep an eternal perspective. Phil 3:20,21
C. Let's make some general comments about the end times and end times studies.
1. Everyone wants to study the Book of Revelation, but that is only a small part
of what the Bible has to say about end times.
a. Every OT prophet wrote about the Second Coming or Day of the Lord.
b. Information about the Second Coming is found throughout the NT.
2. As we said, when people think of the end times, they think of the Antichrist,
mark of the Beast, etc. But there are many other things besides those topics.
a. God will bring the Church Age to an end.
b. God will finish His dealings with the physical descendants of Abraham,
(the Jews, Israel), and fulfill some specific promises He made to them.
c. God will deal with the Antichrist and satan, and judge the world.
d. God will set up an earthly kingdom centered in Jerusalem.
e. God will end time and take us into eternity.
3. Although there is disagreement about specifics, most Bible scholars who take
the Bible literally agree that the following events will happen at the end.
a. There will be a literal seven year period of world tribulation.
b. Jesus Christ will visibly return to earth.
c. He will set up a literal thousand year earthly kingdom, the millennium, a
time of world wide peace and prosperity.
d. At the end of the thousand years there will be a judgment.
e. Then, eternity will begin.
4. These are the major areas where there are disputes among Christians. Our
goal is not to confuse you or to give you big words to throw around, but rather
to help you sort it out so you can be certain what you believe and why.
a. There are three view about the millennium (the time when Jesus will come
back to earth to set up His thousand year kingdom):
1. Premillennial view -- Christ will come back before the millennium
begins and set up the kingdom Himself.
2. Postmillennial view -- Christ will come back after the millennium.
The Church will overcome the world and set up the thousand year
period of peace and prosperity. Then, Jesus will come and receive the
kingdom from the Church. This is also known as Kingdom Now
theology and Dominionist theology.
3. Amillennial view -- There is no millennium and no specific period of
tribulation. Jesus will come at the end of history, judge all people,
and start eternity.
b. The Postmillennial view and the Amillennial view must allegorize scripture
to prove their cases. Allegorize = give words meanings that are different
than what was meant at the time the words were written.
5. There is also dispute about the rapture, the event in which Jesus suddenly takes
the Church off the earth. The disputes center around if and when this will
happen and who will be taken. The most common views are:
a. Pre-tribulation rapture -- Jesus will take the Church off the earth just prior
to the seven year period of tribulation.
b. Mid-tribulation rapture --Jesus will take the Church off the earth in the
middle of the Tribulation, three and one half years after it starts.
c. Post-tribulation rapture -- the rapture will occur at the moment Jesus
comes to earth to establish the millennium. We go up and come down.
d. Pre-wrath rapture -- The Church will go through 9/10s of the Tribulation
and be taken out near the end before the worst of it occurs.
e. Partial rapture -- Jesus will only take part of the Church in the rapture.
6. There is no one definitive verse that spells out end time events.
a. You must take the sum total of all the verses about the Second Coming
and read them in the context of the whole Bible.
b. When you do that (and interpret the Bible literally whenever possible), the
Bible clearly teaches that Jesus will come before just before the Tribulation
begins, take His entire Church off of the earth in the rapture up to
heaven for seven years, and then bring the Church back to earth when He
sets up His millennial kingdom.
c. We are going to study this sequence of events in the next few lessons.
D. To correctly understand end time events, there are several keys you must have. We
want to briefly discuss them as we begin our study of the Second Coming of Christ.
1. There are two stages to the Second Coming separated by at least seven years.
a. When we read verses about the Second Coming, they seem to contradict
each other. Matt 24:30; John 14:1-3; II Thess 1:7-9; I Thess 4:13-18;
Jude 14,15; Rev 1:7; Rev 19:11-16
b. These verses don't contradict. Some deal with phase one of Christ's
return. Some deal with phase two. Titus 2:13
c. In phase one, Jesus will come in the clouds, but not all the way to earth.
Only His followers will see Him. Acts 1:9-11
1. The resurrection of the dead in Christ will occur, and Jesus will take
those who are alive up to the clouds to be with Him. I Thess 4:13-18
2. Jesus will then take us to heaven for the next seven years while the
Great Tribulation takes place on earth. (another lesson)
d. In phase two, seven years later, Jesus will come all the way to earth with
His saints. The whole world will see Him; He will come in judgment.
2. No signs must be fulfilled for phase one to occur. It could happen anytime.
a. It is the last time and has been since NT days. Paul fully expected Jesus to
return in his lifetime. I Thess 4:15; Phil 3:20,21; I Cor 15:51,52
b. Signs must be fulfilled before stage two occurs (Matt 24--another lesson).
Those signs could be fulfilled in the years between phase one and two.
3. There are three distinct groups of people who will play a part in the end times.
a. Each has a distinct part and place in end time events. I Cor 10:32
1. The Church = all who have believed on Christ as their Savior.
2. Jews = physical descendants of Abraham who are not saved.
3. Gentiles = unsaved, non-Jews.
b. Confusion over the end times sometimes results because people wrongly
apply verses meant for one group to another. (another lesson)
4. Much of what will take place at the Second Coming has to do with the Jews
(Israel), and has nothing to do with Christians, with the Church.
a. God has unfinished business with Israel. He has not dealt directly with
them as a nation since they rejected Christ. He deals with the Church.
b. When the Church is removed at the rapture, God will begin to deal directly
with Israel again.
1. God has seven more years of dealings with Israel. Dan 9:24-27 (The
prophecies about the Antichrist are to the Jews.)
2. God made promises to Abraham, David, and Israel which have not
yet been fulfilled. Gen 13:15; II Sam 7:12-17; Amos 9:14,15
3. The Jews will recognize Jesus as their Messiah at the end.
c. It is vital that we distinguish between the Church and Israel as we study
other wise much confusion will result. SEE CHART
E. What about Y2K, the computer problem which will occur as the century changes?
1. Will computers continue to function when the year 2000 arrives?
a. The answer to that question ranges from there will be no problems to there
will be some problems (perhaps serious) but we'll get through to it could
shut down society as we know it for a very long time.
b. Many Christians believe that there is going to be major economic and
social disruption, and we need to be prepared for possibly years of disaster.
2. Social and economic disaster lasting months or years does not fit the end time
scheme clearly spelled out in the Bible.
a. The existence of a world wide computer system makes possible for the first
time in history a one world government, economy, and religion controlled
by one man, the Antichrist -- all of which the Bible predicts.
b. The sudden end of that system because of Y2K contradicts the Bible.
3. That's not to say there won't be some problems because of Y2K -- there
probably will be. But, it will not be the collapse of society as we know it.
Don't feed your fears. Feed your faith.
F. Conclusion: As we study the Second Coming of Christ, we are going to feed our
faith in God's faithfulness, His provision, and His protection.