The Intention & Use of End Times Theology

I had a good talk with my wife today when something dawned on me – the real intent of those ‘end times’ teachings and how they can be seen as ‘useable’.

Firstly, I want to start off by saying that the way end-times theology is used in Christian churches is just ‘screw-bally’ and lacks real interpretive strength. Some people even build their core doctrines from books like Revelation and some of the prophets writings – selling fear and brimstone all the time. Some go so far as to get their followers to build places to hide and store up food for after the ‘end times’. Basically, all in all, it’s very strange, useless, and without merit.

However, the teachings on ‘end times’ does exist – I’d be remiss to say they did not. I do believe in Matthew 24 Jesus even breaks into some of this teaching strain. However, there are a lot of things that can be learned from those teachings that can help to deal with society. I’ll get into a few of these things.

(a) End times teaching always relates to actual ‘end times’ scenarios. When Jesus relates his points – well he is referring to Jerusalem being sacked by the Romans in 70 AD – which was literally ‘end times’ for some – namely those in the city when it is being destroyed. John writes Revelations concerning Roman persecution towards Christians in Roman territory – people were being killed. The prophets always address scenarios where people are being brutalized – like a Babylonian captivity. Sometimes – end times – is what is happening in certain scenarios.

(b) The ‘end times’ is always scenarios that can be forseen, warned about, and action can be taken. Usually there are a lot of signs that things are about to move from normal to ‘evil’. Hatred and bigotry are usually on the rise – and very clearly known (not hidden). There is always leaders to back that idea and drive it forward – usually within law and politics. The ideas always involve the worst forms of treatment to the group in trouble – including murder and prisons.   

(c) End times teaching is meant to remind you about forces being used for ‘evil’ and our responsibility in such dire straits. For example, when the Germans instituted ‘Crystal Night’ in 1939 – the teachings against Jewish people – the wearing of the stars – the destroying of their property – people should of read the ‘signs of the times’ and went into warning mode. People needed to flee and be rescued from that ‘evil’ regime and their form of ‘end times’ against humanity – and we as humans needed to say more and do more.

Jesus warns people in Matt 24 to ‘flee to the mountains’ (vs.16) – in face of things like genocide and bigotry – in what I would consider ‘pure hatred’ – people need to do something – like an ‘exodus’ from that place of turmoil. It does no good to remain in a place of hatred where they don’t ask questions – but just kill – committ an ‘end times’ scenario. Our response needs to be one of ‘exodus’ and ‘salvation’ of the people in danger.

(d) The people that currently teach on ‘end times’ have no clue what they are talking about – and have developed doctrines based on fantasy more than reality. Everyone in those camps seems to be waiting for some revived Roman Empire or Russia to surround Israel – while a few genocides went overlooked – like Rwanda and the Sudan. Christians basically had no clue concerning warning and dealing with problems on such a magnitude scale – because ‘end times’ to them is some fantastic – fantasy and never a reality.

As much as we hate to believe this – governments have always put in place some ‘end times’ scenarios for certain groups. Nazi Germany was a classic example of ‘end times’. The 2 genocides in Africa are also both good examples. South Africa and apartheid was a very bad time. The thing is – these things do happen and we need to read the signs and get people moving when we see them. We are not to be spectators guessing and wondering what will happen – we are to be active agents for salvation and change.

If end times theology is to have any active meaning and not be considered fantasy – it needs to be about faith moving into action/reality/truth. It needs to be like King Jr. facing the ‘evil’ head to head (endurance) to instruct change or moving people from the interior of the Sudan to refugee places (safety). But doing nothing is ensuring ‘evil’ will win the day. Some people are facing ‘end times’ and it’s best we use this theology constructively and not destructively – those who use these teachings to cause destruction are exactly what the teachings warn against.

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11 thoughts on “The Intention & Use of End Times Theology

  1. up late doing a paper.. thought i’d try to take over your blog with senseless ramblings!

    the lectionary text this past week (10 virgins) states that nobody knows, not even the son, when the day is approaching. Gospel of Thomas gets it right when Jesus really makes fun of disciples when they ask about the coming judgement. plus this isn’t unique to christianity, the Abrahamic faiths have J-day aspects as well as Nordic and Native religions (mostly in mexico and central america, mayans, aztecs, et al).

    i think it says more about human nature than our religious sensibilites, namely that our generation can’t think of the world without them in it. so the end of the world has continued for thousands of years… could be any day now, really! 😉

  2. We are told in Deuteronomy how to tell a false prophet from a real prophet. One of the tests is that everything the prophet predicts has to come true. OK. Easy enough, except some of the prophecies given by prophets included in Tanach never came true! Examples given were Jermiah’s prediction of the end of King Jehoikim, Ezekiel’s prediction of the destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar, Haggai’s and Zekhariah’s predictions about Zerubbabel. So, my question is, why do we even include these guys in Tanach? Weren’t they supposed to get tossed for making false predictions?

    Several points as to why prophets could not be relied upon:
    True prophets could be mislead by false(1 Kings 13),
    God had true prophets give false prophecies(Ez 14:9-11)
    God used false prophets to trick people (1 Kings 22:21)

    So….I think I’m just going to keep my skepticism towards prophets just a little longer. I’ll read these books for the history they contain, for the wisdom they contain, but I certainly have no desire to base my religion on any prophecies, real or imaged, contained within these books. My ancestors studied the law for good reason. The Psalms speak of delighting in the law, and it is a delight. I don’t see any similar sentiment expressed about prophecy…

    From November 2 years ago:

    I get asked questions about what I think of messiah, what I think will happen to me when I die. I just don’t care about these things. Live life! All these people spending so much time trying to read every little thing that happens into prophecy, hoping against hope the world will end soon and their messiah will come. That’s just sick. I feel sorry for their kids. I notice most of these prophecy experts are not the children of prophecy experts. Doom, gloom, and death do not make for a wonderful home environment, let me tell you.

    Choose life that you may live. If God is going to send me to some hell because I refuse to live my life waiting for death or disaster, if God is going to send me to some hell even though I live the religious life of a Jew, then I say go right ahead. If that is what God is like then hell for me would be being around such a God for eternity. Anyway, I don’t have any belief in any afterlife. If there is one I guess I’ll find out when I die. I don’t worry about such things. I am the daughter of Avraham. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justice?”

    December 2006:

    I was reading tonight and ran across a statement that really hit home with me. It has been something that bothered me for a long time, that those who are so eager for the world to come to an end so their messiah will ‘return’ always assume that they will escape everything bad on that day. Their desire to see God take revenge on those ‘others’ is revolting.

    It seems to me that people should be just a little leery about hoping for the end of the world. Isn’t every group of people an ‘other’ to someone else? Oh, that’s right. Some are smug in the knowledge that they hold all truth. How could I forget. But, how many of those ‘others’ also consider themselves to hold all truth? Perhaps many people will be in for a surprise someday??

    I was reading in Amos:

    “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
    Why would you have the day of the Lord?
    It is darkness, and not light;
    As if a man fled from a lion,
    And a bear met him;
    Or went into the house and leaned with his hand against the wall,
    And a serpent bit him,
    Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light,
    And gloom with no brightness in it?
    (Amos 5:18-20)

    It’s easy to think, “Oh, I have nothing to worry about when the end comes.” What’s that? Oh, my future is secured or some such stuff. Yeah, well the people Amos talked to thought the same thing, that they were OK, they had gone into their house, a place of security, only to find it was no refuge. Wasn’t that the whole point of the warning, don’t be so confident, don’t think you will be so secure…

    Jason,
    This last part I think is really appropriate for what you are saying. The people so wrapped up in all the end times stuff always assume they’ll escape. If they left themselves in the picture perhaps they wouldn’t find it all quite so fascinating?

  3. Oh, that’s right. Some are smug in the knowledge that they hold all truth. How could I forget. But, how many of those ‘others’ also consider themselves to hold all truth? Perhaps many people will be in for a surprise someday??(Yael)

    The one issue I have with my “truth” is, Im still going to be stuck with everyone because we failed to work out our differences in this format. I just wonder if I can still golf. 😉

  4. Thanks Yael for the comment – I actually remember reading this one before and really enjoyed it – it makes a lot of sense. And like you – I will also continue to be skeptical of people claiming to be prophets – when they add nothing to the community (and that’s most of them I have met or heard).

    But I would like to point out – I have found a good use for end times theology – when I thought there was none. You know how long this took me – like 10 years or so. I finally realized the ‘end times’ is happening all the time in various places in the world – wherever bigotry/racism and oppression exist. People need to stand up and say/do something in those times of turmoil instead of just letting it happen and blindly ignoring what happens around us. By this I mean – whatever country you are in – you and I should have a duty to want to warn others and help in the time of oppression.

    This is no clearer than in slavery in America – where the church turned a blind eye to the ‘end times’ struggle of a whole race of people – the African Americans. Not all people did – but even those who wanted to help stayed silent quite long. People need to speak out in cases like these and stand up or help out the oppressed – but sitting idly by while the politics is sorted out is pure garbage.

    I think the end times theology does have a use.

  5. I followed you over here from your hit on my blog. Thanks for checking me out.

    “If end times theology is to have any active meaning and not be considered fantasy – it needs to be about faith moving into action/reality/truth.”

    That is awesome. Too often Christians are so focussed on avoiding sin that they completely lose sight of faith moving into action. How can you act when you are all about avoiding action? Very well said.

  6. Thanks free style – I am enjoying reading your blog – posing good questions for us to think about and dialogue about – which ultimately will be the future role of the church in my opinion…less about control – more about defining our personal lives within that faith sphere.

    “Too often Christians are so focussed on avoiding sin that they completely lose sight of faith moving into action” (freestyle)

    Those same people – oddly enough – know of a term called ”sins of ommission” – irony?

  7. What? You mean Torah, with its emphasis on justice continues on with prophecy which also has an emphasis on justice? Surely you jest? 🙂

    Most of us in my world don’t do the end time thing at all, some Orthodox I’ve seen but that’s about it. Our emphasis is ever on the here and now, taking care of things now, working for justice now. Your view fits in quite well.

    My comment was merely to point out why I find the ‘end time’ view of prophecy so lacking.

    I’m still slowly working my way through “Prophets” by Heschel. Started it more than a year ago I suppose, but since prophets aren’t really a great interest of mine it’s only ever been hit and miss reading. His view is also that it’s about justice.

    Luke,
    I saw your comment about humanity always thinking life can’t go on without them. So true. Figured I’d give you a heads up. Statistics show that probably between 20 and 40 years from now I’ll be taking my leave of this place, so wanted to let you know when you can expect everything to come crashing down!

  8. i’ll be prepared… kinda sux now that i’m having a kid, but at least they get a few decades. better than none and at least their wait won’t be that long 😉

    thanks for the heads up!

  9. I found these postings interesting. I have also posted a simulated conversation on this topic between Jesus (actual words) and His disciples (simulated). You may want to check it out:

    Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the very place where the prophet Zechariah had predicted that the Messiah would stand when he came to establish his kingdom (Zechariah 14:4). It was a fitting place for the disciples to ask Jesus when he would come in power and what they could expect then. Jesus’ reply emphasized the events that would take place before the end of the age. He pointed out that his disciples should be less concerned with knowing the exact date and more concerned with being prepared.

    MATTHEW We need to live God’s way consistently so that no matter when Jesus come’s in glory, he can claim us as his own.

    JESUS Watch out that no one deceives you.

    MATTHEW Whenever we look for signs, we become very susceptible to being deceived. There are many “false prophets” around with counterfeit signs of spiritual power and authority. The only way to keep from being deceived is to focus on you, Jesus, and your Words. We shouldn’t be looking for special signs, or at other people. We should look at you, Jesus.

    JESUS For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginnings of birth pains.

    Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

    MATTHEW As we hear about Christians suffering for their faith, we must remember that they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to pray for them. And we must ask God what we can do to help them in their troubles. When one part suffers, the whole body suffers. But when all the parts join together to ease the suffering the whole body benefits.

    False prophets often will preach a “health and wealth” message. They say what the people want to hear. Other false prophets preach “Do whatever your desires tell you,” or “There is no such thing as sin or hell.”

    With false teaching and loose morals comes a particularly destructive disease – the loss of true love for God and others by turning your focus on yourself. You cannot truly love if you love yourself more than God and others.

    But there is hope, in knowing that salvation is ours if we truly want it. Times of trial serve to sift true Christians from false or fair-weather Christians. When we are pressured to give up and turn our back on Christ, we shouldn’t do it. We must remember the benefits of standing firm and continue to live for Christ.

    And we must not forget our mission – the urgency of spreading the good news of “Living in Love with Christ.”

    JESUS Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch.”

    PETER While waiting through the “end times:” (1) We are not to be misled by confusing claims or speculative interpretations of what will happen. (2) We should not be afraid to tell people about Christ, despite what they might say or do to us. (3) We must stand firm by faith and not be surprised by persecutions. (4) We must be morally alert, obedient to the commands for living found in God’s Word. In summary, we are to stimulate right living for God in a world where he is largely ignored.

    According to Scripture, the one clear sign of Christ’s return will be his unmistakable appearance in the clouds, which will be seen by all people. In other words, we do not have to wonder whether a certain person is the Messiah or whether these are the “end times.” When you, Jesus return, we will know beyond a doubt, because it will be evident to all. We need to be bold in our total commitment to have our heart and life ready for Christ’s return.

    JESUS The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, “There he is!” Or “Here he is!” Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.

    Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marring and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

    It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

    It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.

    JESUS So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.

    PETER So convincing will be the arguments and proofs from deceivers in the end times that it will be difficult not to fall away from Christ. If we are prepared, we will turn away. To penetrate the disguises of false teachers you, Jesus, are asking us to: (1) Have their predictions come true, or do they have to revise them to fit what’s already happen? (2) Does any teaching utilize a small section of the Bible (Epistles) to the neglect of your words? (3) Does the teaching contradict what God the Father said in the Old Testament? (4) Are the practices meant to glorify the teacher or God the Father? (5) Do the teachings promote hostility toward others and go against Jesus’s commands to love others.

    JESUS No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

    MATTHEW Heaven is not our only goal; we have work to do here. And we must keep on doing it until death or until we see the unmistakable return of our Savior.

    PETER Jesus, you have taught us that preparation, not anticipation is needed.

  10. I like your synopsis endtimeprophet – its a message of the here and now – with relevance to a ‘there and then’. I liked it anyways.

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