OVERVIEW OF END TIME PROPHECY
In my essay yesterday about Why We Should Value Prophecy, I laid out some reasons why prophecy is just an important kind of biblical literature as other types of biblical literature, such as Law, History, Poetry, Wisdom, or Gospel. I also laid out some thoughts as to the purpose of prophecy.
By now (in 2016) most of the past prophecies have been fulfilled. There is one prophecy that has not been completely fulfilled however, and that is the bundle of prophecies relating to the time of the end of the end. We are in the end time. We have been in the end time since Jesus ascended, and will be until He returns in glory and judges all things, completes his 1000 year reign on earth, and then dissolves the Universe in a fervent heat and makes all things new. The prophecies remaining to be fulfilled describe all things through the end of Revelation 22, which include the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Millennial Kingdom, Satan Released for the Last Battle, and the New Heavens and New Earth.
I’d said a moment ago that the prophecies relating to the end time have not been completely fulfilled. Many of the prophecies are in a state of being fulfilled, while others are definitely not happening yet. Prophecies relating to the end time describe the symptoms of this long stretch of time between the two comings of Jesus. So while the prophecy of Paul in 2 Timothy 3 are describing general conditions during this wide swathe of time, the specific prophecies of certain events have not occurred. That’s the interesting thing about prophecy. One prophecy can have a dual fulfillment, a far fulfillment, a discrete, one-time fulfillment, or a continual fulfillment.
Since it has been a long while since the last fulfilled prophecy, Jesus’ incarnation, death, and resurrection, people may become lulled into a sense of security and mock the end time prophecies and judgments. Even this is prophesied! Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:3-4,
First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. “Where is the promise of His coming?” they will ask. “Ever since our fathers fell asleep, everything continues as it has from the beginning of creation.”
PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPACT OF THE END TIMES
The nature of sin and the end time are inextricably intertwined. The reason for the prophecies of the end of time are because of sin. Ever since Adam sinned in the Garden and man lost his position of pure fellowship with God, as humans and as a world, we have been in a continual state of devolvement and uncreation. Since the moment Eve bit the fruit and gave some to her husband, who was with her, (Genesis 3:6) all events have been working toward the end of God’s plan. It began with one sin and it will end with all sin.
Sin is the reason for the end time. Because the end time events are about judgment for sin.
We downplay sin. We have respectable sins. We sin and do not repent. As a church we do not regard the spiritual battles with enough fervor. Where is the David tearing his clothes and crying out to God? Where is the city like Nineveh crying out for mercy in sackcloth and ashes from the king down to the lowliest slave? Where are the pray-ers and fast-ers interceding in the battle? Where is the concern for holiness in the church? Not that there aren’t any, but the general trajectory of sin is that it tries with unceasing vigilance to corrupt our hearts and our churches. We already know what unresolved sin does to the human mind of the unsaved person- he is a total slave to it. Their minds are corrupt.
So that is the time of the end. More and more people will be totally corrupted by total sin, and not care.
This will make for an insane society. (Romans 1:28-32, Genesis 6:5, Matthew 24:37). We already see the effects of so much sin on human civilization. It can’t be refuted that civilization of these days has hurtled down the road of libertinism, depravity, murder, and more. Marriage, the first God-given institution, is being dismissed and redefined. Gender itself, a biological absolute from God, is also being corrupted by the doctors’ scalpel and the personal wills of depraved individuals. Life is not valued, ethical restrains are by the wayside, and the age-old cherished values of courage, personal duty, and honor are now old fashioned words, mocked by post-modernists.
And yet today’s depravity and sin-loving condition (Romans 1:32) is nothing, nothing to what is to come.
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander. (Matthew 15:19).
If all those things are in the heart and come out as we see now, what till the Tribulation be like when there is no restraint at all on mans’ proclivity to seek satan and his evil?! (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
I have tried and failed in past essays to bring to bear the totally depraved and horrific time the Tribulation will be. Because we often cannot or do not understand the nature of sin, we downplay the Tribulation’s evil, ghastly and grotesque condition. However it will be a time when men will simply go mad from what they see.
I’d read somewhere, I’m sorry I forget where, the verse from Deuteronomy 28:34, a section called The Curses of Disobedience, a number of judgments to come upon the People. The the verse states,
so that you are driven mad by the sights that your eyes see.
Men’s behavior will be so depraved that just looking at what is happening will cause a person to go insane. We don’t even know the half of what sin can do. We haven’t even scratched the surface yet. While the Deuteronomy verse describes an event that has already occurred and passed into history, it mirrors the conditions of the Tribulation. Calvin says of the Deuteronomy verse that,
He adds that there shall be no end to their affliction, until the magnitude of their calamities shall stupefy them.
Matthew Henry says of the verse,
To complete their misery, it is threatened that they should be put quite out of the possession of their minds by all these troubles
Walvoord says of the verse,
The afflictions mentioned here result from defeat in battle. The military exemptions mentioned in 20:5–7 would be reversed without God’s protection (28:30). Livestock and children would be lost forever (vv. 31–32). Foreign armies would reap the benefit of the farmers’ hard work (v. 33). These devastating losses would produce insanity (v. 34) and painful boils (v. 35; cf. v. 27).
If men’s minds were not able to apprehend the effects of defeat in battle, what of their mental state when actual hell is loosed on earth? When sin reigns? Jesus foretold the following as regards the Tribulation:
- Men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; (Luke 21:26)
- And upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; (Luke 21:25, KJV)
- Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slaved and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17)
The Tribulation period will be a time of extermination. God will exterminate sinners from the world as cockroaches in disgust and fury. Here is one pastor’s description:
Verse 26, “Men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world.”
So we are in the end of the time of the Tribulation when the universe as we know it is being dramatically altered. And first is chaos before there is reconstruction. There’s only one way to deal with all of the things that happen which we went through last time, dismay among nations. The word in the Greek is sunoche and it’s only used one other time in the New Testament, it’s a rare word. It means anguish. It describes a kind of human emotion which is overwhelming and overpowering. It even could be translated severe anxiety. There is…there is a sense of terror and a sense of anxiousness that knows no bounds and no relief. It is compounded by perplexity. The word aporia only here in the New Testament. It’s as if the Holy Spirit uses words that define a time the likes of which has never existed and picks words that are very, very rare for such a rare time. Aporia, perplexity, it simply means confusion in its most severe form.
Shock is so great that we are told that men are fainting from fear. And fainting is a rather benign way to translate another rare word used no where else in the New Testament, aposuche (?). What that word means is to breathe out or to expire. That’s another word for to die. People will be scared to death. People will be scared to death. People all over the world will die of terror because of what is happening and because what is happening they know will lead to further horrors. (Source)
Even with that, there is no way to describe it. No one would really want to, anyway. We often dwell on the depths of God’s love, knowing that we can’t truly comprehend such eternal, perfect, infinite love. Just so, we cannot really understand sin. It also is boundless, eternal, and utterly incomprehensible to its depths. We think we understand sin. We don’t. The Tribulation pagans and the saved will, because they will see it almost fully. Even then, they will not see what the nature of sin can do to its ends, because Jesus said that if He would not cut short the time, no flesh would be saved at all! (Matthew 24:22-23). Sin destroys utterly.
Prophecy isn’t a sphere of study for the prurient intellectual dabbler. It is a serious sphere given to us by the grace of God so we may answer the question Peter asked. He explained the coming end of time judgments and fulfillment of prophetic promises, and asked his flock the following:
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! (2 Peter 3:11-12)
Peter made the connection between prophecy and holy living. Prophecy isn’t a distant realm of study for future generations to study. It’s present and it informs us in this day and ever day toward our holy pursuits. Knowing what is coming because we have the blessed advantage of peeking into to the future from God’s word, what sort of people are we to be?
My call is to urge us now, me included, to live in purity. Pursue holiness. Repent often, and in sincerity. Witness of Jesus and His truths. We do not want our best friend left behind. We do not want our worst enemy left behind. We praise Jesus for His soon return in glory and wrath, to render justice for sin. We know that is necessary. But we don’t have to ignore the prophecies, we don’t have to diminish the prophecies, we don’t have to be casual about the prophecies.
Even so, come Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20).