By Melissa McLaughlin
A recent household repair necessitated the dreaded nightmare… cleaning the basement. Uggghhh! A massive chore that is avoided in our home at all costs! Nonetheless, the basement storage boxes were lugged upstairs and the tedious task of sorting, cleaning and decision-making began. My mind scaled a mountain of odds and ends. What to keep, give away or throw away?
In the process, I uncovered childhood treasures, travel souvenirs and old photos. Some brought laughter like a rhyming book I read to my younger brother so frequently that some of the phrases popped to mind before my eyes scanned the words! Some brought smiles, like the satiny white shoes I wore for my wedding.
When I lifted the lid to one box, however, the sight brought tears to my eyes. Though completely useless to anyone else, to me it was a memory woven with strands of pure gold. What could bring such a deep emotional response? My grandfather’s pencil collection.
I still remember the day I received the box of pencils. When my grandfather died, each grandchild received a portion of his collection, a large box of pencils that he and my grandmother had collected in their travels over the years. These pencils were nothing fancy, mind you. Pencils from a hardware store in Illinois. A gas station in North Carolina. A car wash in Georgia. They took joy in collecting a small, simple and usable remembrance of every place they visited.
As a child I thought this was a wondrous gift! I grabbed handfuls of pencils and read the labels on each one, imagining the states, towns and businesses they represented. So overcome was I with this simple treasure that I took the box of pencils to school to show my classmates. They were equally elated at such a gift and rejoiced along with me.
During the sorting process, I saved only a few of my grandfather’s pencils, for most had been ruined with damp storage over the years. Though teary-eyed as I cleaned and sorted, God gently reminded me that He is the source of all blessings, past, present and future. My spirit lifted as I refocused on my heavenly Father.
As I considered my tears, I knew there was more underneath these emotions than just the memories of my dear grandfather, though my heart warmed at the remembrance of his presence in my life.
I also wept for the loss of simpler times. Times when a box of pencils would provide such delight. I wept for the recognition that my own children were never afforded such simplicity, for they grew up surrounded by designer clothes, the latest video games, movies, computers and smartphones.
And I wept for the times in which we live today, that are changing still.
Even if you attend a church that does not study end times Biblical prophecies, it would be very difficult to ignore the signs all around us foreshadowing what is to come, that history as we know it is coming to an end. Earthquakes, pestilence, famine, nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom, people turning away from the faith. (Matthew 24:7-13)
Though the world claims history just keeps repeating itself, this is not a Biblical teaching.
God’s Word, the Bible, is absolutely clear. In the beginning, God created the heavens, the earth and every living thing. And in the end, God will bring it all to a close.
There are many Christian viewpoints regarding the chronological timeline of how the Last Days will be carried out but there are a few basic points that are understood by all. In addition, there are countless scholarly books which have detailed many elements of Biblical prophecy and these are worthy of study. However, my goal here is to share a simple outline of foundational end times truths.
Here are 6 simple things to know about the end times:
1.Jesus will return.
Not as a humble Lamb, but as a triumphant King and Judge. Pause and make a mental picture of this description of Jesus at His return:
Revelation 19:11-16 – I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
2.Jesus will gather up all of His believers to be judged, not for eternal salvation, because that has already been given, but for eternal rewards.
According to scripture, the carrying off or snatching up Jesus’ believers (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54), which is also known as the “rapture”, will occur either before, during or at the end of the Tribulation. Though the timing of this Biblical event is not always agreed upon due to different emphases of particular scriptures, we can all agree on this… one day we will indeed be caught up when Christ returns.
These three points of view are often referred to as Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation or Post-Tribulation beliefs. Whether Christians are caught up with Christ before the Tribulation, mid-way through or at the end, Jesus already warned us that we would be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12-13) As we wait for that Day, we must remind ourselves, we are not in heaven yet!
Further, Jesus clearly told us we will not know the day or hour of His return, but we should recognize the season. So we should be ready, watching, praying and preparing for Jesus’ return, no matter the exact timeline of the Last Days. We must count the cost of our faith in Christ and be ready to live for Him or die for Him. To live is Christ, to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
3.The Tribulation will be 7 years of terrible times before Jesus ends this world as we know it and sets up His eternal kingdom.
The Tribulation is also known as the Day of the Lord (Isaiah 2:12; 13:6-9; Joel 1:15; 2:1-31; 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:2); trouble or tribulation (Deuteronomy 4:30; Zephaniah 1:1); the great tribulation, which is known as the more intense second half of this 7-year period (Matthew 24:21); time or day of trouble (Daniel 12:1; Zephaniah 1:15); time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7).
The Tribulation will be a time of both judgment and mercy. God sees all and knows all. In His wrath and righteous judgment of sin, God allows this time of tribulation as a holy response to sin and rejection of Christ. In addition, God allows this time period in His mercy so that any who will, may return to Him.
God could have concluded history and ended this world in a flash, but still He waits for the final sheep to return to His fold. Deuteronomy 4:30 – When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice.
4.Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire.
Satan and all evil will be stamped out. Period.
5.Jesus will judge every person who does not believe in Him as Savior and LORD.
All who reject Jesus as LORD will be condemned to hell. Every evil act will be accounted for.
6.Jesus Christ will be victorious and reign forever!
We will dwell together with Christ forever in a new heaven and new earth, with no more death, sorrow, tears or pain. Hallelujah!
So what can we do right now, as we observe our times through a Biblical lens?
1.Turn our eyes to the One who holds all time in His hands.
Remember that God is the Source, the Giver of blessings past, present AND future. He is the Giver of all good gifts. (James 1:17) If we notice joys of the past or present slipping away, remember that every earthly blessing is only the slightest taste of the glory Christ has prepared for us in heaven.
Let us love the Giver of blessings more than the blessing itself.
2.Focus on Jesus!
Remember His beauty, His goodness, His mercy, His love, His truth, His righteousness, His justice, His grace, His compassion. All that is good awaits us in heaven with our LORD!
3.Pray for others to accept Christ as Savior.
4.Do not be afraid. Those who are in Christ can rest in divine peace.
Jesus’ indwelling Holy Spirit is within us. We are not alone! Remember that God foretold these end times in the Bible, so that His people would be prepared, not scared.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. ~Matthew 28:20b
May our faith in Jesus Christ carry us through. May His indwelling Spirit rise up strong within us. May His Word take deep root in our souls. No matter the difficulties, no matter the loss, no matter the high points or low points, no matter the timeline, remember Jesus! Remember the blessings He has already poured out. Remember the indescribable blessings of our eternal future in Christ! This is our immeasurable inheritance purchased for us by the blood of Christ!
Sources and Resources:
Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Signs of the End of the Age
3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
The Abomination of Desolation
15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
The Coming of the Son of Man
29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
No One Knows That Day and Hour
36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.