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Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

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Biblical Eschatology:  The End Times - A Summary

I. Signs of the End

A. Signs indicating God's judgment (Matthew 24:6-8; Mark 13:7-8; Luke 21:9-11, 25-26; Joel 2:30-31).

    1. Wars

    2. Earthquakes

    3. Famines and pestilences

B. Signs indicating opposition to God

    1. Tribulation/Persecution (Matthew 24:9; Mark 13:9-13; Luke 21:12-19; see also Matt. 5:10-12; John 15:18-20; 16:33; 2 Timothy 3:1-9

    2. Apostasy (Falling away) (Matthew 24:10-12, 24; Mark 13:22; 1 Timothy 4:1; Luke 21:34-36; 2 Thessalonians 2:3)

    3. Antichrist

      a. Many antichrists (Matthew 24:5,23-24; Mark 13:6, 21-22; Luke 21:8; 1 John 2:18,22; 4:3; 2 John 7)

      b. One Antichrist (Daniel 7:8,11,20-21,24-25; 11:36-45; 2 Thessalonians 2; 1 John 2:18; 4:3; Revelation 17-18

C. Sign Indicating God's Grace!

    1. The proclamation of the Gospel to all nations (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10)

D. Signs Indicating the Imminence of Christ's Second Coming

    1. The Great Tribulation (Daniel 12:1; Ezekiel 38-39; Zechariah 14:1-2; Matthew 24:21, 29; Mark 13:14-27; Luke 21:20-28; Revelation 9:13-19; 11:7-10; 16:12-16; 19:19; 20:7-9). This great tribulation is also referred to as Satan's "little season," and is symbolically called the "battle of Armageddon."

    2. Cataclysmic Signs in the heavens and on the earth (Isaiah 34:4; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-25; Luke 21:25-26)

II. The Second Advent of Christ

A. Christ will come visibly and all people will see Him (Matthew 24:27,30; Luke 17:22-24; 21:27; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7)

B. Christ will come in glory surrounded by the host of His angels (Matthew 13:39-43,49; 16:27; 24:30-31; 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Revelation 19:11-14; Titus 2:13; Jude 14,24; 1 Peter 4:13)

C. When Christ returns, a bodily resurrection of all the dead will take place. Believers will be raised to salvation and unbelievers to damnation (John 5:27-29; 6:39,40,44,54; 1 Corinthians 15:12-57; Daniel 12:1-2; Revelation 20:11-15). All believers, both dead and living, will be "caught up" (raptured) to "meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Death will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26,54-57; Revelation 20:14)

D. When Christ returns, He will judge all people, both the living and the dead (Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:27; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Romans 2:16; 2 Timothy 4:1,8; Jude 14-15; Revelation 20:11-15). Believers will receive eternal salvation and unbelievers eternal damnation (Matthew 25:31-46; 1 Peter 1:4-5,7; 5:4; 1 John 3:2; Hebrews 9:28; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). Satan and Antichrist will be destroyed (2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 20:10).

E. When Christ returns, "new heavens and a new earth" will be created (2 Peter 3:10-13; Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; Psalm 102:25-27; Hebrews 1:10-12). Nowhere, however, do the Scriptures teach that at His return Christ will establish a this-worldly, political millennial (literal 1000 year) kingdom.

F. No one but God the Father knows the day of Christ's Second Coming (Matthew 24:36; 1 Thessalonians 5; 2 Peter 3; Acts 1:7). Therefore no one should attempt to calculate the exact day - a fruitless attempt anyway. We are to be prepared for Him to come at any time - not calculate! The reason that Jesus is "taking such a long time to return" is beautifully stated in 2 Peter 3:9: "The Lord is not slow about His promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."

Additional Comments

(1) There is nothing in Jesus' words to indicate that these signs will only occur at the end of time. In addition many of the signs mentioned were already present in the First Century: wars, earthquakes, famines, persecution and apostasy were all there from the beginning. Even the sign of the Gospel being preached in all the inhabited earth is said by Paul to have been fulfilled in the First Century (see Colossians 1:23; Romans 10:18). Furthermore, Jesus specifically states that several signs are merely "birthpangs" - but the end is not yet (Mark 13:7-8; Matthew 24:7-8). The whole point is that Christians of every generation be watchful, seriously expecting Christ's return at any time.

(2) The signs will not necessarily be miraculous or spectacular. The very fact that Jesus and the apostles constantly urge us to be watchful, indicates that the signs will appear somewhat normal to the uninformed observer. Furthermore, the statement that the "day of the Lord" will come as thief in the night (Matthew 24:43; 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4; 2 Peter 3:10) and the comparison with the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:26-37) also indicate the sudden and unexpected nature of Christ's return. Bottom line: the signs will not be obvious.

(3) The Scriptures do seem to suggest that tribulation for the Church will intensify toward the end (Daniel 12:1; Ezekiel 38-39; Matthew 24:21; 2 Timothy 3:1ff.;). Satan's "little season" and the battle described in Revelation 20 indicate this intensifying tribulation. However this battle, and the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16 - armageddon is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew har megiddo "hill of Megiddo," and expression that may allude to the famous battles which took place there in the Old Testament; see Judges 5:19; 2 Kings 9:27; 23:29-30). In view of the nature of apocalyptic literature, which often uses picture language to describe truths, the verses about the battle of Armageddon should not be interpreted literally as if they referred to the final world war in the Middle East, between 20th or 21st Century nations. Nor should this final tribulation be understood as lasting 3.5 or 7 years, since the numbers in Daniel and Revelation are also symbolic.

(4) The New Testament teaches two things about antichrist. First, it teaches that Christians have faced and will face many antichrists, i.e., all those who claim to be Christ (the Greek anti means "in place of") and hence, oppose Him (See Scriptural references in the verses in the outline above). Second, the Bible teaches that there will be one, climactic Antichrist, at the end of time, though his "spirit" was already on the scene at the time of John (see 1 John 2:18; 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 2; see also the references to the "beast" in Revelation 17-18, which many exegetes regard as referring to the Antichrist). His coming will indicate that the end is near. In 2 Thessalonians 2 and 1 John 2,4 we find the marks of this Antichrist, by which he can be identified:

    (a) He will take his seat in the "temple of God" - a reference to the Christian Church (2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21; 1 Timothy 3:15);

    (b) He is not Satan himself but operates "by the activity of Satan;" (2 Thess. 2:9);

    (c) Will oppose all other gods and claim to be God;

    (d) He will practice signs and wonders in order to deceive;

    (e) He will deny Christ and persecute Christians.

(5) The English word rapture is derived from the Latin translation of the verb "caught up" in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 (rapiemur). It refers to what Paul describes in 1 Thess. 4:13-18, that all Christians, living and dead, will be caught up (raptured up) to meet Christ in the air at His second coming. This being caught up is also alluded to in Luke 17:30-35, where Christ tells His disciples, that when the Son of Man is revealed, "one will be taken and the other left." There is no Scriptural evidence, however, to back up the claim that some believers will be raptured long before Christ's Second coming. Rather the only evidence we have tells us that Christ's coming, the resurrection of all the dead, and the rapture will happen simultaneously. Of course, when believers are "caught up" to meet the Lord in the air, unbelievers who are living at that time will be left (momentarily).

Taken and slightly revised from "The End Times: A study of Eschatology and Millennialism" A Report of the CTCR of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, September, 1989.