What does the Church think of Israel?
What did Jesus say about the future?
Introducing End Times
A battleground of battlegrounds. These are battles fought with passion by those with firm unshakeable views. Yet most Christians are absent from the conflict, wary of the minefields surrounding the battle. There's passion, there's controversy and there's apathy in equal proportions. Some Christians dedicate their whole ministry to their study of End Times, others avoid it like the plague. The Book of Revelation, the chief source book on the subject, is the favourite Bible book for non-believers but the least read by Christians. Why?
Yes, it's the least read book of the Bible by Christians, yet the only book that has an in-built blessing for its readers.
Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. (Revelation 1:3)
Out of all the books of the Bible it's the most mangled by Christians, yet the only book that has an in-built curse for its manglers.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)
It's because of the mangling that folk are not reading it. It's a book with a lot of baggage attached, it's a book that seems to inhabit the grey area of symbols and events, where it's unclear which is symbol and which is event.
Rather than add to the confusion I am going to demonstrate the sources of the confusion and, as with our other battlegrounds, we are going to travel back in time and follow the battle as it rages through the pages of Church history.
Jesus spoke of a colossal future event in Luke 21:
"When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:20-24)
A few decades later this prophecy was to save a significant proportion of the Jewish Christians living in Jerusalem.
The Romans were approaching to sack the city of Jerusalem and these believers decided that this was the time that Jesus spoke about. So they fled to the town of Pella to the east and were saved. The rest were, as predicted, either killed or captured, ending up as slaves sent to many nations. And Jerusalem was truly trampled on by the Gentile Romans until ... well, that's become a debating point , because the times of the Gentiles, stretching from that point of time into the future, are either fulfilled already or are yet to be fulfilled - depending on your viewpoint.
So Jesus prophesied an event and it was fulfilled and heeded. That seems clear cut. The verses that follow are not so clear cut.
There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (Luke 21:25-28)
Did this happen, is it going to happen, or is the language used just symbolic or figurative? Let us start our historical journey with the Church Fathers ... next week.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Truth: And How it Can Find it Again)