The week of October 19th – 25th was an exceptionally trying one for many of us! My own country of Canada witnessed two brazen attacks – one on the 20th, and one on the 22nd – that left two Canadian soldiers dead and a country in grief, shock, and anger. Both attacks have been linked to or associated with terrorism. Also on October 22, terror once again struck the city of Jerusalem, Israel, killing a 3-month old baby girl. A second person succumbed to injuries suffered in the same attack a few days later. In New York City on October 24th, another attack linked to terrorism took place when an axe-wielding man attacked two police officers, striking one with the axe in the head, and the other in the arm before being shot dead. In Washington State, not far from Seattle, a gunmen opened fire in a Marysville – Pilchuck High School on Friday October 24th, killing one. The gunmen turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. And in Cairo, Egypt, 30 Egyptian troops were killed in a coordinated attack on an army checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula, also on Friday October 24th.
All of the above happened within the span of 7 days! And not even mentioned in this is the continuing battle with Ebola, primarily in Africa but now also in North America and elsewhere. The war against ISIS continues to wage on, with ISIS themselves uttering various threats against others including Canada. Add to this the threat of natural disaster, famine, drought, and much more! Clearly, our world is in a state of chaos. Now, I cannot pretend to know what it’s like to suffer some of the things that others throughout the world have had to suffer. I’ve never lived in a war zone. I’ve never had Ebola. I’ve never been a personal victim of terrorism. I’ve never had an extended hospital stay. Certainly, life in Canada – even with all our struggles and issues – is relatively smooth, notwithstanding the events of October 20th and 22nd. Nevertheless, none of us is immune from trial and tribulation.
The Bible never paints a rosy, naïve picture of the world around us. In fact, the Bible reveals that as we get closer to the return of Jesus Christ, things around us will get worse on many levels. You see, history is not open ended. We are not aimlessly drifting through a random life experience. There is a sovereign God who created all things (Genesis 1:1) and is in complete control of history. Our world is racing towards Armageddon. History is unfolding according to the master plan of God, and the end that is to come will ultimately be glorious! This should serve as a source of hope in the midst of the tribulation and chaos around us. God is in absolute control. The present chaotic state of the world is not a reflection of a God who has “lost control”. Nor is it a reflection of a God who does not care. We will see next time what the root cause is for the present chaotic state of the world. For now, it is enough to state that human beings themselves – us – are to blame for the mess the world is in. But the good news is that our loving God has not abandoned us to our own devices. He has a plan, and His plan is unfolding!
An integral part of the Christian message pertains to eschatology – the doctrine of last things. Christian eschatology is simply the technical, theological phrase used for describing the portion of Christian doctrine that deals with, and is related to the consummation of history and beyond (hence the phrase last things). Christian eschatology looks to the future and concerns itself with what God has said concerning the future. Will this world end? What will happen when we die? Is there a heaven? Is there an eternal place of punishment? How will Jesus return to this world? What will happen after He returns? How will evil be dealt with by God? How will God remove evil from His creation? Does God still have a future role and plan for the nation of Israel? Will Christians have to endure the Antichrist? All of these questions can be placed under the umbrella of Christian eschatology. The late Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost published a monumental work dealing with Christian eschatology entitled Things to Come – a phrase which truly captures a key aspect of eschatology – things that are coming! Over the next number of blogs we will take a look at a number of key themes in Christian eschatology. God willing, we will address the following items:
Part I: Hope in an Age of Tribulation
Part II: In Defense of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture
Part III: Antichrist and the Conflict of the Ages
Part IV: Is There a Prophetic Significance to Modern Israel?
Part V: Rome Rises Again
Part VI: A New Global Caesar?
Part VII: The False Prophet and a Deceived World
Part VIII: The Great Tribulation
Part IX: 666 and the Mark of the Beast
Part X: Who is this Woman?
Part XI: Destined For Armageddon
Part XII: The Marriage and Bride of the Lamb
Part XIII: Heaven’s Champion and King!
Part XIV: The Messianic Reign of King Jesus!
Part XV: Day of Judgment, God of Mercy
Part XVI: When Heaven comes to Earth!
One of the most blessed aspects of Christian eschatology is hope. Despite what we see all around us – the chaos and tribulation, we can be absolutely sure that if our faith is in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, we have nothing to fear. This does not mean that we will never encounter difficult times, or horrendous trials. What it does mean is that beyond the trials, in spite of them, and through them, we have a hope that is far greater. Why? Because we know how the story ends. God has made many promises to those who embrace Jesus Christ as their own. These promises include the reality of a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1 – 8) free from sin, sickness, death, and evil of any kind. Tribulation will be a thing of the past. Parting with loved ones will be unheard of. There will be perfect bliss, and perfect delight as God dwells with His people who will enjoy perfect communion and fellowship with Him.
Jesus Christ defeated sin and death. He triumphed over the world, the flesh and the devil through His sinless life, and through His death and resurrection. He Himself is our hope! Though the life we presently live is filled with its trials and tribulations, we know that our Lord and Saviour has already overcome this world (John 16:33), and thus, through our faith in Him, we too shall overcome the world (1 John 5:5). The hope we have before us in the midst of a trying world is that through Christ there is a better world, and a better life to come that we will enjoy! Through the victory of the cross – Christ’s death and resurrection – we can look forward to a world to come in which trials and tribulations do not exist, and where there is nothing to hinder full fellowship between us and our God.
Of all the hope that the Word of God offers to the believer in Jesus Christ, one that I would like to specifically mention here is the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ! Consider these wonderful passages of Scripture:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus…” (Titus 2:11 – 13, NASB).
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 17, NIV).
“The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:8 – 10, NIV).
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1 – 4, NIV).
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1 – 4, NIV).
The return of the Lord Jesus Christ is a truth that feeds the receptive soul with hope – even while living in a world of tribulation. This hope is set before us, and should be a motivating factor in our lives – knowing that Christ has promised to return for us and to take us to be with Himself where there will be no more pain, sorrow, death, suffering, or sickness. As we shall see in Part III of this series, many believe – with good reason – that the coming of the Lord for His people is imminent – that is, it can happen at any moment – even before you finish reading this blog. This is indeed, a great hope and encouragement, and strength in the face of many trials and tribulations. Christ is Lord. Christ is Saviour, and Christ is coming! Today, the offer of salvation through faith in Christ remains. Trust Him today, and find a bright hope for tomorrow – and a sure strength for today!