Should Christians talk about the End-Times?

There are Christians who do not agree with me that the End-Times should be discussed as a topic of the Christian faith. I do not mean to single out any one leader as holding this position because there are other Christian leaders who subscribe to this belief. However, I believe that one pastor's point of view is representative of some of these other leaders. In his book The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren broaches the issue of End-times prophecy:

"Today there's a growing interest in the second coming of Christ and the end of the world. When will it happen? Just before Jesus ascended to heaven the disciples asked him this same question, and his response was quite revealing. He said, 'It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'" [He footnotes Acts 1:7-8] When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. He said in essence, 'The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I've given you. Focus on that!' Speculating on the exact timing of Christ's return is futile, because Jesus said, 'No one knows about the day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.' [He footnotes Matthew 24:36] Since Jesus said he didn't know the day or hour, why should you try to figure it out? What we do know for sure is this: Jesus will not return until everyone God wants to hear the Good News has heard it. Jesus said, 'The Good News about God's kingdom will be preached in all the world, to every nation. Then the end will come.' [He footnotes Matthew 24:14] If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy." ["The Purpose Driven Life", by Rick Warren, pp. 285-286, Zondervan]

Pastor Warren's application of the quote of Jesus just before His ascension into heaven is somewhat in error. He is correct in that God's mission for the first disciples was to spread the gospel throughout the world. That mission continues to this day for the followers of Jesus Christ. However, is Pastor Warren's contention that Christians should not discuss the End-Times consistent with the rest of the New Testament?

I find it ironic that the two scripture passages he quotes to support his belief come from chapter twenty-four of the gospel of Matthew. That entire chapter is about the second coming of Jesus and the events that lead up to it. It starts with the disciples asking Jesus the very question concerning the End-Times. In His response, did Jesus tell His disciples that it was "none of their business"?

"1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. 3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. 5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. 6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. 9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. 10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. 11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. 13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. 15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) 16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: 17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: 18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. 19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! 20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. 24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 25 Behold, I have told you before." (Matthew 24:1-25)

Why did Jesus tell the disciples what the signs of the end would be if He didn't want them to discuss it? Why did the Holy Spirit inspire Matthew to include this chapter in his gospel if He didn't want future generations to know about the End-Times? The answer is that God does want His followers to know what is going to happen at the end for at least two reasons. One is that Christians are to find hope and comfort in the return of the Lord. The second is that Christians are to warn humanity that one day God is going to judge the world and its inhabitants.

The First Century Christians in the Church of Thessalonica, Greece, were concerned that their dead bretheren would miss the second coming of Jesus. The apostle Paul responded to their fears in one of the first letters he ever wrote:

"13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Paul is describing an End-Times event that Christians call the Rapture. In verse 13 he expressly tells the believers, that unlike unbelievers, Christians have a hope. He tells them to "sorrow not, even as others which have no hope". In verse 18 Paul tells Christians to "comfort one another with these words". Here Christians are told to take hope and comfort in these End-Times events. It doesn't mean the Thessalonians were to ignore spreading the gospel and meeting the needs of others. As a matter of fact, the verses preceding this passage tell the believers how they are to live their lives:

"1 Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. 2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. 7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. 8 He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit. 9 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. 10 And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; 11 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; 12 That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing." (1 Thessalonians 4:1-12)

In another letter Paul told a fellow Christian leader that believers were to look for the return of Jesus Christ:

"11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:11-13)

Again, the verses immediately preceding this passage instruct believers on how to live their lives in a Christian manner. However, Paul stated that they were to look for the second coming, not ignore it, because it would give them hope.

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus instructed His servant John to write down the things that he was going to see including the events that were going to take place at the end leading up to the second coming of Jesus in chapter nineteen.

"7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. 8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. 9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. 12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. 19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter." (Revelation 1:7-19)

If you read the rest of Revelation you will see many warnings given to a rebellious world. If Christians weren't to discuss these things, why did God put this book in His word? Why did Jesus tell John to write these things down if it wasn't for the sake of the future generations of Christians? It is worth noting that this is the only book of the sixty-six books of the Bible that promises a blessing on those who read and observe the writings of this book:

"3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand." (Revelation 1:3)

The End-Times are spoken of in many other places in the Bible including the Old Testament. In another letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul told them that a wicked human being will enter the Jewish Temple at the end of this age (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). He says that Jesus will destroy this person with the brightness of His second coming. Therefore a Temple has to be rebuilt in Jerusalem for this prophecy to take place. Why tell believers this if it is of little consequence in God's plan for the world?

The absolute bottom line is that God told His followers about the End-Times in order to give them comfort, hope, and to give warning to an unbelieving world. Christians can use the End-Times prophecies as a starting point to share the gospel with unbelievers. If the Lord doesn't come back in their lifetime, they will still experience their own personal end-time. They need to be just as ready for that event as the second coming of Jesus Christ.

I would like to apply a principle that I believe is biblical to this issue of whether or not Christians should just focus on spreading the gospel and meeting the temporal needs of others. Jesus was angry with the religious leaders of His day because they were not serving God the way they should have. The leaders were giving a tithe offering to God in the Jewish Temple but they were not living a righteous life so Jesus rebuked them:

"16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! 17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? 18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. 19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? 20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. 21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. 22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. 23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." (Matthew 23:16-23)

This is the strongest language Jesus used to others during His ministry on earth. I include them only for context. I am not implying that Jesus is upset with or would rebuke any Christian leader for focusing on spreading the gospel both spiritually and temporally. I am not comparing Christian leaders with the leaders of Jesus' day. It is only the last verse in this passage that I want to discuss. He told the leaders that, Yes you should have given God a tithe offering but you also should have done the other things that God requires. It seems to me that those leaders who reject the discussion of End-Times events are missing out on the overall picture. They say you should preach the gospel, help the poor, pray for the sick, take care of the environment, and love others. They are absolutely correct! But since End-Times prophecy takes up a significant amount of the scriptures why not teach about it also? Why can't we reach out to those with the gospel while not leaving the teaching of the End-Times undone?

Prophecy and the Uniqueness of the Bible

I had a pastor say that prophecy is one of the things that makes the Bible unique. Over twenty percent of the Bible is prophetic in nature. The most important of these prophecies refer to the first and second comings of Jesus Christ. This should illustrate to anyone that God places great emphasis on prophecy. But God Himself makes it even clearer how important prophecy is. He uses it as proof that He is God: "9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." (Isaiah 46:9-10) Jesus used prophecy to show that He was the Messiah. John the Baptist had sent his followers to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah: "2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them." (Matthew 11:2-5) Jesus was saying that He was the fulfilment of the Messianic prophetic passages in Isaiah ch. 42 and ch. 61. If prophecy is this important to God and His Son Jesus Christ, how important should it be to His followers?

I posted this article on my blog. If you wish to comment on it please go to Should Christians talk about the End-Times?
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