Nikki, who has commented on a few posts, wrote asking if I was following the end-times teaching from the Epicenter Conference 2011 mentioned by Joel Rosenberg (which you can learn more about at their website http://www.epicenterconference.com). She asked my take on some of what they are saying and especially the comments from the Bible’s book of Joel concerning the end-times.
There are a number of ministries which have studied a lot about what happens in the end-times. Some seem to be pretty good. And others are pretty far off. It is very difficult to adequately study the various opinions out there. One thing that makes this so difficult is that people who have devoted their lives to the study of Bible prophecy have synthesized their interpretations of many different scriptures. To adequately and fairly judge one aspect of teaching can take quite a bit of study of a large number of Bible verses. Trying to study these various things can absorb one’s available time for Bible reading and subtly shift our focus from what God says in his word to what various teachers say about his word.
So, no I haven’t read about the Epicenter Conference other than Joel Rosenberg’s email about it. It seems like a fine place to study and read if you want to gain some depth understanding of end-times events. (I liked much of what I read on Joel Rosenberg’s email about the book of Joel. I sure would not want to be a world leader who was trying to divide up the land of Israel!) There are other groups too that could be helpful. I don’t have a list and would have trouble judging them.
There are some that I don’t think merit the trust and time of study. For example, recently Harold Camping predicted the end of the world. Again. He missed it. And now I understand there is another date being given. I wouldn’t want to give time or attention there. But I think there is another way that may be better for most people.
The best situation is doing what is called an inductive Bible study approach, like the one Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship teaches or the one that the Precept Ministries uses. These really can help average Christians learn the Bible for themselves. It is great if you can find such a Bible study and have the time for it. The fruit of such Bible study is being able to better judge differing opinions and interpretations of difficult Bible passages.
But some may not have time to study in depth but do have time to read their Bible daily. I think a time of daily reading is a good place to start and is completely adequate for us to be prepared for what we need for life and godliness. And so I like to encourage every Christian to read the Bible for themselves and see what insights the Lord begins to show them. I think God’s promises are true, the Holy Spirit really will guide us and teach us truth if we let him. Through consistent reading we will learn many things including some important end times facts.
Because of my Bible reading, I do not feel unprepared for what God is going to do in the last days. And with reading your Bible and practicing what you learn, you will be prepared for what is really going to happen when the end times come upon us.
Still, if you want to go a little further, a simple study of a key passage may be helpful. The best place to start a simple study about the end-times is Matthew 24. Here you can read what Jesus taught his disciples. Certainly there are things in this passage that may be difficult to understand. Nonetheless, we can find some things in this passage that we can understand. In fact, I think most of what we really need to know and do is pretty clear in the Bible. As we get better informed of things that are clear we will be better prepared to grapple with things that are less clear.
So let me simply guide your reading in this chapter. Get your Bible and read the passage (Matthew 24:1-42) and see if you can answer what the Bible says. After this little reading we may be able to take a next step and discuss a couple of other things in greater depth if you want to post or email a question.
(1) What were the disciples pointing out to Jesus? What did Jesus say was going to happen? (Mt 24:1-2)
(2) So what did the disciples ask Jesus? (Mt 24:3) Pay close attention to these questions.
(3) The answer is given first in Matthew 24:4-31. Before looking at different parts of the answer, read the whole section. Underline any commands, the things Jesus tells his disciples to do. And double underline where Jesus mentions the word sign.
(4) I find the first two commands to be very practical, in a sense, anchor points we need when we begin to study the end-times. What is the first command? (Mt 24:4) Why do you think Jesus commanded this?
(5) What is happening in the world as it progresses to the end-times? (Mt 24:6-12) But are these things a clear sign that the end is near? Why or why not?
(6) Jesus refers to a number of the troubling events that go on in the world as “birth pangs.” (Mt 24:8) Think about this word picture. How does it help you understand that these things are not a reliable indicator of the return of Jesus? Yet is this consistent with the fact that these things will be a part of the end times when Jesus returns?
(7) I get troubled when I think of the end-times or other periods of difficult tribulation. What does Jesus command his disciples? (Mt 24:6) Do you think this is a realistic response? What things can help Jesus’ disciples respond properly in difficult and troubling times? (Psalm 23; 27; Philippians 4:4-7)
(8) Looking at Matthew 24:4-31, there seem to be a number of indicators that will be true in the end-times and may be true at various times before the end. A friend of mine has called these “symptoms” of the end. Make a list of these “symptoms” that are given in this passage. And what is the sign Jesus mentions?
(9) Are any of the “symptoms” of the return such that they could not indicate anything other than the end having arrived? It may be helpful to mark some “symptoms” or the sign of Jesus’ coming with a plus sign if it is unlikely in your opinion to happen other than at the end of the world.
(10) There are a number of other points that could be studied in this passage. And some of the things in the core part of this passage are debated by Bible scholars. So at this point I want to jump to the end of this teaching. What else does Jesus command his disciples? (Mt 24:36-42) Practically, how do you think you are to be on the alert or ready for Jesus’ return?
I understand this brief study or guided reading doesn’t get at the depth of what these things might really mean in the very end. But what Jesus commands his followers is pretty clear. It also seems pretty clear that it isn’t a good idea to try to set a particular date for the return to happen. Sometimes in-depth Bible study can lose sight of the basic commands we need to obey.
If you will mark your Bible when you are reading it each day, noting the things that are pretty clear to you, things you need to apply to your daily life, I think you will find your spiritual life growing rapidly and also find yourself ready for the return of the Lord Jesus. Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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