Bible Study Opportunities
Speculation and the Second Coming
By Jon W. Quinn
I am risking being thought of as ignorant, but I must confide that I do not know nearly as much as some people claim they know about when exactly, or even remotely, Jesus will return. Even if you were to ask me for what they call a "ballpark" figure I couldn't do it. Sorry. I do not know. But it's not for the lack of study and meditation. I've thought, read and studied very much on the subject. And whenever I have read the writings of men and women who claim to have discovered that Jesus' coming is imminent, when I compare what they say to the Bible I find that they have taken liberties; stretching a passage here, ignoring a passage there and misapplying a passage when such is needed to make it fit. I refuse to jump on a bandwagon with a bunch of people who claim to know that Jesus' return is imminent. I look back through history and find that every generation had its own bandwagon or two; and people got on, and they all crashed. I know that I am on safe ground when I say "Heaven and earth will pass away, but (Jesus') words will not pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." and "Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour." and "For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will." (MATTHEW 24:35,36; 44; 25:13). That's how Jesus put it so I don't feel so bad now that I do not know what so many others claim to know.
A pamphlet came into my possession. It proclaims on the front in big letters "GOD'S JUDGMENT DAY IS NEAR and IN AUTUMN 1992, JESUS IS COMING AGAIN. I figured I'd better write about it now since we are already two weeks into the autumn of 1992. Its much more intriguing to write about a prediction that still has time to be fulfilled than it is to write about one already past due.
TIME OF JESUS' COMING UNKNOWN
"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up." (II PETER 3:10). Jesus' final coming will be unannounced. If He does come in the autumn of 1992 it will not be because He has announced it to be so. The pamphlet stated "Jesus is not coming as a thief" and went on to explain that while His coming will be like a thief for the unprepared, the watchful disciple will know when it is coming before it gets here. But Jesus told His disciples to always be ready because "the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will." This shows that not even the disciples of Jesus know when His return will be. Do not wait for some sort of sign that Jesus' return is imminent before you become what you already ought to be.
"Children, it is the last hour; and just as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour." (I JOHN 2:18). The supposed revealing of the antichrist is a prominent theme in many speculative theories about Jesus' return. Supposedly, the Bible teaches that the antichrist is a world leader that will shortly take a major role in world affairs. In the past, many different world leaders have had the honor of being accused of being the antichrist, from Mohammed to the pope; from Hitler to Gorbachev (I saw one article that said you could even see a dragon on Gorbie's head, which was obviously the mark of the beast!).
Actually, the Bible only mentions the antichrist in three places. In the verse above, the Bible states that there are many antichrists; not just one. Strike one against the theory!
It also says that they had already arisen in the world, and that was written back in the first century, so those who say the antichrist is in the imminent future are wrong there also. Strike two!
"Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the son." "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist." (I JOHN 2:22; II JOHN 7). Here we find that the antichrists were people who were falsely teaching that Jesus had not come in the flesh. This is because they thought all matter was inherently evil, therefore God could not become flesh. They believed that Jesus had made it appear as if He had flesh, but that it had been an illusion. In any case, the antichrists were false religious teachers of the first century, not a modern world leader as the theories suggest. Strike three! Theory is out!
These passages are the only times that the term antichrist is used in the Bible. Some try to connect these with the son of destruction (II THESSALONIANS 2:3) and the beast (REVELATION 13), but the Bible makes no such connection. These passages are speaking about entirely different issues, and are most certainly not talking about something of our generation. More on that later.
CAN WE KNOW WHEN?
"He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority." (ACTS 1:7). There is much talk about recent earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes and wars. These are supposedly signs that Jesus' return will be soon. But again, the Bible does not so teach. These ideas that there will be signs come from a misapplication of some of Jesus' words. But no one will misapply what He said as long as they notice all of what He said.
The pamphlet takes some verses out of Matthew 24, and out of their context, to say that there will be signs of Jesus' second coming. "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes...when you see these things, recognize that He is near, standing right at the door." (MATTHEW 24:7,33).
Yes, these are signs, but not of Jesus' coming at the end. They were instead signs Jesus gave to His disciples of the first century about Jerusalem's destruction by the Roman army which would occur in their generation! Jesus said He would come in judgment on the city for their rejection of Him. He did so through the Roman armies that destroyed Jerusalem in 69 A.D. Listen to Jesus' own words as He explains that the fulfillment would come in first century Jerusalem, not in the 20th century world. "And Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He answered and said to them, 'Do you not see all these things? Truly I say unto you, not one stone here shall be left upon another, which shall not be torn down...Truly I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away until all these things take place." (MATTHEW 24:1,2;34). To lift these signs out of first century and apply them to our own century is to misapply them.
Speaking of signs, a relatively new one that some suggest is a fulfillment of first century prophecy is the bar codes found on products at the store. These codes are for the purpose of making it easier to ring up a person's purchases, but some claim that the codes are the mark of the beast mentioned in REVELATION 13:17,18. But again, the proponents of these theories must ignore what the book of Revelation itself says about the timeframe of these events to make their theory work, for the book opens by saying that it is dealing with events which were taking place or shortly would take place back in the first century. "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, things which must shortly take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John...Blessed is He who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near." (REVELATION 1:1;3). It was the false religious cult that grew up around Caesar and its demands upon those who bought and sold to worship Caesar as God before they could get a license to buy or sell that fulfilled this prophecy. Instead of fruitless speculation, maybe we should just read the Scriptures, accept them, and live by them.
Reprinted From the Bradley Banner Bradley Church of Christ Bradley, Illinois October 4, 1992