Prophecy & the End Times

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Prophecy and The End Times

The “Left Behind” series of fiction novels has become the hottest topic of concern across the widest range of Christian beliefs – particularly among those Christians who very much believe in and subscribe to the concept of prophecy.

There is much excitement around fictional portrayals of the last days based on authors Tim Lahaye’s and Larry Jenkins’ interpretation of the Book of Revelation.
Prophecy in most current Christian dialogue applies mainly to two separate but related ideas. The first idea is that which might be entitled “Prophecy – the Key to the Christian Future.” Prophecy in this context refers to biblical verses that refer to future times and not biblical times. These include remarks by Jesus, Old Testament prophets and New Testament writers (historical research has determined that the authorship of writing attributed to early apostles is highly questionable.)
Principal interest in End Times prophecies focus on but are not limited to Jesus’ and Paul's discourses on the last days or coming kingdom of God and the Book of Revelation whose authorship traditionally is ascribed to the Apostle John.
The second idea of prophecy is one practiced within the more charismatic or Pentecostal churches which place greater emphasis on the Holy Spirit as a medium of both communion with God and communication between congregation members. Spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues are more widely accepted and expected within these congregations and are regarded as signs of God speaking to man. Also, in formal prayer settings, someone acknowledged as having the “gift of prophecy” is asked to prophesy to others as to what God wants the others to know.
Key to the idea of End Times prophecy and its popularity today is the understanding that Jesus for most Christians has promised to return to Earth a second time – The Second Coming. Awareness of Jesus’ promise was prevalent immediately after the time of his crucifixion and resurrection and many scholars have adduced that the tone and meaning of many New Testament letters and epistles were written with the immediacy of the Second Coming in mind.
For example, some of the more radical views of Paul concerning celibacy have been equated with a belief that the End Time was so near, pro-creating children and raising them would not be possible and was therefore a waste of time.
Over the years and with the ascension of a singularly dominant form of Christian power (Roman Catholicism), more was made of a future return of Jesus with ample emphasis on Jesus’ promise to return:
“There are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Mt.16:27,28)
[Jesus to the high priest] "...hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." (Mt.26:64).
The promises have remained unfulfilled now over 2000 years and despite a history of an assortment of sects who have unsuccessfully predicted and prepared in vain for a specific moment of Jesus’ return, Christians in general have never wavered nor given up on their hopes and expectations of Jesus’ triumphant return.
The penultimate novel of the Left Behind series was aptly entitled by LaHaye and Jenkins “Glorious Appearing.”
There are a myriad of themes associated with the End Times, the principle of which is the Rapture, a word that does not appear in the Bible and is an expanded speculation on the promises of Jesus, the writings of Paul and the Book of Revelation.
There are many well-written Internet articles defining, in support of and critical of the Rapture concept. One excellent article entitled "The Rapture Theory: its Surprising Origin" can be found at the following link:
The most significant point is that the Rapture concept seems to have been the informing source of subsequent research and Bible study directed at expanding and elaborating on the conditions of mankind and the world at the time of the Second Coming.
Fundamentalist and liberal thinking do not so much collide over the issue of the End Times as much as differ in how and why the scriptural references and subsequent speculations have come to be.
Beliefs in the Second Coming of Jesus, linked or not-linked to End Times speculations, are once again a matter of speculation. This is one area where a Christian does not have to be a literalist/fundamentalist in order to subscribe to a belief in Jesus’ second coming.
Those liberal Christians who believe in a literal Second Coming would differ in the imagined portrayals of what that might look like. Where the Left Behind literalists expect Jesus to forcefully “set things straight, justify and take the righteous immediately to heaven, and set the dogs of war loose upon the unrighteous for times of tribulation, liberal Christians see a time when a return appearance by The Lord involves End Times and New Beginning activity consistent with the concept of a God of Compassion.
Yet other Liberal Christians have little or no belief or expectation of Jesus coming at the nadir of human crisis to intervene and make things right. Rather, these liberal Christians believe that an improved future lies as a consequence of reformation of human values and attitudes. They focus their lives in the NOW via social and/or political activism.
Fundamentalist/literalist Christians have an emotional investment in the Rapture, associated Tribulations and ultimate intervention of Jesus in world affairs with its implied ultimate justification and validation of their attitude and outlook. It has been said that a fundamentalist is someone angry about something which might explain the aggressive hostility to those who do not see the Bible, Christian doctrine and Prophecy in the same light.
The more sophisticated and knowledgeable our society has become, the more the tendency to see Christian beliefs as ancient superstitions whose validity has become – to a frightening number of people – irrelevant. For non-liberal Christians, Rapture and the End Times will set everyone straight. Hence the bumper sticker: Jesus is Coming and Boy is He Pi--ed!

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