5. If It's God's Word, Why Is Everyone Arguing About It? Never Lose Sight of Your Destination ------------------------------------ When it comes to the Christian life, the destination is what counts. The Christian life really boils down to one thing:Jesus Christ. Without Christ, there is no Christianity. Without Christ, there is no hope of salvation. Without Christ, there is no hope of heaven. The Most Important Things ------------------------- Everything came into existence through Jesus Christ (Colossoams 1:16,17). When humanity rebelled against God, Jesus Christ cam to earth to save us from God's judgment (Romans 5:8,9). Jesus Christ is the only way to God (John 14:6). At some future time, God's plan to bring human history to a close will center on Christ (Ephesians 1:9,10). In summary, in Christ all things were made, in him all things were reclaimed, and in him all things will be fulfilled. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end (Revelation 21:6,22:13). History finds meaning in him alone, Since he will bring History to its final consummation, the doctrine of the end times necessarily revolves around his Second Coming. The Rest Is Important, But Not Essential ---------------------------------------- As far as your eternal salvation is concerned, the following stuff really doesn't matter: The timing of the tribulation. Whether or not Christians will go through the tribulation. Whether or not there will be a literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth. How you interpret the complicated images and symbols in the book of Revelation. If any of these things really did make a difference in the conndition of our eternal souls, then God would have said so in His Word. But He didn't. What the Bible does say is that our salvation and eternal future with God rest on His grace and our faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10). Fulfilled Versus Unfulfilled Prophecy ------------------------------------- It is important to make a distinction between fulfilled prophecy and unfulfilled prophecy. Two-thirds of all Bible prophecies have already been fulfilled, many of them concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ. Fulfilled prophecy is extremely important because it demonstrates the tremendous credibility of the Bible and strengthens our faith. Unfulfilled prophecy, which concerns events after the first coming of Jesus to earth (and includes God's plan for the end of the world), is also important. If you are not a Christian, studying prophecy will give you a greater understanding of how God is going to deal with the human race and the world we live in, even if you can't determine when these things will happen. As you study prophecy, you will learn that someday (a day no one knows) God will bring all human history to a conclusion. If you are a Christian, then the study of prophecy will give you a greater understanding of God's plan and purpose. Although you will never understand everything, you will be able to answer basic questions of those who are concerned about the future. If your hope is tied to a future with God in Christ Jesus, then you should be able to explain the reason for that hope (1 Peter 3:15). Unfulfilled prophecy doesn't necessarily strengthen our faith. On the contrary, it is our faith in God and His plan that gives us confidence that these things are going to happen. Although we can't see what's going to happen, we believe that these things will occur, just as predicted. Here is that wonderful verse from Hebrews: What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see (Hebrews 11:1). So How Do You Interpret Prophecy? --------------------------------- The word millennium never appears in the Bible. It comes from the Latin words mille, meaning "thousand," and annus, meaning "year." There are three main views about God's plan for the future. 1) Premillennialism--This view holds that Christ will return before the millennium. He will rule from His throne in Jerusalem, and Satan will be bound in the "abyss" for the entire time. The final judgment will come at the conclusion of the millennium, followed by eternity. Within the premillennial view, there is disagreement regarding the tribulation and the church. Here are the views: a. The church will be raptured before the tribulation begins. b. The church will go through the tribulation. c. The church will go through the first half of the tribulation. 2) Amillennialism--This view basically says that there will be no literal 1000-year millennium squeezed in between Christ's return and the final judgment. God's kingdom and Satan's kingdom coexist now, and will continue that way until the second coming of Christ. When Christ returns, there will be a general resurrection, followed by a general judgment, followed by eternity. 3) Postmillennialism--Those who hold this view believe that the church is in the process of building the kingdom of God right now by being a positive influence in society. The term postmillennialism means that Christ will return after such a kingdom has been established. Postmillennialists do not take the "thousand years" of Revalation 20 literally. The primary part of this belief system is its belief in the final triumph of good over evil before Christ returns. When Christ does return, this age will end and eternity will begin. So What's the Difference? ------------------------- After reading about the different viewpoints on the end of the world, you will probably reach one of three conclusions. 1) What's the big deal? It might be a while before Jesus returns, so let's not waste our effort on empty speculation. 2) What's the difference? You're busy with your family, your work, your church, and your recreation. Who has time to worry about the Lords's return? 3) I've got to know more. You can't wait to get to the nittygritty details because you're looking for that one big sign that will signal the end. Your eyes are focused on the end, scanning the daily headlines looking for signs of famines, earthquakes, and wars. Prophecy Is No Good Unless... ----------------------------- It encourages you to watch and pray. Be alert, be wise, be in prayer. Jesus is going to return. Pay special attention to the story Jesus told to illustrate how He wants us to act until He returns: (Mark 13:34-37). It encourages you to please God. If you have a tendency to shrug your shoulders and get caught up in earthly concerns, remember that Jesus is going to judge our deeds. Go about your life, but keep in mind that only what you do for Christ and His kingdom will last into eternity. Make it your goal to do everything in a way that pleases God (1 Peter 1:13,17). It encourages you to encourage others. If your eyes are focused on the end to the extent that you've forgotten about the present, you need to consider those around you. Don't isolate yourself behind a wall of speculation. Rather, follow the wise advice of Hebrews 10:24,25). It encourages you to tell others about Jesus. The last instruction Jesus gave to His disciples was to tell others about Him (Mark 16:15). Everyone who knows Jesus personally has a responsibility before God to share the "Good News" with those who have not accepted Him as God's provision for eternal life. What's That Again? ------------------ 1. There has been disagreement over God's plan for the future ever since Jesus left the earth. 2. It's okay to disagree over Bible prophecy, as long as we never lose sight of our eternal destination. 3. God's plan has always centered on Jesus Christ, including His plan for the future. The main event of the end times is His second coming. 4. Fulfilled prophecy demonstrates the credibility of the Bible. It is our faith in God and His plan that gives us confidence in prophecy as yet unfulfilled. 5. There are different ways to interpret Bible prophecy, and they are based upon the way you interpret the Bible. 6. The three main views of God's plan for the future center on the millennial kingdom. 7. Prophecy is no good unless it encourages us to watch and pray, please God, and encourage one another.