Also See The Message of the Bible and The Warning of The Bible
Far from being outdated, out of touch, and largely irrelevant to modern society, the Kingdom of God Jesus was sent to earth to proclaim (No, His main message wasnít about Ďloveí) is exactly the utopian world most men and women can only dream of, not some pie-in-the-sky ethereal place the other side of Pluto where everyone exists in a state of disembodied blessedness. However, there is also a warning. The Bible very clearly tells us that we all have a choice to make in this life - the most important decision we will ever make. And, if the Bible is indeed the word of God, as it claims to be, and Jesus is the Son of God as He said He was, the consequences for the individual who chooses to ignore the ample evidence, or counter it with clever arguments, will be fatal.
Part I... The Wrath Of God
The Wrath of God
When the both Testaments equally emphasize the love of God and the reality and terror of God's wrath, it is sad to find so many professing Christians who, perhaps because it makes them uneasy, either completely ignore everything the Scriptures says about the wrath of God, wish there were no such thing, or treat it as something for which they need to make an apology. Perhaps, deep down they believe that God's wrath is not consistent with His goodness - a blot on the Divine character if you will. Thus they see Him solely as a God whose one ambition is to keep us happy - and heaven forbid that He should ever cause us any grief. This large-scale rejection of the doctrine of the wrath of God and the emphasis placed almost exclusively upon His love is prime evidence that much of the modern church has separated itself from Christianity as taught by the Bible.
Part II... The Hope of Christianity
What Was the Message of Jesus?
If you were to ask the average person what Jesusí main message was, you'd no doubt hear something to the effect of... "Jesus taught about love. He said we should all love each other". They are quite wrong. While it is true that He did speak about loving one another, it was not His central message, and certainly not what got Him crucified (Neither the Roman nor Jewish authorities would have been particularly bothered by a Jewish prophet who ran around telling people to love God and people). In a nutshell, Jesus' message is summarized in Mark 1:14-15 .... "Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Emphasis Added). In fact, Jesus never stopped talking about the "kingdom of God", which phrase is used over 50 times in the four Gospels alone. He even said that the proclamation of the Kingdom was the reason He was sent to earth (Luke 4:43). But what and where is this kingdom?
The Kingdom ... When?
Much controversy has surrounded Matthew 16:27-28 and the parallel passages in Mark and Luke, in which Jesus said that some who were present with Him at the time would not die until they saw the coming of the kingdom. These words obviously have a huge bearing on the sequence of end-time events but, unfortunately, have led to some entirely erroneous (even bizarre) conclusions. The problem lies in the fact that most people interpret Jesus' use of the phrase "the kingdom of God" as exclusively referring to the age to come... in other words, Heaven.
The Intermediate State
The New Testament sheds little light on the state of the unrighteous dead. However there are verses in both the Gospels and the writings of Paul that very definitely lean towards the fact that is that the spirits of believers are with Christ in the presence of God, awaiting the resurrection.
The Book of Revelation
The Dating of Revelation
The argument has been made that if Revelation was written in the final decade of the first century (the traditional view), then its prophecies had nothing to do with the destruction of Jerusalem, which would have already fallen. On the other hand, in the unlikely event that Revelation was written before A.D. 70, then it is possible that the book describes the circumstances that led up to the fall of Jerusalem under the Roman general, Titus. However, in the light of the Hebrew view of prophecy it really does not matter all that much... but for those that are interested.
An Overview of Revelation
In the original Greek, the last book of the New Testament was called "Apocalypsis", which means unveiling or uncovering. In other words, the book of Revelation is a dramatic, and supernatural, disclosure of facts, pertaining to human existence and the world itself, which were not previously known or realized until the book was written. In fact, no one can understand God's ultimate purpose for this world and its inhabitants apart from the study of Revelation. However, the book has often been accused of being the territory of the lunatic fringe, who eagerly anticipate the end of the world and are, therefore, treated like a sideshow. Much to the contrary, Revelation does not describe the end of the world, but the end of this age of violence and greed, which will be replaced with another... the utopia that man can only dream
of. In short, Revelation is the only hope we have in a world rapidly spiraling out of control. (Also See The Message of The Bible)
Part III... Signs Of The Times
The Signs Of The Times
Many people believe there is nothing that can be known about the timing of the Lord's return because Jesus said He would return like a thief in the night. However, although it does not mean we can know the exact day, in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, Paul made it clear that Jesus' statement does not apply to believers... "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief. Additionally, the prophet Daniel warned centuries ago that only the "wise" would be able to understand the prophecies.
As It Was In The The Days Of Noah
It is very important that we understand what our Lord meant when he said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man" (Luke 17:26, Matthew 24:37), simply because Jesus Himself linked these two epochs together and said that one is the parallel of the other. In other words... in the days immediately preceding the return of Jesus Christ, we shall see strikingly similar conditions to those that existed just prior to the Great Flood (the days of Noah). However, aside from the fact that men became terribly wicked in those days, the Old Testament only tells us how "the sons of God" took wives for themselves from among the daughters of men, and had children by them, and that the "Nephilim", the mighty men of old, walked the earth at that time. While it is patently obvious that mankind is getting worse and worse, if we wish to know what else we are to expect before the wrath of God rains down, then it is essential we understand who these 'sons of God' and 'Nephilim' were.
The Abomination of Desolation
Jesus predicted one particular sign that will stand as the beginning of the end times... Could this sign be completely different from what we have long believed?
Sadly almost every Christian that I have had any contact with thinks the end is coming - sometime in the vague and distant future. Much to the contrary, events are set to take a very nasty turn. In the past few years, there has been an explosion of individuals and organizations who are actively working towards creating the conditions necessary for a coming World Teacher or, as occult literature terms it, the "Reappearance of the Christ". Except that this "Christ" has nothing to do with Jesus Christ of the Bible. Since the concept of a coming savior, who sets up a golden age on earth is found in many of the worlds religions, it is easy to see how a charismatic leader who promises (and seems to deliver) utopia will be accepted - even welcomed by much of the world. However, the real tragedy is that few believers seem to take too seriously the "roaring lion" that Peter warned about. For the most part, if you glance outside, you will see the rocking chairs on the front porch moving steadily to and fro. (Article includes The Lessons of Hitler's Amazing Rise To Power!)
End Time Revival Or End Time Apostasy?
In this age of great apostasy the one thing the church needs above all else is revival. However while the Bible speaks lot about end-time apostasy ("When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth" Luke 18:8), what does it say, if anything, about end-time revival.
Part IV... The Judgment of God
The End Of The Age
The coming Kingdom of God which Jesus said He was sent to proclaim is no pie in the sky ethereal place 'somewhere out there', but matches, in every respect, the world most men and women would choose to live in... a place of peace and safety, where there is no crime, hunger and disease, no war and, above all, no death. (See What and Where is Heaven below) However, no unrighteous, evil, unmerciful, murderous, arrogant, malicious, greedy or deceitful person will ever be a part of His eternal Kingdom. Which means, He has to first 'clean house'.
The catalogue of man's greed, ruthlessness, and inhumanity to his fellow man is one that has no end. Increasingly, modern society, flaunts its sins like Sodom once did, without the slightest effort to conceal them. But, as the prophet Isaiah said, "Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves" (3:9). There is a day looming on the horizon when mankind's iniquity exhaust the patience of God Himself, at which point in time He will pour out His wrath, or retributive justice, on the earth, punishing transgressors, and ending all the injustice and suffering in this world. God's kingdom will be preceded by a devastating period of time such as man has never before seen. This will be the darkest time in human history, when even the heavens and earth will tremble at His power and fury, the moon will turn to blood, and the sun will no longer gives out its light.
In order to understand exactly what is in store for this planet and its inhabitants, we need to turn to Revelation the last book of the Bible, in which the horrendous conditions in the last days are described by the metaphorical images of Seals, Trumpets and Bowls. Some say these run concurrently, while others are of the opinion that they are different and succeeding series of judgments. While neither point of view is correct, there is little doubt that conditions get progressively worse, and more devastating, as the end times progress.
Not only does the imagery and symbolism of Revelation describe the horrendous conditions of the last days, but tells us in what order they will occur. In summary, the first Six Seals unfold one after the other. The 'Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse" (The first four seals) symbolize the persecution of the church with much blood being shed, which will, in a sense, be the last straw and bring an end to God's patience. The opening of the Seventh Seal will introduce the series of Seven Trumpets. The first six are the 'Great Tribulation', which Jesus said would be unparalleled in the history of our planet. The blowing of the Seventh Trumpet will herald Jesus appearing before the Face of God for us, and what we call the "rapture". This will be closely followed by the Seven Bowls when He will, as the prophet Zephaniah said, cut man off from the face of the earth (Zephaniah 1:2-3)
For reasons of its own Revelation pauses more than once in its recital of ongoing events. These interludes give us significant information.
The Two Witnesses
Although the "Two Witnesses" are mentioned in only eleven verses in the entire Bible, they play a major role in the End Times. While the verses seem to be a straight forward description of two humans, the text gives no clues as to who they are. Also there are two possibilities regarding the timing of their appearance on the world stage.
The Jehovah's Witnesses claim this literal number will come from their ranks, while others believe the 144,000 will be Jews who will be saved from the physical nation of Israel. Scripture does not support either of these claims.
A Dragon and Two Beasts
Daniel, the Old Testament prophet saw four beasts coming up from the sea - the fourth so horrific that the prophet particularly asked the meaning of it. What he was told has enormous implications for us in the coming years. In chapter 13 of the book of Revelation John tells us of two beasts he saw - the first emerging from the sea, the other from the earth. Although both menís visions occurred centuries apart, the first beast seen by John was a composite of the four seen by Daniel, but particularly shared the characteristics of Danielís fourth beast.
When it comes to the second beast that John saw come out of the earth, the fact that it is described as being like a lamb seems to suggest either a false mild demeanor - evil disguised under a facade of peace and goodness or, far more ominously, a clever counterfeit of God's Messiah.
Although much prophecy is not completely understood until after it has been fulfilled, considering the fact that the Lord devotes two chapters to these "Babylons" makes it imperative that we ensure that we at least grasp the broad outlines of the message that is being given us. In fact, make no mistake... these chapters are a crucial warning dealing as they do with specific targets of the wrath of God. Chapter 17 deals with the spiritual side of Babylon - a false religious system, while chapter 18 deals with Babylon as a political and commercial system. They are two faces of the same coin that operate independently of and in opposition to the true God.
(Includes What Was The Significance of the Tower of Babel?)
Part V... The Millennium, Heaven and Hell
NOTE: The importance of the subjects of Heaven and Hell cannot possibly be over stated, since one or the other is the final, unalterable and eternal destination of every one of us.
Biblically, the millennium refers to a literal period of 1,000 years, mentioned six times in Revelation 20. It is the long-awaited period of peace and rest when Satan is constrained and Christ will rule from Jerusalem. The problem is that there are three views as to when the period will come about... before or after Christ returns. The third view is that we are currently living in the millennial period. Quite obviously, only one of the three views can possibly be correct.
What and Where is Hell?
The belief that Hell is a place of unending torment has been so strongly held throughout the history of Christianity that few have dared to challenge it. Any person who dares to question the traditional viewpoint runs the risk of being labeled a cultist. However, the deeper one delves into the subject the less persuasive the argument in favor of the traditional view become.
For eternal punishment in an unending hell to be true means that everyone has eternal life; it is only a matter of where each will spend it. Yet, in innumerable passages, the Bible clearly states that eternal life is a result of redemption. ( "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.) In order to believe in the traditional view of hell, one has to play word games, i.e take the word "death" to mean eternal life in hell, and the word "perish" to mean "never perish". Also note that in Matthew 19:16 the man who approached Jesus asked what he had to do to get eternal life, not what he had to do to ensure he spent it in a good place.
However, it is totally pointless to embark on a investigation unless one is prepared to set aside one's denominational presuppositions, and other biases, and rely strictly on what the Word says. This seems to be easier said than done for many, if not most, Christians.
What And Where is Heaven
Christians who believe they will spend an eternity in "heaven", seem to have little or no idea where this heaven is, what it will look like, or what they will do there. Either they have vague, half formed ideas about some ethereal place 'out there' or resort to pious phrases that amount to little more than spiritual gobbledy gook. If this is the best we can do then it is little wonder that non Christians are not in the slightest bit interested in our "heaven", and Christians themselves so rarely seem to look forward to the coming of the kingdom of God. Luckily the Bible isn't at all silent on where "heaven" is and, even more importantly, what it will be like. In fact, the Bible's description of the coming kingdom is far, far, more practical than that of our theologians. Additionally, many Christians have the erroneous idea that since all our sins have been forgiven, our works cannot possibly be considered at some future time. Not true according to I Corinthians 3:9-13. Apparently there are those that will make it to heaven but have earned few, if any, additional rewards.