Why Modern End-Times Teaching is Misguided
A Bible Study on 1 Thessalonians automatically puts us in the realm of New Testament eschatology due to Paul’s treatment of the Second Coming of Christ (1 Thess 4:13-5:11).
Eschatology is simply the study of the end-times and all that it entails (Christ’s second coming, end of the world, judgment, new heavens and new earth, etc.).
A popular presentation of New Testament eschatology would be the best selling series of Left Behind books.
It is my hope that sometime in the future (no pun intended!), I will be able to complete a more in-depth study of biblical prophecy and the end-times here at Bible Study Blueprint.
This material should serve as a supplement to our 1 Thessalonians Bible Study and as an interesting study all on its own.
In the meantime, however, I did want to share an insight that is prompted by our study of 1 Thessalonians thus far.
Paul’s Use of End-Times Teaching
You will have noticed in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:11 that Paul’s use of end-time theology and teaching has a very pastoral quality to it.
Both times, after a lengthy discussion of Christ’s second coming and the scant knowledge we will have of this event, he emphatically states: “comfort one another”, “encourage one another” and “build one another up” with these words.
In other words, for the Apostle Paul, who thought quite a bit about Christ’s second coming (virtually all of his letters contain some direct or indirect reference to it), he never really spends any time in speculation, silly predictions, prophetic timelines or in seeking to understand the “signs” of the times.
Know one knows the hour or time he states emphatically on more than one occasion, a message repeated by none other than Christ himself in the gospels.
But you would be hard pressed to find a similar usage of eschatology (or a humble admission of ignorance of the prophetic timeline) by modern day preachers and prophets.
Quite the contrary, what you find is an endless parade of end-of-the-world predictions, prophecy camps and speculations that purportedly coincide with world events.
The Nature of New Testament Eschatology
It is a curious thing that the nature of New Testament eschatology (teaching having to do with the end-times) has more to do with present actions than it does about future events.
For example, if we listen to the message of the Book of Revelation (often a favorite target of wrong and silly predictions), even amidst its strange symbols and cosmic events, what we find is a call for Christians to maintain a strong and faithful witness TODAY despite the beastly forces that array themselves against God and his people.
The primary message that comes through again and again in New Testament eschatology has to do with the present: be alert, stay awake, comfort one another, encourage one another, avoid immorality, work responsibly, work for the Lord, take care of other people, etc.
Matthew 25 as a Test Case
We can see many of these messages quite clearly in Matthew 25, yet another apocalyptic section: Here we find several vignettes: The parable of the ten virgins, the parable of the talents, and the sheep and the goats.
The parable of the ten virgins is a call to alertness (like in 1 Thessalonians), the parable of the talents is a call to use what God gave to you IN THIS LIFE, and the parable of the sheep and the goats states that entry into eternal life has to do with visiting prisoners, clothing the naked and feeding the hungry. (Yikes! Under this scenario we all might be trouble.)
The whole chapter is about the end-times, but its concerns once again have moral and ethical implications for the HERE and NOW.
So what is my advice? Avoid the endless speculations, chart chasers and doomsday scenarios.
Do not worry about the future. Live a radical life for Christ today! Live it to the fullest, with passion, with compassion and in a state of expectancy and readiness.
Besides, when Christ really comes for his people, you’ll be one of the first to know (if you are dead) or you’ll catch up to the rest in the twinkling of an eye. So why worry! 🙂