“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
- 1 Thessalonians 4:18
This past January, we began a march through the Bible. This midweek biblical theology centred on the Prophets and the End of the Age. Yesterday, that study drew to a conclusion as we closed out the book of Revelation. As we continue to digest the big picture, and the discoveries and/or reminders about God’s faithfulness to His promises, Christ’s Return and Second Coming, and the Spirit’s strength and protection of His elect. There is a lot there. Yet, there are lessons that we learned along the way as well. These takeaways, it turns out, are just as important as the details, facts, and timelines of the End of the Age. Let’s take a moment now, at the conclusion of our study this year, to consider the lessons we have learned:
God is sovereign. Over every single detail. Through the prophet Isaiah, Yahweh promised that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Through the apostle Matthew, we see that exact fulfillment (Matthew 1:22-23). Also, through Isaiah, we can gloss over fine details such as the Lamb’s silence in slaughter, who “opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). The New Testament confirms how precise this prophecy is, as it describes Jesus’ silence before his accusers (Luke 23:6-9; John 19:8-9), with apostolic confirmation (1 Peter 2:23). God’s Word through the prophets foretold such intricate details, from the Messiah’s birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; c.f. Matthew 2:6) right down to His festal, humble entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9; c.f. Mark 11:1-11).
Accordingly, the Prophets foretold the Coming of Messiah not just once, to suffer and die, but also His coming to rule and reign. Through Zechariah, we are told Messiah will come again physically with feet planted on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4); after that, we further learn he will be king over the whole earth (v.9). Through Ezekiel, we learn that Israel will return to their land (Ezekiel 36), the Jewish remnant will receive the regenerating breath of life (Ezekiel 37), and that there will be one final, coming invasion of Israel before the final restoration (Ezekiel 38 & 39). When we read those promises repeated in the New Testament (Matthew 23:37-39; Revelation 7:1-8, 20:7-8, 21:1-2), we thus are not surprised, but confidently expect fulfillment just “as he said” (Matthew 28:6). Yes, details matter.
While we can have confidence that the Lord will fulfill His promises just as foretold, there are other details that simply God has not revealed to us. Of course, this goes further than the return date of Christ being unknown (Matthew 24:36). We would like to know more about Antichrist’s pact with Israel (Daniel 9:27), a firm confirmation on the identity of “he who now restrains” (2 Thessalonians 2:7) or the “two witnesses” (Revelation 11:1-3), and of course anything more on “the number of the beast” (Revelation 13:18) would scratch a major itch. God, however, gives us nothing more than the mere mentions that His Word contains. Humbly, we must admit that we cannot know more than that with any certainty.
This lesson in humility also extends to include what we do think we do know for certain. We may believe we have a good sense on the resurrection order of the saints, or the timing of the Rapture, but humility beckons us to pause, consider other positions, and prayerfully hold our beliefs loosely. Even more, when we get into prophecies such as the Seventy Weeks in Daniel 9:24-27 or the book of Revelation, we recognize that we must tread carefully and be forthright that we cannot possibly hold our views so tightly. The various perspectives of the saints in church history, as well as the myriad of angles in the church today, only confirm that reality. Yes, humility is required.
Just as hope sprung from the dark clouds of judgment in the Prophets, so too does hope spring from the darkness that envelopes us today. And the darkness today, like the judgment of old, was also foretold (1 Timothy 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:1-9). It is not the end of the end of the age yet, but it certainly can feel like it. Yet, as the message of hope from the ancient prophets must have shone brightly to the faithful in Israel, so too must the prophecies whose fulfillment awaits shine brightly to the Church today. Look up weary saint, and consider what is on the horizon in these dark times: A righteous government and Ruler, One who governs with true justice, not lies and deception (Isaiah 11:1-5); an imperishable, glorious, resurrected body, not subject to disease and decay (1 Corinthians 15:42-49); and, of course, the end of mourning, crying, pain, sin, and death (Revelation 21:4). Oh, downcast soul, what a lesson: All of that, along with the return of Christ, awaits us! Yes, hope endures.
Westmount saints, there is one last lesson we must take with us as we lay to rest our study of the end of the age this year. And it is this: Your faith is not in vain. You are waiting, expecting, longing, and all of that yearning has a terminus. Soon, that faith will turn to sight. Soon, this end times cry of Israel will be echoed by you as well:
“It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’” (Isaiah 25:9)
Christian, wait for Him. And, as you wait for Him, labour for Him (1 Corinthians 16:58). And, as you labour for Him, be found faithful (Matthew 25:21).
For the time is near (Revelation 1:3).