MESSAGE FOR THE LAST DAYS – INTRODUCTION
Readers of any long, difficult book will know the temptation to skip to the last pages to find out what happens in the end. But there is no satisfaction in taking such a shortcut. The sum of the narrative ebbs and flows provide the conclusion its power and meaning. For readers of the Bible, the book of Revelation has a similar allure: How does it all end anyway? But the same principle applies: Revelation is the last book of the Bible we should study. Without a foundational understanding of the gospel message, we won’t be able to understand the last days and Apocalyptic prophecies.
Prior to a deep study of Revelation, it is best to read other related end-time passages from Genesis to Jude and study the series of covenants God made with his people. The covenants provide crucial background information for events yet to occur. We also need to understand this key biblical concept: the physical realm we observe on earth and the heavenly realm are on separate planes, bridged only by the spiritual realm. Good biblical scholarship therefore requires us to discern whether a given passage refers to the physical (visible, earthly) realm, the heavenly (unseen) realm, or the spiritual realm (the link between the seen and unseen).
Given the modern appetite for this topic, I expect you have already encountered many of the competing schools of thought on end-time prophecies and events. You may be familiar with terms such as premillennial and amillennial, or understand the differences between pre-tribulation, post-tribulation, or pre-wrath rapture. If not, I will provide definitions as appropriate, but this book is not meant to be an exhaustive primer on competing viewpoints. Certainly there are plenty of good books and websites that dig into each of these perspectives. I do assume that you share a belief that God created the world (focusing here on intelligent design rather than method) and that God continues to be active in our lives. Other readers are welcome, but be warned that if you disagree here, you’ll likely be at odds with the rest of my conclusions.
I aim to show in these pages how the gospel is integral within end-time events. Some Christians shrug off the Bible’s prophetic passages altogether, figuring that if we’re saved, why bother thinking about these complexities? But the strongest gospel message we can help deliver is the complete gospel that culminates with the last days.
These articles are based upon the book – The Message for the Last Days. They compare literal interpretations of the Bible to figurative interpretations to show how each affects our belief system—and how preconceived belief systems affect our interpretations.
Our goal should be to set aside our preconceptions and objectively interpret Bible passages related to end times—even if the passage uses figurative language. Figurative language, after all, can be used to describe an event that literally occurred. Christ’s first advent, for instance, was the literal fulfillment of prophecies that included figurative language. The prophetic metaphors and visions ultimately corresponded to physical outcomes on earth that humans could observe.
Shouldn’t it follow that Jesus’ second coming would also be a literal event foretold by figurative end-time prophecies?
Not according to many popular end-time beliefs. Although such adherents believe that prophecies about the first advent were literally fulfilled, they do not believe in the literal fulfillment of the remaining second-advent prophecies. I suspect that many people who hold such beliefs are not consciously aware of the inconsistency. So I urge you as you read this book to deliberately examine the basis for your own end-time beliefs. See what holds up under scrutiny.
The gospel in the Bible is a message of redemption and resurrection—not merely a path to spiritual enlightenment. If you don’t believe Jesus lived, died, and was physically resurrected, you probably won’t like the literal treatment of biblical prophecies presented. However, if you believe Jesus walked the earth, died, and was bodily resurrected, and if you believe the Bible contains prophecies that correspond to end-time events, then you should read on.
The book was written for you whether you are a dispensationalist, a preterist, an amillennialist, a post- or pre-millennialist, whether you’re into replacement theology or covenant theology. I don’t ask you to approach this book from one specific ist or ism—only that you open yourself to the possibility that there is a common, objective ground of interpretation for the gospel in relation to end-times. You may encounter challenges in these pages to long-held beliefs. Should this happen, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth about his Word. Whether he leads you out of old misconceptions or into renewed conviction, praise God and rejoice in his truth.
These article focus on the continual unveiling of God’s unified plan to redeem mankind. According to God’s plan, he saves all people the same way, no matter what period of history they live in. A common thread weaves throughout the old covenants and into the new covenant, whereby we see how God’s Word ties everything together into the same gospel message for all people throughout history.
There is no fundamental difference in how someone gets “saved” in the Old Testament versus the New Testament: the Holy Spirit produces faith within a person who in turn believes in God for eternal life. We in our modern lives rely on the same faith that saved those who lived thousands of years before Christ. The timing of Christ’s first advent did not change how God implements salvation for everyone. As God says in Malachi 3:6, “For I the Lord do not change.”[footnote]See also Hebrews 6:17 and James 1:17.[/footnote]
Both the Old and New Testaments repeatedly use language that says God “pours out his Spirit.” The same God that poured his Spirit upon the Old Testament saints now reveals himself to us:
“If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.”
“God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
“[God] has also put his seal on us and put his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
—2 Corinthians 1:22
The passage in Joel 2:28 is repeated in Acts 2:17: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”
God used the same plan for salvation then as He does today. Whether a person lived on earth before or after the death and resurrection of Christ makes no difference. All people throughout history are saved through faith in the grace of the promises made all the way back in Genesis 3:15 and onward throughout Scripture.
“Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,
‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’”
—Romans 9:31–33[footnote]What about people who have never heard this gospel based upon faith in the promises of God? Read Romans 1, 2, and 10 for a further exploration of that topic.[/footnote]
What is faith? It is a bridge in one sense of the term. It connects the grace given to us by the Spirit with our reliance upon this gift. Faith begins to form when we receive God’s grace, then is completed when we act in obedience to God. Faith is a bridge from grace given to living by this gift. And in faith we await God’s final installment of his promise to us—the second coming of his Son to our world.
The author takes no credit at all for anything found to be correct in the book or these articles. Any truth is rooted in the biblical passages alone. This author takes full responsibility for any error of interpretation or commentary.
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