The man leaned in towards me, cupped his hand beside his mouth and whispered, “The time of end of the world is… tomorrow at 12 noon”.
Almost four decades ago I led a fellowship group for our local church and had been persuaded to invite a guru on the end-times to come and address us. He spent an hour or so taking us through the book of Revelation as though it were a prophetic calendar, but he also focused a lot on the book of Daniel. By the end of his talk he had plastered three walls with charts and diagrams and then he finished with the words, “I know when the end is coming but I shouldn’t say.” The evening ended with tea and cake and it was then that I sidled up to him and asked him to tell me his big secret, you know, man to man and leader to leader. That is when he made his startling behind-the-hand disclosure.
I can’t remember the poor man’s name but he was not the first to make claims about the End of Days, and he won’t be the last. One of the more recent and colourful ‘prophets’ of our day was Harold Camping. He predicted the end, was proved wrong when his date came and went, and then predicted another date… and then another…. and then he died.
What embarrassment and trouble could be avoided if we just followed Jesus’ example. His disciples asked him when he would return and when the end of the world would come. He replied with these words: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36). So there you have it from the master’s lips.
Despite Jesus’ admonitions not to be deceived (Matthew 24:4), many commentators insist on treating the book of Revelation like a cosmic clock or giant calendar, and Revelation 10:6-7 is one of their favourite texts: it reads, “There will be no more delay! But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”
It would take more space than I have in this series of posts, and probably more patience than you have, to explain the linguistic and contextual subtleties of this text. G.K.Beal’s monumental, and excellent, commentary contains a 11 page analysis of these two verses. So, I will just blunder in and state what I believe it means in a few simple sentences.
I paraphrase the angel’s declaration as: ‘There will be no delay between when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet and the accomplishment of God’s prophetically announced mystery.’ In other words, when all is ready, then it will happen very quickly.
The seventh, and therefore final, trumpet is a theme which Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed”. In 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 he amplifies this statement with: “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage each other with these words”.
Jesus is coming again to judge all of humanity, to destroy the current evil world system, and to create a new composite Heaven and Earth (HeavenEarth) where He will live forever with his disciples. So, let me encourage you with this – We, His followers, will not be subject to his judgmental punishment, but, like every generation of Christians before us, we will live through tribulation and refinement in our lives on earth. When He comes to judge and recreate, then all those believers who have previously died will accompany Him and be given resurrection bodies. Those who are still alive on earth will rise to meet him and will also be given resurrection bodies. Resurrection bodies are material but not physical as we know it.
Our new bodies will be like Jesus’ when he rose from the grave and we will live with him in this state, together with all believers of all generations, on the recreated planet which I choose to call HeavenEarth.
Now that is encouraging! So, don’t worry about the date when all this will happen, but rather, heed Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:44: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him”.