The Expository Files

Terror Fuels End Time Speculations

I do not know if it is so or not, but if I were going to rate verses of Scripture according to how much they are ignored by religious commentators, writers and speculators, right up there among those at the top of the list would be the first three verses of the Book of Revelation.

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near." (Revelation 1:1-3).

Twice in these three verses the book says that its message has to do with things that were about to occur back in the first century at the time it was written. It says it plainly ("things which must shortly take place"), then repeats in different words just as plainly ("or the time is near"), and does this right at the beginning so people will be helped to understand its message as the read the rest of the book.

And then, there are events in modern times which occur that can be made to fit some of the symbols of the book, and religious speculators march out these symbols suggesting that his book was talking about historical events in our generation. But to do this, these first three verses have to go, or at least be ignored.

The Book of Revelation essentially deals with how Christians can endure devastation by faith and win the eternal victory in Christ Jesus. While these lessons are needed and valuable in any period where there is suffering and upheaval, they are specifically about events early in the gospel age.

Predictions that "the end is near" have come and gone for centuries. All these predictions have had at least one thing in common. Every single last one of them have been wrong. Doomsday soothsayers have been proven false again and again, and now we have witnessed another tragedy, the effects of which are being felt world wide and will continue so for some time, and fresh apocalyptic scenarios are popping up like weeds in a neglected garden.

One preacher, a Texan named John Hagee said, "You can hear the Four Horsemen riding to Armageddon " referring to the 9-11 terrorists attacks as the beginning of that final conflagration. Of course, he never does explain why these four horsemen (of Revelation chapter six) have such slow horses. The Book of Revelation announced that these things would "shortly take place" back in the first century. Mr. Hagee needs to learn that the fact is those four horsemen have already galloped onto the scene and back off again a long, long time ago.

Hal Lindsey has been announcing and re-announcing that the world was ending ever since I was a teenager (and that was also a long time ago). He wrote, "The Battle of America has begun!" and "So be it!" He commented, "I saw without any happiness at all the reality that it has begun. The decline of the Untied States has begun."

Many people are so geared to these sorts of speculations that it never seems to matter when they fail, time after time. They simply look to the horizon for some new "sign" to take the place of the failed one, and start all over again. I once had a friend who was just certain that the end was near. He felt the Book of Revelation, when its symbols are interpreted correctly, predicted that the Soviet Union and the Eastern communist block was going to invade Western Europe. When the Iron Curtain fell and communism was defeated, he simply threw away his old speculation and adopted that new event as a sign that the end was near, and merely reinterpreted the same symbols differently. Anyway, we simply do not know when the end will be. I don't, these speculators don't, but God does. "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming." (Matthew 24:42). "Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night." (1 Thessalonians 5:1,2; see also Acts 17:30-32). He tells us to be ready. We can do that!

By Jon W. Quinn
The Front Page
From Expository Files 8.12; December 2001