Recently I was asked to convey five great theological themes presented squarely in the Scriptures and to explain and display them in such a way that an ordinary person might exclaim, "hey, I understand that"!
The fifth of these great theological themes is 'End Times' as it conveys a most alarming idea. This is an idea that is contrary to everything that we would normally consider as a final outcome. This next sentence might shock many tried and true Christians, as End Times is not something one can touch or feel, rather it's a personal attitude.
The world's greatest of all theologians down through the centuries have grappled with the essence of 'End Times' and have recognised it as a personal attitude. Martin Luther realised it's full 'moment' when on one occasion he re-read Romans 1: 16-17 – "The Just shall live by faith". A light went on!
In theology, the words 'End Times' conveys an undisputed truth that there will come a time when all that we know will end. This is not only a theological theme as it is conveyed in the environmental debate as well, that if mankind does not carefully care for the earth and the husbandry of its produce "the end" will come more swiftly.
End Times coveys an ultimate conclusion, there is both life and death. "End Times" is central to Christian theology in taking God at His Word as revealed to us in the Scriptures for the "not yet" has a yearning in the heart of man. This is why I see End Times as a personal attitude.
What can be said is that one in twenty five verses in the New Testament have some engagement with End Times and associated themes, and therefore it should come as no surprise to anyone that this subject (Eschatology) would create some interest.
There are three essential philosophical themes within End Times.
The Scriptures are replete with a clear understanding that Jesus Christ will return. There will be a Second Coming of Jesus Christ. He rose from the dead and He is coming again.
Moreover, it should come as no surprise, that this is recognised only by the followers of Christ. In other words, the vast majority of the world's population is simply unaware that the Scriptures speak of this.
Next, not all followers of Christ are as conversant with the Scriptures as others. There has been a limited number of Bible lovers over the centuries who have carefully studied the 'like' passages of End Times who have tried to bring some resolution to the subject.
Then, as these passionate 'End Times' Bible lovers have put their energies into this quest, there have emerged two very broad schools of thought, and like most things of this nature, there are variations in each broad school.
One of these two broad schools demonstrate a philosophy of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ that says, there will be a decisive time when history as we know will come to and end. It is instantaneously precipitated by the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Like in the movies – The End.
The other broad school demonstrates a philosophy that witnesses the end of the Church Age which leads into a final time period taking into account Scriptures that speak of 'one taken, another left', of such 'tribulation' the world has never thought possible, an 'Armageddon', armies of 'two hundred million', blood up to the 'horses bridle', and much more besides.
In other words, the first group takes a view that the Bible's descriptiveness of the End Times necessarily needs to be apocalyptic in order to even begin to fathom the unfathomable.
The second group take a view that the Bible wasn't written so no one could understand it, rather the very basis of the Reformation was that ordinary men and women could read and understand it. Moreover, End Times takes such centre stage in the New Testament, any obscurity on such matters seems ludicrous.
So, can there be a case for 'agreeing to disagree' on End Times or is there something more, some other ingredient, that might be taken into consideration.
A central focus of Jesus' teaching was the Kingdom of God. The central focus of the Apostle Paul's and the Epistles teaching was the theology of the Cross, which helps us understand that becoming followers of Jesus is a life saving decision.
In other words, Evangelism is a central focus. In my life time, where a descriptive expression of the End Times is lucid and passionate, what follows is an unmistakable desire for men and women to philosophically fall at the foot of the Cross and become followers of Jesus.
In other words, when End Times is preached in such manner, the Holy Spirit strangely prompts the hearts of the hearers. I have been a witness to this over my 63 years, as have innumerable others.
When End Times is preached in a clear and descriptive manner, so the Holy Spirit somehow is able to minister within many of the lives of the hearers. To this, I am a testimony and an eye witness.
This is why I say that End Times is also painstakingly a personal attitude. Grace, Faith, Relationship, Justice and now End Times are all painstakingly personal attitudes for it is our heart that speaks and it is our heart that the Lord sees.
Making a decision to follow Jesus is very much a personal attitude. Putting it to one side (rejecting it) is likewise a personal attitude. The good news for me, is that I'm rejoicing as are many millions today, and many more millions whose lives have been lived, all of whom follow Jesus.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html