December 2, 2020

Are We in the Last Days?

Question: Are we in the last days?

You may have noticed, as I have, an uptick of interest in the subject of the last days recently, especially with the uncertainty of the pandemic and the election. These seem like strange days indeed.  

So what I would like to do is explore this question in three parts: when do the last days begin, what, based on this, is the meaning of the last days, and, lastly, how we are to live in the last days. 

When do the last days begin? 

Now if you study the New Testament a clear answer emerges, although it is one we may not expect. 

The first mention of the phrase, the last days, is in Acts 2, the day of Pentecost, 50 days after the crucifixion.  

 14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 

17 “‘In the last days, God says, 
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people. 
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, 
    your young men will see visions, 
    your old men will dream dreams. 

This is interesting. Peter takes the prophecy about the last days in the Old Testament book of Joel and says it is being fulfilled right now, at Pentecost. He is rather clearly stating that the last days have already begun. 

When we come to the letters Peter wrote, about 60-64 A.D., we read 

1 Peter 1:20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.  

So again, the emphasis is on the fact that the present readers of his letter, in 65 A.D. were already in the last days. 

One more verse from the pen of Peter about this comes in his second epistle: 

2 Peter 3: 

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking…. 

3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 

Now, does he mean that the scoffers will come at some time 2000 or 3000 years after his readers receive this? Or does he mean that one of the marks of the last age is false teaching and scoffing, which is already among you?  

Well, the latter. First, because he has already stated both at Pentecost and his first letter that the last days are already here. Second, he wants his readers in the first century to use these things to help their own “wholesome thinking”. And third, because the book of James and Jude, which carry many of the same themes as Peter’s letters, are quite definitive: the last days are already here in the first century.

Jude 1 

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 

So Jude, writing to people just a few years later than Peter, perhaps 75 AD, echoes the same theme about scoffers and says these ARE the people who divide you. 

What does James say about the last days? Well, in chapter 5 he warns the rich people who have piled up wealth: 

Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 

So, Acts and the letters of Peter, James and Jude all agree the last days have already begun in the first century. 

Let’s see what the book of Hebrews has to say. There are two verses which, while not using the exact same terminology, talk about the same idea: 

Hebrews 1 

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.  

Hebrews 9 

Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 

So the author of Hebrews also viewed the last days as having started with the first coming of Christ, and, in particular, the cross of Christ. 

What about the apostle John?

1 John 2:18  

Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 

Again, different terminology, but same idea: we are already, in the first century, in the last hour. 

Okay, one more NT writer: Paul. 

1 Timothy  

4 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. 

6 If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.  

Okay, does he mean that at some future time thousands of years in the future these teachers will teach these things? Or in his present, in the first century? Well, he wants Timothy to teach his congregation to be wary of these teachers, so it seems like Paul is on the same page as the other NT writers. But if there were any doubt, his words in 2 Timothy remove it. 

2 Timothy 3  

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 

That last command is, of course, written originally to Christians in the first century.

One more passage from Paul: 

“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Cor. 10:11) 

This is every occurrence in the New Testament of the phrase, the last days, the last hours, the culmination of the ages. They make clear to us that the last days do not begin at some point in our future, but in our past. 

So, we are living in the last days. And have been for almost 2,000 years now. 

That brings us to the second question: What does the phrase, “the last days” actually mean? Because we have seen it may mean something different that we have understood before. 

Well, remember that God does not operate or define things by a human calendar. We are told that “a day with the Lord is like a thousand years to us” and this means at least that we cannot interpret the ideas of “days” “years” or “times” in simply calendar terms. 

Here is the key idea: God’s calendar is about the meaning of events, not the measurement of time between events. 

So what is the meaning of “the last days”? 

First, it is the in-between time. In between what? In between the first and second coming of Jesus our Lord. He did not reveal this (except in hints) to the saints of the Old Testament, but the coming of the Messiah would come in two parts, or two stages. First, God Himself would take on human flesh, become the God-man, and, in that role, serve as the bridge, the mediator between God and man, not only by uniting God and man in Himself, but also in that role giving of himself to death for our sins. This allows us to come near to God, to become this new humanity that will rule with him over a redeemed and perfected earth.  

But the number of that new humanity is not full; Peter reminds us not to get impatient waiting for the second coming, because delay means more people are brought into the family of God, this new humanity.  

But there will be a day when Christ returns, not only bringing salvation, but also judgment, purification and the renewal of all things.  

The last days are the years (and only God knows how many) between the cross and the crown, between the first and second comings. 

Second, this is the overlap time, the time when the kingdom of Heaven has begun, but lives in tandem and tension with the kingdom of this world, which the new testament says is also the kingdom of Satan (Luke 4:5-6, Matt. 12:25-2, John12:31,  2 Cor.4:4, Eph.2:2)

Therefore, it is a time where our loyalty is continually tested: are we going to live in line with the values and ways of the coming kingdom…or the passing one? Each possibility is open to us.

Last, the last days are also the now-and-not yet time. Jesus has come. But not fully in His power. We are saved. But not yet changed. Creation itself has received the seed of the redemption and perfection to come. But not yet the harvest. 

This is why the primary picture or metaphor that the New Testament uses to describe the state of the last days is of a pregnant woman. Both Jesus and Paul use this metaphor of pregnancy, labor and birth.  

Why? Because while a woman is pregnant she is living in the in-between, the now and not yet. She is NOT like she was a year earlier; she feels the new life grow and move within her. But she is not yet living as a mother (holding and nurturing and seeing her child).  

Say she comes to church on mother’s day at the mid-point of her pregnancy and the pastor asks all the mothers to stand up. She may be the only woman in the church that does not know whether to stand or sit. Is she a mother? Yes and no. She must live with that tension. 

More, she must live with that expectation. In biblical usage, she lives with the hope. Hope in the bible is not a wish that may or may not come true; It is something that will happen, but we do not experience it yet. We long for it and live in light of it. This is why the second coming is called, “the blessed hope”. 

So the last days are when we still live in the Old Kingdom, but in hope of the new Kingdom of God, that is both here and not here, as a pregnant woman is both a mother and not yet a mother.  

Finally, how are we to live in the last days? We live between the cross and the crown, we live in the now and not yet, in the overlap of the old kingdom that is passing away and the new kingdom that is eternal but not fully here yet. 

How do the NT writers who talk about the last days advise us to LIVE in these last days? 

In one sentence, it would be this: Let the coming reality, not the passing reality, determine our treasure, our choices, our influences, and our fears. Or more simply: we are to live as sojourners.

 A sojourner is someone who lives in a land that is not their true home, and in which they do not have citizenship. Hebrews 11 develops this theme, but 1 Peter does also.

1 Peter 1

13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 

Be holy, because He is Holy. Holiness is not conformity to a set of rules or religious rituals. It is becoming like a person. A person whom we will someday meet, and whose Kingdom we will, by grace, share.

A person who has given everything to make that happen.

So, yes, we are living in the last days. But our call is not to figure out chronology of the last days. Our call is to embrace the tension of living in the last days, letting our future hope change our present thoughts, words and ways.

Comments

  1. Good post, but enough ‘tension’ already these days. people are exhausted emotionally it seems.

  2. Excellent post. Thoughts that would preempt all End Times prognostication, except that End Times prognostication sells lot of books and other product.

    • end times is good for bu$ine$$

      • And business for many Christians seems to be the bottom line. But Jesus was not a good businessman, nor does being his disciple involve becoming a good at satisfying the bottom line.

      • Yep. Every time somebody sneezes in the Middle East the ‘prophetic teachers’ start another book and begin spending their advances. I have a small collection of books containing failed predictions about the end times. People just keep buying the books, even though they have a 100% failure rate thus far.

  3. senecagriggs says

    I look forward to the “imminent return” of the King Jesus.

  4. Daniel, you’re a flaming Preterist… ;o)

  5. Excellent post, should be required reading before any study “end times” Bible study.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Or have a Jesuit teach Revelation.
      The first hour will be familiarization with the Apocalyptic genre and the literary conventions of the genre and time.

      Put a crack in the Hal Lindsay/Jack Chick conditioned response of Rapture Ready Terror, but didn’t counter it completely.

      • David Greene says

        I just tell ’em to look at Deuteronomy 7:9, God is faithful to a thousand generations. So we will be here at least 20 to 40 thousand years after Moses. There is a long way to go before the end. If they object I tell ’em they must not believe the Bible then.

      • Headless,
        the Jesuits teach from the deep waters and the traditions of ancient Church, and fundamentalists seem to me more like ‘modernists’ or like the ‘neo’ Calvinists whose ‘God of Wrath’ hates all the same people they do (paraphrasing Anne Lamott).

        Not sure the folks who fell for the likes of Hal Lindsay/Jack Chick can fathom Jesuit teaching. The tradition is so very different and the Jesuit ways of teaching don’t play. 🙂 Does it help to send the fundamentalists to the Jesuits ? I mean, it’s not a matter of ‘smarts’ so much as the lack of ancient Church roots in modern fundamentalism.

        Fundamentalism lends itself to a certain ‘world view’ with its isolating exclusivism and literalism that is applied willy-nilly only where it ‘makes sense’ to what they already are believing. Fundamentalism is NOT going to ‘get’ Jesuit teaching easily OR having grasped it, comprehend it with a ‘long view’.

        Love the Jesuits, don’t get me wrong. But if we are wanting folks to ‘understand’ one another, there is a huge ‘language barrier’ and ‘time warp’ that gets in the way in my opinion.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Remember, I’m a casualty of The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay and Jack Chick.

          To me, “Last Days” will always mean Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Antichrist (any minute now… any minute now… any minute now…)

        • Christiane, whether they like it or not every serious Christian should have at least one year of religious training by Jesuits. That might help to cut down on some of the Evangelical bull shit.

  6. To paraphrase scripture, these 2000 years are akin to a head scratch or a quick glance over the shoulder to the Lord. Clearing His throat or starting His car. The language of scripture is not common parlance. Those were and these are the last times. If you want to look at it from a temporal perspective, what timeline are we looking at? From the Big Bang? In light of that these 2000 years are virtually the same nanosecond. As Tom said above, we live observing His “immanent reality” and leave the calendar to Him.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      Or 2,000 years is roughly twice as long in total as the nation of Israel has existed, on and off, through history.

  7. I am finding it more and more amusing that I hear people speak about what God is trying to teach us as the pandemic relentlessly moves across the world and gun toting gangs (sometimes called militias) roam the streets. It’s always due to abortion or same sex marriage or something similar; never racism or sexism or an economy that favors the wealthy.
    End times on our terms or, as someone mentioned above, a money making proposition.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I am a casualty of The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay.
    AKA The Ultimate Escape Fantasy followed by The Ultimate Revenge Fantasy.
    (any minute now… any minute now… any minute now…)
    I can no longer hear the words “End Times” without nausea.
    Same with the word “Scripture”.

  9. There are many reasons why I will dearly miss Internet Monk.
    Posts like this rise to the top of that august list.

  10. Burro (Mule) says

    Orthodoxy is not immune to speculation on these matters. If you go sniffing around the edges of the Orthoweb, you can find prophecies; spurious or genuine, about the restoration of the Christian Empire, the return of Constantinople to Greek hands, the Antichrist (supposedly a Jew already alive).

    It’s an interesting study in contrasts. The Evangelical concerns are about the prevalence of unauthorized sex or witchcraft, whereas the Orthodox concerns are mostly about the Pope (and by extension Catholics), the Jews, the Turks (or Muslims in general).

    • Burro! I had completely forgotten to thank you. After you mentioned ‘Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future’ a while back I ordered a copy, being interested in such things. As you say I was under the impression that only Evangelicals speculated along these lines and it was heartening to be proven wrong. The introduction alone is worth the price of the book and it was all delightfully frenzied.

      You seem to say that within the Orthodox community itself this approach is still somewhat fringe but I do get the impression that Father Rose’s work is very influential in Eastern Europe and in Russia.

      This all makes me wonder about “mainstream” Orthodox eschatology. On Amazon I see a slew of books on the subject by various Archimandrites and Hieromonks but where to begin?

      • Burro (Mule) says

        The Orthodox world is still in the process of ‘digesting’ Father Seraphim. The consensus is that he is ‘solid but problematic’.

        ‘Mainstream’ Orthodox eschatology really isn’t. The Apocalypse isn’t read in church, although it is canonical. We’re not encouraged to engage in speculation on this topic, but as you can see, the urge is too strong for everyone to resist.

        There is also Catholic or Islamic eschatology.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          There is also Catholic or Islamic eschatology.

          And both have their flake fringe.

          Problem is, with Evangelicals (and to a lesser extent with Islam) the flake fringe is running the show.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Sometime around 2007-2008 I printed off a fringe Catholic End-of-the-World prediction I ran into on the Internet. It began with Hillary Clinton being elected POTUS in 2008 and immediately overturning Roe v Wade by Executive Order, and the ride got wilder from there.

            Here’s a summary of the major points:

            The Seven-year Great Tribulation is there (in pretty much the same order as Evangelicals) but it is NOT a continuous seven years. More like this checklist event happens, then there’s an indefinite length of time, than that checklist event happens, then there’s another indefinite interval, then the next checklist event happens, all spread out over an indefinite period (maybe a couple centuries) but totaling seven years. And I think it’s called “The Chastisement” instead of “The Tribulation”. Apparently after each checklist event (seal, angel. bowl. plague, scroll, trumpet), God steps back and waits for a harvest of repentant converts.

            The rise of the Antichrist is matched and paralleled by that of some sort of Great Christian King who fights Old 666 to either a standstill or every step of the way. Sort of an Anti-Antichrist.

            There’s a nuclear war somewhere in the choreography, but I don’t remember where.

            The next event on the checklist (like The Rapture to Evangelicals) is something called “The Three Dark Days”, with details presumably from a Private Revelation vision. Goes something like this:

            Three days of supernatural darkness descend on the world, and all the demons are let out of Hell to rampage and kill. (“Eat all the Protestants”, as my writing partner describes it.) All who even look outside will be struck dead; all caught outside “will die as martyrs” (no explanation given). For these three days, only “blessed wax candles” will give light; only “grapes soaked in Holy Water” will give nourishment, and :”all shall see their sins as God sees them” (which is apparently pretty bad). After three days, the darkness will lift on a devastated world; all the survivors will become Catholic and have about fifty kids per couple, all of whom will become Priests and Monks and Nuns. And when the memory of the Three Dark Days fades, apostasy will set in as the prelude to the next checklist event.

            Some of my SIL’s family are really into this (and they’re not even Catholic, they’re Assyrians from Nineveh/Mosul), carrying around blessed wax candles and small jars of grapes in Holy Water everywhere they go.

            I am no stranger to The Bizarre, but this is BIZARRE.

        • LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the stories surround Father Seraphim who taught the monks, this:
          ‘acquire a peaceful spirit, and around you thousands will be saved’

          https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f9/Serafim_and_a_bear.jpg/400px-Serafim_and_a_bear.jpg

          St. Seraphim is much like an Orthodox St. Francis of Assisi with his love of animals and gentleness

    • Norma Cenva says

      I’ve often wondered why unauthorized sex is such a big deal in the fundagelical world.
      They seem to be obsessed with it.
      Often to the exclusion of other ‘sins’ which have real world, and immediate deleterious effects to human flourishing.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        I get tired of people complaining about sex.

        Like I said before, we tend to move in the direction our pelvises are pointing. 😉
        and, speaking for me, in my younger years at least, I could have cared less about power if power didn’t come with sexual privileges.

        Bullies, male and female, for example, tend to be more reproductively successful than the bullied.

        Of course, Gnostics don’t care about sex. They either don’t have it, or discount it as peripheral. and the Internet is definitely a Gnostic place.

        • .Bullies, male and female, for example, tend to be more reproductively successful than the bullied.

          Did you read that in Psychology Today?

          • Or maybe Cosmopolitan?

          • Burro (Mule) says

            Social science website. If it’s important to you, I can dig it up.

            • I’ve been searching for articles documenting that bullies have more success at producing offspring than other people, and I find nothing. I find some articles saying bullies are “sexier” and “more popular” and “get more dates” than others, but they are countered by articles that say those who are bullied are more successful in life. Dueling experts.

            • And I also read that bullies are themselves likely to be bullied, which if true would mean the distinction you make between those bullied and those who bully is erroneous.

              • the ‘Bully-in-Chief’ portends the God of Wrath in all his ‘gory’,

                so instead of the basic religious follower of trumpism being repulsed by trump,
                the follower is enthralled

                it doesn’t even matter that trump wouldn’t fight for his country and got five deferrals for ‘bone spurs’, or gave hush money to his mistresses, or called our dead troops ‘losers’, or creates chaos to hide his own shenanigans

                he bullies people, and they take that for ‘strength’

                go figure

                • The wounds we inflict on others tend to be shaped by the wounds we have received ourselves. That is the cycle of abuse, that is the cycle of bullying. The people you speak of have been wounded and have visited their wounds on others; the man they look to is similarly wounded and wounding.

                • It’s not Original Sin, but Original Wound.

        • The idea that Gnostics “don’t care about sex” is absurd. The reason they place so many religious restrictions around it is exactly because they do care about it so much; they just don’t care about it in the same way that you do.

        • –> “Bullies, male and female, for example, tend to be more reproductively successful than the bullied.”

          Sounds statistically unlikely to me. I mean, how often do two bullies pair up to produce, and wouldn’t that be what’s required to make this a fact? Otherwise, it’s a bully reproducing with a non-bully, making it 50-50.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I’ve often wondered why unauthorized sex is such a big deal in the fundagelical world.
        They seem to be obsessed with it.

        SEEM?
        Nymphomaniacs are less obsessed with sex than Christians.

        Especially if said sex is HOMO.
        Then the tunnel vision REALLY locks in hard.

  11. Burro (Mule) says

    Guess I can’t even post today. I’m not even going into moderation

  12. I’m pretty sure my “last days” will occur before His “last days.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Can’t remember who, where, or when, but somebody once described death as “Your Personal End of the World”.

      • That’s my philosophy exactly. Jesus might not reveal himself to the world by then, but I will get my own personal reveal.

        That’s what I tend to tell “last days” people anymore, that regardless of his decision to come or not any time soon, we will all get to see him soon enough on our own.

  13. Following on Mule’s comment, “the end times” is not a feature of any preaching or teaching I’ve ever heard as an Orthodox Christian. The literate people in Eastern Christianity have been able to read Scripture in Greek, which helps a lot – no translation filter to deal with, which is part of the problem for us. There are two different Greek words in play here, one being “eschaton” and the other some form of “telos”. The latter has to do with the fulfilling of the purpose of it all, and is certainly not tied to any particular time.

    If you read Fr Stephen Freeman’s blog – and I hope you do! – he discusses the “last days” and also the Judgment as beginning at the Cross of Christ. I think this is a much more fruitful and healthy way to think about living in this in-between time and the way to actually live in it that Daniel pointed out.

    Dana

  14. Trying to follow Jesus often seems daunting. It’s a lot more fun to speculate about how the Parousia will work, especially if one is making a tidy profit doing so. If things don’t work out the way you expected or said, you just try, try again, maybe sell a new book or come up with a new wrinkle on the old theory — sorta like QAnon.

  15. senecagriggs says

    “Question: “Can the return of Christ truly be said to be imminent?”

    Answer: The word imminent means “likely to happen at any moment; impending.” When we speak of the imminence of Christ’s return, we mean that He could come back at any moment. There is nothing more in biblical prophecy that needs to happen before Jesus comes again. The imminence of Christ’s return is generally taught among evangelicals, with some disagreement according to one’s view of dispensationalism and whether one holds a pre-, mid-, or post-tribulational view of the rapture.

    Jesus spoke of His return repeatedly during His ministry, which naturally prompted questions from His disciples. One of their questions was, “When will these things happen?” (Mark 13:4). Jesus responded, “Of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come” (verses 32-33). It is important to remember in any discussion of eschatology that God does not intend for us to fully understand the timing of His plans.

    However, the Bible says that Jesus’ return is near, and we are to wait eagerly for it (Romans 8:19-25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 4:5; Jude 21). James encourages us to “be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:8). Revelation 1:3 and 22:10 also say that “the time is near.”

    Jesus taught His disciples to watch for His return. “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Luke 12:40). The command to “be ready” implies imminence. Throughout the New Testament, the church is told to be ready (Philippians 3:20; Titus 2:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:6). If the disciples and the early church were to expect the coming of the Lord at any time, how much more should we be waiting in keen expectation?”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Because That Way Lies Madness.
      Like a virus infecting a cell, the “keen expectation” takes over everything leading to passivity and “acedia” — after all, “It’s All Gonna Burn, so Why Bother?”

      When The World Ends Tomorrow (at the latest) and It’s All Gonna Burn, don’t expect anyone to dare great things or make plans for the future, because there will be no future. Only the present, trying to keep their noses squeeky-clean and getting more people into the Rapture lifeboat.

      Before the Coming of Trump, American Evangelicals had signed everything-that-is over to The Antichrist and only awaited the airlfit out.

    • Our Lord returns at the most inconvenient times and places. He comes back to us as the prisoners, as the sick and dying, as the abused children, as the poor who have no way out of poverty, as those bereft of comfort, as the neglected old people, as the bum asking for money on the steps of the Church, filthy, smelling of soiled clothing and sweat, and yet there, on the steps of the holy building, waiting for you and asking for your help.

      I suspect when we recognize the Lord in these various guises and honor him with our kindness, then He will come back to us because then He may feel we are no longer capable of crucifying Him again.

      He taught us. We ignored Him. We point the finger, we judge, we are ‘holier than Thou’, and we wonder why He tarries? well, it’s only been two thousand years. We need a little more time to ‘recognize’ Him among those who reach out . . . . the ones we walk past. When we finally ‘get it’, then . . . .

      so the next time someone reaches out who is homeless on the street, look for the scars on their wrists . . . . you never know unless you take the time to look and to see and to recognize

    • I don’t have the time or inclination to address each and every citation made by Seneca. However, I will focus on one example, that from James 5:8. The key word is “parousía” which in our English translations is most often rendered as “coming”. This is accurate, but not technically accurate because it has been divorced in typical Western thinking from the cultural context of the word itself. That disconnect can even be seen in Strong’s definition;

      3952 parousía (from par?n, “be present, arrive to enter into a situation”) – properly, coming, especially the arrival of the owner who alone can deal with a situation (cf. LS). 3952 (parousía) is a “technical term with reference to the visit of a king or some other official, ‘a royal visit’ ” (Souter) – “hence, in the NT, specifically of the Advent or Parousia of Christ” (A-S).

      [3952 (parousía) is “used in the east as a technical expression for the royal visit of a king, or emperor. The word means literally ‘the being beside,’ thus, ‘the personal presence’ ” (K. Wuest, 3, Bypaths, 33).]

      Typical Evangelical eschatology assumes that the Christ is away off at a distance, and then at some point in time will ride onto the scene. That is a misperception, one that is not consistent even with the NT writers. Look at James 5:8-9, and I will use Darby’s translation as an example of decent translation as contrast to terrible eschatology;

      ” *Ye* also have patience: stablish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is drawn nigh. 9 Complain not one against another, brethren, that ye be not judged. Behold, the judge stands before the door.”

      Christ is not away off somewheres at a distance. His parousía, presence, is as “immanent” as the judge or the kings standing just outside the door.

      “Imminent” and “immanent” are NOT the same word and do not have the same meaning. “Immanent” is a technical term;

      immanent
      [?im?n?nt]
      ADJECTIVE

      * existing or operating within; inherent.
      “the protection of liberties is immanent in constitutional arrangements”
      synonyms:
      inherent · intrinsic · innate · built-in · latent · essential · fundamental · basic · ingrained · natural
      (of God) permanently pervading and sustaining the universe.Often contrasted with transcendent.
      synonyms:
      pervasive · pervading · permeating · omnipresent · ubiquitous · present everywhere · permeative · suffusive ·
      permeant

      * (of God) permanently pervading and sustaining the universe.Often contrasted with transcendent.
      synonyms: pervasive · pervading · permeating · omnipresent · ubiquitous · present everywhere · permeative · suffusive · permeant

      The fixation of Evangelicalism, just as it was with Darby et al, is a “time line” combined with a “he’s absent” perspective. That was not a problem that the early church suffered from. They fully realized that the Christ is an always present reality/infusion into all creation that is the sustaining element of all that was, is, and ever will be. That is basic Pauline cosmology;

      “He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment.”
      (Peterson–couldn’t get any clearer.)

      (The single greatest problem (imo of course) with Reformed Theology is that it always begins with Romans instead of Ephesians and Colossians.)

      The only question as to “timing” should be; At what point will you and I be able to SEE the ever-present realness of the ever-present Christ who is the All in All right here and NOW?

      • Evangelicalism is arguing the wrong issue. The mistake is inserting “Imminent” when the word and issue should be “immanent”.

        Darby, Scofield, and all after have built their eschatological house on sinking sand.

  16. senecagriggs says

    What I am telling you, which is TRUE, is that the “imminent return” is indeed what conservative Evangelical theologians believe and have believed for a long, long time. That hasn’t change.

    • That’s true, Seneca, but there is a variety of understandings about what imminent means.

      • Sadly, the word “imminent” then becomes wrapped up in “lawyer-ese” definitions of what “imminent” means. Kinda like the “I smoked marijuana, but I didn’t inhale” definition of “smoked.”

        I’m not sure God ever intended for us to make this into a “lawyer-ese” debate. Which means…

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LLB8u092JY

        • Rick,

          “Imminent” is an interpretive spin that has been glued to the NT word “parousía.” “Imminent” and “immanent” are NOT the same word and do not have the same meaning. Both are certainly interpretive, yet the later is root in the ANE and Roman world’s understanding and usage of parousia. “Imminent” is what the believers in
          Thessalonica were thinking while they sat around watching the sky. Paul told them to get off their butts and work so others didn’t have to support them.

    • Actually, that has been changing for some time. Before about 1970 almost every evangelical seminary was Dispensational. That isn’t true anymore, due to several factors.

      First, the study of ancient Jewish documents like the Dead Sea Scrolls led to new understandings of what first-century Judaism, and early Christians believed about the ‘last days’ and the Kingdom of God. As a result of this, a new understanding of the ‘Kingdom’ gained popularity, having been put forward originally by George Eldon Ladd in the 1950s. Study of these ancient documents supported Ladd’s view. This view has become the mainstream evangelical view of the Kingdom (in evangelical seminaries and academia anyway). Even many Dispensationalists have adopted most of this view – e.g. ‘Progressive Dispensationalism’ promoted by Bock (Dallas Seminary) and Blaising.

      Second, the understanding of ancient Greek had grown (and has continued to grow exponentially) so that ideas fundamental to Dispensationalism have been shown to be false. For example, Titus 2:13, the ‘Blessed Hope’ (rapture) and the ‘Glorious Appearing’ (actually ‘appearance of his glory’, the ‘second coming’) are used to support a ‘two-stage’ return. While not technically an instance of the Granville Sharp Rule (since the substantives are not personal nouns), it is, as Daniel Wallace, a noted Dispensational Greek Scholar (Dallas Seminary), has noted, a ‘related construct’ – they refer to the same event – the ‘Blessed Hope’ IS the ‘Glorious Appearing’ – ONE event). And a study of ‘parousia’ (as Volkmar noted) and related terms (‘apocalypsis’ and ‘epiphania’, especially in 2 Thes.) show that Paul clearly viewed the Lord’s Return as a singular event.

      Third, in the 1970s theologians began to realize that more Christians had died from persecution in the 20th century than in the 19 previous centuries. They began to question the idea that God would deliver his people from ‘tribulation’.

      At this point you can count major evangelical seminaries that are Dispensational on one hand, the most prominent one being Dallas, and a few SBC seminaries, and some lesser ones like John McArthur’s Master’s Seminary, and of course, a lot of Bible colleges. If evangelicalism weren’t so anti-intellectual and anti-theological, the views taught in the seminaries would filter down to the churches, and it has in many denominations that used to be Dispensational (e.g. Conservative Baptists of America). But that’s not likely to happen for quite a while in fundamentalist churches. Darby, et al, take precedence over the Bible as far as this is concerned.

      • As CM says, many may use the word ‘imminent’ but they no longer mean ‘Dispensational’ – e.g. Denver Seminary has ‘imminent’ in their statement of faith, but most of the faculty there are non-dispensational.

      • Michael Bell says

        My Dad was a Ladd follower in a Darby church. A little bit of conflict ensued.

        • Tom aka Volkmar says

          My wife and her parents were in Brethren Assemblies/Darby/Plymouth Brethren. They did not concur with Darby’s eschatology. There’s a few in every bunch I suspect.

    • “Imminent” is based on a particular reading/interpretation. I’m saying that conservative Evangelical theologians are mistaken.

      • senecagriggs says

        Ah, your internet assessment is taken into consideration Tom. I would suspect you represent the thinking of the Mainline.