What does the Bible say about the future?
What if Jesus returns in 40 years' time?
I was thinking of calling this book "What if Jesus returns in 40 years' time". I wish to cover as many end times scriptures as I can, while offering a counter-perspective contrasting other useful and popular theories. I wish to provide a different angle to an imminent Rapture, which squeezes many pending prophecies into seven-ish years before Jesus' return to rule the world. Such theories can distract people from preparing for a lifetime serving God until he comes. Put it this way - for the past two millennia some have jeopardized their future ministry because they didn't prepare to live out their lives because they believed Jesus' return would be imminent. This could again be the case for many in the present generation - we just don't know. It’s important that we invest whatever God has given us until he returns.
Luke 19:13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. (A mina was about three months’ wages.) “Put this money to work,” he said, “until I come back.”
A pivotal prophecy is Ezekiel 38-39 - the war of Gog & Magog. This seems imminent as Russia, Turkey and Iran get chummy on Israel's northern border. I’ve included these two chapters entirely, but to avoid infringing copyright, I’ve started with the King James Version and put this into my own words, in consultation with other translations. This sets a precedent for this book as I cover various end-times passages with my understanding thereof. This has been a very enlightening process, revealing how Bible translators think and add their own bias into the selection of words they can translate to. I’ve done my best to retain the original sense of scripture, while applying a bias that draws out my understanding. For this reason, it’s even more critical that you review these scriptures for yourself – across a few different translations.
There is a lot of weird teaching around end times, bound by very narrow interpretations and fueled by sensationalism and consumerism. Unfortunately, more commonly, churches avoid the topic altogether. It's really important to teach prophecy, particularly that recently fulfilled by Israel's restoration, but also that which appears imminent, and the distant end to this Universe and the creation of the new Universe. It's vital to keep in mind that most prophecy teachers got it totally wrong 2,000 years ago by shoehorning everything future into their lifetime, so let's not be dogmatic about any particular theory, but be open to possibilities of what God might do. I prefer to talk openly about what God has clearly proclaimed as well as things he’s kept obscure. Speaking on the latter naturally invites speculation. We need to be open about this. This is far more important than throwing out the whole area of theology around our resurrection and Christ's return to judge the world, because we might interpret some points incorrectly. Embedded in end-times teaching are the clear and wonderful truths of God's continuing plan for the restoration of humanity.
I dislike the rampant demonization of wonderful godly people who hold a different view, let's respect other parts of Christ's body who appear, think and function differently to us. Christ has provided them to complement our own impact on the world. This is a complicated topic, so let's just chill as we discuss details which may be quite open to various interpretations. God purposed to make prophecies of the Messiah obscure, so that instead of Satan thwarting his plan with Jesus’ first coming, he fulfilled it. This pattern continues to be the case, but as prophecies are fulfilled, the Bible and the truth of God is validated before the whole world.
As Martin Luther encountered, there’s a huge swathe of dogmatic tradition, emotional manipulation and arguments that are promoted above scripture. These must be put aside and only consider arguments grounded in scripture. Other respected historic sources may be useful to shed light on scripture. Even there, I'm sure we can find much to disagree on in lovingly respectful discussion.
Let's enjoy the journey and seek to understand God and his incredible, loving plan for humanity.
Some go-to scriptures for studying end times are:
Ezekiel 38-39's battle of Gog of Magog describes a future alliance invading Israel. The cleanup after this will take seven years. I suspect the geopolitical impact will replace the current world powers.
1 Thessalonians 4, Paul encourages us with teaching on the resurrection of dead believers and the Rapture of the living - taken to be with him.
Daniel 9 describes a seven-year world peace treaty with a world emperor who will violate Israel's temple after 3.5 years.
Revelation 4-19 collects various visions revealed to Jesus as recorded by his disciple John.
There’s many other scriptures, which describe many more details and provide precedent and pattern applicable to this time. There are many prophecies which are not yet fulfilled.