Thursday, January 23, 2014

Curiosity

(This is rewrite of a post I wrote over two years ago. Since we've been talking about the "Gospel of the Kingdom of God" recently this seemed to me like a good time to dust it off).

At one point in my life I belonged to a church that was very focused on Christ's 2nd coming (almost to the exclusion of the first) and entranced with the idea of interpreting Bible prophecy. Back in the day we'd sit around for hours arguing who the Beast would be and how long we had left. My views have changed considerably but a lot of my friends are still oriented that way and we sometimes discuss eschatological events, online or elsewhere.

Recently, in a Facebook group, this question was posted: "What is the fulfillment of the prophesy below, especially verse 25?" referring to The Book of Daniel, chapter 7, verses 19 - 27 ERV).

“Then I wanted to know what the fourth animal was and what it meant. The fourth animal was different from all the other animals. It was very terrible and had iron teeth and bronze claws. It was the animal that crushed and ate its victims and walked on whatever was left. I wanted to know about the ten horns that were on the fourth animal’s head and about the little horn that grew there. That little horn pulled out three of the other ten horns. That little horn had eyes and a mouth that kept on bragging, and it looked bigger than the other horns. As I was watching, this little horn began attacking and making war against God’s holy people and killing them. The little horn kept killing God’s holy people until the Ancient King came and judged him. The Ancient King announced his decision about the little horn. This judgment helped God’s holy people, and they received the kingdom.
“And he explained this to me:
‘The fourth animal is a fourth kingdom that will come on the earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms. That fourth kingdom will destroy people all around the world. It will walk on and crush nations all around the world. The ten horns are ten kings that will come from this fourth kingdom. After those ten kings are gone, another king will come. He will be different from the kings who ruled before him. He will defeat three of the other kings. This special king will say things against God Most High, and he will hurt and kill God’s special people. That king will try to change the times and laws that have already been set. God’s holy people will be under that king’s power for three and one-half years. “‘But the court will decide what should happen, and that king’s power will be taken away. His kingdom will end completely. Then God’s holy people will rule over the kingdom and all the people from all the kingdoms of earth. This kingdom will last forever, and people from all the other kingdoms will respect and serve them.’"
Pretty fascinating stuff, eh? Here is my admittedly impertinent response:

"It will be fulfilled at an indeterminate date when an unknowable world power shakes its fist in God's face, tries to create its own culture ('changing times and laws'), and persecutes the saints -- as has happened repeatedly down through history. At a point known only to God and none of our business (but still the subject of endless speculation) the Father will draw his preordained line in the sand, the church age will close, and Christ will "come again in glory to judge the quick and the dead."  
"Beyond that I think it would be presumptuous to speak. :)
In other words, I've been forced to admit that Jesus really meant what he said -- virtually the last thing he said -- before he returned to Heaven:

The apostles were all together. They asked Jesus, “Lord, is this the time for you to give the people of Israel their kingdom again?” Jesus said to them, “The Father is the only one who has the authority to decide dates and times. They are not for you to know.
(Book of Acts chapter 1 verses 6 - 7 ERV)

When and how the second Advent happens is none of our business. Nothing I'm aware of in the last 2000 years has altered that stubborn fact, Harold Camping, John HageeWilliam Miller, the Mayans and a host of others notwithstanding.

I'm getting a bit ahead of my current series on the gospel, but the Messiah's Kingdom has already been set up and is he is ruling. That's what it means when "all authority in heaven and on earth is given to" someone and they "sit down at the right side of God." The universe has a king who has established his Kingdom, and we are his foot soldiers seeking to spread his rule to the world using the same weapons Jesus used: love, self-sacrifice, and the power resident in the Great Announcement (i.e., the gospel). Some day he will come back to end this exodus, to finish this journey, to "come again in glory to judge the living and the dead." That we have been assured of.

But the date that will happen he keeps to himself.



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