It often seems that Christians are heavily focused on the end-times. For example, virtually every generation has thought that they were living in the end-times. Why is that the case? I believe it is because the Bible is thematically an end-times book. So, the focus on the end-times is quite understandable. However, I feel that the end-times theme is sometimes interpreted too narrowly.
If you ask people what books of the Bible talk about the end-times, the books you’ll probably hear most are Daniel and Revelation. But in reality, such writings are just a few instances of an overarching theme that encompasses everything from Genesis to Revelation.
So, what is the Biblical end-times theme? I believe the end-times theme is about transitioning into a new order. The old, corrupt ways entangled with sin are dissolved, and God works to bring in a new order of righteousness in the world, or in the lives of individuals.
The flood in Genesis was an instance of the end-times theme. That was one type of instance that God said would not happen again (Gen 8:21). The Israelites’ exodus from Egypt was another instance. In the New Testament, the theme of being born again (John 3:1-10) or being made a new creation are examples of the end-times theme in relation to individuals.
2 Cor. 5:17 – “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
The “renewing of one’s mind” (Rom. 12:2) is yet another example of the end-times theme.
A lot of the writings that are conventionally viewed as “end-times” writings today (such as Daniel) come from periods when the Jews were under oppression, such as the Babylonian captivity, and later Rome. These writings were connected to day-to-day, practical concerns and struggles for the Jews. These writings prophesied of a war between the Jews and their enemies, and promised that the Messiah would come to judge the nations persecuting the Jews, and establish a new order of righteousness in which Israel would rule the world.
But I want to relate this to an aforementioned point, which is that these writings are part of the broader end-times theme of freedom from oppression, and the transition from an old, corrupt order to a new, righteous order.
These writings were not simply written to inform us about events at a future time. Instead, these writings are instances of a much broader, sweeping theme across the Bible.
The end-times message is a transitional message rather than a doomsday message. Now, I am sure many of you know from your own experiences that transitions are not easy. Transitions causes tensions and conflicts, as there is resistance that has to be overcome. Thus, when nations, or individuals, go through “end-times” experiences, there is often upheaval and anxiousness along the way, as I am sure many of you have experienced.
However, the Biblical end-times theme is not about punishment, in the absolute sense. Everything that is involved with “end-times” scenarios, ultimately works toward a redemptive goal, either for individuals or the world. But something has to get the processes started. And the factors that God employs to drive the processes can seem like punishment even though ultimately they are of a transitional, corrective nature, designed to stimulate change.
I plan to make more posts this summer on the prophecies that are often looked at as end-times writings. Specific events which these writings point to is a subject where my own understanding is not conclusive in certain aspects, so that is why, instead of focusing on prophecies of specific world events, I wanted to make this current post to focus on the broader end-times theme in the Bible.