When Jesus’s disciples asked him about the signs of the end, and Jesus (2nd) coming, Jesus prefaced His answer with the warning:
“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.”
I’m sure that preface wasn’t insignificant or merely a throw-away line, not was it placed at the beginning of his answer by accident. End time teaching, speculation and prophetic claims are considerably prone to error and therefore we should be extra-wary – making sure we search the scriptures for ourselves, testing everything.
I started my Christian life at a time when “the end times” were a favoured topic, with best selling books devoted to near future events and the imminent fulfilment of end time Bible prophecy. In particular Hal Lindsay’s The Late Great Planet Earth was considered essential reading.
In keeping with Lindsay’s pre-trib. rapture message, I displayed a sticker in my car warning passengers of the danger of the car becoming driverless should the rapture occur during the journey.
The “threat” of an imminent rapture was commonly used in evangelism. Churches would screen a film Like a Thief in the Night and its sequels, showing the scary outcome for those who missed the rapture and were “Left Behind” (as in the popular, more recent, series of novels). It seemed many people could no longer be motivated to faith by a fear of hell, so fear of future events, of God’s wrath upon a post-rapture world were utilised instead.*
But how much of all of that was REALLY in line with biblical accounts of the end time?
Not a lot. That’s what I discovered when I finally took the time to study what scripture itself said, in contrast to what popular Christian media was promoting; or what was so often being preached in the churches I attended.
So much of what was stated as “gospel truth” turned out to be wrong. Henry Kissinger wasn’t the antichrist. The imminent rapture didn’t happen. Life went on and my passengers weren’t left alone in a driverless car. The antichrist’s Europe grew well beyond the beast’s ten kingdoms (and more recently has shown to be prone to imploding).
Most of the speculation that had been heralded as “biblical” has long become out-dated.
Maybe all of that has led to a weariness, instilling a feeling of disillusionment and forcing a reassessment of the importance of the “end times”, where the attitude has caused people to consider:
“Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”
And that is the danger of unbiblical teaching. It leads to unbiblical conclusions and expectations and can make us weary of very important matters.
Regarding the end times, maybe more than many other issues, we NEED to be sure our understanding is grounded in the truth of scripture. As mentioned above, Jesus prefaced His prophecies of the end times with a warning: “Watch out that no one deceives you”. And he didn’t leave it there with a solitary statement. The whole section where He details end time events is full of warnings intended top equip the believer to overcome and survive through very difficult times, when it will seem easier to go with the flow instead of standing out from the crowd to proclaim the truth.
* I would argue that fear isn’t necessary the best motivation to get people interested in the gospel – especially fears based on false expectations, such as missing out on a pre-trib rapture.