What is ‘the end time’?

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Many believers are longing for the good times which would arrive in ‘the end time’. Often this is seen in connection with the moment of the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of His Kingdom. In the Bible ‘the end time’ is most of all marked by the final judgment of Creation by God, which shall come with fire. That frightens. These two different scenarios for ‘the end time’ are conflicting. What is written about ‘the end time’ in the Bible?

According to the Bible ‘the end time’ is the ending of the current Creation by God. The destruction of the current heaven and earth in order to bring the new Creation (Is 34:4; 65:17; Rev 21:1). But according to the Bible ‘the end time’ is also connected with the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of His Kingdom. These seem to describe two different ‘end times’. This is often solved by combining the two; the Messianic Kingdom represents the new heaven and earth. However, this causes great problems with the Bible record, since that describes the Messianic Kingdom before God’s final judgment and being imperfect and temporarily in itself. So, it seems that ‘the end time’ unfolds in phases. This needs explanation.

Word study
In Hebrew ‘the end time’ is mostly represented by the words ‘achariet jamiem (the latter or the last days; Is 2:2). Similarly, jamiem ’olam (everlasting days; Mic 5:2), ‘et qets (the time of the end; Dn 11:35) or qets jamiem (the end of the days; Dn 12:13).

In Greek the words eschatou toon chronoon (last times; 1 Pe 1:20) and eschatais himerais (last days; 2 Tim 3:1) are used. But also sunteleias tou aioonos (the end of the age; Mt 24:3). This suggests a rapture of things. The word eschatos can also mean ‘the youngest’ or ‘the last’ time. The words aionos chronos (2 Tim 1:9) can be translated as ‘times without end’.

Its remarkable that traditional translations of the mentioned Hebrew and Greek words sound so threatening and as if it they are about one moment/day [1], while the Bible describes ‘the end time’ in phases which take more than one day or moment.

Confusion about ‘the end time’
There exists much confusion about ‘the end time’. That explains why for many centuries there have been false messiahs, who were able to seduce many believers and have caused them to fall away from faith. This confusion also existed amongst the disciples of the Lord Jesus and even for some time among the apostles [2].

The concept ‘the end time’ can also be understood wrongly or unrealistically. Time of course will never end. Nor the days. ‘Time measurement’ exists also in the new heaven and earth, since that makes Creation into what it is. Also, there will be no end to the ‘things’. There will even be some ‘old’ things which will find its continuation in the new heaven and earth, but also new things will replace the old. Factually there is no ‘end’, but a fulfillment of all things. At least the old reign – the current (spiritual) world order – will end. In the current order ungodliness, evil and paganism remain dominant. This end will come particularly when satan is completely taken away to be punished for all time. Still, quite some human expectations are imagined about ‘the end time’, but many of these expectations did not originate from God and thus will never be met by Him. The concept ‘the end time’ therefore continually needs to be reevaluated. Especially when the coming of it draws closer. Whilst it is still in the future.

Phases of ‘the end time’
In the Bible the following main phases are set out:
1. The first period of oppression (close before the coming of the Messiah)
2. Messianic Kingdom
3. The second period of oppression (close before the final judgment of God)
4. New heaven and earth

1. The first period of oppression
Just as the work of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus gave great (political) consternation, the existence of the Spirit-filled people of God shall eventually [3] prove unbearable for the pagans and their governments. In the end they will wish to get rid of them. When the people of God will no longer be able [4] to maintain themselves [5] the coming of the Messiah will become inevitable [6] (2 Th 2:6-8). His coming will increase the oppression en bring it to a boiling point. Then a world war will follow the likes of it never seen before. But the Messiah will protect the people of God against that violence of weapons. Together with them He shall destroy the armies of the nations. According to the Bible the shock of that shall bear fruit, because it seems that many soldiers and witnesses of the war shall convert to God due to that completely unexpected turn of events.

2. Messianic Kingdom
As soon as the Messiah has circumvented the danger for the people of God and has liberated them from the oppression, He will reestablish God’s authority over the old Creation. He will be God’s vassal-King. The King of kings over the nations. The kings of the world shall have to present themselves to Him and submit their authority unto Him. The residence of the Messiah shall be the historical city of Jerusalem confirming the house of king David/Judah. This thus also means that Israel’s exile will have ended and their restoration will commence. They will once again be a nation amongst the nations and Israel will settle in the promised Land [7].

The government of the Messiah will follow the same policy as God always has followed: to pacify the enemies of God (Ps 110:1). Thus, satan shall be taken prisoner and will be removed from the earth. He will be thrown into a predetermined place in the realm of the dead (Rev 20:2-3). The Temple of Jerusalem shall be rebuilt and all nations shall be invited to take part in the worship of God [8].

The Kingdom of the Messiah shall last for a thousand years. However, it seems that ‘a thousand years’ needs to be understood as ‘until its goal has been met in full’. The Messiah shall be aided by very pious believers of which a large proportion shall be raised from the dead or from those which will have survived the first period of oppression (Rev 20:4, 6). The majority of the dead believers will remain in the realm of the dead, since the ‘end of all things’ will then not yet be fulfilled (Rev 20:5). Thus, they will not partake in the Kingdom of the Messiah that will be established on earth. Despite what is been claimed in Christianity [9].

3. The second period of oppression
Once the calling of the Messiah is completed [10] the result of that will be tested by releasing satan again (Rev 20:7). Then it will become apparent that many people had only accepted the Kingdom of the Messiah in feign. In their hearts they were still perniciously evil. Also, many believers will seem to fall away from faith. Then it will become clear that even the Kingdom of the Messiah wasn’t the Kingdom of God [11]. Satan will assemble an enormous army, inflame it and direct it towards the beloved city Jerusalem (Rev 20:9). The residence of the Messiah. They will encircle the city and harass it. But then God, the Father, will throw down fire from heaven upon them, which shall destroy the whole army. That is the final punishment of the pagans on earth. The end of the old Creation then is at hand.

4. New heaven and earth
When the goal of the Kingdom of the Messiah has been reached, the Messiah will submit Himself to God (1 Cor 15:28) [12]. This marks the beginning of the last phase of God’s Plan of Salvation; the Kingdom of God, the Father, will be established in the new heaven and earth (Rev 21:1). This shows that this is a new order. Things of the old will be transferred over to the new. The final judgment by God, the Father, of the old Creation will then follow.

On the first place satan and his demons will be judged. They are immediately thrown into the pit of fire [13] (the place named ‘hell’; Rev 20:10). Then there are the dead in the realm of the dead. They will all be raised from dead and summoned before the counsel of God. The true believers are separated from the evil ones. The judgment is based upon works (according to God’s will) they had or didn’t have and whether someone is inscribed in the Book of the Living [14] (Rev 20:12-13). After that the evil ones, who where in the flame in the realm of the dead, will be thrown in the pit of fire. But also ‘believers’, who did have the works (according to the will of God), but were not inscribed in the Book of the Living. All these people undergo in this way a second, ultimate death [15].

God will also throw the realm of the dead into the pit of fire (Rev 20:14), showing by that act that this realm has no longer any use. People will no longer die. Because He will grant mortal [16] believers eternally access to the waters and fruit of life (Rev 22:2). They get access to the new Jerusalem which will be an unimaginable beautiful place (Rev 21:10-21). The garden of Eden will grow pale compared with it. ‘The end time’ thus is not a return to (the state of) the garden of Eden. Still, Christianity states that.

Evaluation
A large part of the Evangelical Movement puts ‘the end time’ central (Eschatocentrism), since it marks the return of Lord Jesus. All who doesn’t show enough interest in ‘the end time’ are regarded as not mindful and ungrateful. Adventists (believers strongly focused on the advent (the coming) of the Messiah) even go so far that they link current events directly with ‘the end time’ and announcing dates of the return of Lord Jesus. This inflames an irresistible neighing to determine when the Messiah will come. Despite the fact that God did not allow determining dates for His return (Acts 1:7)! Without realizing it eschatocentrists distinguish themselves thus rather unfavorable compared to other Christians.

In Biblical sense ‘the end time’ seems to build up out of different events which unroll over a very long time. The phased rapture of God’s Plan of salvation. It will be a very turbulent time of oppressions and persecutions with wars, suffering and misery, which ends up into the definitive coming of the new Creation by God, the Father, and into a punishment of man. Believers that die before ‘the end time’ shall be spared from it, but will undergo the final judgment of God [17]. ‘The end time’ is actually aimed at unbelievers. Still, it seems that partaking in the Kingdom of the Messiah is only given to very special pious believers. But the results of it give true believers hope. For them not ‘the end time’, but the blessed time after ‘the end time’ is central.

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[1] In the sense of a judgment; only those who converts and keeps the commandments shall be saved and those who do not will be punished. But inner devotion to God seems also to be important.
[2] The insight developed amongst the first disciples. Originally they were convinced that they would undergo the return of the Messiah (Rm 13:11-12; Hb 10:25; Jm 5:8), but later they came to the insight that they first would die (2 Tim 4:7).
[3] The current struggle of the people of God is nothing compared to the oppression that awaits them in ‘the end time’.
[4] That hasn’t happened yet and will also not happen for some time.
[5] Not only by isolation and persecution, but most of all that the majority of them will fall away from their Faith.
[6] Just like the calling of Moses by God to deliver the children of Jacob from Egypt. The office of a messiah is to deliver the people of God from oppression and ultimately to establish the Kingdom of God on earth accommodating God’s plan of salvation.
[7] This shows the special privileges they have due to their history with God.
[8] This is the fulfillment of the festival of Soekot (Feast of the tabernacles).
[9] Dogma’s are used to ignore this truth. For example, by stating that believers will directly go to heaven after their death or that the Lord Jesus will return twice instead of ones.
[10] Something that is only mentioned in one verse in Revelations (20:6), but surely will represent a very long time.
[11] The Kingdom of the Messiah should be understood as a thing that is demanded from the pagans. Many people will not accept it in their hearts. Thus, it can never be the promised Kingdom of God since it also is a vassal-Kingdom.
[12] The office of Messiah will come to an end. Still, Christianity claims that the Kingdom of the Messiah will be the end phase of ‘the end time’.
[13] The eternal place of punishment mentioned in the Bible for the first time in Revelations. This place will become in use at the beginning for the Kingdom of the Messiah. When the beast and the false prophet will be thrown into it (Rev 19:20).
[14] These are the pious ones, real believers: the children of God.
[15] This is an eternal state separated from God. Their punishment is hopelessness and their punishment will remain visible as reminder for the believers that God set free (Is 66:24).
[16] People remain punishable by God.
[17] Some invented the dogma that the church will be taken up into heaven in order to avoid sharing in God’s final judgment. But this is nowhere mentioned in the Bible and is also impossible in the order of Creation.