posted 15 July, 1999
reproduced from When Will the Messiah Return?
As we move further into the Twenty-First Century, three categories of Believers are rising to the surface. Each has a definitive view of end-time Bible prophecy, and many in each category unfortunately criticize or slander the other. The first are those who believe that major events will happen at literally “any moment.” The second are those who believe prophetic events can happen. The third are those who believe nothing will occur.
It is a definite possibility that end-time events foretold in Scripture may occur in our lifetimes, but there is a difference between looking for events and speaking presumptuously. There is a distinction between those being aware of our times, and phenomena such as “millennial madness” or “Jerusalem syndrome.” There must be a clear Scriptural approach to these issues, so that we not be led astray by the presumptuous teachings or sensationalism of a human person, and damage our testimonies to the secular world.
It is not my intention to criticize anyone, but this is a serious problem—especially for some coming into an “understanding,” perhaps limited, of the Messianic movement and their Hebraic Roots. Many have lost credibility and believability because of statements or rash decisions they have made, and it should be noted that some of the same are “Messianic” in some way. Unfortunately, a few individuals can do much damage to the Body of Messiah at large. They can affect how a relatively new move of God is viewed by secular society and the larger Christian world. We must consider what kind of testimony we have to the world and remain true to our convictions, but at the same time be tactful in what we say in regard to eschatology.
Let us examine each school of thought and analyze the various viewpoints mentioned, seeing what the Bible says about certain actions or belief systems. I have appropriately listed each category by a statement which is commonly associated with it, or spoken by its proponents.
“It’s Coming Down!”
Those belonging to this first category of belief imitate a doctrine of imminence regarding the Last Days, claiming that “it,” whatever “it” is, can “come down” or occur at any moment. Unfortunately, due to the ambiguous nature of “it,” or the “they” who will perform “it,” many in this category have lost their credibility outright.
Many individuals belonging to this category hear a particular doctrine or teaching that may involve speculative dates or a timetable related to Bible prophecies. They may act on such predictions immediately, rather than thinking through the long term affects of their decisions. Such people may act rashly and decide that the end-of-the-world is nigh and that they have only months or weeks to “prepare for the end.” Such people have been known to sell all or most of their possessions, hunker down, and prepare for the worst. When nothing occurs, such individuals may possibly claim that something did occur or that God “showed them” that something happened, that it would occur “on another date,” or that something major occurred in the “spiritual realm.”
Sometimes no definite proof or credible evidence can be given for such prognostications, other than “personal revelation” or secret knowledge. Many of these people are motivated by fear and paranoia and not the Holy Spirit. Many of these same attitudes were present in First Century Thessalonica, where the Apostle Paul was forced to address a situation where people were probably forging letters in his name saying that the Day of the Lord had taken place. He assured the Thessalonicans that certain events must precede the return of the Lord:
“Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).
In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, the Apostle Paul taught ancient Believers not to be over-anxious as to the Second Coming of Yeshua, as the apostasy and revealing of the man of lawlessness must precede it. He admonished his readers not to be anxious “through a spirit” (LITV), dia pneumatos. This seems to imply that there is likely a demonic connection between those who are over-zealous in relation to eschatology, as there are those being influenced by the enemy to discredit their testimony to the world at large.
Yeshua says quite plainly, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:33-34).
The Messiah instructed His followers to not be overly worried about the future, because the Heavenly Father will take care of them, if they are truly reliant upon Him. Many individuals who believe that the end is imminently forthcoming have no idea what damage they can do to themselves, their children, and to their testimony if projected events they believe in do not occur. We cannot overemphasize that many of these people are motivated by fear and their feelings! They may not think things through or consider the long term effects of their decisions. People who think things will “come down” at any moment may isolate themselves from the rest of society waiting for “the end to come.” But what will happen after various dates have come and gone and nothing occurs? How many will be negatively affected by hearing and seeing such misguided testimony?
As Believers in Yeshua we are surely not to be conformed to this world (John 17:15-18). But at the same time, there is no admonition in Scripture to seclude ourselves and not to be a living testimony or sacrifice for the Lord (Romans 12:1-2). If the world does not see the testimony of the saving grace of God living through us, then how will people know the good news of Yeshua the Messiah and of salvation? Consider the fact that when a person quits a job because he or she feels that a prophetic event will occur on a particular date, and this individual makes it a point to tell this to various peers at work and then nothing occurs, chances are very high that this person will lose all credibility with coworkers. Although we should all be aware of what is going on in our world, it is not the admonition of the Word of God to be presumptuous or to “cry wolf.” When the time comes that end-time events actually do occur, they will be obvious enough to those paying attention to the signs of the times, and who have asked for God to give them spiritual discernment.
“It’s Coming Down!” people will also use supposed dreams and visions to confirm their beliefs. Although God can indeed give a person insight through a dream or vision, when people are mentally digesting what they believe—namely “end-of-the-world events”—it can result in dreams of what they believe.
Do not under-estimate the fact that deception will be rampant in the Last Days.
Everything we absolutely need to know concerning prophecy is contained in the words of Scripture. Extra-Biblical dreams or visions do not need to occur or come to pass to herald the Second Coming of the Messiah.
Unfortunately, many people of this mentality either (1) do not examine their beliefs thoroughly enough, or (2) blindly follow the teachings of a particular individual. Many people of this mindset have unknowingly set themselves up for the great apostasy if projected events they believe in do not occur in the coming future. Such individuals may decide to abandon the prophetic message of Scripture, or even worse, deny the faith and the relevance of God altogether!
A few rogue individuals claiming “It’s coming down!” when nothing occurs have caused legitimate ministries who teach on Bible prophecy to suffer. They do damage to our faith at large. We need to urge people who think this way to seriously reevaluate their position. Are they truly thinking things through? Are they acting by fear or feelings? Are they really being led by the Lord? What will happen to these people if they are wrong about pending world events? Do they have a contingency plan? How do these kinds of beliefs affect a Believer’s testimony to the secular world? What happens to ministries and individuals which make false and misleading claims? Will the world consider these people “fruits” or “nuts” or “flakes”? What do we do with those who continue to follow them blindly?
We need to be Believers who truly understand the signs of the times and have credibility with others.
The Year 2000, and more specifically, the Y2k computer problem, caused many to think that the “end was at hand.” Although valid technical concerns surrounded Y2k, most were expecting a few minor computer glitches (which exist every day in our world), but not “the end as we know it.” Still, this did not keep some people from making statements such as “a United Nations world takeover is imminent” and that “Y2k will be the event that they use.” Some even claimed that Yeshua spoke of Y2k in His Olivet Discourse, actually using Luke 21:25 as justification: “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.”
Those who subscribed to the notion that Y2k was specifically mentioned in prophecy claimed that the “dismay” or “distress” (RSV) that Yeshua spoke of was the Year 2000 computer bug. However, the verse actually states that the reason nations will be in dismay or distress is because of “the roaring of the sea and the waves.” Luke 21:26 continues this admonition by stating, “Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (NIV). The Messiah said to expect massive Earth changes and natural catastrophes in this passage, not a computer problem.
If there are any serious long-term Y2k problems which currently are present into the 2010s, they are the result of the various governmental controls legislated in response to Y2k/Millennial paranoia and sensationalism. Even almost a decade after Y2k, such paranoia and sensationalism have shown no signs of dying down.
We did not awake 02 January, 2000 to find that world government had been initiated as a result of the Y2k problem, and those who made such proclamations spoke presumptuously and did all of us who study Biblical prophecy a major disservice. However, some time from today in the future, the world will be in a situation paving the way for a world leader. But that day is not today, as our Heavenly Father still has much work to do with His people—especially as the Messianic community grows and matures into a major force of holiness and righteousness.
Y2k was a major test for people who had already spoken presumptuously of pending world events. They did not find “vindication” in it. Any of Y2k’s long-term effects will be more related to legislation passed due to millennial-related paranoia.
In addition to many people looking for Y2k to be “the end of things,” many others felt prophetic events would occur in Jerusalem following the turn of the Millennium. Israeli officials were, and are still very concerned, that an end-of-the-world cult may try to “start the fulfillment” of end-time prophecy by committing deeds such as blowing up the Dome of the Rock and Al-Asqa mosque. Many in and around Israel have, and are proclaiming to be, various Biblical characters ranging from the Messiah to King David to the two witnesses of Revelation.
Knowing this poses some serious concern for us in the Messianic community, given various expectations surrounding the restoration of Israel, and what we might consider our specific involvement to be. Already, there have been some individuals who have tried to accelerate the fulfillment of prophecy. But in all candor, the Messianic movement is not fully ready for various end-time phenomena to transpire. Until we can determine who we are, what we believe, and develop a more coherent theology for ourselves that encourages spiritual stability—the Lord will not return.
“I Know What Can Happen”
The second view is a more moderate approach toward prophecy and our times. Knowing what can happen, and people claiming “It’s coming down,” are two totally different things. Those who belong to this category are more careful with what they say, and think through the decisions they make. This position is more objective and many who belong to the “It’s Coming Down!” category criticize those who believe that things can happen, but continue to lead relatively normal lives, even though they are still aware of the times.
A person must be extremely tactful when dealing with Bible prophecy, current events, and dates. All end-time projections are one-hundred percent speculation until something occurs. We cannot overemphasize the need to know what is happening, but we must not let Bible prophecy or “end-of-the-world syndrome” be the motivating factor in our lives. We must continue to seek our Heavenly Father in all things and He will show us what needs to be done in His timing. We all must have patience (Galatians 5:22), an important fruit of the Spirit that many of us lack. We need to be about the Lord’s work in whatever time it is.
As Believers, we are called to function in the world, but not be part of it. We must continue to have a testimony so that others might be saved, not one where we can, and probably should, be considered unstable because of failed end-of-the-world projections. We must stand our ground, but not purposefully put ourselves in vulnerable situations.
Some of us will take some criticism if we adopt this view. However, we must if we intend to be effective, credible witnesses for God in the world. We must not be guided by fear of the end-times, but rather have the understanding that we all have a viable part to play in God’s eternal plan.
“It’s No Big Deal”
The Apostle Peter issued some very strong warnings about the Last Days, and about a third category that exists:
“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
The third and final category is very cavalier, and unfortunately is the attitude of many. It is evident in many contemporary Christian churches. Many of this view hear a prophetic message from someone in the “It’s Coming Down!” category, being exposed and get excited, but then when nothing happens on a particular timetable, they return to their former school of thought: “It’s no big deal.”
We take important note that most in this category are pre-tribulationists, and since they believe the rapture can occur at any moment, they often feel little or no need to study prophecy. Interestingly enough, this attitude is pointed out to be very dangerous by many of pre-tribulationism’s chief proponents. 2 Peter 3:3 says that in the Last Days many will be saying “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” (NIV). This perhaps implies that many of those who have been turned off to prophecy as a result of statements made by those in the “It’s Coming Down!” category will be part of the prophesied defection from the faith. They think that things in the world will continue on as normal forever, and that God would never “rock their world” by exercising His Divine judgment on humanity.
What position should those of us today take?
What position should we take regarding our approach to Bible prophecy? From the far Right, there are those who believe that the end can come at any moment, and from the far Left there are those who do not at all concern themselves with Bible prophecy. Stuck in the middle are those of us who believe that prophetic events can happen, but may not take place as soon as others are expecting.
Patience is the key.
In our Western society, we widely expect everything to be instant. Bible prophecy is no exception. The fulfillment of the end-time Scriptures will ultimately come to pass, but it will occur in the Lord’s perfect timing the way He wants it. We need to be aware of what is going on and not let our feelings motivate us to make rash decisions. Rather, we need to seek the fulfillment of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:7-8), and do all we can to see the furthering of His Kingdom on Planet Earth. We need to take advantage of this relative time of peace before it is too late.
Today, we should be maturing into the people who our Heavenly Father wants us to be, and we must tactfully consider the importance of prophecy. Each of us has a calling and a role to play in God’s Kingdom, representing His Kingdom to those with whom we interact with every day. Let us not ruin such a calling by being paranoid about the Last Days. We need to seek the Lord, and ask Him for wisdom and discernment for how we should properly approach the end-times.
 One populist teacher in the Messianic community actually claimed in 1999,
“The Y2k computer problem is a singular dismay that affects all nations at the same time. Many leaders believe that it seriously threatens the stability of the government. Primarily, the Y2k problem will affect civil and domestic authority. Regardless of the many efforts to fix the computers, there will be some disruption. It won’t be enough to shut the whole place down; it will be just enough to allow some major cities to be plagued with looting, lawlessness, and rampaging chaos that will overwhelm law enforcement. It is a known fact by sociologists and governmental leaders that our cities operate on the grace of everyone wanting to obey the law. When this grace is breached, very little can be done to stop rampaging citizens short of martial law and curfews.”
(Monte Judah. “Dawning of the Millennium: The Year 1999.” Yavoh: He is coming! Vol. 5 No. 1, January 1999).
This was a presumptuous statement, as none of what is described above happened on 01-02 January , 2000.
 Note that the term rendered “dismay” in the NASU is not thlipsis or “tribulation,” but sunochē, “constraint, affliction, anguish” (LS, 779).