End Times Hope V. Fear of End Fear

Christian Life & Theology, Podcast Episodes

Many Christians suffer intense fear and anxiety over the end times. But Revelation is a book of hope and victory – so where does this come from? In this episode we talk about persecution, God’s wrath, and why God’s loving justice and call to endurance should encourage all of us to view the end times with hope. From Chapter Nine of Every Woman a Theologian, available for preorder now!

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Transcription

Welcome to Verity podcast. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer. I’m here to teach you how to know what you believe, to live it boldly, and to communicate it graciously to the world around you. I believe that women are ready to go deeper in their faith than ever before and they don’t have to go to seminary to do it. I am so glad you’re here. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey, because every woman is a theologian.

Hello, friends and welcome back to Verity podcast. Wow, we have gotten to the very last ology in this series. We’re talking about eschatology today or theology of the end times. I absolutely love this topic because I love seeing people set free from their fear of the end times. I think you’ve probably heard me talk about this in past episodes about the end times, about Revelation, or maybe you even did my Revelation verse by verse study. And in that study, and simply by looking at the book of Revelation, we can see that theme of this book is not terror for those who are in Christ. It’s a theme of peace and joy and victory, because we are on the winning side. We are in Christ, so it’s really sad to me that so many Christians either won’t read Revelation or they’re so consumed with left behind culture or read the Left Behind books, that it twisted their perception of what scripture actually teaches. And this is why it’s so important whenever we read or watch a fictionalized resource that’s based on the Bible, whether that’s Left Behind, Redeeming Love, The Chosen or anything else. It is so vital that you compare what you’re watching or reading to scripture because so often people don’t do that and they come away with conclusions that are completely false, that are completely departing from the truth of God’s Word.

It’s vital that we compare what we consume or what we assume about scripture and God in the Bible to what scripture actually says. That’s why I encourage so many people to study Revelation for themselves. Eschatology is the word for theology of the end things, and eschatology is based on what the Bible says about the end of day. We have some texts in Matthew that where Jesus talked about this. We have texts in Daniel, we have texts and of course, Revelation and other places in the Bible that speak to what God’s goal is at the end of days or the last things. And there are multiple perspectives on how this will happen. A lot of times people will ask me, are you pretrib or post-trib? I always say, that’s only two options from one point of view. There are three other points of view that don’t even engage with a pre or post-trib concept. We’re looking at eschatology, we have to back up and understand that probably the way we’re taught, which the majority of American Christians anyway today were taught, a dispensational view of end times, left behind viewpoint. If that’s the way you are taught, you probably aren’t even aware that there are other points of view on the end times. And it’s important to understand those as well as look at scripture itself for understanding what God is doing and what He plans to do. 

Now, in this episode, I am actually not going to get into all four of the primary viewpoints on the end times because I have already talked about that in a previous episode, Four Views of the End Times. If you want to go back and listen to that, you can scroll back in my Spotify or iTunes feed for Verity podcast and you can listen to that, or you can grab it in the shop in the form of a quick theology booklet. Or but wait, there’s more, you can read about it in my newest book, Every Woman a Theologian. So, I have covered this in multiple places where you can learn about the different views of the end times. In this episode, we’re going to concentrate on the goodness of what Revelation teaches about the last things, the goodness of eschatology and why it removes fear. It does not create fear. We’ve talked a lot about creation over the course of this series. We’ve talked about that first garden that was full of purpose, where Adam and Eve are tasked to care for it and work it. They were to take on God’s creation, continue creating within it, and this was Eden. This was heaven on earth. So, why, when we think about heaven in the future, do we act like it’s this place of perpetual inactivity? Why do we act as if nobody’s going to be doing anything that is super boring or we’re sitting around playing harps and sitting on clouds? Why would we be doing that when Eden, was this place of restful industry, this place of beauty, this place of refreshment and enjoying nature, and living together in peace and face to face with God. If that’s what Eden was, we can probably expect heaven to be very similar to that.

Also, think about everything on earth, everything that we appreciate and see as beautiful, that God created here is an echo of what we will participate in someday. The idea that we’re going to be worshiping God eternally doesn’t mean that we’re just all going to be standing around in a worship service for eternity doing nothing else. Because remember, your work is worship, your singing can be worship, your relationships are a form of worship. Anything you do to the glory of God is worship. So, yes, we’ll be worshiping the Lord probably in a formal sense too, but there’s so much that worship encompasses when you are living this pure life to God and that is what eternity will most likely be like. If you want to read more about this the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn is a great resource. So, when it comes to the last days, a lot of Christians fear persecution and suffering and we worry over when Jesus will return and what kind of things will happen before He  does. So, for most Christians, theology of the end times holds neither joy nor peace. That doesn’t make any sense because that was the goal. That is one of the primary themes of this book and these accounts in scripture about the end of things. 

It’s not supposed to be this event or this time laden with fear and anxiety. It’s supposed to be laden with joy and victory. We need to align our view of the end times with what scripture teaches and learn how Christians have interpreted it over the years. So, as I said before, looking at the ways that people understood Revelation is really important and helpful to us, as we are studying the book and learning what God’s intent is for the end of days. Without getting into the details of those different views, I want to talk a little bit about the judgment, the persecution and God’s wrath in Revelation and in the end times accounts, because that’s where I think a lot of people draw their fear. The idea of a tribulation, a great tribulation that is often brought up by at least dispensational premillennial Christians is the main driver to fear, which is why so many people say, well, I want a pertrib rapture. I want to be taken out of the world before this great tribulation. 

Something to consider is that all of church history has been touched by tribulation. All of church history has been touched by persecution, and it’s happening right now. You look in Iran and China, and other countries around the world and they will tell you they are experiencing tribulation, they’re experiencing persecution. It’s mainly Americans [chuckles] and westernized countries that are over here saying, “Oh, my goodness, I hope I can be zapped out before the tribulation comes.” But that isn’t consistent with what Jesus warned us about in the Bible. Listen to what Jesus says here in John 15:19-20. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they keep my word, they will also keep yours.” In Matthew 5, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you and others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Mark 10, Jesus says, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands for my sake and for the gospel who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands with persecutions and in the age to come eternal life.”

There’s a lot more that I could read to you, but I wanted to read these passages because I really want to confront this idea that is predominant in American culture, that persecution is only in the future and it has never been in the past or the present. Persecution is happening now. It has always happened in the history of the church in the world. It has gone in cycles and yes, while it may increase in the future, there may be increased persecution. We must acknowledge that it’s always been there. We don’t want to only live with this 1 foot in the future, the state of anxiety and fear about the future when it has been going on all this time and the church has been victorious. The church through Christ Jesus has been victorious all this time and what happens when we only look at persecution in the future is we actually end up diminishing the overcoming power of the church in the past and the overcoming witness of Christians who are persecuted right now. We’re only concerned about what could potentially happen to us, and we are not living with an eye to the victory of the Christians who are persecuted now. We’re not learning from them; we’re not paying attention. If you don’t follow voice of the martyrs, that would be a great account, a great magazine to get, because they show us what Christians are dealing with right now. How to pray for them, how to learn from them, and how to prepare our own hearts through the Holy Spirit to face persecution. Because this is the reality friends, you will be persecuted in some way, shape or form if you followed Jesus wholly. So, the solution isn’t to find a different framework that makes you feel better about the end times or to not read Revelation.

The solution is to get right with God, to understand scripture and to press into His Holy Spirit so you have what it takes to face persecution. I know that’s a little sassy [chuckles] and a little hard, but I’m serious. If we are going to be Christians who make a difference in this world, if you’re going to be Christians who can face persecution without fear, the solution isn’t running away or hiding. That’s not what Jesus asked of you. He said, “You will be persecuted.” It’s coming in some way, shape or form at any point in church history, it was coming. So, are you ready? The only way to be ready is to Walk by His Spirit and to truly understand that he’s your defender, to truly have your trust in Him and in His purpose for your life and your family, in your world and your money. Because if it all went away, what would you have left? This is how we learn from the other Christians who’ve walked through things like this. This is why we read their accounts. It’s why we read missionary stories. It’s why we read for Corrie Ten Boom. It’s why we listen to the voices of the Christians in China, and Iran, and Afghanistan, and everywhere else because they have something of value to teach us.

If someone asked you to explain the gospel, could you do it? If your co-worker came to you with questions about why Jesus had to die or your child asked you to define the Trinity, could you provide an answer? Regardless of whether or not we are in formal ministry, all of us are called to be witnesses for Christ. If you’re nervous, you’re not alone. The ministry of Every Woman a Theologian exists to equip you for this task. Now, we have a cornerstone resource to make that happen. My brand-new book and video study is available for preorder January 9th. Every Woman a Theologian: Know What You Believe. Live It Confidently. Communicate It Graciously is almost here. This book is everything you need to know in order to share your faith without anxiety in today’s world. I wrote this to equip you with a confident and educated faith. The workbook and eight-week video study will also be available and you can preorder through Christian Book, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local Indie Bookstore and lock in the lowest launch price. We are the generation that will stand on both conviction and love because we know what we believe, and why we believe it, and how to explain it well to the world. Join me this spring by ordering, Every Woman a Theologian at bookstores near you.

That being said, let’s talk a little bit about God’s wrath. In Revelation, we see a lot about God’s judgments. You’ve got the bowl judgment, seals, trumpets, horsemen, battles it all kind of looks like an R-rated movie. A lot of times when Christians read the Bible, they will pit God and Jesus against each other. They’ll look at the Old Testament, they’ll look at Revelation, and they’ll say, “Oh, God is this angry mean God and Jesus is this nice guy.” I was recently reading in a book that I’m studying with a friend about the sacraments and it was talking about Jesus coming to judge the world at the end of days and how in Revelation, He comes as a judge on a horse with a sword to judge the world. There’s this painting, I think it’s in Washington DC, in a Catholic church there. This painting is called Scary Jesus because it’s Jesus, but He is depicted as He is in Revelation coming to judge the world. His arms are outstretched and He looks mad. [laughs] I’ve never seen the painting until a couple of weeks ago. It was fascinating because it depicted something that we so often don’t depict, Jesus as the judge. Jesus is a judge because God is a judge and Jesus and God are one. 

It’s so important to understand that we can’t separate them. We can’t say, “Oh, Jesus is nice and God is mean.” Doesn’t make any sense. They’re one, one in essence and what did Jesus do? Cleansed the temple twice. Came into the temple, flipped the tables, built a whip. Who did He whip with it? I mean, it’s safe to assume He whipped somebody, something. People don’t like to hear that, but He went after the people who are defaming and dishonoring God in the holy place. And He will do that again at the final judgment. Why? Because he’s perfectly holy and because God’s love is holy. Go back to the episode on theology where I talk about that. We pit God and Jesus against each other. God is judgment, wrath, and anger. Jesus is kindness and love. Remember that Jesus is the expression of God’s love. Jesus would not have come if it were not God’s loving plan. He always did the will of the Father. Jesus said that He and the Father are one. This is all in John 3, John 6, John 10. The wrath of God is the wrath of Christ and the love of Christ is the love of God.

I think sometimes the more familiar we are with the Bible, the more flippant we become. But instead, our familiarity with God should bring a greater sense of wonder and awe. Who is this God, who is so holy, so unapproachable, who made Himself approachable for us? We have to remember this when we look at the judgments of Revelation. We can think primarily about God’s anger and forget about His love or question His love, but forget that God’s love and grace exist because He is just and holy. Without His justice calling evil to account, there would be no need for grace and without His judging evil for the wreckage it creates in human lives, we could not experience love. God’s love and justice are not opposites. They’re two sides of the same coin, you can’t have one without the other. Theologian Miroslav Volf said, “Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against the God who wasn’t wrathful at the site of the world’s evil.” God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love. What this tells us is that war and bloodshed, abuse, molestation, deceit, corruption, God’s judgment calls all of this to account. 

Every interpretation of Revelation can agree that God’s template is one of loving justice. He makes right the wrongs of sinful humans. Scholar William Barclay said it this way, “The wrath of God is the wrath of love, which is not out to destroy, but even in anger is out to save those whom it loves.” God’s wrath in the end of days, God’s wrath in end times theology is His love on display. The love of God defending His image bearers from every evil thing, purifying the world, driving out the darkness, including any and all who align with it. God’s justice is a comfort because all the unrighteous things that we have seen in our lives on earth will be brought to a just and unrighteous end. The beautiful thing about the gospel is that nobody has to oppose God. He always offers a way to unite with Him and be on the side of love and holiness. Nobody has to be judged in this way unless they choose to be. If they choose to remain under wrath, then they have chosen the consequences of that. They will all have a chance. God’s wrath is His love on display. 

As fallible humans, we don’t get to pick and choose who is held accountable and who is not. We want to make excuses for sin to accomplish our ends, but we can’t do that. We have to trust the holiness and the justice of God, and know that it is a loving, loving thing. Even knowing all of this, it’s hard to imagine a world that’s made completely new. We have no framework for a world without our history of death and pain and sorrow. Every civilization bears the mark of suffering and yet this newness is exactly what God promises in Revelation 21. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, look, “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and will be their God.” 

What’s really wild about this passage is it’s not the first time that God actually says this. It’s an echo of something that He said in Exodus, where He said, “Look, the dwelling place of God is with the people, that He came to live with them, to live in a tabernacle.” At the end of days, He will live face to face with us just like in Eden. Over and over, God is taking us back to dwelling with Him, taking us back to what was lost at Eden, that perfect fellowship, face to face with no animosity, no rift, no separation. This is what God is restoring. This is the great reversal of the fall, but it’s also the reversal of Babylon as we see it in the Bible, The Tower of Babel. Instead of people striving to build a city to heaven, God lowers a city down to them. God’s dwelling place is among the people and the Eden returns. This is God’s intent all along and so here He is dwelling with us in all His glory at the end of days. No walls, no rituals, no barriers, no death, mourning, pain, the old order will have passed away. In this new earth, we will dwell in peace with one another, peace with God, and peace with ourselves. The imperfect temples that God chooses to dwell in right now, our bodies will be consummated in the marriage of Christ and the church. We will be restored to the very best versions of ourselves. 

We will dwell in the actual presence of God at full glory and we won’t have to turn away. As 1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” This is the hope of every Christian martyr and missionary, the hope of every Christ follower before us. We don’t follow Jesus because of a fear of hell and we don’t live in a state of fear of persecution. We live for the joy set before us, eternity with Him. It’s far easier to look forward to eternity in Christ when you’ve experienced the greatness of Christ on Earth, when your faith actually changes your life. The new world will probably not be much different from the current one, but without the pain, and suffering that we experience. There will be nations and kings. Revelation 21 says, “We will probably work in the kingdom like Adam and Eve worked in the garden.” There will not be resistance of sin, all the best things of this world plus all the goodness of perfection that is heaven. We can put aside these boring pictures of harps and cupids, because life in Christ is an adventure both now and later. 

Eschatology for the Christian is full of hope. We are part of a story that God is already writing. There is a good ending coming. The best is always yet to come with God so we do not live in a state of fear and anxiety over these end times, because who wins? Christ. This is why in order to face any kind of persecution; we must trust the goodness of God’s wrath against evil. Trust God’s justice and His holiness that defends His own. Trust, His love that even if we experience grief and pain and lost this side of heaven, He has promised a reward for those who seek Him. We are saved by grace. He has said, “Those who are faithful servants, they receive a reward in heaven.” We get to be excited about that. We get to be excited about spending eternity with Christ. And the more you understand the richness of your relationship with Him on earth, the more beautiful eternity seems. If you believe that the earth is better than heaven. If you are more attached to your earthly life than you are to the hope that Christ gives, you are going to live in a lot of fear and anxiety, because you’re trying to grip something, you’re trying to live a life of an earthly person when you were made for another world. So, I encourage you, let God take that from you. Let Him transform your view. Learn to love Revelation and the goodness that He offers you. Learn to trust the goodness of His wrath, the hope that it gives you, the defense that it gives you, the justice that it gives you, and the evidence of His love that it speaks to you. 

Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of Verity podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, would you take the time to leave us a review? It helps so many other women around the world find out about Verity and about Every Woman a Theologian, as a ministry and a shop. We appreciate you and I hope you’ll be back next week as we continue to go deeper into God’s Word and the heart of Jesus Christ.

 

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