The Glory and Terror of the End
The end of history is told, prophetically, in the Bible. We are given fragments of various sizes from both the Old and New Testament. These fragments, when collected and collated, present a logical order to future events. These events, leading to consummation and new creation, are as sure as God’s Word.
Sadly, the devil has brought confusion to the church’s interpretation, in eschatology (study of end things). With too much zeal and not enough knowledge, we remain a house divided, regarding an essential witness to the church and to the world. As a result, many in the church are preoccupied with end of the world superstitions. Because of this, the world has much fodder to mock Christ and His church. The uncertain sound from our trumpet blast is regrettable.
People outside of the church, only imagine the continuation of the present, with technology advances and human conflicts (Mt 24:38). Some are sure humanity will destroy everything. In this, Christians possess a much more plausible view of the future. The fact that the prophets of Israel foretold the first advent of Messiah with precision (Ps 110:1; Is 7:14; 9:6; 52:13–53:12; Jer 6:21; 17:13; Dan 9:25–26; 12:2; Mic 5:2; Zech 11:12–13; 13:7; etc.), we have utter confidence that what the Bible says about His second coming is certainly more reliable than man’s speculations (Ezek 30:1–5; Joel 2:1–17, 30–32; Obadiah 1:10–21; Zeph 1:7–18; etc.).
In this short essay, my objective is to follow two themes: glory and terror. These two aspects of the end are evident when one reads biblical eschatology. We also must avoid the popular and disobedient practice of speculating when the day and hour of Christ’s return are anticipated (Mt 24:36, 44)
The climax of history’s end is called, “The Day of the Lord” or “The Day of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Under these titles fit all of the events of the end times for two distinct people groups. In Jesus’ Olivet Discourse (Mt 24–25; Mk 13; Lk 21), He profiles these two groups with names that reveal much about them: sheep and goats (Mt 25:32); prudent and foolish (Mt 25:2); good/faithful and worthless (Mt 25:23, 30), all the tribes of the earth and His elect (Mt 24:30, 31). This dichotomy is also seen in the resurrection from the dead (Jn 5:25–29). The final judgment maintains this contrast with the accursed ones and the righteous (Mt 25:41, 46).
Every soul who was ever conceived must fall into one group or the other. The names speak of glory and terror. For this reason, the one group preaches to the second, with warnings of the wrath to come and the need for salvation (1 Thess 1:10). All people begin life in the camp of the condemned (Jn 3:18), but there is a salvation for the elect (Acts 4:12; Eph 2:8–9; Titus 3:5), who are redeemed, and who are adopted into God’s family (Rom 8:15, 23).
The two groups live two very different lives in this world. One group orients their lives around the coming of the Son of Man. The other group loathes the hearing of such news. These people love the world and the things of the world. The return of the Lord is a prospective intrusion into their evil deeds, done in darkness (Jn 3:19). The book of Revelation reveals that Babylon, the city of man, will be destroyed (Rev 17–18), along with the whole earth (2 Pet 3:10–12).
The Lord Jesus Christ is the distinguishing feature that separates all of life, in this world of death. How one relates to King Jesus determines the life one lives and the end of that life. Thus, we have two groups of people, two distinct lives lived, and two eternal ends.
The dualism offered by Scripture, for our consideration, is not simplistic, however. The two groups, living their two different lives, do not simply end at the coming of our Lord. There is significant intrigue, escalating in intensity, as history comes to its dramatic end.
The elect of God find the life of godliness very difficult, as aliens in the domain of darkness (Mt 5:10–11; Jn 16:33; Col 1:24). The world system works against them, under the deceit of false Christ characters (i.e. Pope Urban II, Suleiman, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc.), false prophets and false teachers (Mt 24:5, 11). There is also much persecution, as the spirit of Antichrist works to suppress the truth (Rom 1:18; 1 Jn 4:3). The world hates Christians (Jn 15:18–25), even as it hated Christ (Jn 7:7). With a demon spirit, near the end of history, the man of sin will set himself up in Christ’s church, as Messiah (2 Thess 2).
There is no resolution to the world’s rebellion against God, nor is there a remedy for the infiltrated church, until the Day of the Lord. For these reasons, the elect rejoice, amidst current affliction (Col 1:24; Jas 1:2), in the glory to be revealed on that day (Rom 8:18). It will be a day of ultimate salvation for God’s people. Today, the church prays for this final day to come (Rev 22:17). We study our Bibles to know the features of the end. We faithfully tell others of these matters (Mt 24:14; Mk 16:15; Acts 1:8).
The Day of the Lord’s return will be pure terror for the enemies of Christ and of God (Rev 19:11–21). There will be no escape, from the wrath of the Lamb (Rev 6:16), and the One who says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (Rom 12:19).” The natural disasters and world calamities will be like no other day in history (Joel 2:2). Men will cry for falling rocks to cover them, in the hope of avoiding the Judge of all the earth (Gen 18:25; Rev 6:16). To their dismay it will be Jesus Christ, our Dread Champion (Jer 20:11), who is coming to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 17:31; 2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5).
As in the days of Noah, the people of the earth did not understand their judgment, until it came upon them (Gen 7:21–23; Mt 24:36–41). The separation was obvious on that day, and it will be obvious at the moment of resurrection (Jn 5:25–29), as glorified saints meet Christ (1 Cor 15:47–49), the King of glory, in the air, at His coming (1 Thess 4:17–18).
Woe to those without Christ, for their sentence is the second death in the eternal punishment of the lake of fire (Mt 25:41, 46; Jude 7; Rev 20:14–15). There is nothing but terror waiting for the wicked, without hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12). Glory and terror…it’s the end of the world as we know it. How do you feel?
Spokane Valley, Washington
July 27, 2022