QUESTIONS & RESPONSES
Regarding End Times
♦ What do you think of Luke 21:8, it is incorrect to say that the end is near?
On March 29, 2012, we received the following inquiry:
“What do you think of Luke 21:8, it is incorrect to say that the end is near?
To the author, we thank you for your inquiry. The scripture you are referring to states:
“He said: “Look out that you are not misled; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The due time has approached.’ Do not go after them.”– Luke 21:8
In response to your question, we want you to understand that the “end” is ALWAYS near – our physical lives can terminate at any time and without any warning. For that reason, we are counseled to serve out of love – love for God, love for Christ and love for truth – not out of fear of the end of a “system of things.”
When our service to God is based on a concern about when the end of a system of things will come, when that time does not arrive as expected, it can crush us and leave us without hope. Perhaps you have seen this happen.
As for the scripture you refer to, please note that the persons doing the misleading are the very ones saying ‘The due time has approached’ and asserting it as though it came from Jesus himself. This is the reason we NEVER speculate as to when an “end” will come. And for those who find themselves as speculators or victims of such speculation, we caution you, as does the scripture, to neither mislead nor be misled. But rather be patient, and a source of encouragement, not “town criers” frightening people into ‘the Truth.’
We can save ourselves and our brothers from that folly by focusing our attention on imitating the faith of Jesus and doing the work he has commissioned us to do. Remember the parable of the “faithful slaves” who concerned themselves with increasing the Master’s interests not being fearful of his return. (Matthew 25:14-30) See also our Questions and Responses March 5, 2012 and our series of articles under “Ambassadors Substituting for Christ.”
If we do these things, whenever the “end” comes, we may be found “spotless and unblemished and in peace.” (2 Peter 3:14) Peace to you.
♦ Follow up comments concerning the “Great Tribulation”
On September 19, 2015, we received the following comment:
“Dear Brothers, Just got done reading the article on 'This Generation' and what you have said make so much sense. It make it so clear only having application for the first century. In thinking about the Destruction of Jerusalem then, it was and still is the greatest tribulation event by man that caused the greatest lost of life. Over a million lost their lives in that one event. Such a fine thought provoking article. Take Care.”
To the author, thank you for your email. We know the article “This Generation” presents an uncommon explanation of the meaning of “this generation” as Jesus stated it at Matthew 24:34, but we strongly believe it is the correct one.
For our visitors who have some difficulty in believing that there is no Great Tribulation ahead of us, but that the tribulation suffered in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. was the greatest tribulation that will ever be suffered by any ‘system of things’ on our planet, we suggest they do some research about the seize on Jerusalem. It was not only the number of individuals who were killed, but it was also the circumstances under which those deaths occurred that will never be suffered by any people ever again. There are many sources on the internet that give detailed accounts of the horrendous events that occurred in Jerusalem at that time that can help us understand why it was the greatest tribulation that ever will be, such as these references:
It should also be noted that the great tribulation that befell Jerusalem was the work of men, not God. The arrogance of the Jews, the anger of the Romans, and the refusal of the Jews in Jerusalem to take Jesus advice to ‘flee to the mountains’ are the reasons why that great tribulation occurred. It was NOT the will of God; it was the will of men.
There may be difficult times ahead due to the continued refusal of men to heed the teachings of Jesus, but as Jesus said, once the good news that he taught is preached to the ends of the earth, the enlightenment that results from such teachings will bring an end to all sorts of wickedness and suffering. (Matthew 24:14) That is the solution to our world’s woes.
Understanding the plain meaning of Jesus’ words should be a comfort to all who are in useless fear of an upcoming Great Tribulation that would culminate in the destruction of civilization. Such teachings by quasi-Christian religions does a great disservice to Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and only serves to glorify men who are seeking followers and setting themselves up as the ‘ark of salvation’ so as to build their own storehouses.
Rather than preaching doom and gloom, all who love our Prince of Peace should be about preaching and/or sharing the good news that Jesus taught and have faith in the ability of Jesus’ plain and open teachings to change our world and bring about the peace we have so longed for.
The end of suffering has lingered only because Jesus’ followers have not yet decided to do the work he asked of them (Matthew 28:19-20). When we do, we will see a welcomed and peaceful end to all distressing world conditions.
♦ If the “Great Tribulation” is in the past why didn’t the “sign of the son of man” occur along with it?
On September 22, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“When I was reading Matthew 24, yes I have to agree that most of those words were addressed to Jews at that time. That being said, I think we can’t ignore the fact that some of his words would still make no sense. Jesus is including his coming and also the desolation of Jerusalem. Yes the great tribulation did occur but the Son of Man was not seen, neither has he taken us to heaven the elect. Would you also disregard that by tying it up with the fact that those words were said then with no greater meaning today, whereas some of the things he said haven’t happened?”
To the author, thank you for your email. This is an excellent question that raises an issue we have pondered and researched for quite some time. There are a lot of different views out there, but here is our understanding. After Jesus told his disciples that Jerusalem would be destroyed, they said:
“... Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?”– Matthew 24:3
Although Jesus had not spoken about the sign of his presence, or his second coming, on that occasion, the writer of Matthew records the disciples as asking for information about both the sign of his presence and the sign of the destruction of Jerusalem.
In answer to the question about the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus described many things that would occur before Jerusalem is destroyed, and counseled them to not be distracted by these things. (Verses 4-8) He said that prior to the destruction, they would be severely persecuted by their own countrymen and they must endure these persecutions. (Verses 9-13) He assured them that these persecutions would not stop the preaching work, but that it would successfully reach the entire inhabited earth. (Verse 14) Then Jesus described a certain event that would mark the beginning of the desolation of Jerusalem and told them when they saw that sign, they were to flee and not look back. (Verses 15-28)
In response to the question about the ‘sign of the son of man,’ Jesus describes various events that would occur in connection with his presence and he explained the signs that would signal that the time for his appearance was near at the doors. (Verses 29-33) These signs were natural and reasonably expected like leaves sprouting to indicates a change in seasons, unlike the strange and unusual sign of the pending destruction of Jerusalem. The remaining verses are tell of the need to be alert, to stay awake, and to be found faithful and discreet. (Verses 37-51)
We note that verse 29 says the sign of the son of man would appear “immediately after the tribulation of those days.” However, the sign of the son of man did not appear at that time. This means that either Jesus was mistaken or the apostles misunderstood Jesus. Given our great appreciation and respect for Jesus, and the apostles’ habit of presuming things (Acts 1:6-8), we accept the latter – that the apostles and disciples misunderstood him.
Yes, Jesus clearly spoke about both his second coming and the destruction of Jerusalem on this night, but he may not have connected the two events so directly. Is it possible that the apostles connected these two events in their enthusiasm and excitement for the return of Jesus so that when the account was preserved in writing, their sense of urgency was added to it?
This is something that Christians have done in every generation since Jesus’ ascension and it is an apt description for what is happening today. Our desire for relief from the distressing circumstances of life lead many Christians to long for Jesus to return in our lifetime. But, so far, every generation has been mistaken. This disappointment is rightly charged to men, not to Jesus.
If this is what occurred, then that would explain the meaning of Jesus’ words:
“Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.”– Matthew 24:34-35
He must have been speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem because all of the things he foretold about Jerusalem’s destruction occurred within that generation – within 37 years of the words being spoken. This is a historical fact. But since the sign of the son of man did not immediately occur, we believe the following words were spoken in relation to the second coming:
“Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.”– Matthew 24:32-36
In support of this understanding, we point to the illustrations Jesus gave on that same night as recorded in Matthew 25:1-46. All of these parables are about Jesus’ second coming and all of them indicate that his return would be a long time in the future, at a time they would not expect. Therefore, we conclude that the greatest tribulation ever to be experienced by a ‘system of things’ is in our past and the second coming is still in our future.
For us, the key to understanding Matthew 24 is to take into consideration Matthew 25, and recognize that the ‘great tribulation’ in Jerusalem is a separate event from the second coming of Jesus. And we also keep in mind that the account in Matthew is not a transcription of Jesus’ exact words and sequencing. They are a good faith recollection of his words which were written several years later. This would explain the strange sequencing in how his answer is recorded.
However, the most important thing to remember is that whatever the future holds, exercising faith in Jesus is sufficient for salvation. (John 3:16; John 6:40; John 6:47; John 17:3; John 5:24) So there is no need to be overly concerned about prophesies and prophetic interpretations.
♦ Doesn’t Revelation chapter 7 tell us that the “Great Tribulation” is in the future?
On September 22, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“I like your explanation, about "this generation" but what I do not understand is what makes you so sure that was the only Great Tribulation to come. The reason why I ask this is because long after Jerusalem was destroyed, the angel gave a revelation to Apostle John. Then he told me, "Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the Time is Near." That would mean anything written were future tense. And in chapter 7, he was told "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." If the great tribulation was only meant for the Jews then that would mean the great crowd does not include any of those living now because there is no Great Tribulation for them. Yes I understand you do shy away from prophecies, but this is not so complicated to that point. Then what John had seen in his vision were not 'things yet to come' only that happened. That’s according to my understanding of your view of the great tribulation. Thank you brothers, I hope you' ll find time to clear my cobwebs, or review it.”
To the author, thank you for your email. You raise a good question that we are happy to answer.
What makes us so sure is Jesus’ own words:
“[F]or then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.”– Matthew 24:21
This is an unambiguous statement that there will never be a tribulation greater than the one suffered by Jerusalem in 70 C.E., from the world’s beginning on into the far distant future. Whereas the verses in the book of Revelation are not so definitive. They state:
“In response one of the elders said to me: “These who are dressed in the white robes, who are they and where did they come from?” So right away I said to him: “My lord, you are the one who knows.” And he said to me: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”– Revelation 7:13-14
The ‘great tribulation’ referred to here is not clearly defined. It could refer to a number of things. For example, you suggest that this could not refer to the great tribulation of Jerusalem because it was written about 20 years after the destruction. However, the Bible tells us that those who die, sleep in death and are not awakened until the resurrection. Since the resurrection is in the future, this certainly could refer to the survivors of the Jerusalem tribulation. But that is only one possible understanding. There are other ‘great tribulations.’
Remember, Jesus did not say there would not be any ‘great tribulation’ after the destruction of Jerusalem. He only said there would not be a greater tribulation in the future. Consider this: Compared to life in heaven, life on earth is a great tribulation. See Acts 7:11, Acts 11:19, John 15:21, John 16:33, 1 Corinthians 7:28, Revelation 2:22, and so many other scriptures that refer to life circumstances on earth as tribulation, even great tribulation. Check your scripture index or a good concordance. So when we are resurrected, it can truly be said that we have come out of ‘the great tribulation’ of mortal life and into the glorious heavenly career. We lean more to this understanding, but there could be other valid interpretations, so we are not dogmatic about these possible meanings.
Having said that, what we want to emphasize is that when there is a dispute between what Jesus plainly and openly stated on the one hand and prophesies or symbolism on the other hand, we ALWAYS side with Jesus’ plain words. There is no need to discount or minimize or explain away Jesus actual words because one is not sure what a prophesy means. Jesus said there would never be a greater tribulation, and we believe him, while, at the same time, we remain open and flexible as to the meaning of the Revelation.
♦ When can we see the fulfillment of Revelation 21:3-4?
On October 14, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“Dear Brothers, Thank you for your response to my recent letter regarding the resurrection. Please help me to understand your views on the scripture in Revelation chapter 21:3,4...in relation to "the tent of God is with Mankind". Are we not to understand that this means that there is a purpose for people to live on the earth in a world without suffering and even death? Thank you very much for your attention to this letter. Your brother.”
To the author, thank you for your email. We are happy to respond to your emails, but, as you may know, we refrain from commenting on prophecies and prophetic fulfillment because we believe it can serve as too much of a distraction from the purpose and message of Jesus’ actual ministry. The focus on end times has lead many religious people down a path of disappointment and loss of faith. And it has been the demise of many well-intentioned religious associations. In fact, we believe that the Watchtower organization is on that path to self-destruction if it does not return to the plain and open teachings of Jesus. However, in this instance, since your question concerns a fundamental teaching on this site, namely that the so-called ‘earthly hope’ is a fallacy, we will make a few comments.
We note that the prophecy that “the tent of God will be with mankind” does not mean that the hope for man is to live forever on earth. It simply means that when the time comes for God to engulf the entire planet with his glory, the earth will be filled with righteous, God-oriented people, and these conditions will continue forever. However, the individual man or woman will still attain to the purpose God has for his children that was established “before the founding of the world,” that they be adopted as His sons into heaven, as recorded at Ephesians 1:3-5. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates God’s original purpose has changed or will change.
As for death being done away with, it might be helpful to know that death and resurrection is just one way of terrestrial escape. Recall that Paul spoke about some being transformed in the twinkling of an eye. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52) So it is quite possible that, in a world populated with righteous people, when each one’s time on earth is complete, they, too, will twinkle away instead of experiencing the sleep of death.
As to when the prophecy at Revelations 21:3-4 will have its fulfillment, we believe it will be fulfilled long in the future when man has matured and has reached a physical and spiritual apex. We reach this conclusion because righteousness does not come automatically. It takes time and effort, and the world as we know it is quite a long way away from that point. However, when the teachings of Jesus will have permeated the entire earth and the majority of the people are seeking the heavenly kingdom, then we will see the end of the sorrowful conditions and the beginning of the fulfillment of these divine promises.
Of course, we understand why millions of people are hoping for its fulfillment in their lifetime. Every generation since John recorded his prophecy had this hopeful expectation. It seems the fear of one’s own mortality creates a great sense of urgency and a compulsion to see the ‘signs’ of its fulfillment in every day events that must naturally occur as mankind progresses and matures. But as Jesus said, wars, famine, earthquakes, tribulation and things like these are just the ‘beginning’ (not the ending) of pangs of distress, and they will not end until Jesus’ message is preached throughout the entire inhabited earth. (Matthew 24:7-14) The relief we all hope for will come by the ‘word of God’ not by destruction.
Nevertheless, 21st century Christians are determined to make this prophecy come true in their lifetimes. And it is this need that fuels the growth of end times religions and the gross abuse of the faith and hopes of otherwise intelligent and Godly people. Hopefully, as the erroneous prophetic interpretations fail, Christians will settle down and return to the plain and open teachings of Jesus as the means to bring relief to our world. We are doing what we can to promote that outcome.Please see our article “Bringing Heaven Down-Turning Back Destruction.”
Having said all of this, to those who continue to be convinced that the end of the world is just around the corner, consider this: If the whole world were to crash before the end of this year and everything as we know were to be torn down, what can you do to protect yourself? What steps can you take to assure your salvation? Where can you hide for safety? There is only one thing you can do. Exercise faith in Jesus. No other knowledge or activity or person or organization will be able to protect you or save you. That being the case, why not focus your attention on learning as much as you can about Jesus and his ministry. Learn what Jesus wants you to do with your time, AND DO THOSE THINGS.
If more Christians can display that mental attitude, we can hasten the spiritual and material apex of our world so that these divine prophecies can have their fulfillment.
♦ How does one apply “this generation” during personal bible reading?
On October 20, 2015, we received the following inquiry:
“I found the article on "this generation" thought-provoking. Your reasoning on WHO Jesus referred to appeared sound and indisputable however, doesn't your reasoning amount to separation of scripture much like what is already in practice with the Witnesses? You know the consideration given to 'the faithful and discreet slave' as well as 'keep doing this in remembrance of me'. They have denied personal, individual application. Wouldn't your reasoning amount to the same thing? How does one apply 'this generation' during personal bible reading?”
To the author, thank you for visiting our site and sending your email.
In finding an answer to your question, please keep in mind that parts of the Bible are historical. In other words, they are a record of events that actually occurred. Historical records are different from parables. Parables have universal meaning at all times and for all generations. They are also different from actual teachings, counsel, suggestions and directives, all of which should be taken personally. But not so with historical records.
The portion you are referring to is a historical record of what occurred that evening on the Mount when Jesus explained to his disciples what was to befall Jerusalem. Recall that this account was recorded in about 41 C.E., before the destruction of Jerusalem, so it was very relevant and needed to be recorded for 1st century Christians.
That account has also been preserved down to our day as an historical record of the sayings and doings of Jesus of Nazareth. So when you are reading an historical record such as this one, you should look for any lesson in it that could apply in your life. But you should not assume that the historical record is a personal message or a prophecy of what will actually occur to you personally.
This is especially true with this account. Jesus was clear that he was referring to “this generation” represented by those disciples that were sitting before him. But every generation who reads this account can learn something from it, such as Jesus has foreknowledge of events and we can rely on his words, that who reject the clear message of Jesus will not have God’s favor or protection, whereas those who heed Jesus’ counsel can survive.
And never discount the value of your personal experience of Jesus by means of the Spirit of Truth. We can honor those men of earlier days, but we must remember that we, too, must be living examples of the Christ in our families, communities and our lives. The Spirit of Truth is working with all who confess union with Christ in these days. Look at the past experiences for encouragement and enlightenment, but live in this 21st century as a new creation ever growing, learning, seeking, and knocking for truth and light. The Father is with this generation just has He has been with other generations in the past. And there is always more to know, to do and to experience, especially for those who are seeking the prize of the upward call.
We hope this answers your questions, but if not, please do not hesitate to write us again. And if you do, please let us know if you have accepted the free gift of holy spirit as a child of God.