By Don Koenig
One of the chief signs of the end times that premillennial futurists fluffed over in their eagerness to see the return of the Lord for His Church is the passages that make it clear that the Lord is coming at time when we think not (Luke 12:40).
We also know that in the last days there would be Christians mocking other Christians about their belief in the soon return of the Lord.
2 Peter 3, Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
In hindsight, one of the reasons why the hope of a Rapture in the 20th century was premature was because during that period a great percentage of Evangelical Christians believed in premillennialism. They believed in a literal and future fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Therefore, the coming of Jesus really did not fit what Jesus said it would be like in the Church just before His return. Let me explain.
The doctrine of the Rapture and the Lord’s Second coming was one of the major focuses of the Bible believing Church in the last third of the 20th century. Yet, scripture implies that many Christians would not be expecting Jesus when He comes. So one of the signs that premillennial 20th century believers were presumptuous, and that Jesus would not return on our time-lines, was the general expectations that prevailed during that period among Christians. This irrational exuberance led to date setters and the fallout of that led to a general discrediting of all teaching dispensational Premillennial Theology.
Futurist Premillennial Theology probably reached its peak from 1970 to around the year 2000. In those days it was hard to find a Evangelical Bible believing church that did not believe in the soon coming of Jesus with the Rapture of the Church. They also taught that the Rapture would be followed by judgment of evil on earth, followed by the establishment of the millennial kingdom where Jesus would rule and reign on earth with His Church for a thousand years, and then Satan once again would be loosed to deceive mankind into a final rebellion.
Because of the Lord’s delay and the presumptuous false hopes presented by some, there since has been a falling away from premillennial theology. Many pastors now have post-millennial beliefs where the Church will have to Christianize the world before the Lord will actually physically return. Preterism is also gaining ground. They teach that prophecy about Israel was all fulfilled in 70 AD and the prophetic promises to Israel are either annulled or are now only promises to the spiritual Church. With preterists, the Church is the kingdom promised on earth and the Church allegorically fulfills Bible prophecy. When all the saved come in, God will then judge all and eternity will began. There is no literal thousand year reign on earth in Preterism.
Today premillenial futurist Dispensational Theology is losing ground every day in Evangelical Christianity and you will seldom hear it taught from the pulpits anymore. It also will not be found in your Sunday school material. I think this falling away from premillennialim and the teaching of the imminent coming of Jesus is prophetic in itself. It had to be fulfilled, if we are indeed in the last days.
Jesus said He would come at a time when most think not. That would not have been true when people were still claiming His soon coming and also followed the date setters. Few premillenial believers in the 1980’s thought that we would still be here in 2011. There are still some premillennial Christians that are hanging on to the hope of the Lord’s soon coming, but they are becoming a smaller and smaller minority within Christianity.
I suppose that those following the 2012 end of the world presumptions and heretics like Harold Camping will just make premillennial believers even more rare in the future. This will set the conditions in Christianity for what Peter said would happen in the last days.
Peter said Christians will be mocking other Christians saying, “where is the promise of His coming”, they will obviously insinuate that your belief of a soon coming Rapture and the return of Jesus is a false hope that is even harmful to the Church. Pastors will teach that we must put away all such foolishness and work to Christianize the world through social justice programs. All that are teaching Premillennial Theology with the physical return of Jesus will be marginalized and perhaps not even welcomed in their fellowships.
The trend In Christianity is already this way in the churches that have become unequally yoked with unbelievers that intend to set up an interfaith world of social justice. This trend away from premillennialism will only increase because of more failed date setting. Soon premillennial evangelicals will become open game for soft and hard dominionist media Evangelicals, and their mocking will spread into the general church populations.
That is when this “where is the promise of His coming” rant will be literally fulfilled. Some have claimed fulfillment in the past, but they were really grasping at straws. I do not believe it will be some subtitle innuendo. It will be a direct mocking confrontation against those that hold fast to Premillennial Theology and the soon return of the Lord. This is what I believe Peter is saying in his passage. We have not seen that fulfilled yet, but we see that things are rapidly trending in that direction. We now see the Seeker, Purpose Driven, Emergent and New Apostolic Reformation churches are becoming increasingly hostile toward Premillennial Theology. Get ready for more flame throwing against anyone that takes Bible prophecy literally.
But, blessed is the the person that holds fast to the promise of the Lord’s coming. That promise of His patience was held by only one of the seven church types that identify Christianity, and they are the only Church type that was promised to be kept out of the great trial that will come upon all those that dwell on the earth.
Rev 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
Jesus said, “will there be faith on the earth when I come” (Lk 18:18), Jesus probably was not talking about faith to believe that salvation came through Him. The Church has to have salvation faith, or it is not the Church. Jesus was referring to faith that He would soon return and judge the earth. The answer to His question is that other than a small minority that kept the promise of His coming and His patience, there will not be that kind of faith on the earth when Jesus comes.
We need to keep the faith, the Lord is not slow in coming. He just is not willing that any should perish. Nevertheless, the signs of the times are evident, the Lord will not delay His coming much longer. We are not in darkness, that this day should overtake us as a thief (1 Th 5:4).
Lk 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
Finally, one reason not usually talked about why Jesus must return very soon is The Singularity. We are only a few decades from when man will be able to extend his lifespan indefinitely. The doubling of knowledge every 18 months means that artificial intelligence will soon make it possible for collective man to solve any technical problem, but he still will not deal with the problem of his own sin.
Unforeseen technology will get into the hands of evil people and they would destroy the world if it went on past the middle of this century. So Jesus must return and deal with evil before that happens. The mark of the Beast probably somehow ties in. Man will attempt to undo the confusion given to him at Babel. That is not acceptable while mankind is still in rebellion against God. So the end is soon for sure, but first the scoffers must come from even those that call themselves Christians.