Different versions of the End?

Here’s the last question Cindy sent me (so far). And it’s a doozy!

6.  Why do there seem to be two different versions of the Messianic Second Coming?  Version one is that there will be a cataclysmic event with trumpets and angels and dead being raised.  Version two is that the righteous reign will just sort of slide in, and the earth will worship the one true God, living good long lives, but still apparently dying.  Is one version wrong?  If so, see the question about the fallicy of the Bible.

I was asked to teach a series of “Elder’s Summer Schools” in New Zealand and Australia in 1995. Specifically, they wanted me to teach from my friend Dr. Jon Paulien’s book  “What the Bible Says About the End Time.” One of the most difficult issues I faced is the one Cindy raises. Because, over time, there is a definite change in the portrayal and understanding of the End in the Bible.

Deuteronomy promises that if the children of Israel will obey all of God’s commandments, an age of peace and perfection will come in. That differs markedly from our understanding of the End. Looking at Scripture, we see a progression of understanding, beginning with Deuteronomy.

In Deuteronomy, there is no Messiah per se (no, I’m not forgetting Gen. 3:15). But as time progressed, and the Israelites repeatedly wandered away from God’s commands, it became clear that something, someone, would have to come and lead the way. And the biblical record reflects that growing awareness. The Messiah might have been a judge–remember, the time of the judges takes up about 400 years. But the judges are a mixed lot. So bad, in fact, that the people long for a king. With David and Solomon, who were after all anointed, the idea of an “anointed one” = “messiah” is identified with the King.

At that point, the understanding became that a righteous King would come and lead the people of God to the perfect society. But the kings were worse than the judges. Eventually, their corrupt reign led to the captivity. Suddenly, it became clear that it would never be true that any leader could come and simply lead God’s people to the perfect society. The problem, and the forces, of evil loomed ever stronger. Clearly, there would have to be amighty battle to defeat evil–a battle led by the Messiah.

To summarize, as time went on, the understanding of the problem of sin and evil grew. And as that understanding grew, the explanation of how it would be solved had to change as well.

That’s just the start. More later.


Different versions of the End? — 2 Comments

  1. Yes, a perceptive question. In pondering it, I’m reminded of what Jesus said: “I have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them yet.” Thus we have progressive revelation. I think in OT times, He revealed what they needed to know to fulfill God’s purpose in living in shalom in the promised land. As for the revelation of a Savior, I think we have the same principle of progressive revelation. It started in Genesis 3:15, continued in basic form throughout the book of Genesis with the sacrificial system and then progressed to the entire sanctuary system–all based upon the promise of a Savior to come.
    Jesus came with the full revelation of His salvation, and a holistic picture of our eternity with Him. Prophecy tells us much, yet the details of it are still mostly unknown. And of course the biggest question is the timing of it. I hope very soon!

  2. Hi Ed,

    I was a young person at that Elders Summer school. Something you said later inspired an journal article I wrote and published. I’ve always wanted to say thanks – now I’ve happened upon you by chance. I gave you credit also. I’ll email you the article if you wish – just email me.



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