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Is Jesus' Return Imminent

TruthTalks: Is Jesus’ Return Imminent?

Is Jesus' Return Imminent

Lately it hasn’t been hard to imagine that Jesus’ return is imminent and that the end of the world as we know it is just around the corner.

Listen to Dr Christopher Peppler talking on this topic as he goes through what the bible tells us about it, and what we should do. Click on the play button below to listen now or read the article this TruthTalks audio is based on HERE.

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TruthTalks: Living in the End of the Age

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Are we living in the end times? If we are, what can we do about it?

In this TruthTalks podcast, Dr Christopher Peppler talks about that very matter, citing what Jesus had to say about the end of days, referencing and explaining biblical sources.

If you have your bible handy while listening, turn to Matthew 24 so you can follow along.

If you suspect that we ARE indeed living in those times, or even if you don’t, this TruthTalk is worth a listen! Simply scroll down and click on the play button below, download the audio, or subscribe to our podcast feed and get them delivered directly to your phone. By the way, a map is referred to during this TruthTalks audio, and you can view it in the previous article HERE.

TruthIsTheWord.com is non-profit and we rely on YOU to help us spread the word, so please like, comment, subscribe and interact with us. Alternatively you can show your support by buying one of Dr Peppler’s books HERE

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Living in the End of the Age

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Dramatic weather changes, pandemics, economic woes, and  Russia invading Ukraine have prompted many Christians to wonder afresh if we are now living in the End of the Age.

 

In February 2021 I wrote on this subject under the title of ‘Are these the End of Days?’ where I quoted a lot from what Jesus said and did. The main source of his teaching on the End Times is Matthew Chapter 24 and in this current article, I want to provide further insight into this important passage of scripture. This chapter of Matthew’s gospel is not easy to understand yet it is essential to providing any meaningful answer to the question many are again asking at this time.

Some of the Difficulties

The chapter starts with the disciples asking Jesus a compound question, but the complication is that it is not immediately obvious how many parts the question contains, one, two, or three. How we understand Jesus’ response depends largely on how many questions we think he addresses.

Then there is verse 14 which has, ‘and then the end will come’, counterbalanced by verse 34 which speaks of ‘this generation’ not passing away until everything spoken of has been completed. So, what time period is in view here? The destruction of the Temple in AD 70 or the second coming of Jesus sometime after 2021?

These examples point to the main problem that confronts us – is Jesus speaking about events less than 4 decades in the future, or events thousands of years in the future, or both?

Systems of Interpretation

Theologians love to create names for their ways of thinking and to gather together various texts and ideas under their chosen heading. The study of the End Times (Eschatology) is no exception, and when it comes to Matthew 24 there are at least three schools of thought.

  • There are the Preterists who see the whole of Matthew 24 as referring to the period between AD 33 and AD 70.
  • The Futurists hold that all of Chapter 24 concerns just the events immediately prior to Jesus’ second coming.
  • The Historicists believe that the whole church age is in view to one extent or another.

So what should we do? Should we opt for one of these systems or try to let the passage of scripture itself settle the matter – this is the approach I take.

The Disciples Question

To understand Jesus’ answer we must obviously understand the questions he was answering. He and his disciples had just been in the temple courts where he had confronted the teachers of the law, and pronounced seven dreadful woes upon them. He concluded his diatribe with the words, “And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:35-36). Then he left the temple and as he was walking away ‘his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”’ (Matthew 24:1-2) From there they went up to the Mount of Olives, just to the east of Jerusalem, where the disciples asked him, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?

Premillennial Dispensationalists (Futurists) teach that the disciples’ enquiry consists of three separate questions; (1) When will the temple be destroyed? (2) What will be the sign of your second coming? (3) What will be the sign of the End of the Age? This matches their eschatological system that requires a distinction between the second coming of Christ to gather up the church and a much later End Time Judgement. I do not subscribe to this theological system as I believe it is seriously flawed in several ways. Rather, I understand the disciples’ question as containing just two parts; (1) When will all this take place? (The destruction of the Temple), and (2) Will there be any sign ahead of time to signal your return and the end of the world? (The return of Christ to both remove remaining believers from the Earth and to judge all others, followed immediately by the creation of a new HeavenEarth).

The Structure of Jesus’ Answer

The Lord Jesus answered both of these questions in detail, but the problem we have is to work out where in Matthew 24 he deals with each. Some teachers, like Dr Sam Storms, teach that almost all of the chapter concerns the period up to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, but then have to contend with several end-of-the-world references like verses 29-31 that just do not fit this scheme. Others, like Tim LaHaye, make the whole chapter apply only to the very end of the age but they have to deal with verses like 34 (and what Jesus said in Matthew 23:36).

There are some observations I can make that help us determine the structure of Matthew 24:

  1. The fact that much of what Jesus said is addressed to the disciples who were with him, but this does not preclude the fact that what he said will also be relevant to future generations. However, it does mean that what he said was indeed relevant to his original hearers within their time frame. In other words, it is not just about the distant future.
  2. There is evidence of editing, or at least rearranging, of what Jesus said. For instance the insert in verse 15 ‘let the reader understand’ as well as the different narratives in the parallel accounts in Mark 13 and Luke 21.
  3. The fairly obvious conclusion is that the disciples associated the destruction of the Temple with the End of the Age – otherwise, why would they frame their composite question the way in which they did?

My understanding of the structure of the passage is that Jesus answered both parts of the question in a way typical of teachers of his time by dealing with one, moving on to the other, and then coming back to the previous question. We find this a lot in Paul’s writings and in many parts of the Old Testament. So, the structure that I discern in Matthew 24 is:

a) Vs 4-14 Relating to the End of the Age

b) Vs 15-23 Relating to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70

c) Vs 23-33 Relating to the End of the Age

d) Vs 34-35 Relating to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70

e) Vs 36-51 Relating to the End of the Age

 

The Destruction of the Temple in AD 70 Vs 15-23 and 34-35

Most translations start verse 15 in a way that indicates that it is just a continuation of the previous paragraph – ‘So when you see…’  However, the New Living Translation (NLT) has ‘The time will come when you will see…’ which allows the possibility for the start of a new thought. The underlying Greek text allows for either of these translations, but I think that the NLT is more correct

Jesus refers to an Old Testament prophecy and says: “The time will come when you will see what Daniel the prophet spoke about: the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing in the Holy Place” — reader, pay attention!  “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills”.  The reference is to Daniel 11:31 which signifies that ‘the Temple would be used for an “abominable” purpose at some time in the future. As a result, God’s faithful people would no longer worship there-so great would be their moral revulsion, contempt, and abhorrence at the sacrilege-and the Temple would become “desolate.”’ (from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary).

Luke’s account is a little different and reads, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city”. The history produced by Eusebius records that when the Roman armies were marching on Jerusalem, before its ultimate destruction in AD 70, the Christian population of the city took heed of Jesus’ warning and fled the city and relocated in the unique hill town of Pella. Roman soldiers carried the emblems and standards of Rome that the Jews regarded as blasphemous and idolic. When the troops later sacked  Jerusalem and the temple, their presence and their emblems in the Holy Place were to the Jews an absolute abomination that causes desolation.

Matthew 24:21 has, ‘then there will be great distress, unequaled  from the beginning of the world until now — and never to be equaled again’. The historic record shows this to be so. Prior to the siege of Jerusalem, the city was in turmoil with sects and gangs fighting with each other and murdering thousands. When the Romans laid siege to the city, famine and disease added to the dire conditions. Mothers were eating their own children and tens of thousands died of starvation. When the Romans breached the city walls, they systematically slaughtered all the remaining people in Jerusalem save for about 100,000 who they took into slavery. The estimated deaths were over one million people and the slaughter was so great that the blood running in the streets extinguished some of the burning buildings ignited by the soldiers.

Jesus spoke to his disciples about this in AD 33 and all that he predicted concerning the destruction of the temple occurred just 37 years later; this is why he said, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matthew 24:34).

Verses relating to the End of the Age in Matthew 24  – Vs 4-14, 23-33, 36-51

Although what Jesus said to his disciples applied to the period from AD 33 to AD 70, it applies even more to us today. He warned of the following:

Deception by false prophets and teachers claiming to represent him.

He explained that part of their deception would be the performance of signs and wonders. He also warned that these people would try to attract Christians to come to them so as to entrap them and deceive them. He used a powerful analogy when he said: “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather”. When we see vultures circling in the air then we know that they indicate the presence of a carcass and not of a source of life. No, when Jesus comes again it will be as obvious and as widely observable to all as lightning covering the whole horizon.

In the last few decades, we have certainly seen and experienced all of these things playing out and intensifying. How many false miracle workers have we seen setting up shop in cities all around the world and beguiling people to come to them for healing, wealth, and influence?

Wars and the news of pending wars.

There have been more than 115 wars in various places during the last 30 years!

Famines and earthquakes

War and famine go hand in hand and the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia could well trigger famine in the developing world, especially as climate change bites harder and harder. Here is a link to an impressive list of the deadliest earthquakes in the last 30 years

Persecution and apostasy

Living in the West or in South Africa, as I do, it is hard to imagine the extent and severity of persecution actually taking place right now. Here is a map showing the 50 countries where persecution is currently most prevalent.

From christianitytoday.com

Strange and frightening signs in the heavens

Of late there have been many strange phenomena in our atmosphere and in the solar system. The US government is even reopening its investigative case on the appearance of UFO sightings. I don’t want to comment further on this as it is a subject that lies somewhere in the twilight zone between unexplained actual occurrences and the imaginations of very creative people.

Jesus also gave two strong indicators of the imminence of his coming at the End of the Age when he said that the Gospel would be preached to the whole world as a final testimony to all people and that ‘the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky’. He used the analogy of the sprouting fig tree to indicate that when we see these things happen then we will know that ‘it is near, right at the door’. However, Jesus also warned that, “No man knows about that day or hour…”, but that it would be sudden.

Jesus gave no instructions to us about anything different that we should do when we see the swift approach of the End of Time. His essential message was to be ready to meet him and to be faithful stewards of his kingdom right up until he comes again (Verses 36-51).

There is no Pella to flee to, and no doomsday prepping to undertake, but there is a Gospel to share and a life to live faithfully in trust and obedience. It is more urgent than ever that we come to know Jesus, become like him, and help others to do likewise.

Gospel outreach and the Sign of the Son of Man

There are very few people groups  in the world who have not yet heard a presentation of the Gospel in some form or other. However, over and above that, genuine Revival inevitably results in a powerful surge of people coming to know Jesus. I believe that we are yet to see the greatest and most widespread Revival that this planet has ever experienced, perhaps a final act of divine grace before the End of the Age. See my article HERE or read my book about the key aspects of revival HERE.

What will the Sign of the Son of Man appearing in the sky be? I do not know, but it will be obvious to all people if indeed it is to have the result that Jesus spoke of when he said “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31).

Are we living in the End of the Age then?

I think that we ARE approaching the time of the end when Jesus will come again, all people will be judged, and God will create a new HeavenEarth as his eternal abode with his children saved from every age. I do not think that world conditions will get better, although the end will probably come when everything appears to be hunky-dory. I also do not believe that Christians will be snatched out of an increasingly chaotic world except for those still alive when the Day of Judgment comes, for God will never pour out his wrath upon his children.

A key passage of scripture that we need to believe and hold onto in these trying days is where Jesus said “remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” HSCB (Matthew 28:20). This is the bottom line of the issue and this article; no matter what the conditions, Jesus is with us always.

Living in the End of the Age Read More »

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TruthTalks: The Three Temples

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In the last TruthTalk, Are These the ‘End of the Days’? Dr Christopher Peppler talks about the destruction of the temple in 70 AD and promises to go into more detail about it. This is the detail.

Based on the post ‘The Three Temples’ we get to hear all about it from the horse’s mouth (so to speak),  so click on the play button below to listen to this enlightening talk on the topic.

So, if you’ve ever wondered where The Rapture or the 1000 reign fits into Armageddon times, and indeed where Armageddon fits into our times, listen to this podcast.

Please like and subscribe on iTunes and all your other streaming programmes and podcatchers, and pass this on to whoever you feel needs to hear it. www.TruthIsTheWord.com is self-funded and we rely on you to help us advertise it.

Until next time, Admin

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The Three Temples

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I referred to the 70 AD destruction of the temple in my previous article, ‘Are These the End of the Days?’ and indicated that I wanted to write about this – so here goes.

The Future Jerusalem Temple

Dispensationalism usually includes the concept of a new Millennial Temple in Jerusalem.

The idea here is that a new Jewish temple in Jerusalem will be one of the last ‘signs’ preceding the second coming of Christ and his subsequent one thousand year rule on earth. The teaching is that Jesus will come ‘in the air’ to collect his saints, will then defeat the devil and his demonic and human armies in the battle of Armageddon, and then take up residence in the Jerusalem temple while we all remain in heaven for a thousand years.

The biblical warrant given for this belief is Matthew 24:15 and 2 Thessalonians 1-12. I do not agree with this particular end-time doctrine, and I will tell you why.

The Three Temples in Scripture

King Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem according to the plans that God had given his father David. When the temple was dedicated in about 1003 BC the glory of the Lord filled it as a sign of his presence there (1 Kings 8:10-11).

However, some 400 years later the prophet Ezekiel had a vision of the glory of the Lord departing from the Temple (Ezekiel 10:18). Not long after that, Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia removed the holy artifacts from the temple and then later destroyed it.

When the Jews returned from exile in Babylonia, they started to rebuild the temple, but this was only fully completed in 20 BC by King Herod. It was not the same as the original temple and God’s glory was not there until 9AD. When Jesus was 12 years old, he spent time in the Temple with the teachers of Israel. The glory of God had returned to the temple, but only briefly and infrequently. Why?

Because the glory of God was now embodied in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ – He, not Herod’s building, was the true Second Temple.

In 30 AD, Jesus died on the cross, resurrected, and ascended, but a short while later the Third Temple came into being. Just 10 days after Jesus ascended into heaven the Holy Spirit birthed the church. No fancy building, no choirs and instruments, just 120 fervent disciples of Jesus. He came like a mighty fire and wind and filled every person gathered with his powerful presence.

From that moment onwards, the church has been the place of the presence of God, the Third Temple; and by ‘church’, I mean every gathering of believers anywhere on earth at any time during the last 2,000 years.

‘Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  In him, the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit’ (Ephesians  2:19-22).

So then, the First Temple was built by Solomon, the Second Temple was the body of Jesus Christ on earth, and the Third Temple is the church. What then is the Millennium Temple of which people speak?

Dispensationalist Theology

The whole idea of a physical end-time temple is a product of dispensationalist theory. Those who hold to this theology weave together several texts to make the case for a third physical temple:

  • They take Matthew 24:15 as a proof text in the assumption that Jesus was referring to something other than Herod’s Temple. However, the evidence points to the discourse of Matthew 24 as referring to the Jerusalem temple of Herod just before its destruction in 70 AD. The Roman General Titus, after a long siege of Jerusalem, occupied the Temple and shortly thereafter leveled and burned it to the ground. Titus, who later became Caesar, stood in the holy temple with his soldiers and Roman emblems and ensigns. His soldiers rampaged through the city killing everyone they could. In the end, a large number of Jews fled to the Temple in the hopes of finding safety, but the soldiers overwhelmed and slaughtered them. The Roman historian (an ex Israeli) General) Josephus recorded that the bodies were piled up in a huge heap in the temple with the blood flowing in a flood over its floors. What an abomination! What Desolation! The pagan desecration of the Temple and the ‘sacrifice’ of thousands of humans where the blood of sheep used to be spilled for the sanctification of the nation.
  • A second dispensationalist idea is that if Jesus is going to return to reign on earth for a thousand years then he must surely have a temple from which to operate. Many years ago, I went to a conference in Jerusalem organised by dispensationalist Christian businesspersons. The main speaker told us that we should all convert our currencies into Scheckel because in the (soon coming) millennium the Jewish currency would be the only medium of exchange in the entire world! When Jesus returns, he will require neither a temple nor a currency.

The House of Cards

The whole dispensationalist end-time scenario collapses like a house of cards because of its incorrect assumptions. It assumes that Jesus will come again not only for a second but also for a third time – once in the air to catch up the church (The Rapture) and again after the battle of Armageddon to reside on earth for a thousand years. However, Jesus said nothing about coming again twice! 

A second assumption is that Jesus was referring to an end-time temple when responding to his disciples’ question about when Herod’s temple would be destroyed (Matthew 24). While his teaching contains patterns and principles applicable to all ages, his description of the destruction of the temple perfectly fits the 70 AD sacking by the Romans.  This took place exactly one Jewish traditional generation after he made his statement just as he said it would (Matthew 24:34).

A third assumption is that the six verses in the book of Revelation that describe a ‘Millennium’ (Revelation 20:1-6) refer to a literal 1,000 years and not a symbolic representation of the church age. This is quite an assumption in the light of the almost entirely symbolic nature of the book of Revelation. If you want to read my views on this subject then you can get the book ‘Revelation in the Light of the Stars’ HERE or read the summary of my commentary on Revelation 20:1-6 HERE.

While on the subject of the book of Revelation, this is how John describes an aspect of the New Jerusalem (a depiction of the New HeavenEarth): Revelation 21:22,

‘I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.’

I mention this here because I believe that Jesus will come again just one more time. When he does, he will first gather the believers still on earth to join the multitude that is already with him, deal with Satan, judge the nations, and establish a new merger of Heaven and Earth that I call HeavenEarth. There will be no need for a temple or anything like today’s church in this new realm because Jesus will be tangibly and eternally among his people, both spiritual and physical.

What this all Means to Us.

So, instead of looking for a new temple in Jerusalem, let us rather look for the second coming of Jesus on the clouds with great glory.

Until he comes again, we are the Temple on earth, and the place of his presence.

As his word went out from Jerusalem, and then though the person of Jesus Christ, so it now goes out from the church. As the temple was the House of Prayer, so now is the church. All this will be the case until Jesus comes again.

The church is important. The church is the Temple of God made with living stones…us, and we have the great privilege of being the place of his presence in this age.

The Three Temples Read More »

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.