The Christian End Times

Christianity has always been fairly conspicuous among world religions for its obsession with its own end.  In fact, talking about the Christian “end times” (not the apocalypse), 2 Thessalonians even tells us how to bring about the Christian end times:

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day {the Christian “last times”} shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition. Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped {monotheism}; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

– 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

If we think back to the mostly pagan time world in which that passage was written, around the first or second century, a “man who exalts himself above all that is called God” sounds like monotheism and the only clear candidate for such a man around that time is Jesus.  Jesus is the man who is worshiped in the temple as God above all the other gods of the ancient world and, indeed, he is the only man whose revelation as a “man of sin” would presumably cause a falling away from Christianity and bring about the Christian “end times”.  Demonstrating that Jesus is the man of sin who exalts himself above all the pagan gods of the ancient world is the thesis of this webpage and the associated free eBook, “Revealing the Man of Sin”, by Matthew Josephson.  The point is that Christianity is the “lie that God sent the people to believe”:

“And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

– 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12

Preterism

Preterism is the interpretation of some or all of the prophecies of the New Testament as having been fulfilled already.  You can read about it on Wikipedia, but this view is mainly based on the fact that the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed about a generation after the reconstructed time of Jesus’ ministry and this passage:

“And Jesus went out… of the temple… And Jesus said unto them… There shall not be left here one stone upon another… the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered… ye shall hear of wars… Then shall they… kill you… Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains… I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

– Matthew 24:1-34

Remember, the question the disciples asked Jesus was “when will the temple be destroyed and when will your second coming and the end of the world be?” And Jesus answered “I say unto you” (specifically addressing the disciples that came to him and asked him this question) “this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled (the temple destruction and the destruction of Israel and the second coming).”  Well, we know that this much has actually did already happened.  Just like Jesus said, about forty years after his ministry, in the First Jewish-Roman war of 66-70 AD, the temple was destroyed and Judaea was laid waste and everyone in Judaea had to flee or be killed.  It is, of course, less impressive when you only manage to write those prophecies down after they happen (the Gospels are mostly believed to have been written around 80-110 AD), but the important thing is that is talking about past events.  Also the book of Revelation states many times that the war will last 3.5 years, which is exactly the length of the war that the Jews had with the Romans, from 66-70 AD.

This is, of course, not the only New Testament passage that seems to imply an imminent second coming and the Christian End Times.  The book of Revelation, which Jesus dictated to John of Patmos, also suggested this nearly 2,000 years ago:

Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book… And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me… He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly.”

– Revelation 22:7-20

He even says it three times in a row, emphasising the imminence. As does 1 John think the end will be any day now:

“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.”

– 1 John 2:18

These passages were written almost two thousand years ago and for nearly two thousand years Christians have been expecting the end to come immediately, this generation, which seems rather make it a ridiculous and failed prophecy; if he hasn’t come yet it would seem about time to give up. Except for the preterists, of course, who do believe that the Jewish-Roman war represents the second coming and destruction of the temple predicted by Jesus.  There is a large and growing community of Christians who take this point of view, since it is the only way to save the prophecies of Jesus, for example you can check out PreteristArchive.com or Preterist.org, which, just like the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, seem to think these “prophecies” were already fulfilled:

“His disciples said to him, “When will the rest for the dead take place, and when will the new world come?” He said to them, “What you are looking forward to has come, but you don’t know it.””

– Thomas 1:51

Well, in the book of Thomas, even Jesus seems to have been a preterist.  But I guess that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, since the Gospels and the book of Revelation are mostly believed to have been written between 80-110 AD with significant changes happening well into the second century, so not only after the Jewish War of 66-70 AD, but after the publication of “The Wars of the Jews” by Josephus in 75 AD which gives a history of that destruction.  This is what I would call a “post factum prophecy” and explains how Jesus, in the book of Thomas, is already speaking about it as a past event.  But if we conclude that the Jewish War and destruction of the temple was the literal fulfilment of biblical prophecy of a Jewish war and the destruction of the temple  (whether post factum or not), then we have to conclude that “The Wars of the Jews” written by Josephus is the record of that second coming and destruction of Israel.  In fact many Christian apologists have argued that we should look to the Wars of the Jews to find the fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecies, for example William Whiston who translated the works of Josephus into English in 1737, in his translation notes for Wars of the Jews, marvelled at “those distinct and plain predictions of Jesus of Nazareth, in the Gospels thereto relating, as compared with their exact completions in Josephus’s history“.  Bishop Eusebius (~260-340 AD), who was also a Christian historian under emperor Constantine (who together began to bring Christianity under Roman purview), puts it like this:

“If anyone compares the words of our savior with the other accounts of the historian (Josephus) concerning the whole war, how can one fail to wonder, and to admit that the foreknowledge and the prophecy of our Savior were truly divine and marvelously strange.”

–Eusebius, Church History, Book 3, Chapter VII.

Those are both Christian apologists, however, there are very many non-Christian scholars who believe that significant parts of the New Testament, especially Luke and Acts, are inspired/influenced by the works of Josephus. If so many New Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the Wars of the Jews, then either they could, with the help of God, see the future, but only bothered writing down those prophecies after they had been fulfilled, or it was plagiarism.  But in either case, it would seem that in order to understand this better we should do as Whiston and Eusebius and the secular scholars all suggest and “compare” the prophecies of the New Testament to their “exact” completions in the works of Josephus and I guarantee the results are indeed marvellously strange.

Hyper-preterism

When you add the prefix “hyper-” to your preterism, it is supposed to imply that it is heretical, that you have taken your preterism beyond the bounds of acceptable dogma and are in danger of apostasy.  But I have been a heretic ever since my escape from the physically and mentally abusive Mormon cult nearly 20 years ago, so that doesn’t bother me.  So, in order to get your preterism into hyper mode, let’s continue where the preterists left off, at comparing the New Testament to the works of Josephus, just as William Whiston and Eusebius suggest we should.  Within the logical framework of preterism, we already concluded that the prophecies of the destruction of the temple and Israel were already fulfilled before they were written down in the Wars of the Jews, just as Jesus in the book of Thomas tells us, both from a theological and secular point of view: the destruction of the temple and the destruction of Israel all within about 40 years (one generation) of the reconstructed time of the ministry of Jesus (30’s AD) being the three defining pre-fulfillments of the post factum prophecies.  In the book of Revelation Jesus tells John of Patmos about the “apocalypse” and the destruction that will be brought upon Israel and that Jerusalem will be destroyed. Then he insists three times for emphasis “Surely I come quickly” in a very threatening and ominous manner.  It would seem he is referring to the same imminent destruction of Israel and Jerusalem that he predicts in Matthew 24:  “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall beThis generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled… there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Josephus confirms to us that these two details about the prophecy of the second coming of Jesus were fulfilled in the war with the Romans:

“…Accordingly, it appears to me that the misfortunes of all men, from the beginning of the world, if they be compared to these of the Jews are not so considerable as they were; while the authors of them were not foreigners neither. This makes it impossible for me to contain my lamentations…”

– Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Preface, 4

So, the “literal pre-fulfillment” of this “post factum prophecy” would seem to be that it was the worst event in the history of the earth until that time and there was some weeping.  So, if this record of a genocide represents the literal fulfillment of the apocalypse and destruction of the temple and the second coming of Jesus, then the apocalypse was very much like the holocaust in that it was a genocide which mostly just affected the Jews and we should definitely compare these two accounts, whether we are Christian or not, because if we do not understand history we are doomed to repeat it, as they say.

NEXT: continue with the imminent return of Jesus and the destruction of Israel in The Seven Seals of the Apocalypse.