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I have seen Christians study the Scriptures for clues as to how one can tell that the Second Coming, the Tribulation, the events of Revelation, the End Times are upon us.

What is the purpose for such preparation? Would it be to stop participation in a particularly bad sin? To be able to point things out to weaker-faith faith family members so that they can get assurance Bible is true? What have prominent theologians who hold to the importance of an End-Times theology written about the necessity of preparation, or action upon knowing the signs (as opposed to everyday duties for Christians)?

Here, one theologian that doesn't fit this criteria would be Martin Luther, or others who might say it's an allegory.

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I wondered this as well, thanks for asking it. If your sins are forgiven before and after the gift of salvation, then why worry about it? Personally I like to think of Luke 17:21, "You won't be able to say, 'Here it is!' or 'It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is already among you."" Therefore, quit waiting. Act like it's here now - don't wait for this new kingdom to be good. Be good now. –  The Freemason Aug 26 '13 at 15:32
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The purpose for preparation of the second coming is made clear throughout the New Testament. There are three related primary effects:

  1. It holds you accountable for your actions (2 Peter 3)

  2. It keeps you from living too closely attached to a fallen world. (Hebrews 11)

  3. It reminds you that your work is for the unseen Master, and that there will be a reward (Jesus' parables)

And note, 2 Thessalonians points would what this should look like. It isn't about trying to figure out "the day or the hour," but rather leading a blameless life so that the master will be happy when he returns.

Finally, Jesus' parables often talk about being prepared for the return of the Master. Be it the parable of the Wedding Guests, or the Foolish Virgins, the Talents, or the Wheat and the Tares, being found ready when the Master returns is always commended. Indeed, Jesus specifically says in Matthew 24:

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.


In 2 Peter 3, we read this:

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” ... 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. ... 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.

This then begs the question:

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

Likewise, the author of Hebrews commends those who are detached from this world. The author specifically points out those who lived as "aliens and strangers" for special value in faith, writing:

13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

By longing for that which is to come, these people are specifically showing they value God above the world.

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+1 Seamless biblical explanation. –  Charles Alsobrook Aug 26 '13 at 16:31
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As 2 Peter 3:9 implies, such could also encourage evangelism (even Lot tried to save his sons-in-law at the last minute). Also nearer the final end, difficulties and temptations will increase (e.g., Matt. 24:24), being especially prepared would help one to finish well the race. –  Paul A. Clayton Aug 26 '13 at 18:29
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In Catholicism, eschatology is one of the most prominent topics of doctrinal study simply because it deals with the most important historical event that is to ever occur, namely, the 2nd Coming of Christ.

Sacred Scripture teaches that Christ instructed his disciples (and consequently us as well) to be watchful.

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. (Matt. 24:4-5)

The term "endtimes" applies both to the era of Christ's first coming (Heb 1:2, 1 Cor 10:11, Heb 9:26) and to the events immediately before his return and the end of the ages (Mt 24:13, 2 Tim 2:1, 2 Peter 3:3).

This does not mean that Christ wants us to worry about the future.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt. 6:33-34)

It is a teaching of the Church that Christ instructs us to be watchful, not with worrisome anxiety, but with holiness. We are to constantly keep in the forefront of our consciences the end of the world, as well as the end of our lives. We are to stay in a state of Grace at all times, as if death is only one heartbeat away. Contemplation of the eschatological realities awaiting us is crucial for having a healthy spiritual life.

What are we to watch for?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is pretty clear about what we should expect to happen when Christ's return is about to take place.

675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.

676The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism.

677The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.

Read more:

The Catechism provides us with a general order of events at the End [CCC 673-677]. Chronologically they are,

  1. the full number of the Gentiles come into the Church

  2. the "full inclusion of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of the full number of the Gentiles" (#2 will follow quickly on, in the wake of, #1)

  3. a final trial of the Church "in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth." The supreme deception is that of the Antichrist.

  4. Christ's victory over this final unleashing of evil through a cosmic upheaval of this passing world and the Last Judgment.

As Benedict XVI recently pointed out (in the context of the message of Fátima), we are not at the end of the world. In fact, the Second Coming (understood as the physical return of Christ) cannot occur until the full number of the Gentiles are converted, followed by "all Israel."

It is also extremely important to be stay clear of "end times prophecy" traps and predictions.

One dangerous end times theological system is dispensationalism. As a system, dispensationalism is expounded in the writings of John Nelson Darby (1800–82) and the Plymouth Brethrenmovement, and propagated through works such as Cyrus Scofield's Scofield Reference Bible. As there was no Christian teaching of a "rapture" before Darby began preaching about it in the 1830s, he is sometimes credited with originating the "secret rapture" theory wherein Christ will suddenly remove his bride, the Church, from this world before the judgments of the tribulation.

The theology of dispensationalism consists of a distinctive eschatological end times perspective, as all dispensationalists hold to premillennialism and most hold to apretribulation rapture. Dispensationalists arepremillenialists who affirm a future, literal 1,000-year reign of Jesus Christ which merges with and continues on to the eternal state in the "new heavens and the new earth” and they hold that the millennial kingdom will betheocratic in nature and not mainly soteriological, as it is viewed by George Eldon Laddand others who hold to a non-dispensational form of premillennialism. Dispensationalism is known for its views respecting the nation of Israel during this millennial kingdom reign, in which Israel as a nation plays a major role and regains a king, a land, and an everlasting kingdom.

The vast majority of dispensationalists hold to the pretribulation rapture, with small minorities holding to either a mid-tribulation or post-tribulation rapture.

The Great Disappointment was a major event in the history of the Millerite movement, a 19th-century American Christian sect that formed out of the Second Great Awakening. Based on his interpretations of the prophecies in the book of Daniel (Chapters 8 and 9, especially Dan. 8:14 "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed"), William Miller, a Baptist preacher, proposed that Jesus Christ would return to the earth during the year 1844. The more specific date of October 22, 1844, was preached by Samuel S. Snow. Thousands of followers, some of whom had given away all of their possessions, waited expectantly. When Jesus did not appear, October 22, 1844, became known as the Great Disappointment.

The Great Disappointment is viewed by some scholars as an example of the psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance. The theory was proposed by Leon Festinger to describe the formation of new beliefs and increased proselytizing in order to reduce the tension, or dissonance, that results from failed prophecies. According to the theory, believers experienced tension following the failure of Jesus' reappearance in 1844, which led to a variety of new explanations. The various solutions form a part of the teachings of the different groups that outlived the disappointment.

There are many cases like these in which hundreds of people are led to believe in a false prophetic prediction of Christ's return.

See FALSE PREDICTIONS

The Catholic Church teaches that it is much more important for Christians to be more concerned about their own death rather than the end of the world. The chances of a person dying within the next 5 minutes is extremely more probable than the world coming to an end in their lifetime.

Christ tells us to be watchful and prepared for time giving way to eternity, whether that is death or Christ’s return.

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