Eschatology and Missions (Acts 1:6-8)

Have you heard of The Rapture Index?
It is a webpage run by two Bible-believing Christians named Todd Strandberg and Terry James. The purpose of the index is “to measure the type of activity that could act as a precursor to the rapture.” It does this by assigning numerical value on a daily basis to news reports about false Christs, war, natural disasters, and famine, among other things. The Rapture Index measured 169 on June 30, 2008. The all-time high for the index was 182 on September 24, 2001. The all-time low was 57 on December 12, 1993.
What do these numerical values mean? Here’s how Strandberg and James put it:
  • Rapture Index of 100 and Below: Slow prophetic activity
  • Rapture Index of 100 to 130: Moderate prophetic activity
  • Rapture Index of 130 to 160: Heavy prophetic activity
  • Rapture Index above 160: Fasten your seat belts
Evidently, in light of yesterday’s Rapture Index, California’s seat-belt motto has eschatological significance: Click it or ticket!
Christians are a future-oriented people. We “look forward to the day of God and speed its coming”; we are “looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:12-13). And, of course, Jesus himself told us that certain “signs” would precede the end of the age: “Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door” (Matt. 24:33). I suppose Jesus’ words are what motivate Strandberg and James to maintain their index.
According to Acts 1:6-8, Jesus’ disciples were similarly interested in the timing of end-times events. During the forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension, Luke tells us: “So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’” For the disciples, the restoration of Israel’s kingdom was The Big Event, eschatologically speaking. When that happened, the dead would rise, the righteous would be vindicated, and paradise would be restored.
Jesus’ reply to his disciples’ question is interesting. “He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” God alone knows exactly what the future holds and in what order that future will unfold. We don’t. It’s not our job to figure that stuff out. Rather, our job is to be witnesses of Jesus’ words and deeds to everyone everywhere.
Acts 1:8 is the key verse. It describes our priority: missional witness, not eschatological speculation. It demonstrates our need for power from the Holy Spirit. And it delineates a plan of action: from Jerusalem to the ends of the world. Acts tells the story of the church as it carried out its mission in the first-century. It’s our job to do the same in the twenty-first.
By the way, the one word you won’t find on the Rapture Index is mission. To me, that’s telling.

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