The dissertation Jesus gave in Matthew 24 concerning the end times referred not to a distant future, but to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. When He was telling His disciples about it, He said, “this generation—you guys standing here—will certainly not pass away (die) until all these things have happened.” (emphasis mine) (Matt 24:34) In another place, He said, “Truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.” (Matt 10:23) Looking at the context, our Lord is speaking of what many believe to be the Second Coming. Yet He clearly said that this event would actually take place in the apostles' lifetimes! Jesus was speaking of the coming destruction of the Jewish economy and their city, which took place in 70 AD.
For nearly 1,800 years, most Christians never heard of a coming Antichrist, a 7-year tribulation, nor a thousand-year reign of Christ upon the earth. It was not until John Darby began teaching “dispensationalism”1 in the early 1800’s that the church began to embrace these “doctrines.” The “rapture” was invented by Margaret McDonald, who had “visions and hallucinations” while suffering a near-death fever. John Darby met with Mrs. McDonald, became enthralled with her visions, and brought them to England.
The problem with all of this, is not so much what is being taught, but that it keeps people focused on the fantastic instead of Jesus Christ and His salvation. Proof of this can be seen in the countless books and movies depicting the end of the world. Most of what they portray is pure speculation and contradicts the Bible.
For example, did babies and other innocents perish in the Great Flood? Sure they did. Did God save them? Innocents, including children, are exempt from accountability but not physical death. However, many believe that when the “rapture” comes, all babies will be taken up along with the church. This doesn’t square with the Bible.
The book of Revelation was written to 1st-Century Christians and is heavily laced with Jewish symbolism and references. Its design was to provide comfort to those in that time of horrible persecution, not titillate modern-day Americans, who think they have an integral part in God’s future plans.
1Darby's conclusions that history is chopped up into distinct epochs, or dispensations.