This week's question concerned how we are to interpret various events happening today that sometimes seem like they are straight out of the book of Revelation. With all the crazy things happening, could we be living in the last days? Staff intern, Michael Edgar took on this weighty topic, and pointed to some general principles for living with wisdom in these or any days.
There are many different views on the "end times"
How we interpret current events in light of God's Word about His return depends largely on which view we hold about the end times. Unfortunately, there are many different views about the end times, none of which can be held with absolute certainty. To complicate matters, whenever Paul talked about the signs of Christ's imminent return, he described events that sound a lot like what we may see in our world today. In 2 Timothy, Paul says that in the last days, "people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—" Don't we see examples of many of the items in Paul's list on a daily basis? Elsewhere, he mentions false teachings and false religions. It seems like we've seen those a time or two throughout history, too. So, shouldn't we assume that Christ could be returning at any moment?
Christ could return at any moment
The examples of "terrible times" that Paul gives sound familiar, and we don't know exactly what that means. Jesus gives some insight in the book of Matthew, when he gives his own list of what will happen before his return, saying, "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains." Jesus' list, like Paul's sounds familiar. We've seen many wars, famines, and earthquakes throughout history, but Jesus tells us that the end is still to come. He goes on to say, of the end:
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 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. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." -- Matt. 24:42-44
In other words, we don't know exactly when Christ will return, so we ought to live our lives expectantly, in a state of preparation. This means living as we know God wants us to. Spending too much time staking claim in this or that theological camp distracts us from our primary mission: to love God and love others.
How should we live as we wait?
So, if we are to live as if Christ could return at any time, should we quit our jobs, sell our homes and spend all day every day witnessing to the people we meet? The Thessalonians wondered something similar, some doing nothing but waiting around for the Lord's return. In Paul's second letter to the Thessalonians, he tells them to keep busy doing honest work, and to continue living rightly, unto the Lord. As we wait, we should not only worship God and share the gospel with others, we should also take an interest in the world around us. We should work with our hands to support ourselves and our families. We should contribute to society. We should make the world a better place. And as we do all this, we should share Christ's love with those we meet.
God is sovereign over time
We cannot know the exact day or hour of Christ's return, but we can trust God. He is sovereign over time, over history, and over our lives. If we focus on loving Him and loving others, we will be prepared, no matter when the hour of His return may strike.
Questions to Consider:
When I think about the end times, where are my priorities? Are they on loving God and others, or on trying to find all the answers?
Am I anxious when I consider troubling current events? How can I trust God, instead?
If Christ were to return tomorrow, would I be prepared? Am I sharing the gospel? Am I loving others? Am I doing good, honest work?