End of Time?
May 20, 2011
Tomorrow (May 21) is supposed to be the day the world comes to an end; I am skeptical about its reality. However, one thing I am certain about is the fact that “one day” the end will come to us all. This fact is cannot be escaped and in many respects, this time should be longed for.
Recent earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan have stirred people’s thoughts about signs of the end, but I prefer to look at these events as “signs of the past”; not just the future. Approximately 4,000 years ago God judged the wickedness of mankind with a global flood. The effects of that flood brought about catastrophic changes to our earth; continents were shifted, mountains were lifted, earth’s crust sank to create valleys, volcanic activity erupted and mankind was wiped off of the face of the earth with only the 8 and the animals on the great ark surviving. The unrest we feel in the earth today is leftovers from this global deluge and not random signs of end times events.
As far as “signs of the times”, they are difficult to assess. No doubt, there is much geological and human unrest in our world today. But when has there not been unrest in these areas? The aforementioned Genesis flood brought about geological unrest and in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve set themselves against God with their rebellion and Cain did not waste any time killing Abel because of the sin in his heart. It seems that “unrest, rebellion and upheaval” can be poor and unclear markers for knowing the time of the end, but they do reveal the true nature of our world and the character of humanity.
What can we know?
In John 14:2-3, Jesus says, “I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Here, Jesus sets before us a framework of eschatology (study of the end times), He went away in the ascension and one day He will return for His bride; the church. We (the church) should eagerly look forward to Jesus’ return, but can we know “when” He will return? Looking further at the words of Jesus…
“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Matthew 24:36-44
A few basic things to pull out from this text; first, “no one knows (the hour)”; there is no exception clause here allowing for anyone to know when Jesus will return. We might be able to make the argument that Jesus did not know the hour of His return before His resurrection, but humanly speaking, this information is off limits.
Secondly, His return will be “sudden”, to provide humanity with a warning months in advance is not in keeping with what Jesus is teaching here. As in the “days of Noah” mankind is going to be caught off guard by the return of Jesus.
Finally, not everyone is going to be in the rapture, only the church. As Jesus noted above, “one will be taken and one left.” Untold millions and even billions will not spend eternity in heaven because of the hardness of their hearts. The gospel points out that all deserve eternal judgment, but by the grace of God people are saved.
We may try to scare people into heaven by setting end times dates, but only the through the work of the Holy Spirit and the presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ are lives changed and souls redeemed. Fear is a poor motivator for eternity; “fervent prayer” for lost souls and a clear presentation of the gospel are the means through which the Holy Spirit works; not fear and ultimatums.
“I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things they then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 9:23-25
Finish the race, run to win!