o you want the good news or the bad news first?”
You have probably been asked that question a time or two. How do you answer?
When you think about the future in a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams, can you envision any good news . . . or only bad? How can you navigate such a world in a way that honors God, does not fear, and places confidence in Him?
Times are scary. We never thought it could happen. However, with the jailing
of a county clerk in Kentucky for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, Christians in America could go to jail for their faith. Such events provoke thoughts about Christ’s coming.
A discussion of eschatology, or end-time events, can quickly fall into sensationalism. However, there is a growing awareness that the convergence of multiple factors on the world stage could signal events leading to Christ’s return. Much teaching and preaching on the subject has often been geared to speculation and scare tactics not always grounded in sound, Biblical interpretation. God does not want us to be ignorant or fearful. Psalm 33:18-19 says, “The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him . . . to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine” (NIV).
As we contemplate end-time issues, three observations are in order.
Jesus said no one knows the day or hour of His coming (Matt. 24:36). It will occur unexpectedly, like “a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10). Many of us remember the book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. It was embarrassing. There have been such failed prognostications throughout history and more recently.
It has been suggested that age differences have a lot to do with when we anticipate the Lord’s return. Younger people think it will be a long time before He comes back. Middle-aged people are looking for Him within the next 20 years or so. And older saints feel He could come at any time. The problem is that we expect everything to revolve around our preferences, desires, and comfort.
It is not about us. It is about the fulfillment of God’s plan for the ages. Jesus was born in “the fullness of the time” (Gal. 4:4), and He will return in the Father’s perfect timing. We must be focused on what God is doing, not on what seems best for us.
Many people missed Jesus’ first coming because they had wrong ideas about how the Messiah would come. If events around His first coming were different than many expected, the same likely will be true of His second coming. However, we know He is coming again.
The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:16-17 NKJV).
What should we be doing in light of Christ’s promised return?
Over the years, we have laid out elaborate charts big enough to cover the entire church platform as someone expounded on the precise, chronological order of end-time events. I am not sure it is our job to figure out what the fourth toe on Daniel’s statue represents and require everyone else to interpret it the same way we do. On the other hand, we have lost any sense of urgency about the Lord’s return.
I recall a much greater emphasis on Christ’s return when I was a child. A healthy
dose of such teaching and preaching is needed. In the early church, Christians greeted each other with Maranatha, meaning “the Lord is coming.” A Maranatha mind-set needs to be restored to the Church.
Daniel 12 is clear about the attitude that ought to characterize us as we move into the last days. This prophetic text says we should be living holy (v. 10) and letting our light shine (v. 3). We do not want to be too “works focused,” but neither can we allow the pendulum to swing too far and be duped by false notions of grace. Grace teaches us that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13 NKJV).
We have fun at my wife’s expense about her desire to take our little Jack Russel terrier to heaven with her. She jokingly says when the trumpet sounds, she is grabbing Cookie’s leg and taking her along. Sadly, there are many people who believe they will be able to grab onto some things in the final moment, like a faith they never had. Others will want to relinquish some things in that twinkling of an eye . . . but it will be too late then.
As Christians, we should be shining our light brightly to the world around us. When Abraham faced Sodom and Gomorrah, he had a heart for the city. His response was to become an intercessor, begging God to spare the city for the sake of even a few righteous people.
It is questionable how much arguing with people on Facebook about the issues
of our day is going to help. Prayer and authentic, Spirit-empowered witness will make a difference.
Here is the good news and bad news.
The bad news is that the darkness is going to get darker; times will become worse than ever (Dan. 12:1). The good news is we can “cast off the works of darkness, and . . . put on the armour of light” (Rom. 13:12). The darker the days, the brighter our light will shine as we move closer to the end. “Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever” (Dan. 12:3 NLT).
Scripture describes “perilous times” (2 Tim. 3:1) and “a falling away” (2 Thess. 2:3). The Bible also suggests days of great spiritual outpouring. Which is it? The answer apparently is both. Jesus spoke of weeds and wheat growing up together (Matt. 13:24-30). The fruit of darkness and the fruit of righteousness are likely to ripen at the same time.
There is good news and bad news about the last days. We do not have to fear. God is still on the throne, and He is going to take care of His people. There is a conviction in my soul that as long as I can see His glory, I can make it. No matter what the world does, I want to behold His face.
The world will get worse . . . but the church can get better. God’s people can be renewed for our finest hour. Our family and friends can be saved. That is our strength and great hope.