For some time now, many in the church have been infatuated with the eschaton. Though there is nothing wrong with interest in biblical subjects, this infatuation has led many to hold an incorrect view of the end times. Unfortunately, fear mongering has reared its ugly head in the discussion surrounding Christ’s promised return, and it would seem that many view the end times as something to prevent rather than receive John’s revelation with hopeful embrace. This is dangerous, as it completely misrepresents the final addition to the New Testament. Though there are themes of wrath, judgement, and persecution, the end times are something to be hoped for and not something to fear. In fact, Jesus says in Luke. 21:28, “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Fear, of course, does have its place in the eschaton; however, this fear is relegated only to those who do not find themselves in Christ. Those who are true believers should look at the signs pointing to Christ’s return with great joy; our promised eternal life is quickly approaching. Instead fo this joy, many profess fear and worry over certain eschatological elements such as persecution, natural disasters, and man made destruction. Why should we be afraid? Christ explains, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both the soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). This warning should cause us to prioritize our lives in Christ over everything else on this earth. We need to be prepared.
As followers of Christ, we are called to live a transformed life. The New Testament is filled with different indicators of this transformed life, and we need to make sure that we are doing the word (James 1:22), loving our brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 4:20), and producing the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and the list does include certain deeds that should be avoided (see Galatians 5:19-21 for a start). The objective is not to be perfect, for the Bible recognizes that we will still fall short (1 John 1:8); however, we must line ourselves up with Scripture in order to determine whether or not we are showing signs of the regenerated life, and we need to do this sooner rather than later.
It is important to note that the timeframe “last days” refers to the period of time between Christ’s first and second coming. We are bearing witness to the last days just as much as the New Testament apostles were. Ultimately, we know not the hour of Christ’s return, but we can rest assured that he will return in glory. This ambiguity should cause us to live with a sense of urgency. Jesus warns us in Matthew 24:37-38, “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Prior to the flood, people were going about their daily lives without any regard to their possible doom. They were running errands, eating family dinners, laughing, joking, and making merry. Their judgement was swift and surprising. It should not be so for those who are in Christ. Instead of fearing the signs of the eschaton, we should always be assessing our spiritual health through the lens of the Bible. John writes, “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming” (1 John 2:28). Note that John does not write, “Try harder not to sin and try to live righteously”. He knows that we cannot do this apart from God, so he instead tells his audience to “abide in Him”. If we find ourselves abiding in him (and he in us [1 John 3:24]), we will not “shrink away from Him in shame at His coming”.
If we find ourselves stressing out or fearful over the end times, we should take heart in Christ’s exhortation listed above in Luke 21:28. Whatever the things we have here on earth, our joy in heaven will be made full in the glory of God. If we say, “I want God to come back after my child graduates high school” or “I want God to come back after I am married for a few years” we are severely underestimating the glory of the paradise promised to us, and we need to ask God to help us reassess our own hearts and intentions. Praise God for reminding us that the hour of his return is near. Let us together as the bride of Christ echo John’s words in Revelation 21:20, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!”