Since giving my life to Christ in 2002, it seems that no more than a day or two can pass without someone mentioning that we are living in end times. Their proof is of course the text from Matthew 24:6, which states “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.” With great joy, people use that verse to happily declare that the end of times are coming within a few years. Recent weeks haver seen increased tensions in the world, notably between the United States and North Korea, although this is certainly not the conflict capturing the attention of people. Are we living in the final days before Christ’s return?
Few know what surrounding sentences make up the entirety of that passage. Matthew 24:6 is part of a larger discourse, known as the Olivet Discourse which spans chapters 24 and 25. Indeed the content is that of the end times, so the passage is not taken out of context. However, few will note that within this prominent discourse comes the implication that no person knows the Lord’s timing of these events (Matthew 24:36-44).
Therefore, should we as Christians concern ourselves with what is to come? The answer to that question is quite evasive, because truthfully it is both yes and no. To be quite forthright, I think the majority of people, Christian or non-Christian, spend too much time trying to pinpoint the day of Christ’s return, especially in light of the fact that we are limited by what God chooses to reveal and clearly in this case, he has chosen not to reveal the exact details. Thus we should find contentment in the Lord’s revelation as it is without wanting more. Furthermore, the reality is that the arrival of the Lord’s plan for ‘end times’ approaches closer with the completion of each day. As a result, whether the completion comes today or in 1000 years from now, the Lord’s will for our life remains the same. Our engagement with Him, our engagement with His Son, and our engagement with this world persist in an unchanging way.
Yet, that is not the end of the discussion. While many emphasize the end times too much, there are exceptional elements in rightly fixating on what is to come as well. From the surrounding text of Matthew 24:6 come points directed towards Christians about the future that awaits. Rightly orienting ourselves towards what is to come causes us to wait without alarm, but with anticipation. First, as the world appears to be falling apart from our perspective, the Gospel of Matthew tells us to not be alarmed because these things are necessary as part of God’s plan. They were not a surprise to the Lord and neither should they be a surprise to us. Instead, we have confidence in who God is and as a result also have confidence in what God does. Not only do we wait without alarm though, we also await with anticipation. While lamenting the destruction and death that will take place, as Christians we are confident of who are in Christ. For us, nothing greater awaits than what is to come when we spend eternity with our Savior. Beyond comprehension and beyond descriptions, our future is one of joy and peace as we worship God. Such a future comes with anticipation and that anticipation causes our response to be oriented towards God and the fulfillment of His will until that time. This concept is confirmed by the Lord’s continuation in the Olivet Discourse and the responsibility of believers. We do so, not out of a burdensome and laboriously requirement, but out of a love that sees our work for God as both an expression of that love and desire to see His name lifted up (cf. 1 John 4:7-5:5).
A future awaits all people. One is a future of eternal separation while the other is a future eternal unification. For those facing separation, joy is far off and alarms will be sounded because no hope exists. Yet, as believers, we look forward to what may come. Therefore, we wait in anticipation of that future, but we do so not with an emphasis on when Christ returns, but with an emphasis on the truth that He will return.
Photo “APOCALYPSE” courtesy of user Luz Adriana Villa and Flickr.