As the ebb and flow of world tensions, pandemics, economic booms and recessions, and political theater goes, so goes the ebb and flow of questions and opinions on the end-times. As people keep an eye on world conditions, many share the same questions: Are we living in the end-times? How are we supposed to live if this is the end-times?
With this growing concern and interest comes an accompanying reaction as people prepare for shortages, difficult times, and possible persecution. In our own country many people are moving to states more friendly to their own political preferences, going off the grid, or stockpiling preserved food for what they anticipate will be a time of hunger, struggle, and perhaps more chaos. Time will tell if any of these reactions prove to be beneficial, but there is a greater need to answer the bigger questions.
Are These the End-Times?
The answer to this question is: yes… well, actually, no. Too often we attempt to answer this question from our Western church perspective as we watch or listen to the news before reading our Bibles. Perhaps context would be helpful here. As we look in the rear view of history, we see many instances of unimaginable suffering:
• Christians faced severe persecution under Nero and Domitian.
• Life under Attila the Hun as he overran Europe was brutal.
• During the years 1347–1352, more than 25 million people died during the “Black Death,” or Bubonic Plague.
• More than 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
Rather than focusing on specific world conflicts, we must read Scripture to better understand the end-times.
There has never been a time when the world was absent of wars, devastating disease, or egotistical leaders bent on conquering it. Rather than focusing on specific world conflicts, we must read Scripture to better understand the end-times. Here are more important considerations for discerning the last days.
• Literal creationists believe the earth is 6,000–10,000 years old. The Church Age, the time since the birth of the church on Pentecost recorded in Acts 2, has lasted about 2,000 years. The next prophetic event to come is the Rapture. The present time period we live in, we can conclude, would indeed be the end-times or last days in relation to the whole realm of human history.
• Biblically, the last days began at the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven from the Mount of Olives and will continue until the end of the Tribulation period.
• While there are signs for Jesus’ return near the end of the Tribulation (Matthew 24—25), there are no signs given prior to the Rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). Some of the early church fathers indicated in their writings that they were anticipating the imminent return of Christ for His betrothed bride, the church.
While we are indeed living in the end-times, we don’t know for sure if we are living in the end of the end-times—only our Heavenly Father knows that.
How Should We Live If Christ’s Return Is Soon?
This is perhaps the greater and more important question to be asking—and answering. There are scores of books, articles, and blogs being written that express a myriad of opinions about Christ’s return, and some of those opinions have survived for centuries. But these should not be our basis for understanding the future. We must study the Scriptures to know truth. We should be like the Bereans of Acts 17:10–15 who “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” They didn’t merely accept what Paul and Silas were teaching without comparing the teaching with God’s Word. We should follow the same principle, always asking, “What does God’s Word have to say?”
“Steady as she goes” is a nautical phrase that was used in reference to a ship sailing in a steady and stable manner, avoiding sudden and erratic changes. Paul’s letters to both the Thessalonians and to a young pastor named Titus are instructive for us. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18) not to be confused or uninformed due to misinformation they had been hearing about the return of Christ. Similarly, Paul’s words to Titus (Titus 2:11–13) encourage the same kind of steadiness:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching 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.
While we are here, we are instructed to live with a great sense of anticipation.
This passage gives us key words that instruct us how to live: “soberly [sensibly, or with a sound mind], righteously, and godly in the present age.” We recognize this world is the realm of Satan and we are called to not be “of the world.” But we do live here! While we are here, we are instructed to live with a great sense of anticipation—looking for, which simply means “to expect, look for, wait for,” with a sense of great readiness. The words of Jesus Christ put this all into perspective. When asked by the disciples about the end-times (the Kingdom) in Acts 1:6–8, Jesus answered, “It is not for you to know times or seasons.… But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses.”
How are we to live? With a great sense of anticipation and expectancy, we are to live godly and sensible lives (keeping “steady as she goes”) by the power of the Holy Spirit who resides within each of us as believers. While we navigate the ebb and flow of culture, may we live steady, expectant lives by the power of the Holy Spirit—looking for the Blessed Hope of Jesus’ return.