Speaking about the end times seems to fascinate some and repel others. Part of the problem is that there is such a diversity of opinions about the end and we want to be pretty sure we’ve got it right, because it will effect the actions we take now.
It’s a familiar scene. Long car trip and the kids have asked for the tenth time in the last hour - ‘are we there yet?’. Of course, they’re excited about what they’re going to be doing at the other end of the car journey. And it’s not always fun to sit in the car for hours on end. But using this scene as an analogy for the way we approach the journey towards the end of all things - it is worth asking the question whether this kind of fixation on the ‘when’ question is actually all that helpful? Is it the right question to be asking? It certainly doesn’t feel like it for the other passengers in the car on a long car trip.
But then there is something that draws us to ask the ‘when’ question. I think it’s at least two-fold.
We live in a chaotic world. There’s horrible stuff going on all the time. Further, the Bible gives us this expectation that things will get worse, before they get better. So in one sense we rightly ask - when will this all be over?
If we have some sense of calling and purpose in this world, then we’re no doubt working hard. There’s some blood, sweat and tears. Further, there will be some joys along the way. But, then there’s more tears. Eventually, it’s natural to ask the question - when do I get to be done with this?
When Jesus was questioned about the end times, rather than directly answering the when question, he more readily spoke about what will happen as the end draws near. Interestingly enough, they were the very things that were occurring all around him at the time he drew near to his death and resurrection.
As Jesus neared Jerusalem for the final time before his death, he brought both glory and judgment. Glory, for example, where he walked into the city and a cloud of praise erupts from the lips of those following him:
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’ (Mark 11:9)
But then judgment as he walks into the temple courts and starts turning over the tables of those buying and selling and using the presence of God as an opportunity to make money (Mark 11:15).
What will happen at the end?
As Jesus squarely faces up to the questions about the end times, he firstly urges us to take our eyes off the nations of the world. There will be leaders rising, ‘false messiah’s' who look like they hold the balance of the ages in their hands, but Jesus says, ‘do not be alarmed’ (Mark 13:7). Wars and rumours of wars will come and go, they are just birth pains of a broken and hurting world.
But what really matters, is our response to Jesus. Those who follow him can expect trouble and opposition, even from family members. But the Holy Spirit will empower the preaching of the gospel out to all nations. Focus on this message of true Messiah, Jesus, and of his death and resurrection, is the key. Those are the two events that Jesus speaks about with clarity.
First his death, the ‘abomination that causes’ desolation, causing ‘days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now - and never to be equaled again’ (Mark 13:19). That is the moment when Jesus takes the judgment that the end of time brings. He takes it in our place.
But then secondly, after death, Jesus will rise again:
‘At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.’ (Mark 13:26)
The end brings not just judgment, but glory. The very angels of God will be send out to help in the task of gathering all those Jesus has chosen for his Kingdom. That’s the task that is still going on today.
What do we need to do in light of this end?
The earth shaking events of Jesus death and resurrection have happened, which means the end is near. The thing we need to do is not focus on the when question. The end will come any time now.
Jesus tells us we need to be like a servant left with the task of watching the door for his masters return. We too have a job, to spread the message about Jesus and his death in our place and resurrection to glory. We need to keep going on this job and not grow weary, so that our master will find us doing what we were tasked with when he returns.
Have you had a conversation with someone about the death and resurrection of Jesus this week? Whether it be a family member, someone from church or someone at work. Why not get to a church service or to a Bible Study group, to be around others who are ‘watching’ in obedience to their master, speaking of the Messiah Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit which this Messiah poured out.
About the Author
Jai Wright is a Christian Minister, who founded and leads MAKE Church in Mackay, Qld. He recently published the book, Life Plugged In: Connecting with the Source of Peace, Power and Purpose.
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