Few things perk the ears of church-going Christians like a discussion about the end times. This should come as no surprise. When it comes to the end times, there are nothing but unanswered questions:
What will it be like?
When is Jesus going to appear?
Will there be a “rapture”?
How much will bacon cost?
Will I see my lost loved ones again?
Will the dead really rise up?
And so it goes.
But the question of the end is not new to us. Jesus’ disciples asked him the same things in Matthew 24:
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
They wanted to know. And who can blame them? For sure, if you could ask Jesus any question you wanted, this would be up there on the list.
But Jesus’ answer has been a confusing one for Christians across the centuries. Many have taken his words and used them as a blueprint for figuring out when all these things will be, sometimes with disastrous results. Here is the answer Jesus gives:
“See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
You can see how this might be interpreted. When things get really really bad, the end will come. Christians across the ages have determined that their particular era is the worst ever and therefore Jesus is coming just around the bend. But that is not what Jesus is saying.
Things will get bad, but this is not the end. Wars will rage, but don’t hold your breath. Peoples’ hearts will grow cold, but that’s not all. We’ll be persecuted, but there’s still more to come.
“Endure” Jesus says. Stay strong through all of these things, because there is only one sure sign that the end is truly drawing near:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
When the whole world is filled with news of the Gospel, the great commission will be complete, and the end will finally draw near. Jesus has given his people a mission, to bring the good news of the Kingdom of God in the hearts of man to every corner of this earth, to every tribe, nation, language, and people. When all the world has heard the news that God gave up his Son for sinners, then the end will come.
And it will be awesome.