Many years ago, while attending seminary, I was invited to preach at a Pentecostal congregation in my home town. One of the conversations I had that day taught me more about the importance of sound biblical preaching than every homiletics course I ever took (combined).
Lutherans, I must admit, are not big advocates of “end times” concerns. The reasons for this are far too complicated to address in a brief column now. Ironically, however, although we confess our confidence that Jesus “will come again to judge the living and the dead” every week, we seldom talk about the details of that arrival.
At the aforementioned service, I did preach on the second coming of the Messiah. And, to distill it down to a single message, I suggested that the Scriptures teach us to live in a sort of tension. We should live with a conscious awareness and urgency that the parousia could happen at any moment . . . and, prepare for the future as though the return of Christ (and subsequent new creation) will not take place for another thousand years.
Shortly after the service ended, a woman approached me and shared how she “wished she could have heard that sermon thirty years earlier.” She related how different her life would have been.
She said in her youth she had longed to attend college, but she never did . . . because she knew Jesus would return before she graduated.
When she and her husband bought a home, she wished the property had some fruit trees, but she never planted any . . . because she knew Jesus would return before they bore fruit.
Saddest of all, she told me that when her children were born, she never raised them to become mature adults . . . because she knew Jesus would return before they grew into the men and women they became.
Nearly forty years later I am more convinced than ever that living with the “tension” I described is the proper course of disciples of Jesus.
So, how does this work out in reality?
While a few of us know people who become so preoccupied with the end of the world that their lives go askew, it’s the other error to which most of us are prone. We tend to think that the return of Christ bears little or no connection to the age in which we live.
We are so preoccupied with our present responsibilities and dreams that we invest precious little time in contemplating how these things will matter in the scope of eternity.
I highly recommend to you a recent article on this subject that will remedy this dilemma. Andrée Seu Peterson, a gifted writer I have commended before at Mere Inkling, reminds us all of the fact that Jesus’ second coming may be just around the corner. Andrée writes:
Who would have thought that after centuries of modernity, beheading would once again be a means of persecuting the people of God? Does it not send a chill up our spine to read all about it in Revelation 20:4 even as we hear about it on CNN? “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus.”
C.S. Lewis famously described two errors people fall into when considering the occult. Either we get caught up in unhealthy expressions of the supernatural, or we dismiss the reality of demons and their destructive agenda altogether.
I believe humanity’s impulsive nature makes us vulnerable to the same extremes when it comes to the final days of the world we call home.
I strongly encourage you to read Peterson’s article here, as a timely reminder that you were created for far more wonderful and amazing things than we can ever know in this life. Even the best this world offers is but a hint and a foretaste of what awaits those who trust in God.
10 thoughts on “The World’s End”
The tension you talked about is much like my Covenant College New Testament professor described the Kingdom: It is present and yet to come. Over 40 years have passed since then, but the vivid way Ray Clark presented the Kingdom is still with me. It helps to explain the tension we live with every day. I know we evangelical Presbyterians are not always as focused on the coming judgment and its meaning for those around us as we should be, but at least we have avoided the trap of giving up on life while we wait for His return. I never got too much into eschatology and never decided exactly where I stood on the different reformed positions, but post-millenialism had a great attraction for me with its “let’s get busy and help usher in the Kingdom” attitude (at least as I understood it).
Your professor was right: Jesus has already ushered in the Kingdom, and our experience of its fullness is yet to come! Definitely something to look forward to!
This is so timely. As I’ve watched the news lately, I’ve wanted to flee to some safe haven. It’s been so discouraging. But my husband has reminded me that this is exactly the time to look up, to lift up our heads, for our redemption draws nigh!
You have a wise husband. (At least in this matter, since I probably shouldn’t generalize!)
Grew up in an old time Bible reading, verse memorizing extended family – although different churches/denominations. (One of my aunts and uncles were firm believers in predestination – so no matter what you did, it didn’t matter ’cause it had all been already decided? Lots of interesting takes on that. And the number of souls saved was calculated mathematically and the exact square miles of Heaven….)
Most sense to me was the phrase “We don’t know how long a day or night is in God’s eyes”, “Only God knows the entire plan”, and “make good use of the time that is given to you. (along with the oft repeated “God gave you a brain, use it”).
After all these years, maybe its’ best to wake up and say “We just don’t know when. What you did yesterday is done. Today is waiting for what you decide to do….and “what will you say standing in front of the gate?”
Hard not to see what’s happening all around. But it’s in better hands than mine.
Thoughtful post. Enjoyed the link
There certainly are many views on the subject, and it sounds like you had your share of them in your “clan.” You ended up with a sound understanding yourself, which is a good thing. Our understanding of these matters does seem to change over the course of a lifetime, does it not?
My personal opinion is that if it was truly as important as some people think it is, that God would have made the entire matter a bit clearer.
Was it Martin Luther who said something like, “If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would plant a tree today”?
I believe it was originally stated by the sixteenth century Reformer… despite the fact that many people are wont to attribute it to Martin Luther King, Jr., who dates to a much more recent era…
Many confuse the two people. It’s the hair I think.
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