Just a few months ago, people were stockpiling toilet paper and getting in fist fights over hand sanitizer. It felt like a scene from a movie. I actually steered clear of all stores during that time, because I didn’t want to find myself in a difficult situation with a frantic person. Maybe you did the same.
And to be sure, things have gotten a bit better. But I still can’t find any Clorox wipes. Every trip to the store, I check for antibacterial wipes. And even 5 months later, I still can’t find any.
Of course, in the grand scheme of things, being without antibacterial wipes isn’t the end of the world. But it’s still shocking to go down certain aisles in the grocery store only to see them completely empty. Many Christians have said that it feels like we’re living in end times. I’ve even seen a massive flux of sermon series and Christian books being released regarding signs of the end times.
There’s always been a bit of an obsession with Christians about knowing when the end will come. When I was younger, my aunt would talk about the end times constantly. It always made me feel terrified. While her portrayal of “the end” wasn’t exactly sound biblical teaching, what she said stuck with me long after our conversations ended. I grew up filled with a great sense of fear and terror of the end.
But the more I read the bible, the more I see that the message it has for Christians isn’t one of dread about what is to come. On the other hand, whether the end times are imminently upon us or not, we should be prepared.
How can we be prepared? Here are 3 things scripture calls us to do.
1. Live with urgency.
The bible is very clear that there is an end to the world as we know it. There’s no question about it. Now, when that will happen, we don’t know.
“Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3)
This was one of the passages my aunt would quote to me and I think the “thief” part is what instilled great fear in me. But my fear showcases one of the greatest problems of only reading part of a passage. The very next verse goes on to explain that Christians shouldn’t fear.
“But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 4-6)
If you are in Jesus, then the day of the Lord shouldn’t take you by surprise as a thief in the night would. The truth is that the Day of the Lord is a day of judgement for the world. But for those in Christ, you have been made right before God.
This doesn’t mean we completely ignore the coming of the end. In fact, Paul urges the opposite. He says to know this day is coming, to not be taken by surprise by it, and to be awake and alert. Sitting back with the thought that the end won’t come in your lifetime is not the mentality Christians should have.
You should have a sense of urgency that the Day of the Lord could happen at any time. The bible gives us signs that mark end times, but not for us to fixate on and live in fear over. Whether you believe the current pandemic is a sign that the end is near or not, you should still live with a sense of urgency. A sense that you have a mission here on this earth–a mission that will either end with your life or with the coming of the Lord.
The clock is running. And moments like this when a pandemic strikes, social unrest occurs, and our political and economical environment seems to be on the brink, we should live with an even greater sense of urgency.
We’re not called to live a passive life that banks on getting our golden ticket stamped at the gates of heaven. The salvation that Jesus has given us should alter how we live here and now. It should give us a drive and passion to fulfill the mission Jesus gave his people.
2. Stand with hope and confidence.
Both the Old and New Testament speak to what the end times will look like. When the prophecies of Isaiah were given to the people of Israel, they thought surely the end was near. That was thousands of years ago now. They were right to have thought the end could be near, because that’s the mindset scripture calls us to. But it’s equally important to keep that mindset in balance with the rest of scripture.
Our knowledge and understanding that the end will come should not drive us to fear or spending all of our time guessing if any certain event has fulfilled a prophecy. Even when the events of the world seem to be more threatening than the age before, we are to live in hope and confidence.
Understanding the end is near should lead us to an even greater hope, because we know the end of the story. We might not know each step that will take us to the end, but we do know victory belongs to the Lord. And we are his, which means victory is ours.
This isn’t to downplay the frightening events that will take place at the Day of the Lord. Make no mistake–justice will come. We shouldn’t sugarcoat it, as if it won’t be so bad and the vengeance of God is lighthearted and carefree. God is very serious about sin and about bringing forth justice.
But the hope and confidence you have isn’t found in the Day of the Lord not being so bad. It’s found in the fact that you’re covered by the blood of Jesus. You are on the right side of the battle.
Let your hope and confidence be found in the fact that the Lord is still on his throne and nothing happens on this earth without his approval. There is no power or kingdom greater than his. Even when the Day of the Lord comes, you will be cared for. Because you’ve already been brought to justice.
3. Share your faith.
The events of our day are scary and have shaken a lot of people to their core. The challenges we face are far greater than we are. And they often leave us feeling helpless and out of control. But even with all of the calamity and catastrophe we’re currently experiencing, it will be far worse to be separated from God for eternity.
The day will come when there will no longer be an opportunity to step into the salvation of Jesus. There’s no experience on this side of eternity that will be worse than eternal separation from the Father.
I know that’s incredibly difficult to wrap my head around. We’ve only ever known and experienced what hardship on this side of eternity feels like. We have no life experience to compare to the eternity to come.
But the bible tells us that there is nothing worse than eternal separation from God. As it stands in this age, even non-believers are living in the general grace of God. They get to see the goodness of his creation and his hand of grace that is still present on the earth. But there will be a time when all of God’s grace is removed from those who did not put their faith in Jesus. That’s a scary day and one we shouldn’t wish on anyone.
I say this often, because it is the most powerful understanding I have of our mission here on earth–sharing the gospel is the only command of Jesus that you will not carry out in heaven.
There are many great spiritual disciplines you can take up in your life, but none of them will have the eternal impact on someone else that sharing your faith can. This is the commission Jesus left his disciples with.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Watching people hoard toilet paper and rice should bring you to your knees. It should lead you to pray for the people in your life and in this world who don’t know Jesus. As you prepare for the Day of the Lord to come, get serious about sharing your faith. Be intentional about telling others about the hope and salvation you’ve found in Jesus. This is not only a good discipline to develop in your life. It’s a command from Jesus.
You have an opportunity right now to lean into faith.
The end times are a common topic of conversation among Christians. But it seems to be on the minds of people now more than ever. Worldwide disaster has struck and the turmoil can be felt everywhere you go. People are living in fear and responding to current events with panic.
In the midst of all that, the greatest contribution you can make is not to determine whether or not we are indeed living in the end times. Rather, it’s in being prepared the way Jesus has called us to be.