WHAT DO WE DO?
Anyone who studies prophecy knows that the scenarios that are coming upon our world are not pleasant ones. Just a casual reading of the book of Revelation, as well as other prophetic books like Ezekiel, Daniel, and Isaiah, do not yield of view of the future that is rosy and happy for everyone on the earth. There are very difficult things written in these books – and they paint a future where the coming of Christ is attended by a world that is coming apart at the seams. It also paints a picture for us of God bringing His judgment upon this world – and that is anything but pleasant. Having said this – and it is the truth – I also realize there is an extreme that we want to avoid in all this. That extreme is to live in fear and in a sense of inevitability that freezes us in inactivity. We figure that since everything is going to burn anyway – why should we do anything? Man, since all this is coming upon us – why should we even care enough to do much of anything? One group in Scripture took this view and even quit working to wait for the coming of the Lord. God rebuked them for this.
SIFTING TRUTH FROM HUMAN PREDICTION
So, what do we do about knowledge of the coming of the Lord? First of all – we need to draw a distinction between Biblical knowledge about the coming of the Lord – and what we do when we look at current events to see if there is any correlation between those events and the ones we see now. The biblical account is inerrant – our extrapolations of what is going on now . . . ARE NOT! When I say this I absolutely include anything I’ve said as well. What often creates our “freak-out” moments is not the biblical narrative – but the somewhat overconfident assertions of the prophecy groups as to what WILL be next. That is why I am loathe to make specific predictions – unless they are couched in language that clearly draws a distinction between Scripture and my personal conjecture about it. Therefore we need to be careful in how we react to anything beyond Scripture – because where we are promised grace to live out what the Word says – grace is not promised about your favorite prophecy guy’s comments – especially if they yield a lot of worry on your part. Take human words with a grain of salt – divine ones with several thousand salt shakers full of salt. Therefore before freaking out – determine one thing. Was this a biblical passage – or one written and spoken by a mere man?
There are biblical admonitions concerning the coming of the Lord. Since this article is about such things – I thought it would be good to put them in here and comment on them briefly. So, here we go . . . our first one is from 2 Peter 3:11-14, which does speak of all things being destroyed by fire in the midst of the judgment of the Lord. Fortunately, Peter also offers us a plan of action, and does so under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 2 Peter 3:11-14
Here is what we learn from Peter. Let me list them in numerical order so we can see them easier.
1. Look for and hasten the day of God. First, we are to want Jesus to return! That is important. Focus not on all the destruction – but on the coming of Jesus Himself! This is a GOOD thing!
2. Be at peace! Wow, there is something you wouldn’t think of seeing here. But our peace is based upon the fact that we KNOW these things. Thus our peace is also based upon us NOT living for the same things the world does. If we do – we won’t have peace. We will worry about our stuff! If we live for Christ and for the things of God – we will honestly lose NOTHING even though all this happens.
3. Spotless and blameless – Peter asks the question, “What sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” We are to be spotless and blameless – in other words – we are to be holy people – striving to honor and to please God. If anything, the coming of Christ should drive us to a desire to live for God and for His godly ways with even greater joy and purpose. Again, this means that we will not freak out (will be at peace) but that this peace is based on living for what is to come – for holiness and godliness – for being spotless and blameless in His sight – not for the ungodly things of this life and the things the world chases after. If we are sinning and not living for Jesus – we will probably freak out over the coming of Christ – because, let’s face it, WE ARE NOT READY!
NEXT . . . NOT CAUGHT OFF GUARD!
Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Paul writes here about these things as well. His perspective is that of us KNOWING that Jesus will come like a thief in the night for His church. So, in light of this, let’s see what his counsel is for us.
1. Don’t buy the “peace and safety routine.” Paul warns us that there will be many who give a message like this. Everything is OK – there is no need to be concerned – there will be peace and safety for all of us. These prophecy freaks are always talking about the end of the world. We should NOT buy this peace and safety two-step. We should know that if we do not know and follow Jesus – we are not at peace or safe!
2. Be Alert and Sober! We are warned that many won’t be ready. They will be completely caught off guard by these things – and they will be drunk on the spirit of this world. There is a reference here to the way people of the world party at night – get drunk at night – and are spiritually asleep. We need to be alert to the Word – to God – and to what is happening around us. This is NOT so we can freak out – but so that we can be ready and at peace. This is also so that we can be filled with the Spirit of God – filled with the Word – and filled with a desire for God and His glory – not the spirit of the world.
3. We will not see wrath – but salvation! How incredibly important it is that we get this! As we live for God and for His kingdom and glory – we are proving by our actions that we are participants in the grace of God. Therefore . . . we are not here to see the wrath of God – we are here to see salvation! Too many wonder if they will be swept away by the judgments – and consumed by the wrath of God. NO THEY WILL NOT! They will obtain salvation – because God is at work in them. They are freed by the blood of Jesus – and are never going to see the wrath of God.
4. Encourage one another – What we need is encouragement to live for Christ in these last days. The world is going to get worse – going to get more ungodly – going to get more wicked. Therefore we are going to need each other. We need encouragement to live for what matters and live our lives for God’s will and God’s purposes. Don’t freak out . . . find a brother and sister and take time to encourage them – pray for them – build them up – and help them!
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:11-14
Well, here is a shocker. After hearing these things twice – we come to our third major passage and what do we see . . . the same thing!
1. Deny Ungodliness and Worldly Desires – The grace of God instructs us to stay away from sin, wickedness, and worldliness. Not that this shocks any of us – but we need to see that God is calling out a people for Himself. Want to not freak out about these things – then live for the Lord with everything that is in you!
2. Be Godly - The positive of this is to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age. Stay away from wickedness – be godly! That is how to have hope and excitement and joy over the coming of the Lord – rather than wigging out about it. The more we live in fellowship with Jesus – the more we will want that to be permanent!
3. Look for It – Actually, look for Him! – We are to look for Him! This is called the “Blessed appearing” and the “coming of the glory of the Lord!” It would do us well to rename all this. Yes it is called the “Great Tribulation” – but that is for those who do not know the Lord. For us it is called a blessed event! It is called seeing God’s glory! That is seriously cool! It is how we ought to view things. Jesus is coming – whoo-hoo! That should be our response. As He draws closer – he is making us a people for His own possession. He is not looking at this date as the date He will smack us upside the head for our failures! He is coming for the people He is working to make a people for Himself. As we grow in Him – to love and know Him better – we will want Him now – and will thrill at the thought that we will be with Him forever!
So how do we live in light of Christ’s coming? I am going to risk saying a few things in conclusion – but I think they will bless you!
- First – live for Christ – DAILY. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness – and all else will be provided as needed. Just live for Jesus today. Take the time to be with Jesus daily. Then go out each day and live as He directs through His Spirit and His Word! I don’t know about anyone else reading this article – but this is plenty to keep me busy every day.
- Second – Live as God Leads. Someone asked me about planning for the future. Sure, go ahead and plan – and prepare for a future – just do it at God’s leading and with biblical discretion. The Word speaks of caring for your family – of leaving an inheritance to your children’s children. But the Word also warns against being a fool like the rich farmer – who hoarded all that he had for himself – thinking that his life consisted of his riches. Be wise – be led by God – and be living for the glory of God in all that you plan.
- Lastly – live joyfully. In Philippians (which Paul wrote from a Roman jail – with his own possible execution hanging over his head daily) Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice!” Wow, what a strange thing to say – unless you are living for Jesus daily – and the most exciting thing you could imagine is getting to see Him soon! If your knowledge of “end times” stuff is leading you to freak out and worry – you don’t know as you should know. If your knowledge of “end-times” stuff leads you to feel miserable and filled with apprehension – you don’t know as you should know. These things were not written to depress us and make us feel overwhelmed with anxiety. They were written – wait for it – for our comfort and encouragement! If you are not comforted and encouraged by the coming of Christ – you do not know as you ought to know.
God wants us to be encouraged – blessed – strengthened – build up – always abounding in the work of the Lord. He desires for us to be convicted of sin so that we will repent and know joy again. He desires for us to learn to walk with Him and to live for eternal things! If we are not living this way – and loving His Son with all that is within us – “end-times” stuff will tend to wig us out – worry us – cause us to say, “woe is me” instead of “what a wonderful Savior!” May God deliver us from the study of the return of Christ which only” freaks us out” – and lead us into a study of such things that will instead enhance our “fellowship with Jesus” and our “fondness of His presence and soon appearance!”