By Deirdre Reilly, Crosswalk.com
Are we experiencing biblical end times right now? Many people think so as they look around and tally up our current troubles; a deadly global pandemic, frequent weather-related dangers such as flooding and fire, and the human cost of war, such as we now see in Afghanistan. Additionally, people notice how polarized society seems to be--brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor. We only have to scroll through social media to feel the rancor and bitterness that stain every platform.
Of course, there have been other tense times throughout history, when people no doubt felt the end times were very near; times of terror, despair, destruction, and death. Think of the Cold War, when nuclear war was a constant threat to humanity. Or pre-Civil War America, when families were ripped apart and slavery was a cruel norm. Or the rise of the Third Reich in Germany and eastern Europe, when human beings were slaughtered for being Jewish. Or, more recently, during 9/11 and the days to follow, when the world realized evil indeed was present on earth.
We are given a glimpse into what the actual end times will look like from the apostle Peter, whom Christ called “the rock.” In 2 Peter 3:10 the apostle relates, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.”
We truly don’t know when the end times will be, and God’s Holy Word makes this very clear. The end times are indeed an important consideration for us; the Bible has hundreds of prophecies about the days leading up to the second coming of Christ, and the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, is made up of prophetic visions of these events which are told in bold, vibrant detail. Matthew 24:36 emphasizes, when speaking of Jesus’ return, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
The topic of the end times has been of deep interest to Christians since Christ himself walked the earth. Jesus warned the disciples about the end times, saying, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)
As people of faith, how are we to behave during the end times, if that is indeed where we are heading? What is our role as Christians in this time of biblical fulfillment?
Watch and Pray
Christ himself gave us a very clear directive, in the verses just mentioned. He first warned of our attention being caught up in the wrong things: carousing, drunkenness, and anxiety. Jesus seems to be saying we will be caught totally unaware by the cataclysmic events preceding his return, and notes the shock when we realize we have been focusing on the wrong things (he actually says the day will close upon us like “a trap.”)
We need to take this to heart as believers, staying watchful for the signs of the end of our time here on earth. Interestingly, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defies watchfulness as “the state of being constantly attentive and responsive to signs of opportunity, activity, or danger.” How apt for what we are discussing! The definition does not include being anxious.
Jesus warned us about staying away from activities that steal our watchfulness--too much frivolity and drink, and interestingly, anxiety. In a world that is increasingly anxious, Jesus warns us away from this stress--to instead, we can infer, stay focused on him and the promises in the Bible for our everlasting life. The Merriam-Webster definition mentioned above does not assign a mood to watchfulness; so watchfulness does not--and should not--include anxiety.
For those tempted to pack “bug out bags” and head for the hills in fear, another perspective is helpful; we can trust Jesus to give us all needed direction in the last days.
Live Holy and Godly Lives
Another clue to how we should conduct ourselves as we prepare for the end times leads us back to 2 Peter. “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat” (2 Peter 3:11-12).
Here we are again given the imagery of fire (the uptick in deadly forest fires has no doubt caused many to be on heightened alert). We are again given the idea that things will disappear--or melt in the heat--and in 2 Peter 3:10, remember, we are told things will be “laid bare.” Not just the earth, but everything done in it. God’s judgment will be at hand.
How do we make these directives found in 2 Peter and spoken by Jesus himself actionable in our modern lives?
First, may we remember something very important: if we are true believers, we are going to be absolutely okay. Christ died to give us eternal life with him! Even though the end times will be frightening, and we will no doubt see things that we cannot even begin to imagine, we must live by faith, trusting in God’s promises and the meaning of the resurrection. We will be fine when this earth passes away.
Living holy, godly lives means to take care with how we conduct ourselves each day. Think of those who, no matter how bad things get, rush to help others. Think of the police and firefighters during 9/11 that rushed in to burning buildings. They were living out John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” They not only laid down their lives, but laid them down for strangers.
This is truly godly behavior. Can we be brave and godly in our own lives, protecting the vulnerable, such as the unborn and the elderly, and helping neighbors and friends when we can, expecting nothing in return? Is it possible to give more of yourself to others in Christ’s name — not just your money but your time, your heart?
And how do we become more godly? Godly means to be more devout, which means to have and show more religious feeling, or commitment. Can we commit more to our Christian faith, and feel unashamed to share our faith with others? It is all too easy, in our increasingly judgmental society, to hide our faith from others; to ‘sweep it under the rug,” so to speak.
Certainly, if end times are approaching, it would be a very loving act to show who we love and worship--God and His son, Jesus Christ--and why we love them so passionately. After all, we want as many people drawn to the cross as possible before this world passes away!
If we remain watchful and prayerful, as Jesus told us, and try to live more committed lives of faith while performing acts that bring honor to God, we are well on our way to respecting and loving our Lord, who dearly wants to be with us in heaven when it is time. Above all, trust in our shared faith and believe wholly and fervently in the promises of the Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth. We are beloved of Him, and He will take care of us throughout all eternity.
This is indeed the Good News, and should banish all fear!
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Javier_Art_Photography
Deirdre Reilly is a writer and editor, and her commentary has appeared on various websites including CBN.com, FoxNews.com, and others. Her new book, “The Pretend Christian: Traveling Beyond Denomination to the True Jesus,” details her own personal journey through doubt and fear into true belief. You can connect with Deirdre via www.deirdrereilly.com, or follow her on Twitter at @deirdrewrites.