The Doctrine of the End Times (Eschatology) is a neglected subject as far as many Christians are concerned. Yet almost one tenth (we calculate 9%) of the New Testament is about the End Times. Many sensible Christians are put off the subject because they have come across bizarre teaching almost on a level with the people who say the world is going to end next Tuesday at noon.
New Testament eschatology is not meant to be theoretical speculation. It is meant to be practical – affecting the way we Christians live. Many Christians are very hazy about the hope of heaven and the challenge of divine judgment. They live as if this life were the only one. We need to reinstate hope and accountability and it will have a profound effect.
The New Testament makes it clear that Christians are to live in the conscious awareness that the Lord is returning. This does not mean speculating over the timing, but rather remembering, as James puts it, “The Judge is standing at the door!” In other words, Jesus is ready and waiting to come onto the world stage, but we don’t know when that will happen. However:
- The Day is approaching (Heb 10:25),
- “The end of all things is near” (1 Peter 4:7)
- Jesus says: “Behold, I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:7); “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20)
- “You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night …You, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief” (1 Thess. 5:2, 4).
- “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 in it will be laid bare. 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. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:10-12)
What does it mean to live in the light of the End Times? It means:
1. Set clear goals
Peter writes: “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded” (1 Peter 4:7). So it is important to ask the following questions:
- What has God called me to be?
- Have I achieved it?
- What has God called me to do?
- Have I achieved it?
- Will my life really count?
- How would I feel about my life if I stood before God today?
2. Be self controlled
Peter writes: “The end of all things is near. Therefore be … self-controlled so that you can pray” (verse 7).
It is encouraging that self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit. We don’t even practise self-control all on our own – the Holy Spirit enables us as we trust him.
Clear mindedness and self-control are important in our prayers, so that we pray for what God wants, rather than what we want.
3. Share deep love
Peter writes: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (verses 8-9).
Living in the light of the End Times should inspire mutual care and support.
4. Use your gifts
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (verses 10-11).
Living in the light of the End Times should inspire serving one another.
5. Rejoice in suffering
Peter writes: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (verses 12-13).
Living in the light of the End Times transforms suffering because the glorious end is in sight. “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction