It doesn’t take very long, when watching the television news programs, to find yourself wondering just what is happening in our world today. In fact, with all the turmoil and natural disasters, we might be reminded of Jesus’ words: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:7). In fact, according to a recent ABC news story, the “bunker” business is booming. The owner of a company who builds secure underground bunkers was quoted as saying that the underground, reinforced concrete facilities his company designs and builds “are primarily 2012, end-of-the-world-as-you-know-it kind of stuff.” Unfortunately, my basement will have to suffice if something happens. There won’t be any bunkers built here anytime soon.
Why shouldn’t we be concerned about the end of the world? After all, there seems to be an increase in earthquakes and tsunamis, in diseases and quasi-epidemics, in wars and tragedy. And the Mayans, well, they quit keeping track of time as of 12/21/12, so doesn’t that tell us something? And then you read Revelation, and there are even more questions. Not sure what it means? Do a “google” search on the internet or go to your local book store, and you will find a myriad of interpretations of the prophecies found there.
I remember, while attending Central Bible College, a book was released called “88 Reasons Why Jesus Must Come in ’88.” The author was positive he had studied and interpreted Bible prophecies and determined when Jesus was coming back. It all lined up perfectly, that is, until January 1, 1989. He came out with a revised edition entitled, you guessed it, “89 Reasons why . . . “ I think you get the picture!
Unfortunately, when thinking about the last times, the end of days, the coming of Christ, many of us fail to read verse 6: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”
“See to it that you are not alarmed.” Think about it, my friends, the Japan earthquake was “one of the worst” earthquakes in recorded history. That means there were earthquakes as bad or worse in the past. I’m sure that in those days many were convinced that Jesus’ words had come to fruition. Then again, nations have attacked many other nations in the past. Nation against nation? Need I remind anyone about World War I and World War II? “But they weren’t in the Holy Land,” you might argue, and you would be right. But once again I repeat, “see to it that you are not alarmed.”
Why are we so frightened or, as we used to say when I was little, “ascared” when we hear of these things happening? I believe our fears come from several types of improper reasoning.
1. When terrible things happen, we feel the need to explain them, to make sense from them. Otherwise, how can we still believe in God? How can we feel safe and protected? We outright ignore Jesus’ assurance that these things are necessary and a part of God’s plan. Note that Jesus said, “the end is still to come” when you see these things.
3. We don’t understand God’s grace or haven’t really made peace with God and wonder if we will end up on the wrong side of the disasters and problems.
I’m reminded of a quote I saw on Facebook recently: “When GOD solves your problems, you have faith in HIS abilities; when GOD doesn’t solve your problems HE has faith in your abilities.” How does this relate to the end times and all the things going on in our world today? I believe Paul’s statement that God will make everything work together for my good when I love God and am living my live to work out God’s purposes in this world (paraphrased of Romans 8:28). Paul didn’t say God works out only the things that I enjoy, or only the things that bring me happiness. Paul said ALL things, good and bad, happy and sad, eventful or mundane.
Jesus also told his hearers that NO ONE KNOWS the time of his return but only the Father in heaven (Matthew 24:36). It is important to recognize that Jesus could return at any moment. God’s plan is limited by no one’s interpretation of prophecy. How does that help me? If Christ could return at any time, then I must be prepared at any time. No excuses. No putting off getting my life right with God. No back-up plan. Queue the store of the wise and foolish virgins. The wise virgins planned for the long wait for the bridegroom and had plenty of oil for their lamps, while the foolish failed to plan and had to get more oil, thereby missing the bridegroom’s coming.
I’m pretty sure most everyone reading this article has heard the presentation of the Gospel at least once. Perhaps you didn’t understand it completely, but you have heard. If you haven’t done so before, is the time to answer the call to grace and forgiveness in Christ, to become a part of the family of God, to have your sins, failures, and shame all washed away by the blood of Christ.
But some of us, who have heard the message, and who have answered the call to faith, find ourselves worrying that, somehow, we are going to miss the boat, somehow we won’t be good enough for God and will be left behind on that great and glorious day. If you are one of those individuals, I am speaking one word directly to you: GRACE! You see, your forgiveness does not come from who you are, how important you are, how good you are, or even how you look! Forgiveness comes to us by how good Christ was, how beautiful His love for us is, and how important His sacrifice was for every human being.
I’ll admit that I do worry about the future, especially for my children. I wonder what things will be like and if we will or will not be here during the great persecution (which, by the way, already happens every day in many countries around the world). Yet, if I truly believe that my life is hidden in Christ, if I really believe that nothing can separate me from God’s love and watchfulness over me, I can face anything the future, whatever it brings, without fear. This is true not because of my faithfulness, but in spite of my faithlessness. It is true not because of my perfection, but because of Christ’s perfect sacrifice.
Go ahead and ponder the prophecies. Study the words of Revelation. But when you do remember, as Paul insisted, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Mary Kay Glunt, pastor
Ebenezer Presbyterian Church