Is the End Here?

At the turn of the millennium, the world was looking like a pretty safe place… but that has all changed. The Cold-War uncertainties that advanced with the communist threat are reproduced now under a threat by fundamentalist Islamics. Just as the '70s made culture ripe to look for the soon return of Christ, so we do now. How do we deal with our anticipation of the End while making long term plans in case the End is a long time coming?
Unlike many Evangelicals, I don’t think it is wise to spend much time trying to decipher the "End Times.”  Largely this is because I grew up in the ‘70s reading Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth and every other book attempting to interpret biblical prophecy.  I loved it, and it motivated many exciting discussions with both Christian and non-Christian classmates.  I even made key life decisions using a “rapture at any time now” reality.  In particular, I chose not to “go out for track and field” past the 9th grade -  continuing would have made me a “four year letterman” (a coveted status),  but I “knew” the rapture would occur before then.  

Into the ’80s, talk of the End Times faded.  Some books were written attempting to keep the vision alive, but world events had changed - the generation that saw Israel become a nation passed, and the USSR, the "great bear to the north,” dissolved.  Though the Left Behind series was a hit, it didn’t seem to stir the expectancy found in the ‘70s, many of us had become wiser and more skeptical of the interpretation and prediction of End Times events and time-tables.

After a decade of relative prophetic calm, we are faced with world (and stellar) events that make us wonder once again, “Are these the last days?”  I find few Evangelicals who would respond, “No!”  I find that this frustrates me, because I now have a long term vision.  Its not that I want to fulfill my vision, but I’m afraid that if the Lord tarries, the vision (God’s vision) will not be fulfilled because of the pervasive short-term thinking of so many in the Church.

Should I even contemplate a long term vision in today’s world?  I have to admit, we do live at a time filled with “wars and rumors of war,” "signs in the heavens,” “the love of many growing cold,” a growth of immorality, “earthquakes in  diverse places,” and Israel increasingly at the cross hairs of the world.  Not only are there many signs of the end, but I am reminded that we are even warned to not be caught unprepared.  We are admonished to be ready for the return of our Bridegroom, to anticipate His coming, and to be aware of the times and seasons.  So, how should we wisely plan and live our lives as faithful Christians?  Do we plan for the long-term, just a soon return, or some variation?  Here are my thoughts:

  • Don’t get so consumed with watching, reading, and listening to End Time narratives that you fail to be faithful in your calling.  The “End” will come at its appointed time whether you have been "tracking it” or not.
  • Don’t follow the news only to interpret it in light of prophecy.  This can serve to twist human tragedies or injustices that call for our action into “anticipated prophetic confirmations.” 
  • Don’t surrender the battle to win America and the world to Christ by presuming that “these are signs of the End.”  Fight for Christ’s sake!  He is returning for a bride that has prepared for the long term, is wisely investing its talents, and trusts the goodness of “her” Lord -even if He tarry.
  • Don’t presume that the “Bride of Christ” lives in America.  Much anticipation of the rapture is based upon the Church being saved from severe persecution.  The Church also resides in Syria, Palestine, Iraq, China… It is being persecuted and annihilated each day.
  • Don’t make only short term plans - we really don’t know “the day or the hour of His return.”  In other words, plan for your life’s ministry to continue to a “ripe old age.”

  • Rejoice that His redemption draws nigh, that His timing is perfect, and that He gives us the strength to endure!
  • Lay up treasure in heaven, and not on earth.
  • Hold every interpretation of prophecy “lightly,” with discernment, and in context with the rest of God’s commands for His people.
  • Seek God’s leading daily and for the long term.
  • Engage the problems of your community, the nation and the world with Christian love and biblical perspective until God calls you home.
  • Anticipate His return in order to be more fully in His presence, but relish every moment of this life as a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to work alongside our loving Shepherd in His search for His “lost sheep.” 
  • View End Times events as God’s calculated strategy to “open the eyes and ears” of all who might see, hear, and obey - and work with His strategy. Know that the pressures and terrors faced by many in the world are to awaken people to seek Him - we must be available to be His witnesses in these times and places.

Summarily, I believe we can be free to anticipate His soon return, but we must never “bank on it.”  Making only short term plans (whatever the evidence seems to indicate) places us as a “bridesmaid without an extra jar of oil.”  Assume a long personal and national history, but also be aware that the end could come at any moment!
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