Armageddon. I Am Legend. The Day After Tomorrow. Wall-E. The apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic genre of film has performed very well for Hollywood over the past several decades, and it’s no wonder! Imaginations run rampant when considering what the end of the world might look like. If only the end of the world fiction was restricted to Hollywood! The sad truth is that many Christians also have become too preoccupied with theorizing about the end times.
Some say that Christ’s return has already occurred, and that this world is in its eternal, restored state. Others theorize that Jesus will come again and reign from an earthly throne for one thousand years. Others suggest that Jesus will only return once the Church has established worldwide rule through conquest. Others say that Christ cannot return until the Church has successfully stopped sinning. And still others say that the Bible doesn’t even speak about any end times.
The Bible does, in fact, speak plainly about that final day when our Savior will return. Approximately one out of every twenty-five verses of the New Testament refers in some way to the end times. In those verses, we learn that Jesus is indeed coming back, though at an hour we do not know (Mark 13:32). He will return for the purpose of judgment, handing some over to eternal punishment while reserving eternal life for those who believe in Him (Matthew 25:32-46). This accounting will include all people, both the living and the dead (John 5:28-29). And yet, the Lord’s desire is that all people be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), so He is delaying His return with patience (2 Peter 3:8-9).
So, the ending is really very simple, not at all resembling the works of fantasy portrayed on the big screen or proclaimed from many pulpits. Yet, many Christians who don’t subscribe to the theories about the end times still might find themselves watching the news headlines, looking for signs of the end. After all, the Bible speaks about “wars and rumors of wars,” and that does almost seem like the stuff of Hollywood! Except, in that section of Scripture, Jesus’ point is that these are not, in fact, signs of the end. “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” (Matthew 24:6-8 ESV)
Jesus is denying that these troubles have any significance as historical markers. Even when they do happen, “the end is not yet.” The troubles that we see in the world are simply reminders that we live in a sinful world, and this is not our home. Just as a woman goes through birth pains before bringing forth new life, so the world goes through pain as it awaits something better.
This means you don’t need to try to interpret the signs of the times beyond understanding that what God has in store for you is much more glorious than what this world has to offer. Your Savior is returning to take you to Himself. Whether that comes for you at the world’s end or your personal end, you’ve already read the last chapter of the book. Just as God has assured you of forgiveness, the day is coming when He will look at you again and say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34 ESV)