JUST A MINUTE: END-TIME PERSPECTIVE
The coronavirus pandemic has brought end-time prophecies to the forefront in many Christian discussions. People are trying to figure out where the coronavirus fits into end-time prophecies and whether perhaps we are close to the second coming of Jesus. People have so many different theories with regards to interpreting end time scriptures, that it has brought a lot of division among Christians. The last thing I want to do – by addressing this issue – is cause further division. But since this is such a relevant topic, due to the times we live in, I want to share with you what is currently living in my heart, when we look at end-time prophecies.
I personally love Jesus’ summary of the end times in Matthew 24 and 25. It correlates very well with the more elaborate version of events in Revelation, and yet it leaves a lot less room for misinterpretation than the latter. Jesus is sitting with His disciples on the Mount of Olives and they ask Him: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3). Then Jesus starts explaining these things to them over two chapters (till Matthew 26:2).
From verse 4 to 14, we are told that as we move closer to Jesus’ return things are going to get worse. It is going to be one crisis after another. Jesus mentions wars, famines, earthquakes, false prophets, and severe persecution, and He encourages us that if we stand firm to the end we will be saved. So, we as Christians are not exempt from the bad times, we are called to persevere through them.
In verse 14 Jesus gives us a very specific indicator that will influence His return. He tells us: “This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” What does that tell us? We know that later, in Matthew 28 verse 19 and 20, He gives his disciples, what is known as the Great Commission, where He tells them to go and make disciples of all nations. Jesus is thus telling us that He will only return once the Great Commission has been completed. Every nation, tribe and language must hear the Gospel before He will return. In Heaven, He needs to be worshipped by all of creation, and if there is one tribe or language group missing, then it will not be all of creation. We are told this for a very specific reason, and it is to encourage us to continue sharing the Gospel, even in the most difficult times – even under the severe persecution we are told that we will face. It does not matter how bad things are going, we need to continue sharing the Gospel.
In verse 23 to 27, Jesus warns us that we should not be deceived by false messiahs and false prophets. He tells us that His second coming will be different to His first coming. When He returns the second time, everyone will know it is Him. It will not be in secret; it will be so that everyone can see Him. You do not have to worry that you might miss Jesus’ return, or that you will have to go and look for Him. Jesus’ return will be an unmistakable event.
In verse 36, Jesus says: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” We are thus told that these prophetic words, regarding the end times, are not given to us to help us determine when Jesus will return, because only God knows the exact day and hour. We are given these prophecies to encourage us to remain focussed on Christ when bad times come, and that we must continue being His hands and feet. Verse 45 to 47 states “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”
We are encouraged to remain focussed on Christ, and to live out our Christian faith, no matter how bad things might be. Jesus then continues in Matthew 25 to emphasize this point by telling three parables, to explain it further. The first one is the parable of the ten virgins, that reminds us to remain focussed on Christ, no matter how long it takes for Him to return. Once He returns, you will not be able to rely on other Christians for salvation.
The second parable is the one about three servants and the bags of gold. This parable tells us that we need to live our Christian life to the full while we are waiting for Jesus’ return. We need to use everything we have, and make use of every opportunity, to glorify Christ’s name.
The third parable is the one about the sheep and the goats. Again, we are reminded that those of us who will live a Christ-like life until the very end, will be invited into His Kingdom. No matter how bad things get, or how long it takes, we cannot just sit and look at the signs and wait for Him to return, we need to continue being salt and light until the very end.
These two chapters encourage us to remain focussed on Christ, and to live Christ-like lives at all times, until the very end. Unfortunately, many Christians have made the signs the focal point instead, and it is by focussing on the signs, that various interpretations are formed, and division is caused. End time scriptures are supposed to unite us in Christ, so we can strengthen each other when things are at their worst, and not divide us.
May we choose to focus less on the signs when reading end time scriptures, and rather focus on what Christ wants to teach us through these scriptures so we can all one day hear the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt 25:21)
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