Well, the world didn't end yesterday ... but it will. It was interesting to me how the news media and many others mocked even the idea of the end of the world. I realize that the whole Mayan calendar thing, as well as some of the other "doomsday" prophecies of other religions and supposed "prophets" or "visionaries" are far-fetched fairy tales, but this world WILL come to an end.
In two weeks, on January 6th, I will begin a 12-week series entitled, "the end. - the facts surrounding the return of Jesus Christ" ... I am going to begin the series by looking at the reason we need to know what God says about "the end," as it is explained in II Peter 3:1-13 ...
"Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking" (II Peter 3:1).
God WANTS us to set our minds on the return of Jesus Christ because it takes our minds off of the self-centered goals we so often live by when we think only of this life and what we want to get out of it. Thinking about the end - whether the end of our lives or the end of this age - brings freedom from trying to find satisfaction in the things of the world, apart from God. Every blessing comes from Him, but when we live as though this life is all there is, we worry, we doubt, we live as citizens of THIS world, when God says we must live by faith, knowing that we are "aliens and strangers" here. We have a different reason for being here, and that is to be witnesses of Jesus Christ, laying down our own agendas, indeed, even our own lives if necessary, for Him and for His purposes.
So Peter goes on to say, "You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this coming He promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.' ... But 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!" (II Peter 3:3-4, 10).
I have been told by some in the church, including other pastors, that "my view" of end times is incorrect, even unbiblical. Some have used one or two passages to attempt to disprove what I believe God reveals in His Word. I take no offense from these arguments, but I am saddened by the lack of genuine study of God's Word. Many casually say, "Well, God says we won't know the day or the hour of His coming, so why study end times?" Others joke about it and say, "Well, it will all pan out in the end." Most just ignore the topic. But why? Can we really understand these things? The answer is, "Yes!" God says that "all Scripture is profitable," and the Bible talks about the end of this age in many different places. Jesus spoke often about the time of judgment to come and about deliverance from God's wrath for those who believe. Why would we, of all people who have ever lived, ignore or reject what GOD says about the completion of His plan from the beginning?!
Understand this, the end of the world as you and I know it WILL happen, in spite of those who scoff and speak to the contrary. But it will not be global warming or natural disasters or even the destructive forces of weapons of mass destruction developed by mankind. This world will end by the hand of God's judgment. Fewer and fewer people seem to believe this to be so. Those of us who believe that "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son; that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16), are a smaller and smaller minority. While many claim to believe in "God," they have no idea who He is and worship some idol created by the imagination of men who do not want to be held accountable for their sins before a holy God. THEIR "god" is whatever you want "it" to be. Christianity is unique and is either the ONLY true religion, or it is completely and utterly wrong. It centers in the person of Jesus Christ!
The study of "end times" is important because the return of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of what has been written in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible since the beginning of time. Imagine reading a book but stopping before you read the last chapter. How many of you leave a movie theater ten minutes before the movie is finished? Do you watch a television program up to the last five minutes and then turn the TV off? So why would we do that with the Bible, God's own revelation of the beginning, the end and everything in between?? The Bible is HIS Story ... God's revelation of His plan to establish His eternal kingdom in a new heaven and a new earth. And through His Son Jesus Christ God invites all who will believe in Him, confessing their sin and seeking forgiveness through Christ's suffering and death on the cross, to be part of His eternal kingdom ... thus, eternal life!!
The study of "end times" is also necessary because the Bible gives us details of the events leading up to the return of Jesus to this earth. God warns that the struggles we face now in this world will get worse. God predicts that in the last few years there will be an attempt to form a one-world government and a one-world religion. Those who understand these things can see the progress such thinking has made in the past decade ... even the past few years. The economies of the world, climate change (whether real or imagined), the unrest in the Middle East, and a host of other things point to the truth that things are not getting "better." Mankind has neither the will nor the wisdom to "fix" this world. If that sounds pessimistic, it is simply true. We are on an irreversible course towards the end of this age because of the rebellion of man against the one true God.
So why a 12-week series on "the end."? To "stimulate people to wholesome thinking," to right thinking. Each day is important when you understand the meaning of your life and as you live it in the presence of God, your Creator, and for the glory of God. Knowing Jesus Christ gives hope and peace to all who believe because, whether I live or die, I will live forever in His eternal kingdom. Serving Jesus Christ now, today, makes more sense than anything else because having been saved by God's grace, my life is now His. "I have been crucified with Christ and now I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me" (Galatians 2:20). Amazing grace!
Jesus promised JOY to those who followed Him, and in the midst of the trials and suffering of this life, and even in death, those who know and love Jesus have true joy, for our Savior lives and when He returns, all who have believed in Him will be either raised from the dead or transformed in the twinkling of an eye, and will watch as He defeats all His and our enemies once and for all and establishes His perfect new world. A dream? A fairy tale? Or God's truth, revealed by His Spirit to those whom He has chosen to be His children? You decide.
If you are in the Grand Rapids area, come and join us for the series, beginning January 6th. If you are somewhere else in the world, modern technology allows us to put the messages online, and we will be doing that so you, too, can hear what God's Word says. For those who are "followers" of this blog, you may comment about the messages and ask questions, and I will try to answer them from God's Word. There are still some details and things that we may not yet understand, but those things that God has revealed are intended to motivate us to share the Gospel and to give us hope and peace as we wait eagerly for His coming.
For today, the words of the Psalmist call us to serve our God: "This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it!"