KNOWING ABOUT THE END
Were I to tell you with absolute certainty, and were you to believe me, that Christ would return this week Saturday at twelve o’clock noon, what difference would that make in the way you live? Would you talk differently than you normally do? Would you do some things for which usually you do not find time? Would you be found in a movie theater or dance hall during the time until Saturday noon? Would not one be ready to “clean up his act?”
We do not know the day and hour of Christ’s return. There is reason for that, too. Now we ought to be ready for His return whenever that might be. I read an interesting anecdote of a wealthy man who visited the neighborhood school. That man promised to give a horse to the person who had the neatest desk when he unexpectedly would return. One young lady in the class, the messiest of the lot, loved horses and was resolved to have a neat desk when the man reappeared. She told her teacher that every Friday she would see that her desk was spotless. The man, after all, probably would return on a Friday, at the end of the week, when children possibly would least likely have their desks cleaned. “But,” said the teacher, “he did not say he would return on Friday. Perhaps he will come on a Monday, the beginning of the week, when children might least expect his appearance.” The girl thought about that for a time, then said, “Well, I’ll have to clean my desk on Monday, then, too.”
The teacher reminded the girl that the man had not said what day he might return. Possibly it would be one of the other days. After giving that serious thought, the girl concluded with a sigh, “Well, then, I guess that I’ll have to be sure my desk is spotlessly clean every day of the week.”
So it is with Christ’s return. Were we to know the day and hour of His return, we might tend to become careless. When we know neither the day nor the hour of the return, we are to be ready always.
It is this truth that I would emphasize to you today. You gather at this convention for fun, but more especially for spiritual refreshment and Christian fellowship. At this convention you must remember the reality of Christ’s coming again—and, soon.
THE END OF TIME
One can find among the scientists of this world a general agreement that there will be an end of this earth sometime in the future—probably millions of years in the future. Possibly the earth will be destroyed by a collision with a meteor or some other heavenly body. Otherwise, it will be destroyed when the sun burns itself out.
The end of which Scripture speaks is God-ordained and occurs at the appointed time—surely not millions or even hundreds of years hence. Scripture speaks of the catastrophic end of all things. The earth, we read in II Peter 3:10 shall melt with a fervent heat. Then will be ushered in the new heavens and new earth (II Peter 3:13).
In speaking of the “end,” we must, however, remember that this represents a blessed milestone. It is not only the destruction of time and matter as we now know it, but it is the bringing in of the new. When one comes to the end of a stay in the hospital that “end” is not reason for sadness, but for joy. It means a return home again. So the “end” of the age represents the time when Christ returns. He will gather His people into the new heavens and earth.
Nearness of the end:
Many scoff when there is mention of the nearness of the end of time. Did not people think the same thing over all the last two thousand years? Some claim that Paul himself thought Jesus would return in his lifetime (Rom. 13:12). Others remind us of the attitude of many at the time of the Reformation. Was not then the Pope the antichrist? Would not Christ return within their lifetimes? Some did think so. Today also there are many, including ourselves, who believe that Christ will return soon—likely within the lifetimes of many living today.
Yet many today also claim that the end may be thousands of years hence. The signs in creation (storms, earthquakes, etc.) have occurred throughout all time. Wars and rumors of wars have always taken place. There has always been development in the area of science from the beginning of time. Persecution has occurred periodically through all the ages. So: what’s new? What’s different?
Jesus did teach us not to try to determine the day nor the hour of His return (Matt. 25:13). There was good reason for that. We may not quit our jobs—because Jesus will be coming back in a short time. We may not quit building schools or training ministers because of the shortness of the remaining time. We are not either to become fearful because of the end-time events. We know that what must occur is good and proper—for it is the unfolding of God’s great plan of salvation. Yet, in all of our labors, we are to be waiting and watching for the return of our Lord.
The clear signs:
That we live in a different age today than the church ever has in the past, ought to be evident to all. Not only are there still wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, volcanoes—but these we observe within our living rooms via TV and radio.
We especially can notice the rapid changes in the realm of science and medicine. One can recall that only 112 years ago the first incandescent light bulb was invented by Edison. Only 109 years ago the first electric power station was built in New York City. Only 102 years ago the first mass produced automobiles were sold (425 Oldsmobiles). The first radio transmission was made only 96 years ago. Within the last 100 years we have had radio, television, phones, planes, computers. Within the last 100 years we have seen the erection of all the skyscrapers in the cities; all our modern highway systems have been built. Modern medicine developed within this period—and the nest 20 years, we are told, will mark greater development than all past ages.
Imagine this world without the changes of the past 100 years! Take away all planes, cars, television, radio, telephone, roads and modern cities—and what would be left? If anything reminds of the return of Christ, this ought to do so.
We observe today, then, three things: first, we see NEW signs that were never seen before (as the developments mentioned above). Second, we see the increasing intensity of the signs that were always present. Third, we observe those signs via TV and radio more easily than ever before.
THE APPROACH OF THE END
How do we know that the end is rapidly approaching? Scripture tells us of the specific signs of the end. Jesus spoke of these in Matthew 24. The book of Revelation tells of this. Other passages make reference to that end as well.
What signs are:
Signs are visible reminders of what remains invisible. This is true of signs generally. One can see a sign along the highway. It tells of what we would not otherwise know (speed limits, curves ahead). So it is spiritually. Though we do not know the day or hour of Christ’s return, the signs serve as reminders of that unseen event. Signs of Christ’s return are as the sounds of an approaching train. First, rumblings can be heard if one puts his ear to the track. Soon, one hears the faint sounds of the whistle and then the noise of the approaching train. Then the train comes roaring to its destination.
The signs of Christ’s return:
There are those signs Christ mentioned in Matt. 24 within creation. We read of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes. These have occurred through the ages. Yet we hear of them more and hear of more of them than has ever been heard before. Just recently I read that last year (1990) there were more tornadoes in the U.S. than ever recorded before—and in 1991 that record may be broken. One hears of the world-wide effects of volcanoes as that in the Philippines. There are forecasts of greater and more devastating earthquakes. The California area is long overdue, so we are told, for a major quake.
We hear of the AIDS virus that leads to certain death. There are those who foretell that it is only a matter of time that other viruses develop that will cause diseases unknown before and for which man now has no cure. These diseases could devastate the earth.
The new world order:
The vast increase of knowledge over the whole earth is another indication of the end. I have mentioned the great inventions and rapid changes made in the past 100 years. The sum total of man’s knowledge is increasing so fast that it is impossible to keep up with it all.
With these inventions, and through the recent developments among nations, the “new world order” appears likely. We have seen the crumbling of communism. We have seen the breaking down of the Berlin Wall and the uniting of Germany—and increasingly, the uniting of the nations of Europe. We have observed the prominence of the United States after the decline of Russia. All this has occurred in a matter of years—and some of this within the last year.
Obviously a “new world order” is possible. This sounds like the kingdom of the antichrist. With a uniting of nations, the persecution of the church will take place.
There are signs of the return of Christ in the changes evident in the churches. Most of these no longer believe in the complete infallibility and inspiration of Scripture. The literal account of the origin of the universe, presented in Genesis, is questioned or denied. Homosexuality is condoned and even encouraged. Women occupy the offices within the church in spite of what Scripture teaches. Miracles of Scripture are denied. Even the atonement through the shed blood of the Son of God in our flesh is repudiated. The churches would rather emphasize a “social gospel” where works for the poor and deprived become substitute for the preaching of the cross.
Perhaps the most striking of all the signs is that the gospel has been sent virtually to every corner of the world. The Bible has been translated into all the major languages of this earth. Segments of the Bible will be translated, we are told, into all the dialects and languages by the year 2000. The gospel has gone forth to the ends of the earth through missionaries sent from the churches. That same gospel is broadcast on the airwaves to the ends of the earth. The sign of the white horse of Revelation is almost fulfilled. When all God’s elect are gathered in, Christ shall return. That point when all of God’s elect are gathered in is near at hand.
THE NEED FOR THIS KNOWLEDGE
There ought to be no doubt about the NEED for a knowledge of the nearness of the end. This is a matter that involves our life—and our life-style.
Whenever one goes anywhere, if he is wise, he makes preparations. If one intends to vacation in a certain area of the country, he makes a point of knowing about that area. He is careful to choose his route of travel. He determines in advance the points of interest he will visit. He would know what type of clothing he is to take. So it is for the child of God who is “of the day.”
Preparation for the journey:
We are on a pilgrimage on the earth. It does not always appear to be so. The Christian can so easily have his heart fixed on earthly things. This earth, its possessions, its entertainment, can be too often the center of interest and concern. We are citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
The whole of our earthly lives represents a journey. We are traveling to that heavenly Canaan—our homeland. We need a guide, a map, for our journey through this life. Not a day can go by but that we are concerned with and interested in our homeland. We must know what goes on about us. We must recognize the trials of the journey.
Therefore, we are seriously involved in this question of the “end.” This is not just an intellectual exercise, but a matter of deep personal interest and concern. We seek that heavenly land. We desire Christ’s return. We then are interested in the details of events preceding that return.
We look for the Beginning—not merely the end:
We are not interested in having an easy and simple life here on the earth. There are those who seek the “wide way” that, said Jesus, leads to destruction. Such concentrate on the ease of the journey—not considering the end. These are like the couple that decided to take their boat trip down the Niagara River. The boat ride was lovely. The scenery was spectacular. The weather was perfect. They ignored the growing thundering noise in the distance. Only too late did these realize that their pleasant journey would end in certain destruction as they went over the falls.
We know that the wide way leads to destruction. We consider rather that “narrow way” of life. Scripture speaks of those things we must expect along the way. As we near the end of that path, we recognize the evidences of the end. It is a path well marked. Its end is the beginning of eternal and heavenly life.
Many laugh at those who are interested in these things. Some give nasty names to any who are this spiritual in attitude and walk. That ought not to concern us unduly. We know that our Lord shall soon come again. We are ready at any time for that return. Nor will we, by His grace, forsake the good way though opposition and persecution arise.
Be sure you, young people, remember the testimony of Scripture about the end. Notice for yourselves how near that end is. Then live as children of the day.