Are we living in the end times?
Surely I'm not the only one to have had this thought over the last year and even over the last few days. Some of the things we have witnessed recently are so unprecedented (there's that word again) that they have caused me to honestly wonder, "Are we living in the end times? Is this it? Are we getting close to the return of Christ?"
The simple answer to this question is: "Yes, we are in living in the end times." But the real answer is a little more complicated than that.
On one hand, just asking that question makes me feel a little guilty. My troubles over the past year pale in comparison to what many Christians have experienced in the past and some even experience now. As I complain about the discomfort of wearing a mask, I wonder what the Christians in North Korean prison camps would think of my "trials."
But on the other hand, some of the events and challenges that have taken place are things I never expected to see in my lifetime. A global pandemic. Cities burning. Increased hostility and hatred. An insane viking-looking dude standing in the Senate Chamber after an orchestrated Capitol Building takeover.
Seeing these events before my eyes have made me ache for heaven and caused me to ask the question that many asked in the Bible: "How long, O Lord?"
So, what's the scoop? Are these the end times?
As I said, in one sense, the answer is yes. That's because the New Testament writers understood the end times to be the entire period of time between Christ's first and second coming. The Apostle John said in 1 John 2:18, "Children, it is the last hour..."
The last hour? Really? Was John really 2,000 years off?
Well, no. John did not know exactly when Christ would return (even though he literally saw it happening in Revelation). But he considered any time between now and then to be the last hour or the end times.
What this tells us is that the Apostles were not concerned with giving us the quantity of time but rather the quality of time. For them, the end times were not a set number of days or years, but rather a distinct period of time in which the gospel would go forth, the church would suffer, a lot of bad stuff would happen, and eventually Jesus would come back.
That means, yes, we are living in the end times and have been since the first century and will be until Jesus returns. We are living in days that are bad and getting worse all the time. These are the end times, and we should hope and pray these end times hurry up and end.
But what you really want to know, and let's be honest, the reason you clicked this post, is this: are we living in the end of the end times? Are these the last few days or months before Jesus comes back and fixes all this mess?
The answer is, honestly, we don't know. And anyone who claims to know probably wants to sell you a book. But I learn toward saying, "Probably not." At least according to the way I interpret scripture.
Every generation of believers has looked around at the utter depravity in their world and thought, "Surely, this is it." This has led some to even make predictions on the day or year (don't do that).
But the truth is, the Bible teaches that certain events will precede the final return of Christ. A few of those things are:
-The preaching of the gospel to the entire world (Matthew 24:14).
-The Antichrist coming to great power, being worshipped by many, slaughtering lots of Christians, and performing great miracles (Revelation 15).
-The tribulation which will be an intense time of suffering that seems to far outweigh anything we have experienced to this point (Revelation 8 and 9).
From best I can tell (again, others may disagree), these things have not yet happened and need to happen before Christ returns. Jesus himself said in Matthew 24 that wars, famines, and earthquakes were not signs of the end but are rather the beginning of the birth pains.
So, it's sad to say. But I believe things are going to get worse, much worse. Maybe that happens quickly and Jesus returns very soon. Or maybe it doesn't and Jesus is delayed much longer.
Either way, the Bible makes clear. We should not spend our time matching newspaper articles to Bible prophecy trying to discern the last day (Mark 13:32).
But what we should do is be ready (Matthew 24:44). Make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Warn others (Revelation 22:12). And trust the process (Romans 8:28).
These are the end times. And maybe even the end of the end times. Either way, I have never prayed more fervently, "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20).