But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. (1 Peter 4:7)
I am sure each of you is familiar with the cartoon of a man with long hair and beard standing on a street corner with a sign reading “THE END IS NEAR!” Usually, the sign flanks both the front and rear and some sort of funny caption is placed beneath. The idea is that anyone that thinks the end of the world is approaching is a fool. Every day we wake up to the same sunrise, we head off to work, put in our shift, and then make the drive back home. At night we watch a little TV, crawl into bed and go to sleep. The next morning it starts all over again, and we do this 365 times per year and have done it for every year since we were born. Further, everyone we know has done the same routine with only slight variation and everyone we have ever heard of or read about in the history of the world has done the same. It is no wonder that when someone begins to sound an alarm for the approaching apocalypse, he is considered a fool.
It has now been 2000 years since Peter wrote “the end of all things is at hand” and no doubt there were many that read his words and said he was a fool. Peter’s reference is to the Second Coming of Christ when God will destroy this universe and all that is contained therein. In his second letter, Peter spoke of scoffers that said “Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). Are we to consider Peter a fool because Christ has yet to return? Is the Bible’s warning nonsense?
It is helpful to understand that although New Testament Christians believed in the imminent return of Christ, they were not date-setters. Peter did not imply he was certain tomorrow, or next week, or next month, the world would end. He followed the consistent pattern of New Testament teaching, especially that of Jesus, which said the Second Coming would be a sudden event that would occur without warning. The “end” refers to the consummation of the ages. “At hand” means the day is approaching. Every day we live we are one day closer to the time Christ will return. We are encouraged therefore to live in anticipation of the event. This does not mean to stand on street corners with signs, although we should witness of it in a rational manner. It does not mean to neglect our daily routines and stare at the sky. It means to guard our personal lives so that we are a living testimony of faith. The closer we are to the Lord in obeying His commands the more it speaks to the degree of our confidence in the truthfulness of the scriptures.
The prophet Amos said, “Prepare to meet thy God.” Years ago, I remember seeing signs along the roadway that said the same. The time of our life is uncertain and at every turn in life’s roadway there is a possible hazard that could end our lives. It is not as crazy as we might think to say, “the end is near.” One way or another we will meet God. It could be at the suddenness of the Second Coming or at our failure to breathe the next breath. No one knows the time of either. Are you prepared? In either event, you can be by placing your faith in Jesus Christ.
Pastor V. Mark Smith