2020 just doesn’t seem to let up. I don’t need to remind you of the details of the last six months, we are all living them! One young mom recently mentioned as she saw the redness of the smoke-filled sky one morning, “It was so eerie, I just started praying for the salvation of my children.” Others, half in jest, have commented about it being a sign of the end of the world—and in some ways it can feel that way, especially when the Bible speaks about the coming of Christ like this:
Joel 2:30–31 (NASB95)
30 “I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, blood, fire and columns of smoke. 31 “The sun will be turned into darkness and the moon into blood before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.
These days we’re more easily reminded of the reality of Christ’s return—but we are quick to forget. As the smoke begins to clear, and the air of this world becomes easier to breathe, the mundane seizes our attention instead. The important thing to meditate on isn’t first when Christ is returning; we need to consider how we are to live since Christ is returning. The events of 2020 aren’t distinct events that are somehow specific to the days before Jesus’ return, they are normal events that characterize life in this fallen world. Every time we see days like these we aren’t to start trying to calculate dates, rather, we are to be reminded of how temporary this world is and know the sure hope that one day Jesus will return and restore all things.
This should change us—not just when the sun burns red from smoke filled skies, but each and every day. Here are a couple ways that our lives should be shaped since he will return.
Since Jesus is returning we are to live distinctly.
Peter, in speaking about the coming of Jesus in 2 Peter 3 then applies it in this way:
2 Peter 3:13–15 (NASB95)
13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation…
Since one day Christ, our Lord and King, will return, we are to be found by him in peace. Peace with him through the gospel, peace in our own consciences as we sojourn in this world, and peace with each other as we live as his people. This world desperately needs to see a community of people who live at peace—who know the extravagance of the grace they’ve received and grant it to others. Who love our Lord Jesus Christ and are diligent to love and obey him. Amidst all of the division and tension surrounding us from Covid, from racial tensions and politics, may we dwell in the middle of it as a people who will be found by Him in peace.
Since Christ is returning we are to be committed to his mission:
We discover in 2 Peter 3:4, that it’s easy to misinterpret God’s patience with humanity and think he’s never going to come back. A few verses later we are told that God’s patience is a result of his desire that women and men come to repentance (v.9). Understanding this helps us understand what Peter said in verse 15. “Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation…” He is telling us that if we really believe the reality of his coming, if we understand his reasons for delay, we will give ourselves for the mission of the gospel and the salvation of our neighbors, friends, and loved ones.
Since Jesus is returning we are to be devoted to each other.
The author of the book of Hebrews challenges the church this way:
Hebrews 10:24–25 (NASB95)
24 …let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
What does it mean to “see the day drawing near?” When things happen that remind us that this world is unraveling, when events make it seem like the time may be short, we are to “double-down” on our commitment to each other. There are those that make not gathering a habit, we aren’t to follow their example. We are called to gather as a church, to encourage and provoke each other to live a life of love.
The exhortation of “all the more as you see the day drawing near” is an indication that life in this world will be difficult–it will stand against the priority of gathering with God’s people. This is not an invitation to meet when things are easy and convenient. This is not an invitation to only spend time with your Christian friends as important as that is. This challenge was given to the church to not neglect being the church. It was a challenge to live by faith, even though identification with Christ might bring a “great conflict of sufferings” (v.32). This challenge was given to men and women who lost their property and possessions because they identified with God’s people (v.33). This is a challenge to live in light of our belief that we are waiting and living for a better and lasting home (v.34). It is a call to endure (v.35). Listen to how their commitment to each other cost them.
Hebrews 10:32–36 (NASB95)
32 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 34 For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
May we have the same resolve.
Some of you who were hoping that I would speak directly to the topic of whether or not these are the “end times” are probably feeling a bit of “bait-and-switch.” The question might be on our minds as it was on the early church in Acts 1:6, “Lord, is this the time?” I think the words of Jesus to the disciples then is just as pertinent to us today. Jesus said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or the epochs which the Father has fixed by his own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses…” (v.7, 8) Jesus is building his church, he will one day return and fully redeem us. May we, as we wait, be his distinct people in this age, fully devoted to his mission and each other.