1 Peter 4:7-11 “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
Lately, I have been thinking/talking/writing about, meditating on, and praying about this portion of scripture in regard to myself, personally, and our church.
And over this past year especially, (and this coming year) I have felt compelled to focus on and speak more on what the ancient words of scripture speak or reveal concerning the future. (Check out our series through the book of Revelation found on the right hand side at www.theallenwoodchurch.org/messages). Scripture spends a lot of time speaking about “end-time” signs and realities. That means if it is God’s word to us, it is important for us to understand.
But before I go further let me share several reasons why “end-time” truths are difficult to speak to. First of all, many people live as if life is just going to go on as it always has and don’t believe there will be an end. One reason people may justify this in their minds is due to so much “hype” and “false predications” that never come to fruition. Another reason, closely connected with that, is we so easily get caught up with life “here and now” or only seek “help” or desire “relief” from our current problems, that we don’t think about eternal realities.
But yet another reason is there are so many different perspectives and speculation out there on whether certain “prophecies” are to be understood literally or figuratively or allegorically, that some just grow frustrated and focus on other things. And some things are harder to understand than others, so we get discouraged or overwhelmed.
But another reason so many don’t think about or focus on end-time realities (which may perhaps be the deeper and truer reason) is because end time/eternal truths (be it the reality of death, being judged by God, the reality of eternity in heaven or hell, or the end of the age/world) call for major changes in how we live our lives now in the present. And quite frankly, a lot of people don’t want to live differently or deal with the changes that would have to come if they really lived in light of eternity and end-time realities.
But may I remind you of what 2 Peter 3:3-15 says?
First of all, 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 they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 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.” “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation…”
Over and over again, scripture calls us to “live in light of eternal truths.” In fact, at the end of the musings and wrestling’s of the wisest man to ever live (besides Jesus Christ), King Solomon, in seeking the meaning of life and how one ought to live, comes to this conclusion (after seeking meaning in pleasure, riches, work, and success):
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”
We ought to live our lives in light of the reality that one day we will stand before God and give an account of our entire life (what we did, what we did not do, and why we did or did not do what we did or did not do!).
Jesus, when talking about the end of the age and His second coming (which He talked about and scripture speaks to quite frequently), told us in just chapter 24 of Matthew alone to “keep watch” (24:42) to “be ready” (24:44) and to faithfully serve Him until He comes (24:45-47). And He also promised to those who live this way great reward to help motivate and encourage us to live in light of His coming!
But everywhere in scripture that end-time or future or eternal realities are spoken about, there are always very practical applications to how those truths ought to affect how we live our lives in the present.
In the scripture we started with (1 Peter 4:7-11) the truth is simply stated “The end of all things is near”. But the rest of that passage goes on to give four practical applications of how we ought to live in the present on earth, in light of that truth. Those four things are:
1. Be sober-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.
2. Above all love each other deeply.
3. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
4. Serve others by using whatever spiritual gift God has given you—administering His grace in its various forms.
Pray. Love. Be hospitable. Serve.
The future is meant to affect our present in very practical ways.
Focusing on eternal, end-time, future realities actually ought to stir us to more faithful and holy living and greater service, love, and fruitfulness.
Therefore what could be more important than focusing on end-time realities? We make plans all the time in light of and for many future earthly realities (like education, marriage, raising a family, vacations, retirement, etc.). Why would we not plan for our eternity and live our lives on earth preparing for it? After all, eternity is going to be forever!
Our life on earth is short, temporary, and transitional. James 4:13-16 reminds us: “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
Life on earth can end quickly and suddently. Death could come at any moment. And the end of all things is near.
Therefore let us heed the words of Romans 13:11-13 (written after Jesus’ earthly ministry in the flesh had ended and He had ascended, upon being resurrection, upon being crucified) which tells us this:
“And do this, (walk in love) understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
Begin this new year with the end in mind!