Summary: Since the end is near, let's do three delightful duties - pray seriously, love fervently and give graciously.
Living on the Edge of Eternity
Rev. Brian Bill
February 28-March 1, 2015
Man on the Street Interview
Have you heard of the Doomsday Clock? Maintained since 1947 by a group of scientists, this clock represents a countdown to impending global catastrophe, otherwise known as the end of the world. The closer the clock is set to midnight, the nearer these scientists believe we are to doom and disaster.
The second hand of the Doomsday Clock was changed just a month ago, moving the time up two minutes, so that we are now at three minutes to midnight. This is the closest to apocalypse we have come since 1984 – the coldest of the Cold War years. This is not really a scientific calculation but rather a measure of the “strong feeling of urgency” in light of world events. These experts must feel a lot of end-time urgency because the image of the updated clock is now bright red.
Many of you hope the end of winter is near, right? I confess that I like the snow. Here’s what we do in Wisconsin [show slide]. Someone posted this on Facebook this week: “Winter needs to end after Christmas. The end.”
Actually, when we process the news from this week, it makes us wonder how close we are to the end of all things, doesn’t it? Here are some actual headlines from the past seven days.
• Al-Shabaab threatens malls, including some in U.S. (Sunday)
• Iranian cruise missiles blow up life-size replica of American aircraft carrier (Wednesday)
• ISIS holds Christian hostages, will threaten to kill them (Wednesday)
• 3 Men from New York try to join Isis (Thursday)
• Iranian military chief threatens to ‘wipe Tel Aviv off the map’ (Thursday)
Last week we camped in 1 Peter 4:1-6 and learned that Christ-followers don’t do what they used to do. We were challenged to arm ourselves against sin and to abstain from sin. I appreciated an email I received this week from Duane Roesner, who teaches one of our Adult Bible Fellowship Classes. I wanted to pass it along because it was a helpful corrective to the statement I made about seeing ourselves as sinners: “Several years ago I taught on our identity...One of the things I did frequently was to ask the class, ‘who are you?’ They would answer what I taught them - a ‘child of God.’ When we become Christians we have a new identity…If you see yourself as a child of God, or a saint who sins less and less, that is what you will become because what you focus on expands.” Thanks, Duane.
Let’s look now at 1 Peter 4:7 to see how the Bible tells time: “But the end of all things is at hand…” The word “end” refers to completion or a conclusion, to a goal that has been achieved. It’s good for us to be reminded that God is in charge and He is working all things toward the completion of His plan. Nothing takes Him by surprise. I posted a verse this week that captures that truth from Psalm 47:8: “God reigns over the nations; God sits on His holy throne.”
The phrase “at hand” means, “to approach or draw near” and indicates imminency, meaning that Jesus could come back at any moment. All things are now ready. The rapture is the next event on the calendar – it’s always one minute to midnight. One scholar has estimated that there are over 1,800 references to the second coming of Christ in the Old Testament. An amazing 1 out of 30 verses in the New Testament speak of His return. Are you aware that for every prophecy in the Bible concerning Christ’s first coming, there are 8 that look forward to His Second? (Today in the Word, April, 1989, p. 27).
When Peter writes the “end of all things is at hand,” this must have been encouraging for those pummeled by persecution. While this refers to the coming rapture of believers, it could also refer to our own deaths. Either way, the time is near, isn’t it? For our four Easter Now outreach services we’ll be communicating the urgency of deciding for Christ today...because tomorrow might not come. I like what Corrie Ten Boom once said: “Drive shallow tent pegs, because we are moving on in the morning.”
“Therefore…” is a term of conclusion. It causes us to pause and ponder what comes next. The study of end times should not just satisfy our curiosity but also sanctify us so that we’re ready when He returns. 1 John 2:28: “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” The return of Christ is always presented in Scripture as a great motivation to action, not as a reason to cease from action. In a parable Jesus told about his return, the nobleman implores his servants in Luke 19:13: “Do business till I come.”