“You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See to it that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not the end.”
With those words, Jesus tried to calm the fears of His followers. To the ancient world of Jesus it appeared the very fabric of the universe had been ripped out of place. The Jewish people were living under the tyrannical thumb of the latest world superpower. The promises God made to Abraham and his descendants, to Moses, and to David about the future if Israel seemed were a distant memory. The glory days of the Davidic and Solomonic kingdoms were long gone and it seemed that Israel would never again rise to a place of such power and influence in the world. Most Jewish people were happy if they could just rise to face a new day of survival in captivity.
It would be easy for our generation to have a similar mindset. Western Christians are certainly not worried about their daily survival from a basic needs standpoint. We live in a time of great prosperity and convenience and yet we look at the world tearing itself apart with religious and sectarian strife and feel insecure and hard pressed. From Iran to North Korea to Iraq to the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinians we see nothing but signs of our own demise looming on the horizon. Today I heard veteran newscaster Chris Wallace say he had never seen the present level of intensity being displayed in Israel’s response to the kidnapping of their soldiers. Without a doubt, we live in uncertain and unsettling times, teetering on the brink of world war where it seems the slightest provocation could send us hurtling into the abyss of annihilation.
How should born-again Christians view the current mess of world affairs? Some choose to make wild predictions about the end of the world. These believers are sure exactly what time it is according to the prophetic time clock. They see events in the Middle East combined with tensions over Iran and North Korea as the run up to the rapture, the tribulation, and the second coming of Christ. Could they be right? Absolutely, but they could just as likely be completely wrong. I am reminded of some other words Jesus spoke from Matthew that some people seem all to willing to overlook or forget. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36). If Jesus doesn’t know the hour of His own second coming, we can be sure we don’t know the hour.
But it really shouldn’t matter when Jesus comes since believers are commanded to watch and to pray and to always be ready for His coming. Our current status, even with all the tumult in the world, should be the same as it is during the brief interludes of peace the world has enjoyed. We should be alert. That is to say, we should be looking forward to the day of Jesus return with a sense of excitement and preparedness. Jesus said, “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into” (Matthew 24:43). I believe the point Jesus was trying to make was simply that if we are alert we will not be surprised at His coming. Just as a thief can steal all that we have while we sleep, if Jesus appearing catches us napping there will be much to be lost. Being alert means being ready and therefore being protected against the negative results of His coming. All who know Christ as Savior and worship Him as Lord will rejoice when the world is relieved from the effects of sin. We will shout the shout of victory over sin, death, hell, and the grave. It is not a time for fear but a time to welcome the restoration of God’s kingdom to the earth.
Does this mean we should just go ahead and start the final battle by attacking Iran and drawing China and Russia into the battle? As the Apostle Paul would say, “may it never be!” I had a caller to my radio show this week who said he was tired of the politics of appeasement. He wanted to see Israel launch nuclear weapons at Lebanon and Syria so we can go ahead and fight this war that is surely coming. I reminded him his philosophy would lead to world war and a nuclear nightmare. I tried to tell him that his children would then see the horrors of war but he was adamant. Right after his call, a woman called to say she was memorizing a passage from James and she thought it would be appropriate to address the previous caller’s mindset. She quoted James 3:17-18: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Does this mean there is never a time for war? Of course not, but it does mean we should never have a lust or desire for war. We should sow the seed of righteousness so that peace may grow and flourish in our generation.
There can be no doubt that one day, if we live long enough, we will experience the rapture of the Church. God’s people will, in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye be transported into the presence of Christ. The world will then fall under the unbridled and unfettered hand of the Anti-Christ and it will experience for seven long years the wrath of God. But the final chapter of history finds God’s people living under the glorious reign of Jesus Christ. We should not fear world events. We should not magnify their significance nor make sure predictions about their impact. We should live daily with one eye on world events and one eye scanning the heavens always remembering these words of Jesus: “When when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
Dr. Tony Beam is Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville College in Tigerville, South Carolina. He also serves as Interim Pastor at Whitefield Baptist Church in Anderson, S.C. and as host ofChristian Worldview Today heard Monday through Friday mornings from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. on Christian Talk 660.