Jesus will return to earth in great glory! Our USMB Confession of Faith states our collective belief this way: “We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ will return visibly and triumphantly at the end of the present age. The church must always be prepared to meet the Lord, living in expectation of his imminent return. As a family of believers, we firmly believe this will occur.”
Studying the end times has been one of my passions for the past 40 years or more. I thoroughly enjoy digging into passages that speak of Christ’s return and the events leading up to and after this future amazing moment in time. I know some people shy away from the prophetic portions of Scripture because they seem confusing and daunting, but I’m drawn to them.
I do have some definite beliefs as to how things will flow, but I won’t share those here. There are many varied interpretations about the timing and placing of certain facets of these anticipated events. And we know for sure that it’s futile and even wrong to try to pin an actual date on when these things will happen. But I will say that I believe the church is currently woefully unprepared for Jesus’ return. I’ve also realized that numerous pastors and theologians believe we are seeing the signs indicating that it’s close at hand.
In fact, a LifeWay Research April 2020 article by Aaron Earls titled “Signs of Jesus’ Return” says that almost nine in 10 pastors “see at least some current events matching those Jesus said would occur shortly before he returns to earth,” according to a new survey of 1,000 evangelical pastors focused on Christian eschatology or the study of end times.
Although this research doesn’t mean it’s inevitable that Christ’s return will transpire within the next few years, it does give one pause as we think about what’s been taking place in our world. Especially as we enter another new year, one that we all hope is far better overall than this past year. Personal note: 2020 gets a one-star rating out of a possible five stars in my opinion!
Back to the question: Are these current worldwide happenings indicative of the end times? Well, in this same article, Earls says, “At least three in four pastors agree Jesus was referring to current events including the rise of false prophets and false teachings (83 percent), the love of many believers growing cold (81 percent), traditional morals becoming less accepted (79 percent), wars and national conflicts (78 percent), earthquakes and other natural disasters (76 percent) and people abandoning their Christian faith (75 percent). And more than half of all pastors surveyed indicate that they believe Jesus will return in their lifetime.”
I guess we could shrug our shoulders and say, “So, what? Why does it matter, it will happen when it happens.” But as I mention at the beginning of this essay, the church needs to be prepared, not shrug it off. And part of that preparation is a sense of urgency as we think about those who don’t yet believe. Once Jesus returns, the opportunity for faith and salvation is gone for good. If we don’t feel the urgency to witness about Jesus and to be faithful in proclaiming his coming, we need to ask the Lord of the harvest to supply us with that sense of urgency. This is not the time in history for the church to be complacent.
We may not like these words from Paul as he writes the second letter to the church in Thessalonica, “This (God’s judgment) will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.”
No, I don’t like to think about that.