Last weekend, I went to see The Hobbit with some friends. As we waited for the movie to start, we sat through what seemed an unusually long slew of trailers. Some of them looked good; some looked dumb. One of them looked really dumb. In that movie, huge alien rhino-beasts emerge from the ocean, where they’d been waiting to destroy the earth. Trust me — it looked even dumber than it sounds.
It is interesting how the end of the world has become such a hot topic of late. It’s become the theme of books, movies and television shows. I believe the end of the world is so popular because at its core, it’s a worldview issue. One of the main questions every worldview must answer is what happens when we die, or where is history headed? All major religions attempt to answer this question, and it’s an important one, especially if you end up being wrong.
One dangerous tendency regarding the end is to increasingly trivialize it. The end of the world seems to have become one big joke. Friday the 21st may come and go as many other days have. The Mayans will be proven wrong, and many will go about their lives comforted that those who warn of pending doom always turn out to be wrong. And so many will relax and wait until the next false date comes and goes without the promised devastation.
But for those of us who follow Christ and trust in His words, we must not so easily dismiss the reality that the end of all things may very well be at hand. Jesus instructed His disciples to keep themselves ready for His return and even gave them many signs that would precede His return. Jesus’ followers knew He was referring to a new age — in which He would reign — as foretold in many Old Testament prophesies. They understood the present time was a time of human rule under the deception of Satan (1 John 5:19) but looked forward to the return of Christ when He would establish His eternal kingdom.
An intriguing word from Christ on His return is found in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Jesus didn’t set any dates, but He did give His people a job to do: to evangelize the world. Only when the church has witnessed to all nations, will the end come. Theologian George Ladd put it well:
I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned; therefore the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. Our responsibility is not to insist on defining the terms of our task; our responsibility is to complete it. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission.
Christ framed the question of His return in terms of the work He left His church. He left us work to do, and when we finish it, He will return. This should be a defining aspect of Christianity in every age: diligent labor to complete the work Christ gave. Our energy is not best spent wondering when He will return, but in working to complete — in every way we can — the work of proclaiming the good news as a testimony to all nations.
Again, Ladd says it well:
Do you love the Lord’s appearing? Then you will bend every effort to take the Gospel into all the world. It troubles me in the light of the clear teaching of God’s Word, in the light of our Lord’s explicit definition of our task in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) that we take it so lightly. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This is the Good News of the Kingdom . . . All authority is His. “Go ye therefore.” Wherefore? Because all authority, all power is His, and because He is waiting until we have finished our task. His is the Kingdom; He reigns in heaven, and He manifests His reign on earth in and through His Church. When we have accomplished our mission, He will return and establish His Kingdom in glory. To us it is given not only to wait for but also to hasten the coming of the day of God (2 Peter 3:12). This is the mission of the Gospel of the Kingdom, and this is our mission.
So let’s pray, fund and work toward completing the Great Commission. Let’s leave the speculation about the end of the world to others and spend our remaining days completing the work our Lord gave us to do until we see Him coming in the clouds with power and great glory.
Copyright 2012 Andrew Hess. All rights reserved.