How do we prepare for doomsday? When Covid first hit, it caused a great deal of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear. People were quoting verses on plagues and pestilence (mostly out of context) as proof that we had entered the last days. Then Russia invaded Ukraine, and recently Hamas attacked Israel as they were celebrating Yom Kippur. Thousands of lives have been lost in these conflicts and there seems to be no end to the suffering that it has caused.
Surely these are the last days, right? Listen to what Jesus said in Mark 13:7-9: “when you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. "But be on your guard.”” Jesus called these events “birth pains”. They must take place, but “the end is not yet.”
These events are tragic. We mourn for every life that has been lost, especially those who do not know Christ. Jesus did not say these words to minimize the injustice or suffering that people have had to endure. He said them to comfort his disciples – “do not be alarmed” – and to prepare them – “be on your guard.”
How should we prepare? Some people have decided to sell their homes, build bunkers, stockpile food, or purchase weapons. Is that how Christians ought to prepare? The Bible clearly instructs us to be vigilant. There will be signs. Jesus said as much in Mark 13:28-29: “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates.” There will be signs, but believers need not fear these signs. We should not be alarmed, while still being on our guard.
Beware those who try to predict the time of Christ’s second coming. Every attempt has only led to humiliation and has shaken the faith of many. Jesus said, in Matthew 24:36, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” Before his ascension, Jesus repeated: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7). Being prepared and predicting the coming of Christ are not the same thing.
Every generation has had to be on their guard. A quick review of history will show that our situation is not unique. Imagine being a believer in Rome under Nero. He persecuted the church and martyred the apostles Peter and Paul. Christians were burned at the stake and thrown to lions. Not long thereafter, Jerusalem fell and Christians fled Jerusalem and Judea. Read Augustine’s great work, The City of God, where he reflects on the fall of the Roman Empire and the effect it had on the world. Europe’s history is filled with tales of devastation, war, and conquest. And the plague… the Black Death, as it was called, decimated Europe in the fourteenth century. It wiped out towns and claimed an estimated 25 million lives (nearly half of Europe’s population).
The world was at war for four years between 1914 and 1918. The devastation was terrible and it was thought that it could not be matched. Then, two decades later, from 1939-1945, the world would witness the death of thousands on the battlefield and millions in concentration camps. Nuclear bombs were dropped on civilian targets for the first time and even after the war ended, the threat of the Cold War loomed over the world.
These are indeed the last days, the end times, but that has been the case ever since the ascension of Jesus Christ. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he said: “Now these things happened to them (referring to the history of Israel) as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Cor. 10:11). When John wrote to his disciples, he said: “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18). The author of Hebrews opens his letter with these words: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). And the apostle Peter wrote: “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20).
Dear believer, you are in the last days. This is the final phase of human history before the return of Christ. Christ commands us to be on our guard, but he also comforts us when he says: “do not be alarmed”. In our next post we’ll look at what the Bible says about preparing for Christ’s return, with vigilance and faith.
Because of Christ,