Have you noticed how many people are predicting that the end of time is on the horizon and the Second Coming is very near? Just months ago Billy Graham stated that the signs of the end of the age are “converging now for the first time since Jesus made those predictions.”
World Net Daily reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the United Nations General Assembly “biblical prophecies are being realized.”
Rep. Michele Bachman of Minnesota was quoted as saying, “When you see up is down and right is wrong, when this is happening, we are told this: that these days would be as the days of Noah.”
A recent poll by the Barna Group found that 4 in 10 Americans – and 77% of evangelical Christians – believe the “world is now living in the biblical end times.”
Some preachers more knowledgeable in the area of prophecy than I am contend that a rare celestial event known as the “Blood Moon Tetrad” has coincided with periods of monumental change affecting the Holy Land and ultimately the world. Some contend that the next Blood Moon Tetrad sequence is coming soon and if this pattern continues as history has shown – a major prophetic event regarding Israel is on the horizon.
Last year Hollywood produced a film, Left Behind, starring Nicolas Cage. The movie was about a small group of survivors who were left behind after millions of people suddenly vanish and the world is plunged into chaos and destruction.
While I do not claim to be an expert on the subject of prophecy I do believe that Christians should live as though the return of Jesus Christ is imminent – that His return could occur at any moment. With the Apostle Paul I look for “the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Knowing that the Lord could come back today, some are tempted to stop what they are doing and just “wait” for Him.
Since no one knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return (Matt. 24:36), we dare not live in denial and pretend that it will not happen nor can we afford to passively wait for the Lord’s second advent. Neither should we spend our days attempting to satisfy our curiosity by exploring some new eschatological theory.
The return of Christ is always presented in the Bible as a great motivation to action. In I Corinthians 15:58 the Apostle Paul writes, “Be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
Here are some things believers should be doing in view of the Lord’s imminent return:
First, we should be committed to worship corporately. The writer of Hebrews 10:25 says, “[Let us] not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the ‘day’ approaching.”
… we dare not live in denial and pretend that [Christ’s return] will not happen …
Southern Baptists are becoming less committed to corporate worship. Most churches have about a third of their membership present for worship on Sunday. Out of 15,499,173 total members in 2014, our churches had an average worship attendance of only 5,674,469. That was a decline in average worship attendance of 160,238 from the previous year.
James O. Davis wrote: “How important is it for Christians to be faithful to the local assembly? If a person is willingly and consistently forsaking the assembling of himself/herself, then he/she cannot claim to be true to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ and the church are not identical, but they are inseparable.”
When the early church gathered and parted, they always said, “Maranatha,” an Aramaic term meaning, “The Lord is coming.” They were constantly reminding each other that the time for Jesus’ return was imminent. Our negligence in church attendance gives evidence that while we may want to discuss Christ’s return, we are not really expecting Him as our blessed hope.
Second, we should be committed to walk circumspectly. In Luke 21:34-35 Jesus said, “Take heed to yourselves lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that ‘day’ come upon you unawares. For as a snare it shall come upon all them that dwell upon the face of the whole earth.”
And in I John 3:2-3 the Bible says, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
Unfortunately, nominal church members have hijacked the word “Christian” and so diluted and denigrated the word that when the world looks at the church they do not see much of Christ’s personality or power and consequently want nothing to do with us. We must remember that God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness (I Thess. 4:7).
Those who believe Christ could return at any time will set their house in order, abandon the world’s sinful ways, and endeavor with the help of God’s Spirit to walk in holiness.
“Jesus Christ and the church are not identical, but they are inseparable.”
James O. Davis
Third, we should be committed to work conscientiously. Jesus said, “Occupy until I come” (Luke 19:13). With these words Jesus emphasizes the importance of doing the Master’s business. We are to stay focused and committed to do His work in the power and authority that He’s given us.
We are told that 20-25% of church members do about 90% of the work in the church. It’s like a football game at Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia in the fall of the year when you have 95,000 fans in need of exercise watching 22 people in need of rest. It is time for believers to roll up their sleeves and go to work.
Fourth, we should be committed to witness consistently. Charles Stanley of First Baptist Church Atlanta declared, “His voice leads us not into timid discipleship, but into bold witness.” If we believe that the return of Christ is imminent shouldn’t we want to do as the hymn says and “rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave?”
Our declining baptismal rate gives evidence that we either don’t believe that our redemption draws nigh or we don’t really care that much that people without Christ are headed for a devil’s hell.
Some have asked me, “When will you retire?” or “Why don’t you slow down and not push so hard?” My response is, “You misunderstand the size of the problems we face, the strength of the status quo, and the urgency of Christ’s command to win the lost and make a difference.”
We have a work to do and we need to be faithful to the task until Christ comes or God calls us home.