Published in Challenge Weekly 2011
There is some speculation around that current events indicate that the end of the world is nigh. This is no doubt due to Jesus' predictions of wars and earthquakes as the end approaches. It is certainly true that our news is full of earthquakes and Middle Eastern turmoil. So, is this the beginning of the end?
The first thing is to admit that we just don't know. Jesus himself did not know when the end would come. There are texts that point to Jesus returning like a thief in the night, surprising most of the people of the world. So, his return may be imminent. But, a sensible Christian does no claim too much on the basis of a few world events.
Secondly, such events are not really that unusual. Seismologists tell us that the number of earthquakes remains constant. The difference for us in NZ is that one hit us! Further, we are now able to watch their effects dramatically on live TV! The truth is that there have been earthquakes and turmoil since the time of Christ, and they will go on.
Thirdly, while it is true that these are potentially signs, other key signs remain unfulfilled. For example, the gospel is yet to be preached to every known people group on earth. Neither is there any sign of a world-wide economic, political, and spiritual power taking control.
Fourthly, while the world is in many instances a dangerous place, the idea of a rising intensity of evil in the earth is not clear-cut, although one could argue that the conditions are coming into place for such world-wide chaos (e.g. ecology, globalisation, technology, tension). When we think back to last century there were times of great intensity such as the World Wars, the Cuban Missile crisis, and more, yet these did not signal the end. As such, we Christians should always on our guard, but act with sober realism and judgment concerning the return of Christ at a time like this.
Then there is the question of whether when Jesus returns will in fact the end of the world at all. The assumption behind the idea is that Jesus returns, the world is enveloped in a cataclysmic end and believers are whipped off to live in heaven for eternity. In Rom 8:19-23 a very different picture is given. It speaks of the creation (all things) groaning in suffering (e.g. earthquakes), waiting eagerly for the coming of Christ, of the creation subjected to futility, and of the hope that the creation will be liberated from its enslavement to decay and brought into glorious resurrection freedom. This is a thrilling picture not of the end of the world, but the renewal of this one! So, even if it is 'the end,' this should not lead us to despair or fear, but to joy and hope, because our savior is coming and the renewal of God's creation is at hand. Go deeper!