In Revelation chapter 6, John describes the vision he sees after the 5th seal is opened, the souls of those who had been killed because of their testimony to Christ. They cry out, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth?” In Acts chapter 1, Jesus’ disciples ask him, “Lord, at this time are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” These examples from the New Testament demonstrate that Christians have been asking this question for a long time. When will the end of time occur? On what date will God end the world as we know it?
When events in the world seem to follow the pattern of events that Jesus outlined, then preachers and Bible students become more insistent that the End is near. So what does the Bible say about the date of the End Times?
In Mark chapter 13, Jesus answers a question from His disciples and uses that as an opportunity to talk about the future leading up to the End. But at the end of His teaching He says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” In other words, even Jesus Himself did not know when the End would come! If Jesus would not set a date, we should not either.
In the passage from Acts chapter 1 that I already mentioned, notice how Jesus responded to the disciples’ question. They asked if Jesus was going to restore the kingdom at that time. Jesus replies, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” It seems to me Jesus was telling them that the date of the End was none of their business. As Jesus’ disciples, we need to be busy bearing witness to Him. We need to follow our calling and trust God however He sees fit to work.
Throughout the New Testament, the repeated message is clear. Our concern is not to figure out “when” the End will come, but to live in faithfulness until that time and live with an attitude of anticipation of God’s coming. Not just His coming at the End, but His coming every day into lives to make us whole and new. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul writes, “Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” But then he commends them because they are living with a readiness and anticipation every day.
To study what the Bible says about God’s final judgment is meaningful and can be a blessing. But the New Testament is clear that obsessions about when it will happen are a distraction from what God really wants us to do. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus directs us to pray that the kingdom will come, but also that God’s will is being done on earth right now, as it is in heaven.
Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC