Recently, I was asked: “Most Christians do not have an appropriate understanding and appreciation for the end times and the return of Christ. How did we get from the stories and letters of the Bible to where we are today?”
So, I spent an hour teaching a group about Eschatology, Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, Rapture, Pretribulation Rapture, Armageddon and all sorts of other big words. Groan!
What those terms describe is what Christians believe will happen when we die and when the world approaches the end. One Christian creed says: “Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead.” Eschatology is the study of end-times and Christ coming again. There is a lot of scholarly debate over the details. But a better question is: “Will we be ready?”
In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus gave the disciples a glimpse of the future. The world would pass away, but the Word of God would endure forever. The disciples naturally asked: “When?” Jesus said that he would return but couldn’t tell the exact day or hour. That was known only to God. Jesus stresses the need to be prepared and then shares the parable of the ten bridesmaids.
A Jewish wedding in Jesus’ day included a twilight procession to escort the bridal couple from the home of the bride to the home of the groom. An important part of this procession were the bridesmaids who light the way for the wedding party. Each girl carries a small shallow lamp to provide the light.
There is a delay so when the party arrives there is no oil left in the lamps. Half the girls were prepared with extra oil. The other half unsuccessfully tried to borrow from the others. When that didn’t work, they ran off to buy more. While the party arrived and the prepared girls led the way. The procession began without the missing girls. The unprepared girls miss out.
We feel sorry for the unprepared girls but that’s not the point. Jesus says, “Stay awake and be prepared for you do not know the moment of my return.” The warning: “Be prepared!” (Mat. 25:13)
We don’t know when Jesus will come again. We don’t know when our life on earth ends. We don’t know when that time comes when the only thing that matters is when we stand in front of God. “So, be prepared.”
Easy to say but what does that mean today? After all, the world has gone on for centuries and Jesus hasn’t come yet. So, what do we do?
- Don’t panic. Don’t overreact by selling your possessions, camp out in the woods, strum a guitar, eat birdseed and hum as you read the Psalms. That idea is not Scriptural nor is it helpful. We continue to carry out our responsibilities.
- Take Spiritual Inventory – Take an honest look at your life with God. There are good habits to celebrate and habits that need improvement. We refuse to let the bad stack up. We seek forgiveness and repentance knowing God can and will help us change and improve.
- Deepen our relationship with God – Our life of prayer, Bible study, worship, service within our church and community is so critical. It is a life that realizes the need for a spiritual perspective that looks beyond our immediate needs of today and anticipates a brighter future.
- Look Around – You are not in this world alone and your relationship with Jesus was never meant to be strictly private. You live in a world full of family, friends, co-workers and millions of strangers. You are influential and placed by God on this earth for a purpose. Finding your purpose and striving to fulfill your purpose provides meaning to your existence.
Don’t Panic. Take Spiritual Inventory. Deepen our relationship with God. Look Around.
Maintaining balance in getting ready can be difficult. I believe Jesus would say: “Facing difficult times is part of being ready. If you want to live your life for Jesus Christ, embrace the struggle because it is in the struggle you find a deeper more satisfying relationship with God, look around to discover and carry out your purpose and so fulfill Jesus’ desire for you to “be ready.”
Confession: I wanted this column to provide answers for “Life’s Final Questions” but instead, I discovered more questions than answers: Frustrating. But maybe that is the answer. We are meant to struggle with Life’s Final Questions. Our quest for answers is critical.
Life’s Final Questions was never about answers. It’s about our willingness to engage in the spiritual process of exploring those answers within a deeper relationship with Christ. This is what Jesus means to “be ready.”