Of course we are nearing the end of the age. Jesus seemed pretty frustrated at his contemporaries’ refusal to understand their times. “Fools,” he called them. Because knowing your moment matters. Knowing where you are in the story is critical for your survival. Every moment is not like another.
Living at the beginning of the Lord of the Rings is different from living at the end of the story. In the early stages we are in the happy Shire; we have an invitation to Bilbo’s birthday party. But the story races on, picking up momentum toward the end where we find ourselves in the battle before the gates of Mordor — the great fight at the gates of hell itself. Do you see the difference and why Jesus wants you to know where you are?
The world keeps trying to get back to Bilbo’s party, but the story doesn’t stay there. No story does. You have to go forward to get to the party!
Look — the closest and dearest friends of Jesus thought the end of the age was drawing near:
Dear children, this is the last hour. (1 John 2:18)
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind. (1 Peter 4:7)
You either have to write this off by thinking, Well, those guys were obviously wrong. Or adopt a little humility and start with the fact that the Scriptures are from God, that Peter and John were speaking by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and maybe it is we who don’t see clearly. It’s quite possible that their moment was the “last hour,” and therefore we are in the last seconds of the age! There is good reason to think so.
Now, this is not a book on prophecy. Some folks find strength in prophecy. Most people are rather confused by it and leave it for others to sort out. Nevertheless, there are clear signs we ought to be paying attention to. One of the most significant signs was given to us by Jesus in what is known as the Olivet Discourse, where Christ laid out the signs of his coming and his counsel for living through the end of the age:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
The gospel of Jesus Christ needs to reach every nation, and then Christ will return. That’s fairly straightforward; that’s a sign we can recognize. First this, then that.
Guess what—there’s growing consensus among missionary leaders that every nation will have received the testimony of the gospel in the next decade or two. This sign, given to us by Jesus himself, is about to be fulfilled. As the leader of a missions organization network reported,
Even as recently as 2015, there were still more than 1,400 groups with no known Christians. But today, there are only a few hundred unengaged groups remaining, and hundreds of people groups are being engaged with the gospel each year. By God’s grace ... the church will reach all of the remaining groups by the end of 2022, or shortly thereafter. We’re very close to the finish line. (Edward Dolnick, Down the Great Unknown)
It’s possible that by the time you read this sentence, the gospel will have reached all nations. That ought to get your attention! It isn’t the only sign Christ gave us, but it’s one of the most significant. Which means the promised return is near. Very near. I am not predicting dates, folks. I’m simply pointing out that the story of God is sweeping toward a climax.
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