Tuesday, April 7

Signs of the Times

Is Covid-19 a sign of the end times? Yes. But no more than many other signs we have gotten used to. Jesus instructed his disciples about these things a few days before he was arrested: “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come” (Mark 13:8; the three versions of the whole teaching are found in Matthew 24–25, Mark 13, Luke 21). It is important to stick to Jesus’ perspective on these things rather than getting caught up in so many sensational speculations that are circulating. First, Jesus’s teaching was targeted to the immediate needs of his apostles in their first-century context. His warnings about persecution, false teachers, famine, and warfare were all experienced in their lifetime, especially in the seven years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Second, Jesus expanded the implications of this teaching to the whole “end times” era, which includes us now. The “end times” began with our Lord’s ascension and will end when he eventually returns in glory. At that time he will fully and finally destroy death, the devil, and all servants of evil, and gather his own to himself. So the portending signs of the end still pertain to us, and persecution is still to be expected. In fact, it may get really intense just before he comes again, although no one knows exactly when that will be. But finally, and most importantly, Christ’s mission to the world must be carried out. “The Gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mark 13:10). The Gospel is foolishness to the powers of this age, but it is the power of God to save all who believe it. It concerns Jesus Christ, who is both God and human, and how God communicates his own holiness into our human community (i.e. the Church) through Christ. The Gospel is the message that God forgives sin on account of his Son, who died for us. In many respects, when Jesus hung on the cross the signs of the end of the age were already being manifested—the sun was darkened as the spiritual powers of darkness were cast down, stripped of their authority to condemn us. The earth quaked when the unshakeable kingdom of God was fully established for us. Since this is the case, the end times should not cause any fear except to the extent we might be found unfaithful. And to repent of unfaithfulness is to believe the Good News. And to believe the Good News is to be ready to share the Good News, when and as the Holy Spirit enables us. 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for the faithfulness of your first-century apostles. Thank you for preparing me for the end, whether that be the end of my lifetime in this age or the end of this age in my lifetime. Grant that I, with my fellow believers, may so firmly believe your grace that we do not fear what others fear. As we notice signs of the end of this age, lift our heads in hopeful expectation that our redemption is drawing near. Help us to give the proper priority your Gospel, your Good News, since you intend that your triumph be reported to the ends of the earth, until the end of the world.

Conversation Starters based on  Mark 13:5-11

  • In your perspective, what are some of the most frightening things you have heard about the end times? …about the current pandemic?
  • What do you think Christ Jesus would say to you about your fears?