Whenever there is a catastrophe—manmade or occurring in nature—it has long been the pattern of people to seek out a cause for its beginning as well as a reason for the future. “What does it mean?”
This is how we are. God created us with this inner curiosity and wish to connect with the Divine. Cultures that had not yet met God as revealed to us through the prophets and his word made their own connections: gods of nature, gods of caprice, powers stronger than themselves. When there was a glorious harvest, the gods were pleased; when there was a plague of some sort, the gods were angry. Or seeking retribution. (Yes, this is simplistic, but you get the idea.)
Those who know the Lord as he is revealed in his word, though, already have the story. We know what our God desires and requires. There are mysteries, but there is no uncertainty as to whether he exists. However, some seek to defend God and his work to the unbelievers and this is not necessarily a good idea. The Lord can and will defend himself.
As has happened countless times in human history, today we have crises all over the world. Since the books of the Bible have been written and widely read, many seek to pin God’s purpose to the crises they live through. Or to look at a calendar and say, “Here! This will be the time of the end!”
In the year A.D. 1000, many were convinced that it was the either going to be the end or the beginning of the Thousand-Year Reign predicted in Revelation 20:6. When events didn’t come to pass, people were proven incorrect and were confused. During plagues, cyclical weather patterns, and wars, people have sought to find God’s Final Judgment in the events of the world. They have taken a great deal of time to tie people and events to the Biblical revelations. Over and over again.
And I understand; we want to know. We want to have security. We also, frankly, want to be on the winning side and see the other side “get theirs” or whatever terms we dress it up in. This is human psychology at play. Understandable.
But not the most important.
I’ve taught about these things in a way I felt then and still do feel I was led to do at the time I did so. I still don’t feel I have a sense for timing of God’s Endgame; but I do know it is nearer now than it was then simply because time moves forward always. It has to be nearer now than it was fourteen years ago, right?
That is not the most important thing, though. Instead. Jesus himself said what was most important in the Gospel of John:
“If I want him to remain until I come,” Jesus answered, “what is that to you? As for you, follow Me.”John 21:22 HCSB
Jesus instructed Peter to focus on following Christ himself. Peter’s priority was to follow Jesus. It wasn’t to fuss over whether John would have a different job.
In his letters years later, this same apostle, Peter, had to confront from the other side people fussing and obsessing over who was going to see the second coming or the end of the age. In his growing wisdom, though, Peter’s impatience was left behind as he taught those in his care:
The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.2 Peter 3:9 HCSB
God’s purpose is clear: He wants all to come to repentance. That is the most desired outcome. Peter goes on to remind his readers, though, that tarrying is not a good idea, because no one knows when their time will be up. When the Day of the Lord will come. None of that is given to us to know. Still we, like a younger Peter, keep wondering…
So he wrote further to say that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. By surprise. And things will be destroyed.
Wow, we might say. That’s going to be so dramatic. God wins and we will be on the right side!
But see, that’s not the point. Not for Jesus in John’s gospel nor from Peter’s perspective later. The point that we each need to internalize is this:
Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found at peace with Him without spot or blemish.2 Peter 3:14 HCSB
Peter learned. “As for you, follow me.” That God has not already wiped the board clean of those who ignore him or seek to injure his own is to be understood as an opportunity for the salvation of those who are lost. Every day brings new people into God’s Kingdom, which is as it should be. Seeking to share the message of God’s salvation is paramount, for our days are indeed numbered.
It is interesting that Peter, in this very chapter of this very letter, speaks of those who read words that will be deemed Holy Scripture in the time to come: specifically, letters from Paul, who was Saul. Peter says this:
He speaks about these things in all his letters in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.2 Peter 3:16 HCSB
Because even then, people were trying to interpret inspired writing to their own wish for understanding. Not necessarily to seek God’s purpose, but to seek their own security, comfort, and wish to have a handle on what God is doing.
Again, understandable, but not necessarily what the Lord would have us do. Because people are still doing this today. One may substitute Paul’s writings with John’s writings or Daniel’s writings or Peter’s writings…but the outcome is quite the same.
Peter must have been rather mortified that Jesus kind of slapped him down with his rebuke after Christ’s own resurrection. He was just a confused man, Peter, was, who was overwhelmed and seeking to deflect uncomfortable demands off of himself to someone else. But Jesus didn’t let him do that; he kept his apostle focused. And years later, Jesus’ apostle demonstrates that he has learned well the lesson:
Therefore, dear friends, since you know this in advance, be on your guard, so that you are not led away by the error of lawless people and fall from your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.2 Peter 3:17-18a HCSB
Be on your guard, dear friends. Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.
That is our priority, even if we are living nearer to the End of Days than we were before. Learn God’s word. Keep your eyes open. But your focus should be knowing Jesus himself.
“What does it all mean?” God loves us and is giving everyone a chance to repent. That’s what it all means.
Isn’t that the best reason ever?