War is a sharp reminder that we still “groan inwardly” for peace as Romans 8 describes. We look forward to the day when Jesus will wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4).  Many of us grew up in the 60s, 70s, or 80s with very specific concerns about Russia. We worried about World War III and the end of days. I have no predictions about those things, but I do want to challenge how we live during difficult and confusing times in any decade. The New Testament has two general categories of discussion about the end times. One category includes apocalyptic descriptions that many Christians debate. The second category includes much clearer and more practical exhortations that we are tempted to ignore.

The times and places are debated, but here are some big facts about the end times that all Christians agree on: Jesus will come back. Jesus wins. Be ready. Trust him. It is important for every follower of Christ to focus more on how to trust Jesus and focus less on dates and locations of the end times. The way in which we live our lives as followers of Jesus is stressed far more in our Bibles than knowing how the timing is all going to work out. To risk being overly simplistic, the New Testament says over and over again to trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, obey him, and be nice to other people. I’m not saying that we should ignore apocalyptic and prophetic literature in our Bible, but I am saying that we should pay more attention to the clear directions Jesus has given us.

When we are not sure what to do, we can review how the New Testament describes being ready and trusting Him. We trust him to forgive our sins. We try to obey him. We act kindly towards others. A particular section about the end times illustrates these key actions in Matthew 24 and 25. Jesus explains some of the confusing end times events to his disciples in Matthew 24:1-35. Many Christians argue over the order and timing of these events, and it is confusing.  Immediately after this confusing part of Scripture, Jesus gives a key explanation in Matthew 24:36-44. He clarifies that no one knows exactly when he will return, but we must stay ready! Are you ready for Jesus?

In Matthew 24:45-25:30 he gives three parables about how we can be ready for Jesus to return at any moment: Parable one teaches us to be a good servant that cares for others because we look forward to our master’s return. The wicked servant takes advantage of others because he thinks the master has abandoned us. Don’t be a wicked servant, be a kind servant and trust that the master is returning. The second parable teaches us to be a like wedding partier that stays eager to celebrate the arrival of the life of the party (Jesus). This is the strangest parable for modern readers because ancient middle eastern culture celebrated weddings very differently than us. However, at its core, the parable is a simple picture of eagerness to party with Jesus. The third parable is the most famous. It is usually called the “parable of the talents”. It teaches that the way we spend our resources reflects how generous we think God is. We should spend and invest our talents because our master is gracious. Don’t hide or bury your talents out of fear. Do you think that your master (Jesus) is mean and selfish? Or do you think he is generous? This parable is very challenging to me. The more I trust the grace of Jesus, the more I will take risks and spend what I have for him. Matthew 25:31-40 then follows with a judgment passage that clarifies that kindness to others and “unimportant” people is a mark of knowing Jesus… because he gives us the kindness of salvation that we don’t deserve. His grace trains us and his kindness has captured our loyalty! (Titus 2:11-12, 3:4-5) Stay ready for the return of Christ! It might be today, or it might be in 100 years. We don’t know. But we do know that he is coming back for us, he is gracious, and his commands are not burdensome. When we believe that, we become more gracious in the ways that we love and serve others.

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Dave McMurry

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