In the past few decades, some of the most popular Christian books published in the United States have dealt with the events that will surround the end of this present age. Whether works of fiction or nonfiction, these books display a fascination with trying to figure out the exact sequence of events that surround the return of Christ. Some have even predicted an exact date of Christ’s return or have offered a time frame of several years in which Jesus must come back.
We should not be too surprised at this; after all, every generation of believers since the first coming of Christ has had people who have tried to determine the exact timing of His return. However, while the Bible does have much to say about eschatology (the doctrine of last things), such teaching was never given so that we might figure out the exact timing of the second advent (Matt. 24:36–44). Rather, as today’s passage shows us, the New Testament emphasizes the coming of Christ in order to motivate us toward proper living.
Peter has already reminded us of the judgment on the non-believer and the vindication of the true Christian that will come at this day. In 1 Peter 4:7, we read that this day — the consummation of all things — “is at hand.” For Peter’s original audience and no less for us, the return of Christ is imminent. This might seem strange to us, especially since we live so long after Peter did. Yet we must remember that our relation to time is not the same as the Lord’s. Given that a day for Him is as a thousand years and vice versa (2 Peter 3:8), it is entirely appropriate for Him to tell us the end is at hand even though we have been waiting for two thousand years. In light of eternity, John Calvin reminds us, “if we could understand the perpetuity of future life, many ages would appear to us like a moment.”
Whether tomorrow or thousands of years from now, from God’s perspective, the end is imminent. Therefore, we must live in light of the new world that will soon arrive. Instead of indulging in the passions of non-believers we must live sober and self-controlled lives for the sake of our prayers (1 Peter 4:7). Instead of dating the second advent, we must be praying that we might see it come (Rev. 22:20).