The other week I found myself stymied by a particular text in the Minor Prophets that I was to preach that weekend. I had been staring at it for days, and the Sunday evening deadline was not getting any further away. The commentaries were little help, as nearly each author I consulted had a differing opinion than the previous, ranging from entirely allegorizing the text to spelling out in detail how each verse would take place in Palestine in the near future. Competing millennial views aside, one thing that every scholar agreed on—and I with them—was that the end will come.
There was a very clear and cogent lesson from an otherwise confusing chapter: the end will come. Have you ever wondered why the Bible speaks of the last days so often? By one count, nearly 150 chapters in the Bible deal with the end times in some fashion or another. Is there a reason, perhaps? If the Spirit of God took such care in recording for us descriptions of the end, does that mean we should care about it? Is there something instructive for us in knowing that this world will not just go on spinning as it is ad infinitum? Yes. Let us consider three reasons that the Bible’s various discourses on eschatology matter for us today.
Enforcing Proper Priorities
First, knowing that an end is coming enforces the proper priorities. In 1 Corinthians 7:29–31, the Apostle Paul says that the time remaining for us here is very short; therefore, we should order our priorities in light of that reality. Let “those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.” Since Christ is coming again, since there is an end, live for the world that lasts forever, not for this one, which is passing away (Col. 3:1–4). Those who live in light of the end are the least likely to gain the whole world and forfeit their own souls (Mark 8:36). Chapters that might stump us when it comes to precise details of the end nevertheless jolt us awake and force us to ask the question, “Am I prepared?”
Encouraging Personal Piety
Second, knowing that an end is coming encourages a personal piety. The Apostle Peter in particular saw a connection between knowing that the end was nigh and living in a God-pleasing manner. “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded” (1 Peter 4:7).
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness. (2 Peter 3:10–11)
What is the connection between eschatology and ethics? It’s that we know that with the end comes judgment—not only of the world, but of Christians, too. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10, emphasis added). We don’t know when Christ will return, but when He comes, what will we be doing? “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting . . . be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish” (2 Peter 3:14).
Engendering Profound Peace
Third, knowing that an end is coming engenders a profound peace. There is no guarantee that this world is going to change. We can campaign all we want, post articles to inform or debate on social media all we want, but there is no guarantee that a new law, a new policy, or a new politician will change the trajectory of the world. We are not promised that the issues of suffering, injustice, violence, moral confusion, and chaos will be solved in their totality before the end. And that’s discouraging. It’s particularly discouraging if you have been wronged in life, if you have been sinned against—and that’s all of us. But while we are given no such guarantee of justice in this world, we are given a guarantee in the world to come. Knowing that there will be an end to this place of sin is a comfort. God will right every wrong. Justice will win. “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Ps. 56:8).
Why does the Bible talk about the end times so much? Why are there confusing chapters such as Zechariah 14 or Daniel 12 or Matthew 24? For at least these reasons, if not also for many others. That means as we look at some confounding texts about the end, even if we don’t know what it all means, we know why it’s there: to get us ready, to make us holy, and to give us peace.