However one might think it plays out, I’m thinking that most believers see hard times as being a sign of the end times. That’s why more than one person has asked me over the past several months, “Do you think we’re in the end times.” What they mean, of course, is, with a 100+ year event like the pandemic, the seeming implosion of civil society, the upside down-ness of what was once recognized morality, and global tensions rising, could Jesus be coming soon? Simple answer, yes. But maybe not as we understand “soon.” After all, in “heaven years” soon could be a pretty long ways away (2Pet. 3:8).
But the purpose of discerning the signs of the times isn’t to pick a date, but to be ready today (Matt. 24:44). It isn’t to hunker down, stock up, and hold our position until the King comes in the clouds. But, as I’m reminded this morning in my reading, it’s to straighten up and raise our heads.
“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” ~ Jesus
(Luke 21:25-28 ESV)
“On the earth distress of nations in perplexity . . . foreboding . . . people fainting with fear.” Hmmm, sounds familiar.
So, how is the believer to respond when such is the prevailing reality? If we really believe that what we’re experiencing are hard times indicative of the end times (not saying definitively that they are, but if we really believe it), then what, according to Jesus, should it motivate us to do? Stand up and lift up. Straighten up and raise our heads.
Not a time for speculating or debating as to how it will all play out. Not a time for worrying or wondering how we’re gonna get through. Instead, it’s a time for standing up in anticipation of the fulfillment of our salvation. For raising up our heads in expectation of imminent triumph. Stand up. Lift up. Because your redemption is drawing near.
To be sure, hard times, by their very definition, are going to be hard to handle. Distressing times, stressful. Perplexing times, confusing. But — and not to be trite, but true — dark times are great times of opportunity because “the light shines in the darkness” (Jn. 1:5). Times when the hearts of many are open to those who can compassionately, empathetically, and articulately convey a reason for the hope within them (1Pet. 3:15), even when everything seems so hopeless.
I don’t know if these really are the “end times of the end times” or not. But I do know Jesus is coming, and that His coming could be at any time. Maybe these current “signs of the time” are the actual “signs of the time”, or maybe not. Maybe their intended as early birth pangs to wake up His people. To straighten up the body of believers, that the church might stand strong. To lift up the heads of His disciples, that they might have a laser-focus on things above and be less distracted by things below. To know renewal and revival as they consider afresh their redemption is drawing near and is closer now than when we first believed (Rom. 13:11).
A lot I don’t know. But this I do, I’m thinkin’ we’re called to straighten up and raise our heads.
By His grace. For His glory.