Since my early days as a follower of Jesus (mid-late 1970s), I have heard Christians speak with great seriousness about the imminence of His return. The publication of Hal Lindsey’s The Late, Great Planet Earth stirred great interest in “eschatology.” There was a proliferation of Bible studies and sermons on Jesus’ return and the end of time. Many evangelists, pastors, and teachers pulled together biblical clues from Ezekiel to Daniel to the Book of Revelation as a basis for the studies. They linked the restoration of the nation of Israel in 1948 as a watershed event pointing to the coming of Christ. Some even pieced together charts and maps to illustrate their studies, all of which had to come to the only real biblical conclusion: ” . . . no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son Himself. Only the Father knows.” These words were spoken by Jesus in Matthew 24:36. He reminded His followers of this at the Mount of Olives just prior to His ascension into heaven when they kept asking Him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” Jesus simple reply was, “the Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times and they are not for you to know. BUT you shall be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere — in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8 (NLT) So here we are, two thousand years later, and circumstances seem more ripe for His coming than ever. Revolution and violence have swept through Middle East, militant sects of Islam now wage war on those they see as “infidels,” and the greatest nation in earthly history now teeters on the brink of economic collapse. During the economic booms of the 1980s and 1990s, I didn’t hear as much talk about apocalypse or the end of time. Perhaps we were too busy developing church growth strategies, building bigger buildings to accommodate the bigger crowds, and living the American Dream while we had the chance. But now . . . now that this powder keg of a planet is sparking daily, I’m hearing it again. And it disturbs me. Don’t get me wrong. I am eagerly anticipating the coming of Christ. What disturbs me is that in the midst of all this global chaos that COULD point to the imminent return of our Lord, most of us who profess to be His disciples are reacting like survivors of a shipwreck floating through life waiting to be rescued. We talk with each other much more about the second coming of our Lord than we do with the unchurched about His first coming. IF we are standing on the threshold of His appearance, should we not be giving more, going more, loving more, and telling more so that more of those who have not yet surrendered to His grace have the same opportunity for heaven that we do??
I don’t believe it was coincidence that when the followers on the Mount of Olives asked about restoring the kingdom, Jesus redirected them from concerns about dates to the expectation of every true follower of Christ. You will be MY witnesses, telling people about Me everywhere — in your hometown, in your own nation, in the neighborhoods and areas that make you uncomfortable, and to the very ends of the earth. Jesus is coming soon! I don’t know when, but it’s sooner than it was yesterday. In the time that it takes you to read this article, over 144 people will die. Some in Africa, some in South America, some in Asia, some in Europe, and some where you live. Based on estimates that less than 30% of Americans are biblical Christians, that means 100 could go into eternity without Christ. Perhaps a co-worker, a classmate, a neighbor, or a family member. YOU will be My witness, telling people about me everywhere.
In the midst of economic stress, political gridlock, and global discontent, don’t focus so much on the coming of the Savior that you miss the opportunity to tell someone about Him. While the time of His coming remains a mystery, the certainty is that almost 3,000 worldwide succumb to death every hour, the majority without Christ. Some of them will cross your path this week. When the opportunity comes, be a witness to all the love, grace, and wonder that is Jesus.