What should Christians be doing to get ready for the cataclysmic events preceding the end of the Age and the Second Coming of Christ? Given the current state of affairs in the world, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the Lord may be returning soon.
The Bible clearly instructs us to be vigilant. But it also teaches that no one can say for certain that we are living in the “end times.” This is at best a debatable proposition. Jesus Himself repeatedly said that no one knows or can know the day or hour of His return (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7). To be sure, we are surrounded by events and developments that could be interpreted as signs of the end. On every hand we see famines, earthquakes, disasters, troubles, persecutions, wars and rumors of wars (Mark 13:7-9). But has there ever been a period in the history of the world when this was not the case?
Can you imagine what it was like to be a believer in Rome under the emperor Caligula, or Nero, or Domitian? To face the arena, the stake, or the lion’s den for your faith? What do you suppose Christians were thinking when the legions captured Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple in A.D. 70? Or when Attila overran Europe in the 5th century, the Vikings in the 9th, Genghis Khan in the 13th, or the Muslim Turks in the 16th? Might anyone have concluded that the end was near when the Black Death decimated Christendom, wiping out entire towns and claiming more than 25 million lives between 1347 and 1352? How did the situation look to believers at the beginning of the last century, when the so-called Great War destroyed the flower of an entire generation (37 million casualties)? Or a few decades later, when the shadow of Hitler and the Third Reich was rising over Germany and Eastern Europe? Clearly, the early 21st century has no monopoly on death, disaster, devastation, and terror. You don’t need to know a great deal about history to realize this.
But let’s assume for a moment that these are the end times. What then? How should a Christian respond? Fortunately, the apostle Peter gives us a straightforward answer to this question. Writing specifically with reference to the end of the age, when “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat, [and] both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up,” Peter does not suggest that believers head for the hills, adopt a “fortress mentality,” and start stockpiling food and weapons. Instead, he asks, “Since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?” (II Peter 3:10-12).
As Peter sees it, end-time Christians are called to do one thing: they are to practice holiness and do good to others wherever and whenever they can. They are supposed to work the works of God “while it is day” (John 9:4). Paul seems to have been thinking the same way when he wrote to the Galatians, “Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). [Originally published in 2011]