36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. . . 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:36, 44).
Questions, questions, questions! These days abound with questions. When will I be able to go to the store without fear? When will things return to normal? When will I be able to return to the office? When will a vaccine be discovered? What long-term effects will these events have on our community and country? There are many things that we wish to know right now, but many answers are slow in coming. Jesus counseled us rightly when he said in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” For many people, today has enough troubles of its own and yet we naturally wonder and worry about the future. We anxiously reflect on the many possible scenarios of what might happen with an insufficient ability to control what will happen.
During these uncertain times, we reflect upon the deeper questions of life, as we seek the meaning of it all (Why is this happening? What does it mean for me, my family, my church, my community, my country, etc.? What is God trying to tell us? What is God doing through this?). Over the past several weeks, I have been asked on several occasions questions of “meaning,” especially about the biblical passages on the End Times. Questions continue to surface along these lines:
“Are these signs that the end is coming?”
“Are these signs of God’s judgment upon the world?”
Again, there are many questions, but precise answers can be slow in coming. I personally hesitate to speak definitively on these kinds of questions that “interpret the times.” When it comes to this topic, too many people are quick to speak for God, rather than listen to God. When we listen to the Scriptures, they remind us again and again that we will not know the day or the hour that the end will come. Jesus reminds us repeatedly in Matthew chapters 24-25 that the end will come at an unexpected time and yet he calls us to be ready for it. Some may ask, “How can both be true? How can we not know when the end will come and yet also be expected to be ready for it when it comes?” I think this is the real crux of the matter. For Jesus has not given us a roadmap to the End Times. Although there are some who teach at great lengths about “biblical prophecy” for the End times, Jesus does not lay out the specifics in the Bible that we can clearly say, “Here is what is happening in the world, so this is where we are in God’s plan.” Instead, Jesus reminds us again and again to trust that even when things look dark and difficult, He is still in control. Even when times are tough and turbulent, He holds us in His care. We may not know when the end should come, but we know how we should meet it. In comparison to the vague descriptions of the End Times, the Scriptures speak at great length and in great detail about the topics of faith and trust. It is precisely in times like these that our faith in Jesus is tested. In moments of fear, he invites us to “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). In moments of uncertainty, he invites us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
In moments of sadness and loss, he reminds us “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). We may not have all the answers, we may not know what will happen next, but we know the One who does. Shortly after starting this article, I listened to a devotion that put it this way. “We may not have the map, but we have the mapmaker” (Tim and Kathy Keller). We may want to have the map of what the future holds, but instead we have something better, we have the One who holds our future. He has entered our lives in the person of Jesus Christ and He will not leave us until He brings us home in His appointed time. In these times of many questions, may you cling to Him who is the ultimate answer — Jesus Christ, who is “…the way and the truth and the life...” (John 14:6).
Pastor Kurt Ebert