Countless people express concern for the social conditions of the world today. In general, chaotic conditions describe the social setting, where hatred and violence run rampant. These circumstances are most often interpreted, especially by Christians, as a sure sign that the end of the world is near; it will not be long before Jesus returns and “right all the wrongs.” Therefore, an enormous number of people feel that the only reasonable response to this upheaval, other than to pray, is simply to sit and wait. But, is this the way God wants us to react? Of course, we should always pray, but as Christians, are we expected to do more than just sit and wait? Could this attitude cause us to be somewhat to blame for the existing ferociousness in the world and for prolonging Jesus’ return?
Understandably, there are those who would wonder how Christians could be responsible for such. Perhaps we could enhance our understanding of the rationale behind suggesting these possibilities if we would examine the underlying principle against the backdrop of the “Christian Story” (See link: The Christian Story). When I speak of the “Christian Story,” I make reference to the works of Biblical theologians, who sought to collect and organize biblical Scripture to discover how God interacts with His people, God’s eternal plan for His creation, our role in the story, etc. Although the Biblical narrative begins with the “creation,” for the purpose of this writing, we will start with the time when God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, up to the present moment, since the Christian story started with the Israelite’s story. Hopefully, our awareness of the historical development will help shed light on the two questions at the center of this discussion.
Before addressing the questions, however, let us first look at the state of affairs that leads to the posing of these questions — the chaos in the social setting. If we were to explore the Christian story, we would soon ascertain that chaos was a common feature in the Christian narrative. At one point during the time of the Judges, a writer described the social situation to be incredibly similar to what we witness today. He said, “There was a blatant disregard for the law, people took the law into their own hands (Judg 18:24-25), immorality amplified (Judges 19), people were no longer safe going out in public (Judg 5:6), etc.” (Zuck, Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, p. 107). Also, there is a recurring cycle in which God delivers the people from their troubles: the people promise to obey Him, complacency sets in, apostasy or backsliding takes place, and chaos reappears (Judges 17-18); (see also The MacArthur Bible Handbook, p. 65). Nonetheless, it is apparent in the story that God delivered His people over and over again so that they could realize His power and might, and glorify His name throughout the earth. By the way, this is in alignment with His chief aim for the world. (Exod. 9:16). Usually, however, soon after their delivery, the people seemed to forget who rescued them. Unsurprisingly, this practice continues even today.
History informs us, therefore, that hatred and violence is not distinctive of the modern day setting; it may be new to us, but not to the world. Jesus did say, however, that conditions would grow worse in the latter days, but it is important that we endure to the end (Matt. 24:10-13).
With this being said, let us turn our attention to the first question: But, is this the way God wants us to react? As Christians, are we expected to exhibit greater zeal than to just sit and wait? To aid us in understanding the rationale behind this question (asked in two parts), again, it may be helpful to reflect on the Christian narrative. In doing so, we will discover that God intended us to be active participants in the story from its beginning; God gave His people vocations to perform. In the case of the Israelites, God called them to be a kingdom of priests — a holy nation. Here they were to mediate between God and the other people of the earth. Instead, they broke their covenant with God through apostasy; they began to worship idol gods. Nonetheless, this story continued into the New Testament period.
It was then that God sent Jesus to usher in a New Covenant with man; however, this covenant, even though first offered to the Israelites, eventually opened up to “whosoever believed” in Jesus. In this New Testament period, Jesus commissioned His disciples, as individuals, to evangelize to every creature throughout the world. Additionally, He told His disciples that they are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world”; therefore, shine before others so that they can glorify the Father as well (Matt. 5:13-16). Hence, in both cases, the Old and the New Testament periods, the vocations were for them to serve as witnesses to the goodness of God so that others could also benefit from His righteousness.
Given that God is all powerful, we know that He is able to accomplish this on His own; however, it is His plan that the people of the earth serve as agents to help bring His plan to fruition. As we reflect on the historical development of the Christian narrative, it is quite apparent that innumerable people continually “drop the ball,” possibly due to spiritual immaturity, leaving the bulk of the weight on the shoulders of a few. This is what seems to be happening today. However, Scripture “rightly divided,” never told us that once saved, all we need to do is sit and wait for the end to come.
Now, we will shift our attention to the last question and possibly the more provocative of the two: Could this attitude cause us to be somewhat responsible for the existing violence in the world and for prolonging Jesus’ return?
Yes, it is true that Scripture states that the pandemonium that we witness in our current social setting is indicative of the second coming. On the other hand, though, Jesus also said that the end would not be yet (Matt. 24:6). He clearly said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matt. 24:14).” Moreover, He tells us that only the Father knows when that will be. Hence, we should be ready for it whenever it comes (Matt. 24:44). Therefore, if we sit back and wait for the end to come, that implies that we have determined that this is the actual time of Jesus’ return when in actuality, we truly do not know that. Again, the Christian narrative reveals that nearly every generation since Jesus’ death and resurrection felt that they were living in the last days, but obviously, that was not the case. Scripture informs us, though, that the end is being delayed, not for the reason that “God is slack concerning His promise,” but He is allowing time for all to come to repentance since He is “not willing that any should perish (2 Pet. 3:9).” Therefore, as Christians, our business is not to predict the end of the world, then sit and wait for it to happen. Instead, it is about helping to assure that every ear hears the gospel and everyone has an opportunity to come to repentance; it is about glorifying God all the way through the end of this world into the new world.
Consequently, it is especially urgent that Christians do not become slack in their vocation for the reason that in the midst of all the chaos that captures our awareness, Christians need to understand that there are other spiritually destructive activities going on that warrant our consideration. One example is that this is an extremely lucrative time for false prophets, as it was in the period of Judges (Judges 17-18) and during the period of the early church (2 Pet. 1:1-3:18; see also The MacArthur Bible Handbook, pp. 487-490). They prey on those who may be spiritually weak and spiritually torn, by emphasizing the possibilities of material gains that could come with knowing the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (even though Scripture tells us not to worry about such [Matt. 6:25-34]), while at the same time, stripping the Scripture of understandings intended to aid folks in spiritual strength. And even more than that, the enemy is causing the ordinarily diligent warriors to either fear being in the midst of the chaos, or to believe that their job is complete and they can just sit and wait. Either way, the work of the enemy is prompting Christians to cease from evangelizing, therefore, curtailing the spread of the gospel of the kingdom to those who may receive it and thereby, prolonging the second coming.
Nevertheless, Scripture informs us that there is no need to be fearful about performing our vocation, since, although the task given to us is a daunting one, God has given us everything needed to perform the work (2 Pet. 1:3-9); it is a matter of maturing in Christ. Consequently, we should understand that while salvation is free, we have a major part to play in our spiritual growth (Heb. 5:12-6:2). Therefore, we should mature to the point where we love self, only for God’s Sake (Bernard of Clairvaux on love). In other words, our aim is to grow to be like Christ, a Son of God (John 1:12).
Hence, as we conclude this discussion, let us remember that instead of retreating during these perilous times, we should prepare to fight in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2-5), by putting on the entire armor of God so we can continue to answer our calling during these evil times. And, when we have done everything to stand, stand (hold your ground) (Ephesians 6:13). Then, we will be able to chime in with the Apostle Paul and say that we have “fought a good fight and finished the course.” And, we too will receive a crown of righteousness from the Lord, the righteous Judge, who will give them to “all who have longed for his appearing (2Tim. 4:7-8 NIV).”
*Note: All Bible references in this paper come from the King James Version of the Bible, except when otherwise noted.