Eschatology (es-kə-tä-le-jē) is the study of the end times. There does seem to be a rekindled curiosity in the end times these days. Reality television shows featuring doomsday “preppers” suggest a growing interest. Equipped with pre-packaged food guaranteeing a twenty-five-year shelf life and sheltered in creatively designed bunkers, preppers plan to overcome a nuclear holocaust or the lawless chaos of an economic meltdown.
Truly, the time is coming, regardless of how one materially preps, when this world in its present form will pass away (1 Corinthians 7:31). While some may try to “head for the hills” and even pray for those hills to “cover” them (Luke 23:30), none will escape the Lord on Judgment Day. St. Paul’s plea to be spiritually prepped should remain on our minds, since “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Are we prepared for our Savior’s second advent? Some fear that day. Worse than any science fiction nightmare of a zombie apocalypse, sin and unresolved guilt grip them with terror at the reality of standing before a holy, righteous Judge. Such fear remains one motivator why some seek to predict our Savior’s return. They foolishly think that if they can calculate His second coming, they will have time to tidy up their spiritual houses in God-pleasing order.
When our Savior previewed the end of the age (Matthew 24), however, He did not do so for any to forecast the exact time of His return. Rather, by sharing these “signs of the end times,” Jesus urged constant vigilance for His second arrival at any moment. St. Paul added to Jesus’ “Behold [“pay attention”], I am coming soon,” (Revelation 22:7) that our Savior would come like a “thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2).
Of course, scoffers will mock our Lord and deny His return. St. Peter pictures their sinful skepticism: “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4). “But,” as Peter counsels, “they deliberately forget…. with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:5, 8). Our eternal God is not bound by time as we His creatures are. Why does the Lord seemingly delay His return? Peter further adds, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). In divine wisdom garnished with gracious patience, our God, “who wants all people to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4), ensures His gospel will be preached to all nations according to His perfect timetable before the end comes (Matthew 24:14).
With that in mind, personal preparedness calls for us as Christians to daily repent of our sins of thought, word, and deed. St. Paul pleads with the Day-denier ignoring the Savior’s imminent return, I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor and now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). Even if Jesus does not return during our lifetimes, our judgment day will come soon since “the length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength” (Psalm 90:10).
Instead of fixating on the “when” then, by God’s grace through Word and sacrament the Holy Spirit keeps God’s preppers ever-ready spiritually for His arrival. Our daily staple is the Gospel, the bread of life securing an eternal value. The Gospel feeds our faith by proclaiming the Bread of Life, who lived a perfect life to satisfy a heavenly Father’s demand for our perfection. The Gospel shelters sinners with the absolute truth that Jesus completely paid for all our sins. The Gospel nourishes the hungry soul mourning the death of a loved one, fearing at times the unknown, or feeling sometimes crisis in chaos.
That’s why living in the Gospel’s state of grace, with the Holy Spirit’s gift of confident faith rooted in our hearts, we eagerly “lift up our heads” (Luke 21:28) as we see signs of the end. As our final “redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28), there is no need to try to escape. By God’s grace we have no fear of our Savior who promises, “Behold, I am coming soon!” (Revelation 22:7).
Soli Deo Gloria.
Reverend Jeffery Luplow
St. John’s Lutheran Church