Pastoral Perspectives

Before The World Finally Ends

Just weeks ago, the Vatican, the U.S government and even the Russian authorities all had to issue some form of official statement to assure their citizens that the “scary rumours about the world ending on December 21 are just rumours”. They were led to do so as there were much fear and frenzy surrounding this supposedly apocalyptic event. A NASA scientist reported that he received queries from young children who were feeling suicidal because of this perceived impending disaster. Elsewhere, in a factory town east of Moscow, panicky citizens stripped shelves of matches, kerosene, sugar and candles.

For us as Christians, we trust in God’s Word that the end of the world is not a mere rumour or religious speculation. However, the Bible is also clear that there is no known date for when the current world will meet its end. In Matthew 24:36, Christ taught “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, not the Son, but the Father only”. Indeed, it would be an act of terrible presumptuousness for any human to claim that he knows the date or has determined God’s timing by some mystical means.

Likewise, Christians should not be mistaken into thinking that the Bible contains some hidden codes that we are to find and decipher. God’s Word has been given to us in order that we might know the truth and its message is plain. Instead of relying on some mathematical computation to understand what is written, Christians are to be eagerly yearning for Christ’s return and to be found faithfully doing what Christ has commanded us to do. Rather than being holed up in some remote cave, Christians are to be glorifying God as they find opportunities to share the Gospel and seek the welfare of their neighbours.

In addition, the certainty of Christ’s return is an encouragement to believers. In Hebrews 9:28, we are reminded that Christ will “appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him”. In the words of a renowned Christian thinker, Dr Albert Mohler Jr, “the Christian worldview points to the end of the world as a promised reality — an end that demonstrates the righteousness of God and the consummation of the Gospel. Thus while God’s judgment poured out on this sinful world is certain, there is also the ushering in of a promised new heaven and earth”.

As we enter into 2013, we do so with eager anticipation of how God’s sovereign plan is unfolding and how His scheduled date of completion is drawing even nearer with each passing day. While some of us will no doubt be making resolutions about diet, time management, acquiring a new skill or ministry commitments, let us do with eternity in mind. For those who want to exercise more, they should be thinking about how their health affects their ability to love and serve others rather than be motivated by vanity or some social pressures. After all, aiming to run a marathon in your lifetime may have very little to do with God’s kingdom purposes.

We need to be asking similar questions for any other resolution. Are we motivated by guilt? Are we driven by a sense of pride hoping to prove something to others? If we aim to read the Bible once through in 2013, what is our desired end result? We may be missing the point if our goal is simply to finish reading it. Hopefully, the motivation behind our resolutions is the joyful conviction that God will bring about transformation in us even as we seek to cultivate healthy habits as well as grow in spiritual maturity.

You see, before christ returns, God is already beckoning us to put to death habits, actions and attitudes that are inconsistent with His coming Kingdom. At the same time, we can be thankful that God has begun a good work in us and will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6). Although we cannot dictate the way that God molds and sanctifies us, we can always begin by grounding ourselves in God’s Word and adopting a humble posture of yielding to the Holy Spirit’s leading and empowering. Actually, we need not always wait until the turn of a new calendar year before we make a commitment to do so. After all, on this side of eternity, it’s never too early to start.

Pastor Edwin Wong

December 30, 2012