When will this end? When will the New begin?
It was concerning this salvation that the prophets made careful search and investigation, and they prophesied about this gift which God would give you. 11 They tried to find out when the time would be and how it would come. This was the time to which Christ’s Spirit in them was pointing, in predicting the sufferings that Christ would have to endure and the glory that would follow. 12 God revealed to these prophets that their work was not for their own benefit, but for yours, as they spoke about those things which you have now heard from the messengers who announced the Good News by the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. These are things which even the angels would like to understand.
13 So then, have your minds ready for action. Keep alert and set your hope completely on the blessing which will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. 15 Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy. 16 The scripture says, “Be holy because I am holy.”
17 You call him Father, when you pray to God, who judges all people by the same standard, according to what each one has done; so then, spend the rest of your lives here on earth in reverence for him. 18 For you know what was paid to set you free from the worthless manner of life handed down by your ancestors. It was not something that can be destroyed, such as silver or gold; 19 it was the costly sacrifice of Christ, who was like a lamb without defect or flaw. 20 He had been chosen by God before the creation of the world and was revealed in these last days for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from death and gave him glory; and so your faith and hope are fixed on God. – 1 Peter 1:11-21
I had finished a graveside service for a member of the church I served years ago. Afterwards one of the people there began a conversation that took a turn I didn’t expect. “I really appreciate how you talk about Jesus and the resurrection,” he said. Of course I talk about the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection; that’s our only true comfort, I thought. I recall having attended a funeral where the name of Jesus was never mentioned and there was no mention of the resurrection: very sad. Very, very sad.
“Did you know they’ve bred a pure red heifer in Jerusalem?!?” He was very excited to tell me this and thought I would share this enthusiasm for this bit of good news. “No I was not aware of that,” I said, trying to send a signal: I’m not really interested in this. I don’t recall how the conversation finally ended.
Red heifers and 70 weeks calculations, arguments over the Millennial reign of Christ, the tribulation, and the rapture do not occupy much of my theological space. Perhaps I err a bit by ignoring these things. We do well to consider all that the Bible says about the End Times and Jesus’ return to judge the living and the dead.
The center of our theology, however, is the message of Jesus Christ: his life, suffering, death, burial, resurrection and his Second Coming. The message of the cross of Jesus was central to the New Testament writers. And in these words Peter speaks about Old Testament prophets seeking to understand how and when the Messiah would come, and what his reign would look like.
I suspect we give too little thought to the End Times – with the exception of these difficult days. Then it seems we want to escape the difficulty more than we want to be with Jesus. Our fascination with the mysteries of the parousia may intrigue us, but too often people get lost in speculation and lose sight of the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus.
We don’t know when this ordeal will be over. We may want to look for signs. But we will surely want to keep our eyes on the cross and the empty tomb as we look forward to that end, and remember to look beyond the end of this current situation to the Great Last Day of our Lord Jesus Christ.