American group R.E.M. had a hit in 1987 known as ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It’, a strange song with many diverse references to individuals with the initials L.B. and a chorus which repeats the title, adding ‘and I feel fine.’ In Biblical terms, eschatology or the study of end times is something which cannot be ignored if we want to study the whole of God’s story, but the end times as a topic are often avoided for different reasons. Because this deals with prophecy which has not yet been fulfilled and because these are difficult topics which are often contentious and hard to understand, we can adopot the ‘ostrich mentality’, burying our heads in the sand and ignoring the many passages in the Bible on this theme. Even those who believe that Jesus will come again as Judge and that there will be a new heaven and a new earth (see Rev 21:1-4, Rev 22:1-6) may well feel this is irrelevant to everyday life in 2022 because it will not happen in our lifetime. Others fear the topic because they don’t want to be branded as fanatics. But if all Scripture is God-breathed and useful to teaching, correcting and rebuking us (2 Tim 3:16), then we can’t afford to ignore something which makes sense of the ‘bigger picture’ of what God is doing in the world.
Christians believe that human history had a specific beginning (creation) and is being directed by God toward a specific end (restoration), and that historic events follow a non-repetitive course toward that end. We cannot be dogmatic about the end times, but we do need to look at the topic, not least because Jesus referred to it frequently, urging us to be alert and watchful (see Matt 24:42-44, Luke 12:35-40 and also 1 Thess 5:1-6). It’s an important part of the Christian worldview, informing our present sufferings (see Rom 8:18, 2 Pet 3:13) and reminding us of God’s sovereignty (2 Tim 4:7-8). It also fuels our evangelism in some ways, for this reminds us that the eternal destiny of individuals is different according to their response to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Heb 9:27-28, Matt 14:40-43).
Titus 2:11-14 reminds us that the ‘blessed hope’ of the appearing of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, gives us the incentive to live self-controlled, godly and upright lives now and we are reminded that ‘these, then, are the things you should teach.’ We’ll be looking further into these topics over the coming weeks and months and pray that we may learn to live as God wants us to as we prepare our hearts for Christ’s return.