This coming Sunday I’ll be teaching from 2 Timothy 3:1-9. The passage begins this way: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.” I’ll be spending our time together unpacking what follows, and won’t be able to address in much depth “the last days.” So here a few thoughts on these last days.
First, we are in the last days. Paul is not unearthing much detail here other than we are living in between the time Jesus ascended into heaven and the time when he will return, in person, in glory, and in judgment. Yes, Jesus is coming back. Luke reports this account in the book of Acts: “And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1: 10-11) Now if two dudes, instantly appear at a time such as this, I’m going with the notion that they know what they are talking about. Also, Jesus himself alluded to the future time when he would return in power as he answers the High Priest Caiaphas about his identity as the Christ, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26: 64)
Ok, so what’s the hold up? Its been two thousand years and counting – holler at me Jesus. This has been the expectation and cry for many followers of Christ, especially those who have endured much for their faith. To answer this question I find Peter’s words to a persecuted first century church quite helpful and instructive: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3: 8-9) What Peter is saying in this encouragement to hang on is that God operates on His perfect time table, and God’s heart of patience is one major culprit behind the delay to Jesus’ return. God is mercifully and graciously allowing men and women to respond to His love and turn back to Him. Do you have family or friends that are far from humbly receiving the love of God in Jesus? Then be glad that God is still giving them this window of life to be drawn to Him.
One more thought. There are far better ways to spend these last days than to go all Harold Camping on us. What I mean is don’t become preoccupied with trying to figure out when Jesus will return. When the resurrected, pre-ascended, Jesus was asked straight up by his disciples if now was the time he was going to establish his everlasting kingdom he said: “It is not for you to know time or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1: 7-8) There it is. Don’t get preoccupied with when, just know Jesus will return and we have the great privilege of sharing His story with the world in grace and truth.
We should be living in light of Jesus’ return, seeking holiness in these last days and not adding to the terrible times that will mark them. Because it is people, Paul will go on to say that will make these last days difficult. And not just any people – church people – more on that this Sunday…