Humans are incredibly ingenious when it comes to killing each other. The Wright brothers flew the first aeroplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903; the first bomb was dropped from a plane in war only eight years later, when an Italian aviator threw a hand grenade out of his aircraft onto Turkish soldiers 100 metres below. From that time to the day the US military dropped an atomic bomb on Japan from a B-29 Superfortress was just 34 years!
The destructive potential of today’s nuclear weapons, however, dwarfs the Hiroshima bombing. And who knows what new ingenious ways to kill each other we’ll come up with next?
News headlines reinforce the message daily that our world is a scary place. With the convulsions of nature, political turmoil, increasing moral degradation and the exploitation of the poor by the rich—all of which the Bible warns about—our world is heading into a very difficult time.
Consider what the Bible has to say: “And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation” (Daniel 12:1*). “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. . . . You have heaped up treasure in the last days” (James 5:1–3). “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labour pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
And Jesus said that “there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:25–27).
Hope amid trouble
As bad as it gets, however, these crises are not unexpected. The Bible has warned us about them, not to frighten us but to give us hope—these things are signs pointing to the soon coming of Jesus. Then all the terrible things that make life so miserable here will, once and for all, finally and forever be eradicated.
That’s why Jesus said that when we see these signs beginning to occur, we should look up with hope and confidence, because His coming is not far away (Luke 21:28). Similarly, He also said, “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am he” (John 13:19, NIV, italics added). When we see biblical predictions becoming reality, our confidence in both the Bible and the One who inspired it can grow.
These signs of the times, however frightening, do offer us hope that, just as these terrible predictions are being fulfilled, so also will all the good things that follow—the good things that are promised to come after all the bad is past. The Bible is telling us to look beyond all the bad that’s happening now to the wonderful eternal future that awaits us: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, NIV).
The last sign
It’s fascinating, too, that amid all the calamities that signal the last days, there’s also a good sign. After warning about the terrible times coming, Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14; italics added).
That’s an audacious prediction. At the time Jesus said this, “the gospel of the kingdom” was known only by a small number of people located in the troubled strip of land we know today as Israel and Palestine. And the gospel was launched in an exceedingly hostile environment that, for centuries, became even more dangerous as Christians were fed to lions, burned alive, boiled in oil or crucified—determined efforts to eradicate the new sect.
Don’t miss, however, the other crucial aspect of Jesus’ prediction. He said that once the gospel has been preached in all the world, “then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). That is, the end of the world will come only when the gospel has been preached to the entire world. Thus, with the gospel being preached in every country of the globe by radio, satellite TV, the internet, in print and in person, we’re seeing this last sign being fulfilled before our eyes.
It’s in this context—the fulfilment of the signs of the end, both the good and the bad—that we’ve been given the wonderful promise that, when we see these things beginning to happen, we must look up—raise our eyes heavenward—because our redemption is near (Luke 21:28).
But what did Jesus mean when He spoke of “redemption?” The answer requires a backtrack of several millennia. When this world was first created, humanity didn’t have to contend with sin; there was no suffering and no death. When God finished creating the world, “God saw all that he had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Sin, suffering, sickness, war, violence, crime, death—these are all intruders, aberrations from God’s original plan. And no matter how we view ourselves, we’re all sinners and face the consequences of sin, which is death. “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God” (Romans 3:10, 11).
When we see biblical predictions becoming reality, our confidence in both the Bible and the One who inspired it can grow.
The great news of the gospel—of the plan of salvation and of redemption—is that Jesus came to rescue us, to save us from the eternal destruction and oblivion that otherwise would be our fate. He did that by allowing Himself to be crucified for our sins. His death paid the penalty for the sin and evil in which we’ve all participated. And He did this in order to redeem us—to buy us back, if you please—from the penalty of sin. As the apostle Paul unequivocally stated in his letter to the early believers in Rome: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
By faith alone
And this good news gets even better, because the redemption that’s offered us in the sacrifice of Jesus is a gift that’s freely given to us. Unlike practically every other religion, which teaches that redemption is something that we have to work for, true Christianity teaches that this redemption comes solely by grace. This means that nothing we do can make us worthy of redemption.
Yes, the Bible teaches that we’re all sinners, that we’ve all done wrong: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV). The solitary exception to this rule is Jesus, who, while living on earth as a human, was tempted just as we are, and yet He lived a perfectly holy and sinless life. And the great gift of the gospel is that we can have the “perfect” life of Jesus credited to us, just as if we too had never sinned. This happens when by faith we simply claim Jesus’ death in place of ours.
As the well-known text attests: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The key word there is whoever.
The point is that no matter who you are, what you’ve done or even what you’re doing now, Jesus died to redeem you. If you repent and accept the justification He offers, He will return for you, and soon.
The question, then, is, Am I ready? The answer is no if you haven’t given yourself to Jesus in faith, confessed your sins and claimed His perfection on your behalf. But if the whisper of your heart to God is to say yes, then right now, at this moment, why not confess that you are a sinner, give Him your guilt, and come before Him in faith and repentance? Claim His righteousness. Once you’ve done that, the gift of salvation is yours, and it’s absolutely free. That’s all it takes to gain salvation.
So as you see the final events that Jesus foretold, don’t be afraid to look heavenward, taking comfort in the fact that your redemption, indeed, is very near.
* All Bible verses (unless otherwise indicated) are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used with permission. All rights reserved.