Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Although I almost never click the ‘like’ or ‘follow’ buttons for other bloggers, I do read what they write. One of my fellows in the faith has a blog which had been discussing numerology (the Christian one) and how the numbers are pointing to the end of the world. Though I don’t really buy into mathematical decoding of the Bible, it does give me pause to consider, “What if the end is nigh?” The Holy Spirit took that pause to throw some Scriptures at me as I considered the end.
The first thing I realized is that I’m pretty okay with the end of the world. Yeah, I’d definitely feel fine if that was the case. I’m a strong follower of Paul’s maxim from Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” –with an emphasis on gain. When I consider shedding off this earthly body of mine, I could leap for joy. According to Paul I’m justified in this feeling, as he wrote,
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, and eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life (2 Corinthians 5:1-4).
When I read of the awesomeness of heaven, I get worked up; I’m just like John in Revelation as he cheers for Jesus to come. Revelation 22:20 reads,
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Yeah Lord! Hurry up and come already!
But then the Spirit reminds me that I’m not ready yet; my heart is still far from great and I see heaven in the most selfish of terms. I hold onto my salvation with closed, tight, fists; white-knuckling onto heaven with everything I’ve got. But that isn’t how it should be. Paul wrote in Romans 9:1-4,
I speak the truth in Christ- I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit- I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs is the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.
He would have gladly given up heaven and suffered in hell in order that his Jewish brethren would be saved from it. That is the heart of Christ -who died that we may live. Paul gave his life over to spreading the Gospel in order that others may be saved through Jesus. He writes,
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some (1 Corinthians 9:19-22).
When will the end come? I have no idea. If the numbers are right, probably soon. But I suspect we’re not to know because Jesus taught when speaking of the end, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32). If even Jesus doesn’t know, then this seems like a pretty tight-locked secret. But, not to discount my fellow believers who do scour for signs; Jesus does suggest that such signs will be visible when the end is near. Jesus teaches,
There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint form terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory (Luke 21:25-27).
To be sure, there will be signs before the end. At the same though, the Bible also notes that the end will come instantly, when we’re not ready, like a thief in the night. For it is written, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10). Paul puts it this way,
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immorality (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
He reminds us that when the end comes, it’ll come suddenly, and those who haven’t died yet will be whisked away to heaven along with all those who have gone ahead of us. Imagine, one moment you’re singing classic rock in the shower, and then Bam! -naked right in front of Jesus (I’m joking of course, as I have no idea how the process would work, but that’s how sudden the end will come).
Having said all that though, the end may not even be in our lifetimes. Consider this, it’s already been 2000 years since Jesus came and died and promised to come back. Peter even acknowledges this as he writes, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Our God wants as many people as possible to be saved before he makes the big curtain call on the earth- and he’s willing to wait.
The end could come at any time, from 2 seconds from now to 2 billion years or more in the future. With the knowledge that the end may come at any time, we should probably do our best to spread the love of Christ- telling others of his sacrifice for them on a cross and the salvation opened to them. I mean, Jesus did tell us who are white-knuckling our grip on heaven to do just that. History records, “He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned’” (Mark 16:15-16). So get out there and follow the Word of God!
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:12-13).