“The end of times.” They are words that can strike fear into the heart of the best of Adventists. It’s at about that point in the conversation when you wish you could sneak out and join your pre-tribulation rapture Baptist friends! Yes, you know you might be Adventist if your childhood nightmares were about running through the woods being chased by angry Catholics. Ok, for some of you that may still happen today! When it comes to the end of times, there are a lot of ideas that may cause confusion and fear: Am I truly going to qualify for translation? What if I cave under persecution? Don’t I have to achieve a certain level of “perfection” before Jesus can come? Isn’t the church going down the drain of compromise? Am I canning enough food?
Some of these questions may seem silly, but some are very serious. And all can cause a degree of fear about what’s to come. But below I’d like to present 8 reasons why I believe we need to stop spreading fear over the end times. (No, these are nowhere near full theological discourses on these topics. Yet hopefully they’ll give a little perspective and “turn the light on,” so to speak, for some of the under-the-bed end-time monsters we’ve feared).
- Because they’re going to steal your stash of food anyways. Seriously, in the end times, if things get really rough and you have a hoard of food, do you NOT think they’ll come looking for it? And yes, maybe God will miraculously hide it from them, but it could also be that He’ll let yours be the first to go. Because then you’ll actually have to exercise faith and trust Him to provide for you like the rest of the saints! Ok, I’m not saying that we aren’t counseled to prepare, grow our own food, get out of cities, etc. We are told this is wise and important. But if you’re trying to feverishly get off the grid and get setup in your own self-sufficient hideout before everything goes down, you may have another thing coming to you.
- Because your making through the end times is God’s business, not yours. So let me ask you: At what point in the future does your salvation STOP being about what God does and START being about what you do? Will your faith be strong enough to stand in the end-time persecution? Instead of fearing that question, why don’t you ask yourself a better question: Am I learning to trust God NOW? Am I giving God my everything NOW? Because if you are, then He should have enough raw material to work with to get you through the end times. Yes, by listening to God and surrendering today, you are doing the very best thing you can do to get ready for what’s coming tomorrow. And if God helped you yesterday to prepare for the challenges of today, what makes you think He won’t continue that all the way through the end? Like it’s been step by step the whole time and then when the end comes it’ll suddenly switch to some quantum leap that you may or may not make? Just study Ellen White’s vision of the narrow way and you’ll see that’s not true.
- Because the final generation folks won’t be any better than you. Wait a minute? How can I say that? “Not just anyone will qualify for translation, you know!” As if we have different classes of the saved you mean? Like the “first class” saved who get to see Jesus come and the “second class” saved who were only saved enough to be laid to rest before the end? Yes, God is merciful and there will be people laid to rest before all the trouble – praise the Lord! And yes, He knows what we can bear. But since when do we get to create “levels” of salvational status? But wait: have I not read that, “When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own” (Christ’s Object Lessons p. 69)? See, these guys got it together! Some might say it’s because they won the hard-earned victory over eating cheese, fully embraced dress reform, or stood tall when the church was “compromising.” And these things may full well be true! But could it be that we’re missing the point of what it means to reproduce God’s character? If God’s character is truly love (1 John 4:8), then these would be the people who’ve allowed God to come into their hearts most completely. And since we also know there will be a shaking time when many in the church will exit and many others will enter (2 Thes. 2:3 etc.), are we really sure this group is going to “look” quite like we think it will? As some of the good looking “Pharisees” exit, might there be that one random guy in that final group who found Jesus toward the end, is fully sold-out for Him, and will be standing around with his long hair, necklaces, or torn-up jeans, munching on a bag of Cheetos he joyously found in the wilderness right before translation? Okay, I really don’t know, and Cheetos in the wilderness may be a little far-fetched. But you get the point. I’m only guessing here, but I have a suspicion that the makeup of that 144,000 might surprise us. But if you love Jesus with all your heart now, they’ll be a group you’ll fit right into
- Because standing without a mediator does not mean your best Friend leaves you. You might have read quotes like the following: “Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above, are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling” (The Great Controversy p. 425). Yeah, it will happen. There will be a time when right and wrong, good and evil, can be seen so clearly following the deceiver’s lies will have no appeal to us. In fact, The Desire of Ages p. 668 tells us that, “Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, though communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.” Halleluiah! It starts now. But does this mean that suddenly we’re left alone to conquer in our own strength? Like we’ve finally reached some holy state where we don’t NEED Jesus anymore? Friends, if I EVER – even at the very end of time – get to a place where I don’t think I need Jesus anymore, you will know I’m NOT right with God. No, Jesus may not be needing to mediate for our continued sins during this period, but this doesn’t mean He leaves us or that our strength and salvation is in anything other than Him and Him completely. Just like Jacob during His night of wrestling – He felt he was struggling alone, but Jesus himself was right there the entire time.
- Because it’s God who vindicates His character, not us. Going back to the idea of a last generation who will finally vindicate God’s character to the world, I again am not in any doubt that God’s people will show His character of love at the end. But this can sometimes be taken to make it feel like “we better get our act together otherwise the universe won’t be able to believe that God’s law can be kept and it’s up to us to prove it!” First of all, Jesus already proved that. Done. He used none of his divine power, and He did it! And yes, I believe that the same power He accessed is available to us today. Yet the idea that there must be some ambiguous critical mass of people in the end who get it together to some certain level where God can start the final events and his character be secure? Look through scripture: every time God’s name is to be vindicated, HE is the one that does it (Ps. 23:3, Ps. 79:9, Isa. 43:25, Eze. 36:21-24, and many more). Now yes, God DOES vindicate His name through His people! And yes, I do believe that God’s people at the end of times will be a witness to the universe. But nevertheless, let us not forget that it is GOD who vindicates His own name, not us. We are simply used by Him in this process. If the universe at the end is remarking about how good WE are instead of how good GOD is, something will have gone terribly wrong.
- Because not every new change or differing opinion is a sign that the church’s standards are going down the drain. New music that’s not in the (secretly canonized) hymnal? We’re becoming like the world! A new way of looking at something in the Bible? We’re losing our identity! Now, there are many “new” things that are not going to take the church in a good direction. But that doesn’t mean that everything new or different is a step down the road to perdition. I seem to find that a lot of our controversy in the church is not so much over issues themselves, but over fear. We are constantly on our guard. Constantly classifying people, speakers, and teachers as “safe” or “questionable.” And it’s true that many winds of false teaching and practice will threaten the church at the end – as they have in the past. It’s true that we must study scripture and be faithful to it! But if our Adventist pioneers saw how much we fear change and challenge, I wonder if they’d be rolling in their graves. In our zeal to preserve the message of these pioneers, are we losing their spirit? A spirit that was not afraid to ask questions, challenge beliefs, and follow God’s leading wherever it took them? Trusting that God would lead HIS church?
- Because it’s not your job to facilitate the shaking. As stated in the previous point, if we’re truly trusting God to lead HIS church, would we be so zealous to clean it out or so fearful of it’s corruption? Let’s not forget that in Matthew 13, God instructed the wheat and the tares to be left together till the harvest. The workers (us) were getting all freaked out that tares were growing with the wheat! But God let them be – even in HIS field – HIS church. He will sort it out in the end. Till then, can we be okay with believing that this is still God’s church that He loves – even with the tares? Liberal tares, conservative tares, tares that look like wheat, wheat that look like tares… God knows. You don’t.
- Because fear is not of God. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15). “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (1 Timothy 1:7). Maybe you fear that you’re not good enough or prepared enough for the end times, maybe you fear that you’ll fold under the pressure or not be “perfect” enough to stand in the final generation, or maybe you fear what’s happening in the church and are reacting in a phobic way because of it. Yes, we are most definitely to watch and pray. But we are not to fear. Fear is of the devil. Hope is of God. A hope that the same God who started the work will complete it – in the world, and in you (Phil. 1:6). Like Paul, we can say “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). So will you commit it to Him today? Will you commit YOU to him today? No, you’re not ready for what’s coming. But He is.