“It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.” Really? Growing up as a child of the 80’s, I remember listening to that song by R.E.M. (on my cassette tape!) and even singing along with the few lines I remembered. However, I don’t think I ever really thought much about the lyrics or considered the meaning behind the song. But since the end of the world is a pretty weighty and important topic to consider, I think we need to understand both the truth about the end of the world and how we should live now in light of that truth.
Over the past 10 weeks here at Lakewood, we’ve been studying the book of 1 Peter and talking about the end of the world. This book (or letter) was written by Peter (one of Jesus’ closest followers) around 60 AD to Christians scattered all over the region in what is now Turkey. Peter wrote to encourage believers who were in the midst of suffering and persecution both to challenge and encourage them. He wanted to remind them that, as difficult as their current circumstances were back then, that things would not always be this way. In chapter 4, he said: “The end of the world is coming soon” (1 Peter 4:7). This seems like a pretty bold statement for someone who had been a mere fisherman (not theologian) earlier in his life. Peter almost comes off like one of those street preachers with a megaphone and a sandwich sign that says: “THE END IS NEAR!” But, we need to remember that this is the Word of the Lord, and there is a reason Peter talked about the end of the world. It was meant both as a warning but also an invitation to something better: a new life in a new world.
The Bible is absolutely clear that there will be a day when this world will end and a new one will begin. In Peter’s second letter, he even goes so far as to say: we should be “looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we should be looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness” (2 Peter 3:12-13). While there are lots of debates about when all of this will take place and what exactly will happen, scripture is clear that there will be a day when Jesus returns to this earth. Judgment will take place, and those who have not put their faith in Jesus will spend eternity apart from the Lord while those who have put their trust in Jesus will spend eternity with the Lord in the new heavens and new earth.
As you read through the Gospel accounts in the New Testament, you’ll see that Jesus was giving the same warning and invitation as Peter. In John 5:24, he said: “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” Then in Matthew 24, Jesus talks a lot about ‘the end’ and what he should expect. He said that no one (other than God the Father) knows about the day or the hour this will take place but that it will come like a “thief in the night” and at a time when we “least expect.” Therefore, we should be ready, keep watch and live in light of this truth.
The question we need to wrestle with today is simply: Are you ready? If Jesus were to return today, would you be ready by having put your faith in Him and living out your God-given mission on this earth? If not, then the invitation for you today is to turn from your sin, and place your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Any of the staff here at Lakewood would love to talk with you more about how to start a relationship with Jesus so you can be sure you’re ready for when He returns. But for those who have already done this, Peter is clear about how we should live in light of this reality.
In 1 Peter 4, he says, “Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay” (1 Peter 4:7-9). Then in 1 Peter 5, he says, “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are” (1 Peter 5:6-9).
So if we really are close to the end of the world, do you “feel fine”? Do you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and are you living in light of this truth? Imagine what could happen if we really believed this truth and lived in light of the end! We would be people who prayed differently, loved more deeply, and cheerfully shared with those in need. We would also be people who pursued humility while staying alert against the schemes of the enemy and standing firm in our faith despite the shifting morals and values of our culture. Imagine what kind of impact that could have on our family and friends, in our city and country, and throughout this world, if we truly lived in light of this truth.
Let’s be people who live in light of the end.