…but in these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son…
Yikes. Post Three, and I’m still ruminating on the first half of the first sentence! It might take us forever to get through Hebrews, but don’t worry: it’s the journey that counts on this glorious hike, not the destination!
I’m eager to get to the heart of this verse—and the heart of Hebrews, Jesus—but first let’s camp a bit on three words: “these last days”. Did you catch that? According to this verse, we entered the last days 2000 years ago, during that first generation of Christians… basically, right after Christ finished his work on earth and ascended back to heaven, when the church was birthed at Pentecost.
So, yeah, just like you suspected, we’re living in the last days, right now. Jesus could come back any minute, and he will. On a mystery day he’s determined, not when we predict it.
Last Days Theology has always been a hot topic, and even though I can’t offer hard proof, I’ll bet every generation since Jesus’ time has figured they’ll see his return in their lifetime. Because every generation of believers, looking at the outrageous world around them, figures the wickedness can’t get any worse.
And then it does.
I remember the first time I talked to a Last Days fanatic—or rather, he talked at me. I wasn’t a Christian yet, and he caught me during a rest stop on a cycling trip. For a scary half hour, he warned me about 666, the Mark of the Beast, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember. This was the late 70s; according to him, the end was near, and the Mark of the Beast, he said, had something to do with grocery store codes, something I needed to fear. I cycled away, unconverted and unsure what I could do to protect myself, apart from sticking with bulk food stores and avoiding Safeway, but his words intrigued me.
Since that time, over 40 years ago, I’ve had lots of time to study the topic, not from blowout bestsellers like the Left Behind series, but from one reliable source: the Bible. I’m not worried about 666 or raptures or armies surrounding Jerusalem—all the sensational stuff, gleaned from dubious interpretation of Jesus’ teachings and the book of Revelation, the stuff that sells books and gives lapsed believers and unbelievers false hope that there’ll be a second chance for salvation during a so-called Thousand Year Reign.
Here’s what I learned: Jesus isn’t coming back to reign on earth. When he returns, at an everyday moment none of us will see coming, the world as we know it will be toast.
Every eye will see him, and every knee will bow before him.
The heavens and the earth will be destroyed (with a loud roar, according to Peter), along with every single thing we’ve clung to, apart from him.
Judgement will begin, and there will be only two destinations.
Those who don’t love God will want mountains to crush them alive, rather than face their Creator in judgement.
Those who are safely in Christ, who’ve demonstrated love, faith, obedience, and reverence for his Word, will be gathered home to be with God forever.
And that’s really all we need to know.
Christians are called to anticipate that day, not dread it. Peter writes,
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation… 2 Peter 3:14-15
As I mentioned, Last Days Theology sells mega books (20.4 million copies of the Left Behind books, the best-selling fiction series in the world) and captures imaginations everywhere. But false interpretation of related Bible verses leads many astray. Why not chase after earthly things, forestalling the hard work of repentance, if there’ll be a consolation prize for everyone who waits for the Thousand Year Reign for a second-class ticket to heaven? Why not wait till we have physical proof of an earthly Jesus, sitting on an earthly throne in Jerusalem (after being seated forever at the throne of majesty in heaven!) before we choose to believe him? Why not listen to these fanciful tales of earthly kingdoms, earthly battles, second chances, and deadly lies?
Jesus’ physical work is over. It ended at the Cross: “It is finished.” Now he fills his glorified body, and the universe, waiting patiently for more sinners to come to repentance while the world roils in darkness. All that remains is his second coming, when there’ll be no extra seconds for last-minute conversions.
Let’s be ready for that day, and pray for those we love—and even those we don’t—to be found ready, too.