Preparing for the End Time
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Approximately a fourth of the Bible is prophetic in nature. Much of this material is profoundly connected to world-changing events. The Bible is a perennially up-to-date, applicable book.
Regarding earth-shaping trends and occurrences, no section of Scripture is more applicable to our world than the Olivet Prophecy, recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. This is where Jesus Himself warns us to be vigilant about our spiritual state. He describes and summarizes the conditions and events that will lead to His second coming. What should we be doing—or not doing—as that time draws closer?
After describing the dire state of the world to which He would return, Jesus said to His disciples regarding the exact time of His coming, "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" (Mark 13:32, New American Standard Bible).
That we will not know for sure does not mean we should neglect to keep a watchful eye on world trends and conditions and our own spiritual condition. Notice what Jesus instructs in the next verse: "Take heed, keep on the alert, for you do not know when the appointed time is" (Mark 13:33, NASB).
He then compared Himself and His second coming to a man who traveled to a distant country, left his servants in charge of his property and asked the doorkeeper "to stay on the alert" till he returned.
Then Jesus Christ gives His warning to His disciples a second time. "Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming …" (Mark 13:35, NASB).
Next He warns His servants not to fall asleep on the job, followed by a third and final appeal emphasizing the importance of their task. "And what I say to you I say to all: 'Be on the alert!'" (Mark 13:37, NASB).
Luke's account emphasizes our personal conduct, with Christ warning us to be diligent in keeping our personal spiritual house in order and showing us exactly the kind of distractions to avoid:
"Be on guard, that your hearts may not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day [of Christ's return] come upon you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of the earth" (Luke 21:34-35, NASB).
The vast majority of people, says Jesus Christ, will be taken by surprise. They will not be spiritually alert, much less aware, as prophesied conditions and trends develop. Christ wants His servants to avoid falling into this trap.
So He tells us in Luke 21:36: "But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man" (NASB).
In his exhortation regarding the Day of the Lord, the apostle Peter asks, "Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?" (2 Peter 3:11, NASB). The emphasis throughout is on the importance of personal preparedness for Christ's coming and having a heightened alertness and anticipation of that event.
Protection for God's servants
One of the most encouraging aspects of this subject is knowing that God has promised to watch over and care for His people during this time of unprecedented worldwide turmoil. Jesus said there is nothing wrong with wanting to avoid suffering the end-time disasters. In fact, as we saw in Luke 21:36, He encourages us to be alert and aware, watching our own spiritual state as well as world events and conditions and earnestly praying we will be worthy to escape the coming devastation, if it occurs during our lifetime.
Just as in Noah's day, God will provide a way for many of the faithful to be protected during those 3 1⁄2 years. As Zephaniah 2:3 tells us, "Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord's anger."
Although Satan will try to destroy God's people, God will provide the means for many of them to be spared this dangerous time (Revelation 12:13-17). Jesus says He will care for those who faithfully serve Him during that time.
He tells one faithful group at the end, "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth" (Revelation 3:10).
In Revelation 7, God's servants are sealed and spared from the coming global upheavals. "Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, 'Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads'" (Revelation 7:2-3).
Who are these servants of God? Notice how the book of Revelation describes them. They are those "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus," those "who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" and "those who do His commandments" (Revelation 12:17; Revelation 14:12; Revelation 22:14).
The book of Revelation shows that those who keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus are God's people. (To learn more about these commandments and the people who comprise God's Church, download or request your free copies of our booklets The Ten Commandments and The Church Jesus Built.)
Yet, sadly, prophecy reveals that not all of God's people will be protected during the end time. Christ foretold that part of His Church at the end would not be spiritually ready. In Matthew 25 His parable of the 10 virgins shows that some of His people would neglect their spiritual state and be unprepared.
He concludes the parable with this warning: "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming" (Matthew 25:13). Consequently, as the end time begins, some of God's people will be protected from Satan's persecutions while others bear the brunt of the devil's fury (Revelation 6:9-11; Revelation 12:14-17).
A time to be spiritually awake
Although the end time is a period of unprecedented world trouble, it is also the threshold of God's Kingdom. Paul gives a wonderful perspective of how we should spiritually prepare for that time, regardless of when it comes:
"But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.
"But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:4-11, NASB).
We should take great comfort in God's promises and the knowledge He has made available about the end time. The good news is that, if we prepare ourselves spiritually, this can be a time of confidence, hope and joy leading inexorably to God's incomparable Kingdom. As Jesus assures us in Luke 21:28, "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."