“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. 35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (Mark 13:32-37)
In the final days of his life, Jesus offers his disciples some lengthy teaching on the world’s end (see Mark 13:1-37). The end is near for the Christ, for the Suffering Servant who will soon give his life for his people as a ransom for many, but that is not the end of the story. Jesus gives us a small window into the true end, after God has vindicated him by raising him from the dead, after he has come again in power and judgment. The Suffering Servant is also the Lord of history, the one to whom is given an everlasting dominion. He will come again in the clouds and he will gather his people to himself. He will establish his reign on earth as in heaven, and the two will at last be united in the perfect harmony of the New Jerusalem. Those who have died will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.
We can make two mistakes in looking ahead to this moment. First, we can easily fall into a sinful slumber, living like the servants who should have kept watch but lived instead as if their master would never return. We must keep watch, be on our guard, live like our King is coming back. For, while we do not know when he will return, we know he will.
But second, we can just as easily be overzealous, reading into every natural and political happening the coming of the end. This is particularly true given circumstances today. As this pandemic hit, searches about the apocalypse soared on Google. However, Jesus has warned that these signs―earthquakes and wars and even pandemics―are not the end; they are merely signs of the beginning of birth pangs (13:8). Is this the beginning of the end? Sure. But we’ve been in the beginning of the end since the New Testament age. The apostles repeatedly refer to the present as “the last days.”
Is this the apocalypse? Is this the end? In a word, no. When Jesus comes, no one will miss his coming. As he explains, “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:27). If you have to ask, the answer is no. But he will come again, so let us keep watch and live for the glory of our soon and coming King!