A gracEmail subscriber asks, “What does the Bible mean when it says that we are living in the end-time? How is that true since we live almost 2,000 years after such statements were first made? If this is the end-time, how should that affect the way we live?”
* * *
First-century apostles and prophets repeatedly declared that the end-time had begun. Paul writes that the night is almost gone and the day is at hand (Rom.13:12). James and Peter say that the End is near (James 5:3, 8-9; 1 Pet. 4:7). Yet it would be a mistake to read these as “calendar” statements, as if Paul and Peter and James were looking into the future and reporting that they saw the End approaching. But if these are not “chronological” statements, what kind of statements are they and how are they to be understood?
The fact is that these are theological statements which occur against the background of centuries of apocalyptic literature and prophetic expectation. During the 700 years leading up to Jesus Christ, the Hebrew prophets — men such as Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, Joel and Zechariah — had foretold a future age which would be marked by a variety of eschatological or end-time events. After Jesus had died and risen from the dead, after the remarkable day of Pentecost 50 days later, the early Christians looked back on what had taken place. What they saw boggled their minds and stirred their enthusiasm! For they saw many of the very end-time events the prophets had foretold — the Jewish Messiah, the beginning of the resurrection from the dead, a message of salvation for all nations and the coming of God’s Holy Spirit
Clearly, the End has begun. But equally clearly, as time went on, it has been interrupted — for reasons flowing out of God’s saving purpose, until a day and hour which even Jesus himself said that he did not know. “Watch, therefore,” is Jesus’ emphatic word. “Be ready!” The End began with Jesus’ first advent. It will conclude with his second advent. We are people of the interim. We are end-time people. In the next gracEmail we will consider some implications this has for the way we think and live.