For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
- 1 Thessalonians 6 16-17
At that time of this letter to the newly established church of the Thessalonians, there was much persecution. Despite it being a Greek city, Rome had taken over their world and was in charge. Anybody who did not worship or act the way Rome demanded suffered persecution; some considerable.
When Paul wrote this first letter he spoke in chapter 4 & 5 about the return of the Lord.
These words had a disturbing effect on believers, with some believing the return of Jesus Christ was imminent because of the signs they could see around them. Others thought differently. The peace and love Paul saw here initially were turned into fear for some, jubilation for others, and business-as-usual for the rest.
With COVID-19 today, there are similar anticipations within the church at large about the return of Jesus Christ. For some, there is fear and apprehension, as they see the development of Phone Apps designed for tracking, they hear talk of ID tattoos, and read about people who seek to reduce the world's population. Social distancing used to happen when people came to the Lord and were ostracised by their old friends. Now it has a different meaning. We see these 'signs of the times' around us again.
Instead of noting them and moving on, we let those signs bring too much concern. We allow them to side-track us from our main pursuit of following the Lord and bury us deep in the study of it all. For some of those Thessalonians the signs of the times were so compelling they began giving up work and not making plans for the future.
I was about twenty when I first saw 'signs' and have seen them at different stages ever since. I have seen many strong signs of the return of Christ. We had oil crises in the '70s and onward — famines, earthquakes, wars and rumours of wars, marches for peace in the Middle East, and people rising to power who acted like the antichrist. We read books, listened to 'end-time' speakers, and all tried to guess who was the antichrist and who was his'spiritual' side-kick, the false prophet. What we got instead were false alarms.
Here we are in 2020 with strong signs again in the news. We also have the anxiety and apprehension that comes with them, which I have seen at every stage. When we over-indulge in news reports we are in danger of losing our perspective and peace and getting out of our rest.
Christ taught that our main aim is to be ready when He comes. He doesn't want the peace which passes all understanding replaced with fear. His flock isn't to be concerned about whether the wolves are gathering around the sheep pen. Rather, they are to be found in peace, knowing who is their Shepherd. Is the Lord coming soon? I don't know, because in every era the signs were strong.
There will always be signs until the coming of the Lord. This will happen in the blink of an eye. It will be a magnificent return, so let us not dislodge our present state by fearing the future. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice. Take a few deep breaths, take notes of what you read, keep half an eye on the signs, and then get back to getting on with the Lord's work in your life. We all have much to do!
Daily prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the signs of the times according to scripture. Please help me see them and note them, but not fear them.