“When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.” Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” Luke 21: 9-11
“Are we living in the last days?” is a question I have been asked repeatedly over the last couple of years. Devastating fires in Victoria in 2009, followed by terrible earthquakes in Christchurch and Chile in 2010, followed by deadly floods in Queensland and Victoria in 2011, then another worse earthquake in Christchurch, and now the images of Japan’s catastrophic earthquake, tsunami and a possible nuclear disaster, leave many people wondering. Throw into the mix revolution, insurgency, demonstration and possibly civil war in places like Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Libya and Yemen and it is no wonder that people are asking if we are living in the last days.
The simple answer to this question is clearly not simple.
In one sense there seems little doubt that we are living in very difficult days. The trauma experienced now around the globe seems to have escalated. Tragically for many their last days have literally overrun them. For those of us who watch the images over and over again on our TV screens, the reality that this life is at best precarious and at worst fragile is hard to escape.
Having said that, it would be foolish to forget the suffering and hardship of past generations and think that our era is in some way special. As bad as things are in the Middle East at the moment, we need to remember that over 50 million people perished in the Second World War. As tragic as the suffering has been in recent earthquakes, we can only imagine how people in previous centuries recovered from such catastrophes, without modern building codes, without power, without telecommunications and without cranes and earthmoving equipment. Earthquakes in previous centuries have resulted in fires that often led to total destruction of cities. We should weep when thousands or tens of thousands lose their lives in Japan, but remember that the Spanish Flu epidemic which started in 1918 killed at least 20 million people and Europe’s deadly Bubonic Plague raged on an off for hundreds of years. So yes, things are tough, but we are not the first generations to experience suffering, natural disasters and war.
The Bible's view on the last days is a little different to ours. It describes the days between Jesus' first coming and His second coming as the last days. The Bible indicates that life is finite and thus we are all on an inevitable countdown. We have no exact clarity on God’s timetable but we are all warned to prepare.
Our days are precious, finite and numbered. Our existence on this planet is dependent on the Creator’s favour. We are called to live well and to know that our hope is not in this world but in the One who has conquered death and has called us to follow Him.