Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Pastoral Ponderings ~ Living the Last Hour Before Midnight

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.[1]

          I am just beginning to pray through this verse for insight into how it helps us interpret some of the amazing symbols of the book of Revelation. This morning my starting place revolved around the first part of the phrase, “Children, it is the last hour…” Since this is emphasized by the conclusion: “Therefore we know it is the last hour,” there has to be some reason that it is necessary to think of the remaining time in this way. With that in mind, let’s consider the two parts of this initial phrase.


          I have learned over my many years that the wording of an apostle’s description of himself and his readers gives a sense of how he wants people to think of their relationship in light of what is written. At times the focus is on the man as an apostle, emphasizing his authority to teach something that the people need to receive, take seriously, and put into practice.[2] Other times the focus is on the man’s personal connection to the readers, appealing to their love and affection for one another as the motivation to continue walking in the things that have been given them in Christ.[3]

          Now that we see John writing the church, and addressing them as “children”, we can see the relationship between an elder and his little ones. This draws the picture of a mature man concerned for his children, attaching to them in an affectionate way that was aimed at drawing them to respect his wisdom in addressing the issues they were facing.

          The tone, then, is that we are to feel like children in the company of an elder who has us seated down around him listening to what he has to say. We are to listen like children who are facing things we don’t know how to handle. We are to see ourselves as those in need of cautions, and reminders, and warnings, and teachings that we will take to heart, learn our lessons well, and let the wisdom of the mature guide us into the truth and knowledge of Christ.

          “…it is the last hour…”

          While we know that nineteen centuries have passed since John wrote these words, we can affirm that the time we are in is the last time, and its length of time, understood from the heavenly viewpoint, is as an hour. If nothing else, it is the imagery of a clock that has been ticking down through the years, passing through the twelve hours of the morning, on into the daytime, and evening, heading through the night, and has now arrived at the last hour. In other words, this is not so much telling us how much time is left, but that it is the same kind of thing as when we are in the last hour before something happens.

          This is the way we are to view our lives, no matter how much more time remains until Jesus comes. We are in the last hour. We are in the last season of time before the coming of Christ. It has been that way since the first century, when the church eagerly awaited the second coming of their Savior, and it is that way now.

          The point is not so much about how much time we are talking about, but that we are in that last epoch of the work of God. What began with Jesus’ life, death, burial, resurrection, and commission to the church to carry on his work, is the last thing that is going to happen in history. There will be no more manifestations of Jesus Christ to prove to new generations that he has come. The cross of Jesus Christ has been so strongly established as an historical fact, that now there is this one last hour in which the gospel will go out to the whole world, as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.[4]

          The bottom line is that, no matter how long this last hour takes to finish, we are in this last hour, the final work of God before he ends the whole world. We are little children living in the last hour. We are surrounded by many adversaries, and false teachers. To whom do we look? We look to our elders, like John, Paul, Peter, and James, who are all ready to continue teaching us how to remain true to this gospel of the kingdom, and make Jesus Christ known until he comes, until the clock hits midnight and Jesus returns.

          It is interesting that this is the wording used in the parable of the ten virgins.[5] The description of the coming of Christ is presented as, “But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’”[6] The final hour is the twenty-fourth hour of the day, or the twelfth hour of the second half of the day. Whichever clock we use to present the imagery, the last hour ends at midnight. That is the end, the end of the day, the appointment with the coming of Christ and the judgment of God.

          So, we are living in the last hour. It is not midnight, but midnight is closer now than it was when John wrote. The next thing on the horizon is the coming of Christ. When the gospel of the kingdom has been proclaimed throughout the world, the midnight hour will strike on the grand clock of heaven, and the Father who had set the times and seasons by his own authority will conclude what he started. He will command his Son to return in judgment on the earth.

          What the book of Revelation gives to us are the pictures of what earthly life will look like during this last hour. It is not a pretty picture. We are not going to be able to walk by sight and get encouragement from the way the world opens its arms to the gospel. There will continue to be suffering and hardship in the whole world, including that targeted animosity towards the children of God. The animosity of the world, the expansion of religions and ideologies in their militant takeover of countries and nations, the worldwide materialism, hatred of God, and love of pleasure, are all signs that things are happening as God said, so continue making Jesus Christ known until he comes.

          Now, picture yourself like a little child in a room full of little children. The elders have gathered you together to tell you something. Jesus is coming soon. He will come suddenly, like a thief in the night. There is still much work to do to get the gospel of the kingdom out to all the nations, the provinces, the cities, the neighborhoods, the homes, and schools, and workplaces. And now the elders tell you that it is the last hour. What will you do?

          While the children wonder about such things, the elders continue their counsel: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.[7] It makes sense that the children would make the best use of the time considering it is the last hour, and midnight approaches quickly.

          “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.[8] Again there is the necessity for children to have the wisdom in relating to outsiders because time is running down. If we are here to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to outsiders, and this gospel must reach all the nations before midnight, we must seek this wisdom that is from above, so that we will know how to live here below.

          Once again, I am not left with a lot of words rattling through my head trying to find some correct wording for a theological position. Instead, I picture the last hour of the day ticking down, and the midnight hour looming terribly close for all those who do not yet know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It does not matter whether this last hour ticks on for another thousand years, even as it has done twice (almost) since John wrote his letter. What matters is that midnight is closer than it was yesterday, and there is still time to do the work of the kingdom for one more day. Instead of being like the white rabbit of Alice in Wonderland fame running around in constant fear of being late, we can be as those who make the best use of the time that is left, little or much as it may be.

          From my heart,     

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] I John 2:18
[2] Galatians 1:1
[3] Philippians 1:1ff
[4] Matthew 24:14
[5] Matthew 25:1-12
[6] Matthew 25:6
[7] Ephesians 5:15-16
[8] Colossians 4:5

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