It doesn’t take a prophet or a genius to see that the world is on a collision course with something out there. That everything can’t continue at this speed indefinitely. It’s a scary realization, and when we get scared, we start looking for something certain on which to stand. Which means I’ve been getting questions again on whether we are in the end times, whether the scriptures that describe them are true and when they will play out.
Short answer: I don’t know.
Longer answer: no one can possibly know, no matter their years of study or absolute certainty. Jesus tells us flat out that no one knows the day or hour when such end times will occur—not the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
Couldn’t be more blunt, but Jesus gives a clue here that can help us make sense of apocalyptic passages. Fear drives us to imagine certainty, some illusion of control, missing that the purpose of these passages is not what—the certainty we crave—but how to live in uncertain times. Prophetic books tell us how to live to avert disaster; apocalyptic books tell us how to live after the disaster has occurred with continued hope and faith.
When Jesus says the Father alone knows, that he will not drink another cup of wine until he returns, that he goes to prepare a place for us and promises to return with the blast of a trumpet, his way lit by the lamps of heaven to snatch us and lift us up to his Father’s house—he is using images from the Hebrew wedding tradition to show us how to live in uncertain times.
A Hebrew bride must live the year or more between her betrothal and consummation anticipating being carried away at any moment to her new life while relishing every moment of the only life she has ever known.
Both Israel and the church have always seen themselves as brides of God—all human history and each individual life lived between betrothal at birth and consummation at death, between heaven and earth, now and not yet. We can’t know when or what, and that terrifies us, but we have been given how. How to live without fear.
It’s all we can know with certainty, but with trust it’s all we need.