I have a love/hate relationship with tracking numbers. I love that I can track any package’s progress in its journey to my house. I can know with almost 100% certainty when I will receive it. I know that when my package arrives in Anchorage it will be delivered to me the next day (unless it gets there on Saturday). They also are an accountability factor for when I sell and ship to someone off an auction site. I KNOW that it has arrived!
On the other hand, my personality COMPELS me to check the tracking number multiple times per day, even when I KNOW it can’t possibly be arriving. It isn’t enough for me to know that an item has been shipped and will arrive soon. I want to know when!
I am concerned that many people use the Bible, specifically “end times” verses, in much the same way. Every generation looks for “signs of the times” to see if maybe Jesus will return within their lifetime. For some, it becomes an obsession that goes well beyond the scope of the biblical text. Many resort to looking at the Bible the way code-breakers look for hidden meanings within seemingly mundane messages. The question I always ask when engaged in conversation with such individuals is, “To what end?”
The response I often get has a thread of fear (or at least dismay) woven through it. The sense I get is that many Christians look for signs of the end for the sake of earthly preparations and safety, thus promoting an inward focus, which for some, leads to an increasing isolation from the world around them.
Matthew chapter 24 is a key section of the Bible in referring to the “end times”. It is one passage that is a “tracking number” for Christ’s return. In that chapter, Jesus was clearly teaching specifics related to the timing of His return which undoubtedly are like tracking numbers for the observant, such as:
Many will come in my name saying “I am the Christ”. (24:5)
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. (24:6)
Nation will rise against nation. (24:7)
There will be famines and earthquakes. (24:7)
They will deliver you to tribulation and kill you. (24:9)
You will be hated because of My name. (24:9)
Many will fall away. (24:10)
Many will betray and hate one another. (24:10)
Many false prophets will arise. (24:11)
Lawlessness will increase. (24:12)
People’s love will grow cold. (24:12)
Reading that list, it is not very challenging to understand why many believe we are very near the end! The “tracking numbers” provided by Jesus sure seem to indicate the arrival of the anticipated package is soon. To that, I ask the same question: “So what?”
What should that mean to us who are followers of Jesus? What did Jesus want us to do with such information? Interspersed with His teaching in Matthew 24, Jesus gave four principles which should point us in the proper direction to what knowledge of “the end” should mean for us.
Do not be mis-led about the person and work of Jesus. (24:4-5)
Do not be frightened by cataclysmic political and natural events. (24:6)
Endurance in the face of persecution and lawlessness. (24:9-13)
Preach the gospel. (24:14)
The knowledge of the end should compel us to know the truth about Jesus’ return, which should cause us to be at peace with world events, which should give us endurance, all the while giving us an evangelistic urgency. In short, clicking the “track your package” link should give us nothing but hope and definition of our mission. May the events which match the tracking numbers in scripture provoke nothing more in us than confident anticipation in our hearts and faithful passion in our ministry.