5 Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. 2 For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. 3 When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.
4 But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. 5 For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. 6 So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. 7 Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. 8 But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.
9 For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. 10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.
I have seen quotes today attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther, and John Wesley supposedly answering the question: what would you do if you knew the world would end tomorrow. Each of these men of great faith supposedly answered in one way or another that they would continue to do exactly as they had been doing. Saint Francis, hoeing his garden when asked, would continue to hoe. Martin Luther would plant a tree. Wesley would keep his preaching and visiting schedule before gladly commending his life to the Lord and waking up the next day in glory. Regardless of the veracity of the quotes (and I have not followed them to any textual source), they touch truth. In times of uncertainty and disempowerment, when people can be easily swayed by a cloying combination of pseudo-logic and spiritual misrepresentation, it is more important than ever for Christians to rely first upon God’s power to provide for our needs.
We need not rely just on Paul’s words, as in the epistle to the Thessalonians above. We have the words of our Lord Himself. In His infinite love for His creation, He has provided, does provide, and will always provide exactly what we need. To believe anything else, anything less, or to hedge our bets against the off-chance that 2000 years of faith in God’s scripture was a misplaced trust is to defy His love. Defiance of God’s gift of grace to us is a dangerous stance to take. This is what Jesus Christ tells us about the end of our known, material world: even Jesus himself does not know when it will be.
New International Version (NIV)
The Day and Hour Unknown
36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[a] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
New Living Translation (NLT)
32 “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.
Though we cannot know when God will choose to call an end to our human world and establish His eternal kingdom, we can know one thing with absolute certainty. When we allow Him to take the place in our heart that was always intended for Him, when we permit our God to indwell us in the Holy Spirit, when we accept Jesus into our lives and beg Him to take control, then we are destined for eternity, and then it does not matter when the world will end. It could end five minutes or five thousand years from now. We could be beset with natural disaster or great war, disease, or famine. Either way, we will just go on about our normal day, unbiased by the fallen world, steadfast in our faith that God will provide–that He is in control, and we who are in His employ can serve ourselves no better than to serve Him first, above all personal security or gain. Then the worst possible thing that could happen is that we are used as His vessel, as His hands and feet, and that eventually we will be reborn into His holy, eternal city. Which is, of course, also the best possible thing that could happen. It always seems that God loves a paradox.
So, until such a time as that, Jesus tells us exactly how to behave and what to do:
New Living Translation (NLT)
35 You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak.
New Living Translation (NLT)
42 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming. 43 Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. 44 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.
In other words, we should hold God first and foremost in our thoughts, desires, and actions. When we fail to do that (we will all fall short of that mark. Repeatedly.) we should refocus as quickly as possible. We should encourage each other to keep our eyes on Jesus. And we should tell others of the awesome way that God works in our lives so that they may have a chance to share the joy and certainty we enjoy from being followers of Christ and children of God.