But the end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober and watch unto prayer. 1 Pet. 4:7
To pilgrims this word is addressed.
And from the viewpoint of a stranger, in the consciousness of your being a sojourner in the world you must hear it.
Failure to receive this Word of God in a pilgrim’s consciousness would result in finding nothing but reasons for sadness and lamentation in these words.
The end of all things is near, at hand!
What if that signifies the end of all you love and cherish, of all the things on which you did set your heart, for the which you strove to possess them, to which you cling, in which are bound up all your hopes and expectation; the things that are below, earthly things, things you now see and hear and taste and touch; your home and possessions, your name and position, your ties of friendship and love relations, your earthly pleasures and joy, your very life; the earth and all it contains; the whole present world?
The end of them all?
To be sure, the text means nothing less when it speaks of the end of all things. Hardly could the apostle refer to the entire and final end of the Jewish economy, marked by the destruction of the temple, the city of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jewish nation over the whole earth. The words stand there without limitation: the end of all things. Nor is there anything in the context that could possibly persuade us to conclude that the words refer to the end of the Jewish nation. A very strange way of expressing such a thought it would be, indeed, to speak of the end of all things. And when the Scriptures speak of all things without limitation, they refer to the entire, present, visible world, the heavens and earth, and all they contain, as they were originally created, as they fell under the power of the curse, death and misery, through man’s sin, as well as through the rebellion of Satan and his angels, and as it became the scene, the stage for the realization of God’s counsel of salvation and His eternal covenant in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It means the end of time as we know it and experience it, with its succession of time, of moments, of hours, of days and months and years, of seasons, of summer and winter, spring and autumn. One last moment will come, never to be succeeded by another moment just like it. The clock of this world will stop forever; it can never be rewound or repaired. It signifies all that exists in time and is characterized by the measure of time; the sun and the moon and the stars, the mountains, and the hills and the valleys, the oceans and seas and lakes and rivers, the woods and the fields, the trees and flowers, the beasts of the field, the flying birds and the creeping things; man, the crown of the earthly creation; the earth itself and all its creatures,—the moment will come which will be their last. It implies all that takes place in time, all the movement and development of all the creatures; man’s life and thoughts in terms and forms of this world, his work and strife, his peace and war, his power and glory; and all that is ever produced by man’s ingenuity and power. The moment will come that will sweep it all away!
Things have an end!
They do not merely come to an end, haphazardly, arbitrarily, perchance, without having accomplished any definite purpose whatsoever. But there is an end, a very definite end fixed for them, for the things of this world, for all things. And towards that end they move, they hasten, they rush, simultaneously; and all things will reach the end that is fixed for them at the same time, the final moment!
That purpose is God’s eternal covenant!
God is building His house in Christ! That is the essential “thing.” All the rest is the scaffolding. And even as the scaffolding is necessary as long as the building is in the process of construction, but must be removed as soon as the building is finished; so “all things” must exist, move, develop, act, live, labor, toil, strive, suffer, groan, until God has realized His eternal purpose of salvation and the moment is there, when the new heavens and the new earth may be manifested in all their eternal glory; then they may, then they must be removed!
Then the former things shall be no more!
Nay, they shall even be remembered no more!
At the last trump! The moment! The twinkling of an eye! Then “all things” shall be burned with fire. The very elements shall melt. The earthly clock shall stop forever; the heavenly clock shall run on a new schedule never to stop again!
But what if you love “all things”?
What if you belong to the scaffolding of God’s building, seek the things which are below and have your heart sold to the things that are on the earth, the things which you now see and hear?
For, the end of all things is at hand!
But the word is addressed to pilgrims and sojourners in the midst of all these things.
From this viewpoint the epistle of Peter considers and addresses the Church of Christ of all ages.
They are “elect strangers.” Even in God’s eternal counsel they have been set apart as strangers in the world. And in time they become strangers. For, they are begotten again unto a lively hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. They have a new life. Resurrection life. They are born from above. They are strangers. No longer do they live according to the flesh. And their walk and citizenship is in heaven. . . .
For the city which hath foundations they look, the city of their citizenship.
And they confess that they are sojourners in the earth!
Their heart is set on the House; not on the scaffolding!
To them the end of all things is the end of the journey!
And that end is at hand!
The end is at hand!
It was near then, when first the apostle wrote these words; it is near, still nearer, now, nineteen centuries later; it is always at hand!
It does not appear so!
Ah, how is it to be explained, if nineteen hundred years ago the end of all things were near, it still is not yet? Or, how can, what is separated from us by a period of nineteen centuries, be called “at hand”?
Many explain that this expression and similar utterances in the New Testament merely indicate a mistaken view on the part of the apostles. They expected the end of all things soon. They labored under the impression that the Lord would return before long, in fact, in their own time. And to this mistaken hope expressions of this kind must be attributed.
But how could the Word of God be mistaken?
That the inspired apostles did not always understand the exact implications of their own writings may easily be true, may readily be granted. The prophets of the old dispensation certainly did not always fully comprehend the contents of their own predictions of things concerning the kingdom of God. And when they spoke of the “day of the Lord”, they undoubtedly conceived of that day as even then approaching. Nor did they perceive in their prophetic vision the long period that separates the first Advent from the Second. And thus the apostles, inspired by the Spirit of Christ to write the deep things of God, did not always fully fathom the depth of their own writings. There is nothing objectionable in the view that they conceived of the return of their Lord as to be expected in the near future, although even this is not always true.
But the fact is, that here we have, not the word of man, but the Word of God.
And the Word of God cannot fail.
And even though the apostle might have understood his own words as signifying that the end of all things was only a few years in the future, we know that this certainly cannot have been the meaning of the Spirit that inspired him.
Yet the end is at hand, very near!
It is next!
Does not the Word of God emphasize that this is the last hour? Does it not teach us that the end of the “ages” is come upon us? Various hours there were in the past on God’s world-clock. There was the hour, perhaps very brief, that found its end in the fall of man; the hour that struck when the first world was destroyed by the waters of the deluge; the hour that was marked by the Babylonian confusion of tongues; the hour of Abraham’s separation; the hour of Israel’s economy; the hour of the captivity; the hour of the “fullness of time,” beginning with the coming of the Son of God in the flesh, and to be culminated in His reappearance in glory. And this is the last hour!
Or, if you please, on the pilgrim’s way of the Church through the ages of time there were different stations. The next station is the terminal. And the conductor already passes through the train and shouts: “Next stop as far as we go!” The end of all things is at hand!
The next stop!
We cannot expect another great event before the Kingdom of God shall have fully come!
Besides, we are living in the hour of the end. The idea of the end is in all things in this final dispensation. For, the end does not just come without reason or preparation. Christ is even now coming! He hastens to come. He is coming in all things that take place in the history of this last dispensation, in peace and war, in earthquakes and upheavals, in famine and pestilence, in life and in death, in the preaching of the gospel to earth’s remotest ends. And all the events of this “last hour” testify with one accord: the Lord is coming! The end of all things is near, is at hand, is upon us!
We are living in the end!
And how fast the end is coming. If you are traveling toward the terminal of a long journey, and the final station is, say, still one hundred miles distant, your conception of the nearness of that final station depends to a large extent upon the speed at which you are travelling. Not so near the end would seem if you make your journey afoot. But very near is the end of your way, though it be one hundred miles distant, if you travel by express or aero plane. And the Lord is not slack concerning His promise. He travels fast! He comes quickly! He hastens the day! Tremendous things must still come to pass before the end of all things is at hand! And His time is not yours. A thousand years are with Him as one day and one day is as a thousand years. . . .
But He is coming!
Behold, I come quickly, and My reward is with Me!
He does not delay! He tarries not in the way! He crowds all that can possibly be crowded into time, in order that He meet His bride and present her to the Father without spot or blemish!
Faster and faster He is coming!
Do you not see it in the hurry and bustle of our present day?
And we know not the hour!
What else, then, can be said, seeing that the next station is the end of all things, that all things move thither in our dispensation, that the Lord is coming quickly and that we know not the hour, than what the Word of God addresses in our text to the Church of the new dispensation.
The end of all things is at hand!
Pilgrims and sojourners in the world, the end is near!
The next stop!
What, if the end of all things is near, should be our attitude toward “all things”?
By all means do not mistake the scaffolding for the house; set not your heart and hope upon the scaffolding instead of upon the house. Be sober and watch unto prayer!
Yea, the attitude of prayer should be ours.
This the apostle emphasizes. Unto this we must be sober and watch. For, thus the text should be read. It should not be separated so that we read: “Be sober! And watch unto prayer!” But rather should we read: “Be sober and watch. . . . unto prayer!”
No, not indeed, unto a so-called prayer that proceeds from a heart filled with the love of this world and with care and anxiety concerning the things of the world. These cares you may cast upon the Lord. These things shall be added unto you. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God! But prayer that proceeds from the pilgrim’s heart; prayer that is a sigh of longing for the soul-satisfying grace of God; prayer that is the expression of hunger and thirst after righteousness, of the new life in Christ, of hope, of a yearning for the deliverance from the body of this death, for the final perfection of the Kingdom of God, for the end of all things, for the coming of the Lord in all the glory the Father gave Him!
The prayer of the Spirit and the Bride!
Come Lord Jesus! Yea, come quickly!
The attitude of that prayer is in harmony with the reality that the end of all things is near!
Be ye therefore sober and watch!
For how shall you be able to pray, to assume the only proper attitude over against the nearness of the end, if you are not sober, if you are drunk, if you are intoxicated with the things the end of which is near? The drunken man reels. He is confused. He does not judge correctly. He cannot evaluate reality properly. And if you are spiritually drunk you will cling to the things that are on the earth. Be sober!
And how shall you remain sober, if you fail to watch?
Your flesh is carnal. The world seduces! It will make you drunk with its dainties!
Watch, therefore, that you may be sober!
And that you may be instant in prayer!
The end is at hand!