“But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober and watch unto prayer.”
A word of comfort is this Scripture intended to be to the addresses of this Epistle, that is, to the elect strangers who in the preceding context are exhorted to be armed for suffering.
Armed they must be with the same thought that controlled and motivated the Saviour as He stood in the midst of suffering; the thought, namely, that he who suffers in the flesh hath ceased from sin. Because the Saviour was without sin, He became the an object of revilement and reproach by the wicked world. Because the elect strangers through grace are in principle holy, they also must expect persecution from the world. The evidence of their holiness is seen in the fact that they no longer live as do the wicked, in all manner of sinand corruption; but they live now according to the will of God. So radical was this change in their life and walk that they were wondered at by the wicked world, and then hated, despised, and persecuted. Not only does the apostle assure them that God will take their persecutors to task for their wickedness in His just judgment—which in itself should afford comfort to His persecuted church; but in our text he also assures them that because of the nearness of the end of all things, the end of their suffering is also very near.
But the end of all things is at hand!
To be sure, there would be no comfort for the elect strangers in this truth if they were setting their affection on these things. Then, indeed, there must be a note of sadness in it that all things come to an end. For, mark you, the text declares that all things come to an end! No reason is there to limit the all things. It refers to the present, visible world, which includes the heavens and the earth, and all that they contain. It refers to all that takes place in time, and in the ultimate sense it includes time itself as we know it. Everything has an end!
When the Lord said to Noah after the flood, “while the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease,” He did not infer that all things would never come to an end. He only implied that all things would continue only as long as the earth remaineth. But also the earth, the visible, created, and now renewed world through the waters of the flood, would be destroyed after it had reached its end, and this time by fire.
Not haphazardly do all things come to an end; but they all come to an end that has been stipulated by the Lord. We must remember that the term “end” in the text does not only refer to a termination in the temporal sense; but it also, and chiefly, refers to end purpose. When the text, therefore; declares that the end of all things is at hand, it has in mind the end purpose that God has determined in His counsel for all things. That end purpose is the complete glorification of His church in the new heavens and new earth where righteousness shall dwell. It is His own everlasting glory as it shall be attained through Christ Jesus in His elect people whom He forms for His praise that is the end purpose of all things.
With a view to the realization of that glorious purpose all things created and now under the service of sin must serve. The things do not happen by chance to be what they are or do what they accomplish. They are all so governed by the determinate foreknowledge and counsel of God that they serve as scaffolding to build His house. These things include, of course, seedtime and harvest, the changing of the seasons, time as we know it. Included are all the things of creation, sun, moon, and stars; the ambling brook, the ocean tides, the morning mist; the singing bird, the roaring beast, the movements of the sea monster; the lightning and thunder, rain and sunshine, tornado and storm. Included is the fall of the angels and of man, the long history of sin’s development. Not missing among the things are science and invention, atomic energy and moonships, books and learning, apostasies and church councils, the cross and antichrist, the apostles as well as the messengers of Satan, prosperity and adversity, sickness and health, suffering and persecution, life and death. All these things, and many more too numerous to mention, have an end,—a fixed end. And toward that end they all run, yea, fly, and work. And all shall attain to that end at the same time, at the fixed and final moment. And that is the end that is fast approaching. It is very near.
But was not the apostle mistaken when he wrote some nineteen hundred years ago that the end of all things is at hand?
How could he have written this whereas we know that all these centuries have elapsed, and the end is not yet?
Was it so perhaps that he thought the end would come only in a few years because that end was the object of his fondest hope?
That the apostles had the thought in their mind and the hope in their hearts that the Lord would soon return, and bring an end to the world with all its things, especially an end to their suffering for Christ’s sake, we can freely admit. It is also undoubtedly true that they did not always understand completely the things whereof they wrote. It is also true that the Lord, when asked about the end of the world and all things, never told His servants the precise date of His return. All the precursory signs of the end He gave them, even leaving with them the impression that He would return quickly. But though they may have been mistaken in concluding that the end would come in a few years, we must never conclude that the Word of God which they by inspiration wrote could be mistaken. Our text is not the word of man, but the Word of God which cannot be in error.
How then shall we understand the nearness of the end?
Should we perhaps join the camp of the mockers, who, according to Peter’s second Epistle, ridiculed the idea of an imminent return of the Lord and the end of all things? Who asked:” Where is the promise of His coming? and who argued that all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation?
But we shall have to lay hold on the Scriptures which clearly inform us that the Lord does not reckon time as we do; for with Him one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. We shall have to take note that His Word clearly indicates that the present dispensation, which is also the last, is called the last hour. On the clock of God, so to speak, there are registered several hours, all of which have ticked off with the exception of the last. And in that last hour, we and the world with all its things presently exist. With respect to the end of that last hour the Scriptures also give us many signs. Precursory signs we call them of the Lord’s return, which must be revealed before the end will come. And with respect to these signs we may say all of them have already been revealed. O, it is true that we have not yet seen the revelation of the antichrist in all of his magnitude; but already when the apostle John warned us of his coming, he, declared there were many antichrists. We have seen and heard of wars and rumors of wars. We have heard of earthquakes and great destructions. While we are writing these words, word has come to us of the awful devastating effects of a great tidal wave that wiped out thousands in Pakistan. We have seen the highest possible development of science and the wisdom of man. The Gospel has gone into every nation under heaven. In one word, we have seen the effects of the broken seals, the blowing trumpets, and are now seeings as it were of the poured out vials. We ask: is there anything more wonderful and more terrible that can happen that has not already occurred? It would seem that there is not much more to be done.
O, indeed, the end of all things is much closer to us than it was when the apostle first told us about it!
As we stand at the end of another year, we can say with the confidence of faith: but the end of all things is at hand!
As we suggested before, if all our hope is bound up in the things which have an end, then, indeed, this announcement of the apostle must needs cause us only sorrow and grief. For, make no mistake about it, all these things have their end. The scaffolding shall be pulled down and destroyed. Only the house of God’s covenant in which He will tabernacle with His people, as it shall be realized in the new creation, shall remain.
But how comforting is this Word of God to the weary pilgrim, who all the day long is troubled on every side, who must fight the battle of faith, who is required to bear in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus, who must hear the blasphemy of the wicked, who is not able to buy or sell because he belongs to Jesus.
And how urgent it is that he also heed the last part of the text: be ye therefore sober and watch unto prayer!
Be ye therefore sober and watch!
Our attitude with respect to the end of all things will not be that of fear and fright. Nor will it be one of remorse and bitterness. But we will need to heed the exhortation of the text to assume the attitude of prayer.
This, of course, should not be difficult to understand. Surely, if the hope of the pilgrim is tied in with the end purpose of God with respect to all things, if his heart is set on dwelling forever in the house of God’s covenant, if he believes with all his heart that he shall see his God face to face in the face of Christ Jesus his Lord, and if it is his only desire to be praising God unto all eternity with all the saints, then, O, surely then, his prayer will constantly be: Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly! Then surely as a member of Christ’s body, and one of that great host that in Scripture is described as the bride of Christ, he will manifest the spirit of the bride which with great longing desires and prays for the coming of the great Groom.
Then, surely, the bride of Christ will be constantly thinking of her appearance at His coming, of her attitude of heart and mind that properly befits the moment of His appearance. And it follows that she will not be anxious about the things that have an end, but she will be heeding the exhortation of her Lord to cast all her care upon Him and believe that all other things will be added unto her.
And shall we be in the proper attitude of prayer, it follows that we must be sober and watch. To be sober means to be of a sound mind, to be in one’s right mind, to be able to make a right assessment of things. The opposite of this is to be spiritually intoxicated. The drunken man is not able to see and act correctly, he cannot walk with balance, he is confused in all that he does. And to watch means to be calm and collected in spirit, to be temperate and circumspect, to be spiritually alert. One who is watching is earnestly looking for something.
How necessary both of these spiritual qualities are with relation to prayer! Without them we cannot pray as we ought, nor shall we be able to assume the proper attitude over against the things which come to an end.
As this year comes to its end, therefore, fellow pilgrim, be reminded that the end of all things is at hand. All that is of this weary night shall soon pass away. The dawn of eternity shall soon be ushered in with the appearance of the Bridegroom. Let us not like foolish virgins be found wanting, but be sober and watch, with the fervent prayer in our hearts and on our lips: Come, Lord Jesus, yea, come quickly!