Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The End is Here?

But the end of all things is at hand. (1 Peter 4:7)

At the end of chapter 3, Peter referred to the events and circumstances of Genesis 6, namely, the disobedient spirits, the flood and the ark. It seems that he still has that in mind when he says, “The end of all things is at hand because it echoes God’s words to Noah in Genesis 6:13, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” There, it meant that the time had come to put an end to all the violence and corruption that was rife in Noah’s day. The world was no less corrupt in Peter’s day. Was he expecting a judgment that never came? Was he mistaken about the end of all things being at hand?

In the New Testament, to say that something is “at hand” means that it is very near, within reach, and often, that it has actually arrived and is now present. Jesus came preaching that the kingdom of God was “at hand,” and (Matthew 3:2; 4:17) and sent His disciples out to announce the same thing (Matthew 10:7). It was not far off, it was not almost there; it was now present. When asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom would come, Jesus answered, “The kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21).

The kingdom of God has come into the world and has been expanding ever since. Jesus said, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12 NIV). Before Jesus ascended to the throne of heaven, the disciples asked if He was restoring the kingdom to Israel at that time. He neither affirmed nor denied. They were asking about times and seasons, the when of the kingdom, but Jesus answered in regard to the how: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). It is through the power of the Holy Spirit and the apostolic witness that all the nations of the earth are discipled and baptized and instructed in everything Jesus taught the first disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). For all authority in heaven and on earth has now been given to Him (Matthew 28:18). In other words, the kingdom of God has come into the world and King Jesus now reigns over all.

But what is the end? In Matthew 24, after Jesus spoke to Peter and the other disciples of the coming desolation of the temple in Jerusalem, they asked, “When will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age (v. 3). Jesus answered in terms of the destruction of Jerusalem, saying that it would happen in their generation (vv. 4-34). This was fulfilled in August of AD 70, with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, only a few years after Peter wrote this letter. For the Jews, this was the end of the age. (I deal more extensively with all this in The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth: Keys to the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Matthew.)

The coming of God’s kingdom into the world is the end of all other kingdoms. It must increase, as the nations believe the good news of the gospel and yield to King Jesus. The kingdom of darkness must give way to the kingdom of light. As the apostle John said, “The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8). The commission Jesus gave the disciples in Matthew 28 will not fail but succeed, for it comes with all the authority that was given to Jesus in heaven and on earth.

Peter was not mistaken. With the beginning of God’s kingdom age, the end of all things is at hand — now here — and has been ever since Jesus first announced it.

Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Keeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Peter’s Letter to Jesus Believers Scattered Everywhere
Bite-Sized Studies Through First Peter
by Jeff Doles

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