By Denise Kohlmeyer, Crosswalk.com
Is the invasion of Ukraine by Russia a sign of the end times? Is Putin “Gog” and Russia “Magog,” referenced in Ezekiel 38:1-3? Will this newest war (with Putin threatening nuclear force if pushed too far) usher in the Messiah’s return?
Many evangelicals believe it will, including Pastor Greg Laurie, who said in a Tweet the day after Russia invaded Ukraine, “Is there any prophetic significance to what is happening in Ukraine right now? The answer is…Yes!” And, as of May 8, Raptureready.com had increased its “Rapture Index” to 188. Anything above 160 is strong indication that believers should “fasten your seatbelts.”
This is nothing new. Over the millennia, many Christians, astrologers, and a host of other would-be “prophets” have viewed current events—wars, political upheavals, diseases, natural disasters—as signs of the second coming of Christ. For example:
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Signs of Christ’s Second Coming Throughout History
66-70 AD – The Essenes saw the Jewish uprising against the occupying Romans as the final end-time battle. Coins were even minted declaring the redemption of Israel.
1501 AD - In his Book of Prophecies, Christopher Columbus said the world would end in 1656 AD.
1600 AD – German priest and theologian, Martin Luther, predicted the end of the world would occur no later than 1600 AD.
1700s – Evangelist Jonathan Edwards predicted the thousand-year reign would begin in the year 2000.
1836 - John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, foresaw the Millennium beginning in this year.
1918 – The International Bible Students Association said “Christendom shall be cut off and glorification of [the Church] will ensue in the Spring of 1918 A.D.”
1976 – 700 Club host Pat Robertson predicted the world would end in 1982.
1990s – Pat Robertson again made another prediction in his book The New Millennium, that the Earth would be destroyed on April 29, 2007.
April 2014-September 2015 – Blood Moon Prophecy, first predicted by Mark Biltz in 2008 and John Hagee in 2014. They claimed the tetrad may represent the beginning of the Messianic end times. Some Mormons in Utah then combined the blood moon with additional signs, which caused many within that denomination to purchase survival supplies.
Now this latest one involving Putin and Russia. Yet no one has gotten it right.
Why all the predictions? A crisis of impatience, perhaps. Many faithful ones are tired of waiting and wondering when Jesus will return, and they watch and believe (and desperately hope) that every upheaval is yet another “sign” of His imminent return.
I can only imagine it was the same scenario for Simeon and Anna, as they, too, along with many others in ancient Israel, anticipated and anxiously looked for the first coming of Christ. They, too, had the prophesies. They, too, had the promises. They were told what to look for. There may have even been predictions made similarly to those about the Second Coming. And they didn’t have a timeframe, either.
So, what can we learn from Simeon and Anna’s examples?
1. We Wait
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel’” (Luke 2:25-35).
Unfortunately, this account does not give us the time from when the Spirit made this promise to Simeon—was he a child, a teenager, or a middle-aged man at the time?—until its actual fulfillment. We only know that Simeon was assured he would see the Christ child in his lifetime. But it might have been that Simeon had to wait days, weeks, months, years, even decades.
Regardless, he waited. He waited patiently, and with great hope and expectancy, because he knew it would happen. He had been promised he would lay eyes on “the consolation of Israel” before he died. And he did, according to Luke’s account.
It is the same for us. We know Jesus will come again. We, too, have been assured of it.
- Hebrews 9:28: “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
- 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.”
- Revelation 1:7: “Behold, He is coming with the clouds…”
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2. We Watch
Wait…what? Didn’t I just say that watching for the Second Coming is futile, a waste of energy? Even Jesus said so: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
But “watch” in Matthew 23:36 does not mean “to look for.” Rather, it means, “to be alert, stay awake” regarding our spiritual lives. Since we do not know the exact time of Jesus’ return, it would be easy to let our guard down, and become lazy and complacent spiritually. Even more reason, Jesus says, to be alert and stay awake, because we don’t know when it will happen.
“Precisely because we cannot predict the moment, we must be ready at all moments,” said C.S. Lewis.
We don’t want to be caught unawares, off guard, like the five “foolish” in Matthew 25:1-3. When they went out to meet the Bridegroom, they naively only took enough the oil in their lamps for a one-time use. No extra. And when the Bridegroom finally arrived after a “long time,” their oil was gone, used up. Jesus wants us to be like the five “wise” virgins, who not only had lamps full of oil, but had extra on hand, keeping in mind the potential for the Bridegroom’s delay. They were wise in that they were prepared.
The message of this parable is that we’re to always be spiritually prepared. We must watch over our spiritual state with due diligence, continually maintaining our devotion, our purity, our Christlikeness, our holiness, and our righteousness, like Simeon, so that when Jesus returns, He will not find us wanting (Mark 13:33, 1 Thessalonians 5:6).
3. We Worship
“There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to [Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus] at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38).
As a prophetess, Anna may have been given living quarters at the temple, or at least lived close by so as to devote all her time to being at the temple. Regardless, the lesson we learn from Anna is her constant devotion to worshipping, fasting, and praying once she became a widow. And her many years of sacrifice and service were rewarded with her being “at the right place, at the right time.” She got to see the Christ child, like Simeon.
4. We Work
Did you notice in Anna’s story that after she saw the infant Jesus, she immediately took up a new ministry: that of telling everyone about the “redemption of Jerusalem.” She became an evangelist. Anna lived out 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Waiting and watching do not mean passivity and inactivity. Rather, we are to be proactive in the waiting and watching. The wise believer is one who is busy being about the work of the Master—doing ministry, proclaiming the Gospel, showering love and compassion on the lost—until He returns. We were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” The only “retirement” with regard to ceasing from our ministry work on earth is either our death or Christ’s return.
Says Pastor John Piper, “The Master has given all of us assignments for while he’s gone — gifts, resources, abilities, money, opportunities, relationships, spiritual disciplines. All of those are spheres where we do our job with faithfulness and diligence.”
What work has God given you to do as you wait for Christ’s return? Go about it then, with fervor and passion. Don’t let the Lord catch you being idle when He returns.
But Why Does Jesus Delay?
The answer is a simple but profound one: salvation.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
You may think that the Lord's tarrying is cruel, but truly it is a kindness. His delay is not a hiccup in God’s plan for mankind’s redemption; it is the plan. In tarrying, the unrepentant are being given the chance to appropriate for themselves the free gift of grace through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Eternal life in heaven.
Jesus tarries so that more souls might be saved! And for those of us who have unregenerate family and friends, myself included, the Lord’s delay is indeed Good News. Therefore, rather than trying to make useless, energy-draining predictions about the timing of His return, let’s turn that energy into witnessing and working for the cause of Christ. Let us also be grateful and more patient and prayerful as we await Christ’s return.
Yes, come, Lord Jesus, come. But use me in the meantime, for your glory and the good of everyone.
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