Apocalyptic books such as Daniel and Revelation foretell trials and tribulation as we approach the end of times. Centuries of artwork, literature, and cinema have burned vivid images of these events into our minds.
It is natural to look to end times with fear, or even panic. But as Christians, we serve a God whose love overcomes our fear. And so, there is no need for Christians to fear the end of times.
Understanding the Fear
Fear of end times manifests in different ways and is usually driven by how a person or group perceives the trajectory of modern society. Political extremism and religious beliefs magnify such fears in certain groups.
The Politics of Fear
At one political extreme, we find “preppers,” who alleviate their fears by decreasing their reliance on government and society.
Preppers are known for stockpiling weapons and non-perishable food. They equip themselves for living off the grid. They are prepared to survive when the economic collapse that they expect to happen any day now finally arrives.
At the opposite extreme, alarmism abounds over impending climate change. Using complex predictive computer modeling, climate change alarmists foretell rising sea levels and temperatures.
They predict severe natural disasters and cataclysm for low-lying, densely populated cities. They call for increased government regulation and changes in our industrial practices in hopes of reversing the trend.
Uniquely Christian Fears
Christians may identify with either camp, or they may reside in the middle of the political spectrum, borrowing fear elements from both sides. But no matter what earthly matter triggers the Christian’s fear, one consistency among Christians fixated on end times is the tendency to interpret the events through the words of scripture.
For some, this means loosely plotting a line graph and following trends. For others, it means matching specific news items to key events described in the Bible. In either case, the Christian comes to expect increasing hostility toward, and eventual persecution of, the church. They anticipate an increase in suffering, either by disease, famine, war, or a combination of the three.
Confronting the Fear
Imagine this conversation between two Christians:
First Christian: “I’ve been reading Revelation…”
Second Christian: “Wow. End times. Isn’t that scary to read?”
First Christian: “Why should I be scared? There’s so much promise in that book!”
Second Christian: “I never thought of it that way.”
Perhaps you never thought of it that way, either. But for the remainder of this article, that is what we are going to do.
Don’t be Deceived by Fear
In Matthew 24, Jesus warns of a time of increasing turmoil as his return approaches. He speaks of wars, famines, wickedness, and persecution. He warns us of the difficulty to come not to scare us, but so that we may know the truth and trust him.
“Watch out that no one deceives you,” are his opening words (v 4). And he warns a second time of deception in verses 23-26. But in the center of it all, Jesus delivers this promise, “but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (v 13).
Physical danger has always been a part of our existence in a fallen world. And persecution has followed the church since its inception.
But Jesus reminds us that if we trust fully in him, we will not be led astray by deceivers who would use our fears to turn us away from the truth.
Promises to All Who Overcome
The final book of the Bible, Revelation, is where we find the most vivid depiction of end-time events. It is here that we meet beasts, false prophets, and horsemen who bring plagues, war, and death. But before we get to the apocalyptic imagery, let’s spend some time in the early chapters.
In chapters 2 and 3, Jesus addresses seven different churches. Each church has its own unique circumstance, strengths, shortcomings, and challenges. But to each of them, Jesus provides instructions for remaining faithful and a unique promise to “him who overcomes,” including a promised entry in the book of life (3:5)
From here, we look into Heaven’s throne room in chapters 4 and 5, where all of the creatures in God’s presence celebrate and worship Him. Here we also see Jesus, depicted as a lamb.
In chapter 13, the Lamb holds the book of life that protects the faithful from the beast. Later in Revelation, this same book of life guarantees ultimate victory for all believers (20:12-15).
A Promise of Wisdom
The book of life also shows up in Daniel’s end-times prophecy, guaranteeing deliverance to all of God’s people (12:1). The wise will shine with brightness, Daniel continues (v 3). And finally, as the words given to Daniel are sealed, the Lord promises understanding to the wise (v 10).
Proverbs 9:10 reminds us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” When we hold God in His proper place as the one that we worship, revere, and awe, we understand that He is greater than everything. Nothing that we would fear could defeat Him.
Our Lasting Hope
“In the Lord I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
‘Flee like a bird to your mountain’.” (Psalm 11:1)
We need not fear evil, persecution, or opposition because God is our refuge. There is no need to flee when we are already in the presence of God. Jesus echoes this truth, telling us not to fear the ones who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul (Matthew 10:28).
As Paul reminds us, there is no power in heaven or on earth that can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39), even in a fallen and broken world. And as John adds, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18a).
Our hope against fear is- and always has been- found in God’s love. It was true for David. It was true in Jesus’ day. It was taught to the early church. And it holds fast for us now, and in the days to come.