But all these things are the beginning of birth pangs.
When Jesus told His disciples about the end, He gave indicators that it was on its way. He did not tell them what time or date or even year. This is as it should be. Not merely because it is how God determined that it would be (which is reason enough for me to accept that it is as it should be), but also because human nature is best served by not knowing. More on that in a bit.
The beginning of the end is a pretty horrible set of circumstances. We will hear about wars (actual occurrences) and rumors of wars (wars that may or may not really be taking place) and famines and earthquakes and false prophets misleading people. Jesus promised that His disciples would be hated because of His Name. To be clear, all of these things have been happening since the day that Jesus rose from the dead. All of it. The intensity has continued to ramp up over the years. There seem to always be more wars. At least, more that I hear about on a regular basis. There always seems to be a famine or an earthquake or some natural disaster happening somewhere. There are false prophets perverting and distorting what Jesus taught in order to serve their own purposes. And in many parts of the world, believers are openly hated for the sake of Christ. Again, none of this is new, it is merely increasing as time goes on. When will it come to a head?
We do not know. And it is good that we do not. When we were in school, the teacher gaev us a deadline; a due date for our assignments. Many — possibly most — of us waited until the last possible moment to do what was required of us. At work, our deadlines often drive when we do things. The thing that is not due for some time? Postpone it. The thing that is due tomorrow morning? Do it now. We are creatures of the eleventh hour; the last possible moment. This may not be true of all of us, but it is true of enough of us that God not telling us the time and date of His return is good. Knowing that the end is getting ever closer should spur me on to get things done now. I am not guaranteed tomorrow or even the next hour. I have only now. And now is when I should do that thing that I want to do for God. Tell Him I love Him or thank Him for something or share a story of His grace and goodness and blessing with another or encourage someone or exhort someone or … fill in the blank.
That Jesus told me what the beginning of the end would look like and that it has been happening that way since His ascension is good. It allows the planners and proactive among us to do their thing without fear (the end is going to come) while it spurs on those of us who live in the eleventh hour (it might be coming today).
Let me be mindful that today is the beginning of the end. Sure, yesterday was, too. But that does not make the reality any less real. I have only this moment guaranteed to me. Let me make it count.