According to the testimony of the Word of God, the closer we come to the end of all things, the greater the world’s security and lust will become. As the terrible hour nears, an hour in which all things visible and all the glory of the earth will suddenly be swallowed up, more and more people will, as the prophecies of Scripture inform us, immerse themselves in worldly good. The more signs God sends to His children, warning that the world will soon be destroyed and the Judge of the living and the dead will soon appear in the clouds of the heavens, the less people will believe them. Everything will continue secure and carefree, as if the world were to stand forever and the Last Day were nothing more than a fairy tale.
Our present age seems to fit perfectly the descriptions of the last days found in Scripture. All of the signs in nature, in the kingdoms of the world, and in the Church which, according to biblical prophecy, must precede the end of all things, have taken place during the past centuries and especially in recent years. By the most terrible events, God has loudly proclaimed the imminent destruction of the world. But what has been the response? With each passing year, the world sinks deeper and deeper into false security. At no time has the notion of the Last Day appeared to be more laughable than it is now. Almost universally, people have denied the Christ who has already come, and they greet with even greater mockery the preaching that says He will return soon. Even those who believe God’s Word consider those who preach the nearness of Christ’s return to be fanatics. We have obviously entered that midnight hour when even the wise virgins sleep.
What does Peter say in cautioning Christians about such a time? He says, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” This does not mean that when the end of all things is near, Christians should no longer make use of the world, that they should deprive the body in self-chosen spirituality and humility and not provide for the necessities of the flesh. Nor does it mean they are not allowed to rejoice in the bodily refreshment God gives them in this last time. No, says the apostle, we should be serious and watchful only in our prayers. Even in the nearness of the Last Day, we can eat and drink, but we should not weigh down our hearts in these pursuits. We can like something in this world, but we must be prepared to sacrifice it readily to God. We can have and continue to accumulate gold and silver, but we should not attach our heart to them, not rely upon them, and not mourn when we lose them. We can build dwellings for ourselves, but they must be considered as lodgings for the night from which we will set out on the following morning (in other words, we must always prefer to go to the house of our heavenly Father than cling to our earthly abodes). We can continue to plant and sow in the face of the Last Day, but we must be prepared not to reap the harvest, if that is what the Lord desires. we can also care about the future, but only in such a way that our heart does not become burdened with worry. We are serious and watchful in prayer when our heart is not trapped by any earthly thing. It must always be free to be lifted up to God in prayer. In the midst of the things, business, cares, goods, and pleasures of this world, our deepest desire must be for salvation and heaven. We must seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And we must pass through this world like strangers and pilgrims, pausing here and there to rest and refresh ourselves, but soon thereafter hastening on toward our heavenly goal. Our entire life must be, as Luther expressed, an eternal Lord’s Prayer in which our principal desire is for God to deliver us from evil. And we may add, “Come, Lord Jesus, take us out of this evil world, and take us to Yourself.”
(C.F.W. Walther, God Grant It, 445-447)