In Matthew chapter 24 Jesus says some apparently contradictory things about the end times. In verse 36 he says, “No one except my Father knows that day and hour, not even the angels of heaven,” and in verse 44 he says, “Be ready, because the Son of Man will come in an hour that you don’t expect.” However, in verses 32-33 he says, “Learn this parable from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and its leaves sprout you know that the summer is near. In the same way you will know that the time is near, knocking on the door, when you see all these things.”
“All these things” is a reference to the various signs of the end which Jesus has just described: There will be wars and rumours of wars. False messiahs will set themselves up. Followers of Jesus will be persecuted, hated, arrested and killed. A lot of bad things are going to happen. Many of these predictions appear to be coming true in the world today. We live at a desperate time in history. We are experiencing wars and droughts and terrorism and earthquakes and plagues and tsunamis. The lines between right and wrong seem to be blurring. Hopelessness and despair seems to be on the rise.
So does this mean that the end is near? The answer, I’m afraid, is that “the Son of Man will come in an hour that we don’t expect,” and all we can do is “be ready”. What I do know is that we need to live with urgency as if life could end tomorrow, at the same time as we live as if life will last a long time, because no one except God knows the day and the hour of the end.