It was truly a new year I will never forget. I had just attended a powerful conference—the twelfth annual GYC (Generation. Youth. Christ.) conference in Orlando, Florida. Now, as I made my way home to Toronto, complications soon began to arise. When I landed in Washington, DC, I found out that my connecting flight to Toronto was canceled due to the poor weather conditions—I would have to spend one night in Washington.
Christ wants us to enter into such an experience now.
Once I had fully come to terms with the situation, I began thinking of ways to spend my time in Washington wisely. One of the first stops on my unforeseen sightseeing excursion was the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
As I took in the many exhibits and read the heart-wrenching stories, I was beside myself with a mixture of different emotions: disbelief, anger, sadness, and grief. I could not comprehend how an expulsion of such a magnitude could have occurred (research indicates about “15 million to 20 million people died or were imprisoned”).1 It pained me to think of the many lives that were taken— the irreplaceable generations of Jews that had been cruelly obliterated from the face of the earth.
The End of the World (2 Tim. 3:1–4)
It is not easy to ignore the Holocaust and the suffering that resulted from it. Even so, since that time, the number of senseless killings, genocides, mass murders, and other horrific crimes that have taken place in our world has only increased with time. The state of our world has been degenerating. With things the way they are in these final stages of life, the question that comes to mind is: Is there hope for any of us?
The phrase end of the world comes with its own set of associated images, most of them negative. Images of people screaming and running, fire, and chaos come to mind. But shouldn’t the “end of the world” be a good thing? Especially when we think about the fact that it would mean freedom from this world of pain and destruction and entrance into another one, more beautiful and sweet! The truth is, we don’t like dwelling on such themes because we are not ready to face them. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Strength in Adversity (Prov. 24:10; James 1:2–4; 1 Pet. 5:10)
As I wandered through the Holocaust museum, I came across accounts of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. During the Holocaust, they were referred to as “voluntary prisoners” because their situation was a bit different. Unlike the Jews, who were forced into imprisonment in numerous concentration camps in conditions that appeared to offer no easy way out, the Jehovah’s Witnesses would have been granted their freedom at any time. They had only to retract their beliefs and submit to the authority of the Nazi leadership. Yet, few of them did.2
It is during times of adversity that one’s true character is revealed (Prov. 24:10). Either you can be broken mentally or your faith can be strengthened. By choosing to lean on Christ, we can be overcomers. Focusing on our faith in Him instead of on the terrors around us is how we will prove ready to stand in that great day.
I have read many stories of people who remained strong despite the odds against them. These fearless men and women submitted to their persecutors and were not afraid to face death for their cause. In doing so, they gave the most plausible evidence that Jesus Christ exists and that His love is real. While wickedness may abound, those who prove faithful to God will be as lights in a dark room—lights that cannot be suppressed.
A More Beautiful Portrait (Matt. 28:20; 1 John 3:2, 3)
In Matthew 24, Christ Himself clears up any distorted notions about what the time before His second coming will look like. Yet with this, Christ offers words of comfort: “Be not troubled” (verse 6).
In His love and mercy, Christ gives us these signs of the times so that even though He doesn’t give us the exact date of His return, we are to “watch” and “be . . . ready” (verses 42, 44), for “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (verse 13). In this final chapter of earth’s history, it is not how we start that will matter most but how we finish.
When I think about what will happen in the future, I can’t help but become fearful as I imagine humankind becoming even more corrupted as time goes on and the time of great persecution that awaits the followers of Christ (verses 4–13, 15–22). But despite the terrors that await us, I believe Christ wants to paint a different picture in our minds: one of peace, love, mercy, and self-control. He wants to reveal to us the power of love over hatred, as He has through His own example and through men such as Martin Luther King Jr., who coined these words: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Christ wants us to enter into such an experience now; character transformation takes place not later—but now (1 John 3:2, 3).
At times, it will not be easy to live a life for Christ; it will often call for sacrifice and tears. Still, as I meditate on the Savior’s love and His promise to stand by my side always, my heart swells with such hope (Matt. 28:20).
Knowing what will take place in the future is all the more reason why we need Christ and we need Him now. But we don’t serve Christ out of fear; we serve Him out of love and because we know that in the end, this world will burn up—it can offer us nothing.