By Gillian Bethel
Everyone used to laugh at the message, “The end is near! Prepare now!” Not anymore! “Preppers,” as they are known, are increasingly common at all levels of society. While Silicon Valley billionaires invest in luxury bunkers in New Zealand, ordinary people are moving to wilderness locations to live “off the grid.” Others are spending their free time preparing well-stocked, secret shelters near home.
Today’s unstable world conditions have created a climate of anxiety, but there’s no consensus about what’s coming. The popular TV reality show Doomsday Preppers, which ran for four seasons from 2012 to 2014, revealed an amazing range of feared scenarios. Among them were economic and social collapse, power grid destruction, global nuclear war, a future pandemic, extreme natural disasters, worldwide famine, terrorist dirty-bomb attacks, and civil war.
Some of these fears are already being realized. With the world experiencing fallout from a pandemic and climate change, the 2020s have done nothing so far to soothe people’s fears of a coming apocalypse. There’s more interest than ever in the Bible’s apocalyptic prophecies. What do they tell us?
The Bible clearly predicts worsening social conditions, natural disasters, disease, and conflict leading up to Christ’s return and the end of the world. Jesus Himself spoke of these things. See Matthew 24:6‒31.
God’s Word also tells us to prepare for the last days. As Dave Westbrook’s article in this issue points out, there’s a definite trend in the Bible toward moving to a safer location when destruction threatens. However, we see that the directions given to Noah, Lot, Joseph, and first-century Christians were not only to avoid harm but also to preserve God’s followers so they could continue His work in the world.
That’s important to realize! God’s end-time followers should not be preparing to hunker down. There’s work to do! We are to help God get people ready for Christ’s return. Physical preparation, such as moving to the country, is just one aspect of end-time preparedness. The apocalypse that’s coming also requires a preparation of heart and mind and outreach to others, including our children. Let’s see what the Bible says.
The most important preparation for everything that’s coming is a firm daily connection with Jesus. The apostle John advises us, “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” 1 John 2:28.1 “Abide” echoes Jesus’ vine illustration, in which He is the stem and His followers are the branches. He tells them to “abide in Me and I in you.” John 15:4, 5.
The point of the vine analogy is that we need to come into a close, lasting relationship with Jesus in order to thrive, do God’s work effectively, and live forever. The connection begins when we give ourselves fully to Jesus to love, obey, and serve Him. This commitment follows a time of getting to know Him so that we have confidence in Him and what He offers. These steps are also the pattern of a long-term relationship with Jesus: continually learning more about Him, deepening our confidence in Him, giving our lives to Him daily, and then working alongside Him. This is “abiding.”
How does this vine-branch union with Jesus prepare us for the end-time apocalypse and the work God has for us?
First, it gives us emotional stability—a rare quality these days. Daily time spent with Jesus through Bible reading and talking to Him from the heart gives us a sense of love, security, and joy, which we may never have experienced before. It’s independent of events in our lives, so it’s especially precious when we face challenging times. The Bible pictures it this way: “A man [Jesus] will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a cover from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Isa. 32:2.
Second, it introduces us to God’s communication device—the Bible. When we belong to Jesus, the Holy Spirit makes the Bible alive and personal for us. Sometimes verses seem like text messages, freshly sent to us by a loving Friend. The Bible becomes our handbook on how to live God’s way and an instant link with the Father and Son. We find it full of their directions, promises, encouragement, and comfort, especially in hard times.
When we obey God’s instructions and ask for what He promises, we learn that we can trust Him to do what He says. We personally experience His strength to get us through trials and temptations so we can be “more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” Rom. 8:37. God’s Word becomes an anchor in trouble, especially if we memorize helpful passages for quick access. The Bible will be our best resource in apocalyptic times if we explore it now.
Third, a joyful relationship with Jesus gives us a foretaste of the future. A great way to get through temporary trouble is by focusing on good things coming afterward. The Bible promises us, “‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” 1 Cor. 2:9, 10.
Fourth, the relationship equips us to partner with Jesus in His end-time work. When we let Jesus into our lives fully, the Holy Spirit connects us with Him so closely that we begin to share His mindset, character, and goals. They’re all based on self-sacrificing kindness, so the direction of our lives changes. We begin to place God and others before ourselves, and we discover new peace and fulfillment as well as a new mission in life.
Jesus is God the Son, yet He came to earth as a dedicated servant of humanity to meet our great need. His goal is to develop the same servant’s heart in us and bring us back into harmony with God’s beautiful, unselfish heart. That’s an important preparation for Jesus’ coming. It’s no coincidence, then, that Jesus told a lot of stories about servants, especially when He was teaching about end-time preparation.
In one story, a man gave each of his servants a little money and instructed them to “occupy [or do business] until I come.” Luke 19:13. He expected to return and find the servants had advanced his business and multiplied his assets.
In a similar story, the master gave his servants “talents” to trade with. Matt. 25:14‒30. A talent was a certain amount of money, but the story is understood to teach that God has given us actual talents (or abilities) to be used in His service. The point of both stories is that as His second coming nears, Jesus is asking us to invest the time, money, talents, knowledge, and experience He’s given us to help Him in His end-time work.
God is not a businessman, though. He’s purely focused on helping the human race return to the endless, happy life He originally gave us. The work Jesus has for us is drawing people to Him and helping them to choose Him over self-centeredness and sin. The work involves listening, empathizing, helping people with practical everyday concerns (including health), sharing about Jesus, and inviting others to experience His love.
At the end of time, doing God’s work also means helping people to understand the Bible’s warnings about what is coming and showing them how to prepare.
We need to work for our children this way too. Teenagers, especially, will respond to interested listening, empathy, and respect from us as they try to make sense of the world and who they are. It’s so important that they see us “walk the talk” consistently. If our children experience a loving, serving heart in us, it will attract them to Jesus and help them develop one too.
How else can we help our children prepare? We can invite them to work alongside us and others (and therefore alongside God) to help someone, and we can inspire them to use their unique talents for God. We can show them appreciation and encourage them to develop a relationship with Jesus for themselves as they face today’s challenges. The more we pray for them, the more the Holy Spirit will work with our efforts. He will help them to grow spiritually and make good choices.
In the Bible, Jesus’ followers are encouraged, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27. The first part is about our serving work, but the second is important too.
The world is full of distractions and temptations that can derail our relationship with Jesus and our interest in His work. It’s vital to turn away from them and stay focused on following Jesus. It doesn’t work to combine a little of each, although we sometimes try. It’s better to find alternatives. For example, learning real-life skills is more useful and fun than playing addictive computer games.
We are living in the world, though, and we have to engage with it. Only Jesus can teach us and our children how to navigate through it with firmness, grace, and sensitivity to others. As families, we need to study Jesus’ life and pray for discernment. Jesus can help all of us choose friends and activities carefully and resist today’s mind-numbing preoccupations.
However, we do need the motivation to be on guard. Here’s how a teenage girl from a missionary family found it when she started reading the Bible regularly:
“As I read God’s Word consistently, day by day, something amazing began to happen. Something inside me began to change. I began to love my family more. I began to look forward to fellowshipping with believers at church. I began to desire to live righteously. I began to recognize and forsake sins in my life. But the most important change is that I began to know and love God.
“For the first time, I had a deepening, growing relationship with my God and Savior. For the first time, I understood and believed that my life was held in the great and awesome hands of my kind and gracious heavenly Father. For the first time, I recognized what a terrible rift my sin could create between me and God, and for the first time that realization hurt.”2
This brings us full circle to the importance of using God’s communication device and developing a close relationship with the Father and Son. All that we’ve looked at here is relevant to preparing for the biblical apocalypse. It is coming, but we don’t need to hide or be afraid. If we’re living for Jesus, last-day events will just be a prelude to the coming of our Best Friend!
All Bible quotations are from the NKJV.
Gillian Bethel taught college Bible classes for many years. She is passionate about making Christianity practical for daily challenges.