As Christians in Paul’s day sensed the destruction of Jerusalem drawing near, they wanted to know more about prophetic events. They were fearful over rumors about the ruthlessness of invading armies, who took multitudes captive into slavery. It caused these believers to sense that perilous times were close at hand. So they asked Paul to tell them more about what was to come: “Write to us about how to read the times.”
Paul responded with these words of assurance: “Of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).
Paul described to them what would take place when Christ returned: “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (4:16-18).
Paul’s exhortation to them was meant to be encouragement. He was saying, in essence, “There’s no need for you to fret about those things coming on the earth. You don’t have to be overly concerned about all the fearful signs and calamities. You well know what this is about. It is all signaling the coming of the Lord Jesus, to take away his people.”
The truth is that history is going somewhere. We can be sure that the swift current of unfolding events today is carrying us toward God’s eternal purpose. The world is not adrift; the Lord hasn’t abandoned the earth, not matter how wicked and faithless humankind has become. Rather, God has simply picked up the pace. And what we are seeing now is a swift movement of events toward the “one divine event” ahead: the re-creation of a new heaven and earth, where Christ will reign supreme for all eternity.
As followers of Christ, our focus is not to be on daily news reports. We are not to dwell on wars and rumors of war, nor on the possibility of a nuclear accident, nor on other things that are coming on the earth. When Jesus said, “In that day, look up” (see Luke 21:28), he is talking about where our focus should be.