How to Live in History’s Last Days

First Peter 4:7: “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” What does that mean? “The end of all things is at hand.” That’s two thousand years ago. The end of all things is in the New Testament, the period of time that begins with the coming of the Messiah and ends at the second coming, I think.

Two Thousand Years as Two Days

First Peter 1:20: “He was foreknown,” Jesus was foreknown, “before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.” Acts 2:16, the day of Pentecost. Peter says, “This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel.” This outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. “In the last days it shall be, God declares, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” So the last days are here.

Or Hebrews 1: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1–2). Or Hebrews 9:26: “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages.” When the Son of God broke into history, the end of the ages began. “To put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

Here’s 2 Peter. I didn’t put that down. I think it’s 2 Peter 3:8, somewhere in there. “Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’” (2 Peter 3:3–4). In other words, it’s been a long time to be in the last days. Thank you very much. Then that was probably just a few decades into it, not centuries like we are.

And then Peter says, “Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). It’s been two days since Jesus died. That’s the way God sees it. And the reason that’s relevant to say is because he says it in the context of being accused that the last days are getting a little long to be last.

This is so helpful, because Peter didn’t know how long it would be. None of those early people knew how long it would be. Some of them knew it would be longish because Jesus told the parable because they thought the kingdom of God was soon to appear. So he tells the parable and he says, “A man went on a long journey.” Just pointing to the fact that it’s not yet. We don’t know how long it’s going to be. And of course, if they had been told it would be two thousand years, I think it would’ve boggled their mind.

But they did tell us how to think about it. Namely, in God’s reckoning, Jesus has been back in heaven for a couple of days. Not two thousand years, but two days.

Drunkenness Leads to Unprayerfulness

“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7). Back in 1 Peter 3, remember, he talked about husbands. “Don’t let your prayers be hindered by living with your wife in a way that dishonors her. Be vigilant. Don’t let anything come between you and answered prayers.” And in 1 Peter 3 where he quoted Psalm 34, he said, “The ears of the Lord are open to the prayers of the righteous” (1 Peter 3:12).

And now he says, “As the end times are here, and things are hard, and judgment is impending, and maligning is multiplying, oh, guard your prayer life.” You do that?

The word here is just “sober.” It’s translated sober-minded, just to draw out the fact that it’s a metaphor. But I like thinking sober before I think it’s a metaphor, because the word “sober,” like not drunk, is used. Because when I think of the literal word that’s used for the image, ideas start multiplying in my mind.

This is how I try to get ready for a sermon or a devotion or whatever. I say, “Okay, how does the kind of questions I think you should ask, how does a prayer flow from sobriety? Or how does non-prayer flow from drunkenness?” And I don’t mean drunkenness, I just mean drunkenness like life.

It’s so helpful to me, because I know, I walk into my room. I have a prayer nook over there. I have a desk over here. Desk is where I work, think, write. That’s where I don’t work and I don’t write. I do think. And I’m on my knees, and I’m just talking to God, or singing to God. And I’ll tell you, I will walk in my room and the tug to my desk is enormous. I get stuff done there. “I got stuff to do.” “I’m an American.” “We produce! We don’t pray. People from India pray. Contemplatives pray. People live on mountains pray. We don’t pray. We do.” That’s John Piper. It’s horrible.

I’m doing this. I preach to myself like this. “You’re drunk. You’re drunk, and that’s true!” Get this. At that moment, I’m being drunk. I’m woozy. I’m in the sway of the spirit of the age. I’m being controlled. Satan has dumped a big gallon of whiskey productivity on me. “It feels so good. Going to go do.” That’s exactly the way you should see it.

It looks, of course, you put a three-piece suit on it, and 35th floor of the IDS tower, it doesn’t look like drunkenness. They look sharp, they look in control. They’re drunk. We’re drunk when we don’t pray. When you don’t want to pray, you’re drunk.

The End Multiplies Stress

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly.” Because, this is one of those because. “Since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Particularly, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9). Pray, love, open your home.

What is that? He’s been talking about being maligned, and being reviled, and judgment coming over the world like a flood. And we’re going to escape through faith in Jesus. And then he turns to community. Pray above all. Don’t just love each other, love each other earnestly. Which is a feeling, not just a doing, since “love covers a multitude of sins.”

What’s going on here? How does that fit into the picture of the book? And I think the idea is this. As the end comes and life is harder, we need each other more, and we sin against each other more.

Just ask yourself: Do you sin against people more when you’re under stress or when you’re happy as a clam? We sin against each other more when stresses are multiplied. Our fuses are shorter. We have less emotional resource for handling problems. And so we tend to be short or curt.

It’s hard to love when things are hard and you don’t even know. You got three deadlines to meet, right? Pressure’s huge. You don’t see how you’re going to get everything done. And you’re walking down the street and here’s a needy person. Are you likely to be drawn out with patient helpfulness? No. You’re likely to say, “I don’t have time for that. I don’t even know how I’m going to get through the day.”

When the end comes, stresses will multiply. Jesus said that. “It will be a time of stress,” he said. Which means the church people are going to be angry at each other more. We’re going to be harder to get along with. And so Peter is pleading not to let that happen. Because at those moments, you’re going to need each other more.

The Need for Hospitality

Isn’t that why we go to hospitality here? Why do we need hospitality? Give me a break, Peter. Talk about something serious. Oh, no. I’ll tell you. If you don’t have a place to go, if Christians are not welcoming to each other without grumbling — I mean, it is radical to be hospitable.

Some of you are so good at this, it’s unbelievable. Others of you haven’t had anybody over to your apartment in five years, because it’s dirty, and you can’t cook so good. Look, humility and this book are all about freeing you from worrying about that. I mean, throw it in the corner, blow it off the ledge, buy a pizza, and invite a friend. This is radical. This may sound so ordinary to you. It will not be ordinary in the end.

I just read this morning in the newspaper online that there’s a all new wave of empty nesters moving downtown. You look at all these apartments that are being built down by the Guthrie and all over here. These are not just cool yuppies that are moving in. These are my age. Cool, downsizing into a two bedroom apartment on the 30th floor of that big apartment building faces over the Mississippi. Why not? Right? How lonely are they going to be?

I mean, if you live in Manhattan on the 35th floor, in a teeny little apartment, or you live in one of those things down there, you go month after month after month, in and out of that elevator and went off. And nobody invites you over. You wouldn’t even think of inviting anybody over. That’s weird. Don’t do that in Manhattan or Downtown Minneapolis. So I think Peter’s just saying, “Be radical. Be crazy radical with your house.”

You got a little? I mean, they sell apartments that are this wide in Manhattan, right? And you flop down on the bed, and a little microwave at the end, for $1000 a month. Two people can fit in there. Maybe even three. And I’m not thinking in bed either.

Survive by Loving Earnestly

It’s here. It’s in 1 John. The same thing is in 1 John. Loving each other earnestly from the heart and with our homes is an end-time radical lifestyle without which we won’t survive. So start now. Practice now. It’s pretty easy now. The days will come when somebody has to leave their home, and they’ll have no place to go but your house. So, get used to it.

Let’s see. This might be the right time to take the final break before the Q&A. “Love covers a multitude of sins.” I didn’t make that final connection. I said we need community more, we need each other more, and we make it harder to live together, because we sin against each other. And that’s why he draws attention to love covers a multitude of sins, I think. Keep loving each other, showing hospitality, because this love here is the only way you’re going to be able to survive the fact that you sin against each other.

A huge dimension of love is what Paul calls forbearance. Forgiveness and forbearance. Colossians, we’ll look at this and then take a break: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another” (Colossians 3:12–13).

Now that’s forbearance. Enduring is the word. Bearing with, enduring, forbearing one another. “And, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other” (Colossians 3:13). So humility, which is what 1 Peter 5 is going to close with, and all these are descriptions of love, does this: “bearing with one another.” And it does this: “forgiving one another.”

Communities cannot survive without both of those things. Families cannot survive without both. And here’s how they fit together. I could wish that in every relationship, church or home, forgiveness would solve all problems. You sin against me. You recognize your sin. Call it sin, name it. Ask for forgiveness. I forgive you. Restoration. Wonderful. It happens. It ought to happen.

Forgiving and Forbearing One Another

What if the person sinning against you does not think they’re sinning? When you tell them they’re sinning and they’re offended, is it over? Is the relationship over? Or is there another category? There is another category. That’s that right there. It’s forbearance. I will bear you. I will bear with you. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things. What is that? Bears all things? Because we can’t get it worked out with forgiveness. We just see things so differently, right? So you bear with it. That’s the only way families, churches, survive.

So Peter says, “Keep loving one another earnestly, because love covers so many things.” You just say, “Okay, I’m going to cover it. It’s not fixed. It’s not fixed. Forgiveness would fix it, but it isn’t fixed. It’s just covered, that’s all.” Community depends on that as well.