When the pandemic hit, I went into a temporary panic. But not for the reasons you might suspect. I wasn’t worrying about masks, vaccines, or lockdowns. Rather, I saw the world falling apart around me and I wondered if it indicated a final slide into the eschatological final moments of Bible prophecy. And instead of being joyful at the soon return of Jesus, I found myself incredibly anxious about the end times.
Maybe you can relate.
You think of the tribulation, the mark of the beast, or the antichrist and you feel your anxiety rising. If your journey with religious OCD has also made you obsessive and anxious about the end times, this article is for you!
How Can I Prepare for the End Times?
There are many end-time views in the Christian church. We hear talk of a pre-trib rapture, a mid-trib rapture, a post-trib rapture, a literal and visible coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation, or even an unseen spiritual coming.
People with scrupulosity who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture tend to be the ones who are anxious about the rapture happening without their knowledge (hence, they’ll grow anxious if they can’t get in touch with their spouse or if they wake up from a nap and find themselves alone in the house). People with scrupulosity who believe that we’ll be on this earth during the time of trouble tend to worry more about how we’ll survive the coming crisis. One sweet lady told me last week about how she developed end-time obsessions about whether or not she needed to have a gun or learn hand-to-hand combat for the tribulation. Another woman messaged me, fearful that she might take the mark of the beast to feed her family.
I can deeply empathize.
I’m embarrassed to admit, but during 2020 I became temporarily addicted to survival videos. I was anxious to know how to forage food, how to build an emergency shelter, and how to find clean drinking water. It took a little while for me to realize that the anxiety monster was at work. I actually bought a survival knife, just in case things went south faster than expected.
Oh faithless, anxious me!
Looking back to 2020, I am reminded of Jesus’ words to His disciples on the night they would forsake Him. Gently, He asked them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they said.
But now, Jesus saw with discerning eye that his disciples would forsake Him and flee. They would fail to trust Him in the crisis, preferring to rely on themselves rather than on the Lord who had always provided for them.
So this time, Jesus changed His advice.
In times of trust He could send them out with nothing, and they would be safe. But in times of self-reliance, they ought to prepare. He said, “…now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one” (Luke 22:35-36).
My survival knife has now become symbolic of my own self-reliance.
This passage is one of the reasons why I don’t believe Christians should prep, stockpile, or arm themselves for the end times. Of course, if you enjoy a self-sufficient, homesteading lifestyle for other reasons (and there are many!) then it’s still a great idea to have a pantry full of home-grown canned goods and other stocks that will help you be self-sufficient. If you enjoy hunting, I don’t see anything wrong with having guns.
But if we as Christians are hiding in cement bunkers and learning hand-to-hand combat in preparation for the time of trouble, we have chosen the path that leads away from trust. Our preparation for the end times should be internal: the preparation of the heart.
3 Ways We Can Stop Being Anxious About the End Times
The readers of this blog come from a very broad spectrum of faith backgrounds, and each one comes with slightly (or majorly) different understandings of what the end of the world will be like. Although it would certainly be fun and interesting to discuss prophetic details, our first business is our mental health. If you’re so anxious about the end times that you’re hyperventilating over the antichrist passages, frankly, you don’t need a lecture on prophecy right now.
You need love, understanding, self-care, and a bit of help reconnecting with God’s heart for His beloved children.
I think most of us would agree on the broad contours. Our world is fallen. Jesus is coming back to earth. There will be destruction. Saints will be saved. Sinners won’t be. Jesus will make all things new.
This is incredible, fantastic news! This world is not the end of the story. Jesus is returning for us! He will recreate a planet that far outshines the beauty of Eden. Praise God!
We want to look forward to this time with joy and expectation, not fear. Let’s see three mindsets that can help us avoid being anxious about the end times.
Relying on God’s Wisdom Above Our Own
A segment of 1 John addresses a problem that was bothering the early Christians: how could they identify the antichrist? How could they be safe from deception? John begins by outlining the reality of the situation: there is a lot of deception going around.
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.1 John 2:18-19
John says these antichrists originated in the church community, but they left it, thus manifesting that they were not truly of Christ’s fold. This must have been incredibly confusing for the early church. If you’ve ever been through a painful church split, especially one that occurs over doctrine, you know how tough this can be.
John says that the appearance of antichrists indicates that we live in the last hour. Is there confusion all around? Then God’s word rings true. But it is not a reason for us to be anxious about the last days, because the very next verse gives a beautiful promise.
An Anointing from Above
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.1 John 2:20-21
Wow! In the context of having discernment in the end times, I’m told that I have an anointing from God which causes me to know all things.
I don’t know “all things” in a scientific or omniscient sense. I know nothing about black holes or nuclear physics or the price of tea in China. But because I am intimately, relationally connected to the source of all wisdom, I have the assurance that I know and will know everything that is necessary for my salvation.
…His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…2 Peter 1:3
I “know all things” and I “have all things” in a spiritual sense. In all things that “pertain to life and godliness,” God’s Spirit teaches and gives me exactly what I need. Just as Jesus sent His disciples out with no food, no extra clothing, and no weapon, we are called upon to recognize the all-sufficiency of God in our lives.
Do we spend countless hours ruminating and anxiously searching the internet for answers to our end-time fears? Do we binge watch apocalyptic videos and “grade” ourselves on how ready we think we are? Do we stockpile? (No, I don’t condemn picking up an extra pack of toilet paper, but if you’ve got 144,000 rolls of toilet paper in your underground bunker, it’s probably too much. Don’t forget that hoarding is a form of OCD, too!)
These are all forms of self-reliance which blind us to the bounty we already have in Christ.
Divine Wisdom for the End Times
Paul wrote about the divine gift of knowledge that surpasses human understanding. He wrote,
But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,1 Corinthians 2:9
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Wow! God is preparing such amazing, beautiful things for me that I cannot even imagine them. But…perhaps I can sense them in part through God’s Spirit. The passage goes on to say,
…But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.1 Corinthians 2:10-12
The unseeable, the unknowable, the all-mysterious wisdom that has been hidden from ages past is accessible to us through Jesus Christ. Is there a way to be any safer?
My conviction is that we will not always be cognizantly aware of the moments when God is imparting His wisdom to us. I don’t look for “impressions” or “promptings.” I don’t listen to the date setting of “secret” Bible timelines or conspiracy theories. I don’t tune into any shouting YouTube preachers who claim to be able to tell me who’s saved or not.
These are all human forms of wisdom. They’re inaccurate, and they make us anxious about the end times. It’s better for me to lean on God’s wisdom rather than human wisdom.
Think of it this way. When I go for a walk with my husband, we usually hold hands while we stroll and talk. Because I’m holding his hand and focusing on what he’s saying, I often don’t even realize where our walk has led us until we get there! In the same way, when we focus on abiding in Christ, He will lead us where we need to go.
We won’t need to anxiously plan how we’ll have food during the tribulation. We won’t need to think about pain and persecution. We’ll be focused on our Lord, who promised to “save us to the uttermost.”
Beware of False Prophets
My second suggestion for being less anxious about the end times is to remember Jesus’ instruction to beware of false prophets. He said,
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.Matthew 7:15-17
Many people with scrupulosity have taken this passage about “fruit” to refer to themselves. We start an elaborate fruit inspection process to see if we are bearing enough fruit for God’s glory. We cringe when the passage goes on to speak about the non-fruit-bearing trees that are cast down and thrown into the fire! Eeek!
But context is king.
The fruit tree passage is speaking about religious leaders, who are held to an immensely high standard in God’s eyes. We can also look at Ezekiel 34, an allegorical illustration in which Israel’s religious leaders are compared to “shepherds” who have “scattered” God’s flock, eaten their flesh, and refused to care for them properly. In this context, God does not judge the sheep for being scattered and confused; instead, He claims He will judge the false shepherds for their wrongdoing and He will come to gather His lost sheep.
Nevertheless, Jesus warned us to beware of those who would like to scatter us with false ideas.
What do false teachers do that helps us know to avoid them? Well, Scripture tells us exactly how we can “test the spirits.”
Testing the Spirits
The Bible gives us a comprehensive list for testing wannabe prophets to see if they’re legit. For sake of time, I will only list them here with the Bible reference. Then I will elaborate on just one of them that I think has particular relevance to the end-time stir that many people experienced over the last few years.
The tests of true prophets include:
- They will have visions and/or dreams (Numbers 12:6)
- They will give a message that harmonizes with the Bible (Isaiah 8:20)
- They will confess Jesus Christ (1 John 4:1-3)
- They will speak words that edify the church (1 Corinthians 14:3,4)
- They will not use miracles or signs to persuade us to disobey God (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)
- Their private life will bear good fruit to God’s glory (Matthew 7:15-20)
- Their prophetic predictions will come true (Deuteronomy 18:22)
Do Their Predictions Come True?
The test that I would like to speak about in more detail is this last one–the test that says a true prophet’s predictions will come true. The Bible says,
…when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.Deuteronomy 18:22
Of all the tests in this list, this one is probably most applicable to what our world saw in 2020 and 2021.
If someone predicts an event in the name of God, and it doesn’t come to pass, according to Scripture we would call this person “presumptuous.” We would move on with life and not fear or regard anything that the person says. We would consider him just a regular dude, not someone who has the prophetic gift.
What I would like to say next is probably a very sensitive thing, so I will tread carefully. Politically enthusiastic readers, feel free to stone me in the comments if you would like, but please do so gently, because I say this gently: there were a lot of false prophecies happening around the time of the 2020 election and the pandemic.
Things were predicted that did not come true. Most of these predictions were given by conservatives who couched their political ideas in highly religious language. When the election did not turn out the way many people expected, the contours of the prediction were changed. Some people have since prophesied that the current president will die in office; others have suggested that the “real” president was actually coronated and crowned in heaven’s eyes. Pastors predicted over and over again that the coronavirus was going to disappear, that the tide was turning. They prophetically “blew” the “wind of God” on the virus or declared its immediate demise in God’s name.
But God allowed the course of events to continue.
If we look at false prophecies throughout history, we see a common pattern of reinterpretation after the prediction fails. It’s a long, drawn-out attempt to avoid the embarrassment of admitting, “I was wrong.”
It’s true that there are some Christian leaders who got caught up in the emotional fervor and made predictions that they later apologized for and retracted. I can respect these individuals. We all make mistakes and I think it’s a symbol of spiritual maturity to be able to publicly admit public mistakes and try to reverse the impact you’ve made. But there are still plenty of teachers trying to milk their failed prophecies for all they’re worth. These are people we may wish to reconsider: should we still listen to them? Should we still follow them online?
I can remember an experience that happened when I was 15.
I was on a summer trip to the midwest with students from various Christian academies. Once, while we attended church during our travels, we heard a preacher talking about the end of the world. He set up a flip chart and used colored markers to make diagrams and calculations. He calculated the amount of oil left on the planet and reminded us that nothing in the world can run without oil. (This was before renewable energy hit the mainstream).
According to his calculations, there was less than a decade of oil left for extraction anywhere on the planet. After that point, production factories would stop running, delivery trucks would be useless, and the world would be plunged into an economic crisis. Famine, war, and disease would quickly follow, which would pave the way for the coming of Jesus.
It all made terrifying sense to my 15-year-old mind.
We had less than a decade remaining! I felt a trickle of fear but also a surge of excitement. The preacher, of course, was totally misguided in his predictions, but I didn’t realize that. (And God used the situation for good; it was that summer that I bought a cute little pocket Bible and began having personal devotions without an adult telling me to do so. Even after the intensity of the presentation wore off, the spiritual discipline stayed.)
I know what it’s like to listen to fascinating predictions and get caught up in the fervor. I also know the crushing confusion and disappointment that can come afterwards.
The Bible tells us that “we have the prophetic word confirmed” (2 Peter 1:19). God has already given us the broad contours of the end times. He gave this to us in His Word. It leads me to ask a crucial question: why are there so many prophetic voices that arise in times of world crisis? Is it because human nature hates uncertainty? Do we get caught up with mesmerizing speakers who promise to tell us the future because we can’t trust God in our unknowns?
God promised to take us through to the end. We should put every prophetic voice through a severe wringer of prophetic tests to make sure their words are worth hearing. Otherwise, we may be setting ourselves up to be even more anxious about the end times.
Many zealous teachers have tended towards end-time fear-mongering. I believe this is incredibly unhealthy. Jesus taught about the end of the world with a sense of urgency and seriousness, but always with reminders of His love and protection.
Jesus warned us, but not in a fear-mongering way. “Perfect love casts out fear.” It has never been on His agenda for us to spend our days and nights being obsessively anxious about the last days.
False prophecy is one cause for our anxiety. Let’s not get so caught up in the emotion of the moment or hooked with attachment to a spiritual leader that we forget to think critically. Let’s not binge watch sensational YouTube preachers who are trying to get clicks with their fear-mongering video titles. This is only adding to our anxiety.
Understanding God’s Heart
A third way we can avoid being anxious about the end days is by understanding God’s heart. I mentioned that briefly a moment ago, but it deserves an entire section.
God Himself, the source of all wisdom, shares willingly with us. His heart is eager for our salvation. He tells us all we need to know.
Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.John 14:1-4
There is no confusing labyrinth or wormhole we must discover in order to make it safely through the end times. Jesus said we know the way.
The Day of the Lord
Watch what Paul says about the day of the Lord. At first, he presents a dramatic description of the day of the Lord coming as a thief in the night–but then he follows this with a deeply comforting reference to how God’s people will experience it.
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.1 Thessalonians 5:1-5
Yes, the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night–but for whom? Not for us. According to Paul, we are not in darkness. We will not be surprised. Our very identity as “sons of light and sons of the day” means we are so connected to the kingdom of light that it will be natural for us to go the right way.
Why does God bother to tell us this comforting news? Because He doesn’t want us to be anxious.
You know that feeling you get when you’re in a public restroom stall that doesn’t latch properly? You’re trying to finish your business really quickly because you can hear people moving around and you dread someone popping in on you.
So often, that’s how we feel about Jesus’ coming. We think He’s going to catch us with our pants down, embarrassed and unprepared. Perhaps we imagine Him purposely flinging stall doors open, as if catching us in a state of unpreparedness is the whole point of the game.
But the Second Coming is not a game. He’s not playing with us. He has promised that, through His grace and His grace alone, we will be prepared. We will know the way. We will not be overtaken as by a thief. Thus, we should not be anxious about the end times.
The Ten Virgins
Jesus told a parable about ten virgins who were waiting for the bridegroom. While they waited, all ten grew weary and slept. At midnight, the cry was heard, “Behold, the bridegroom is coming! Go out to meet him!” The virgins all woke up.
The difference between the wise and the foolish virgins was the oil that the wise virgins had in their lamps. In Scripture, oil often is a symbol to represent the Holy Spirit.
I doubt that their retention of the oil of the Holy Spirit gave them a sense of superiority. They, too, fell asleep. They, too, made mistakes like the others. I’m sure they had nothing to brag about, and perhaps they keenly felt their inadequacies and their need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. But nevertheless, they had the oil. They had that connection.
How do we experience this?
I can guarantee it’s not going to be through high-flying religious euphoria and good feelings. It’s not going to be anything that makes you shine your fingernails against your shirt and congratulate yourself for your spiritual maturity.
Having oil in your lamp probably looks more like the quiet, consistent effort of surrender, faith, and dependence. It probably looks like spiritual disciplines–prayer, Bible study, acts of love–even when we feel spiritually desolate and forsaken.
When the bridegroom comes, the mighty midnight cry will awaken us, and we will take our place in the marriage feast–not because of any rumination we’ve been doing to “figure things out” beforehand, but because of the divine miracle of God’s Spirit living in us.
Anxious About the End Times: Conclusion
When we understand God’s heart for us, when we take care to avoid false prophecies, and when we rely on God’s wisdom above our own, we will lay a good foundation to avoid being anxious about the end times.
God’s perfect love casts out fear. He doesn’t need us to fearfully anticipate trouble that may never come to us.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.Matthew 6:34
Let’s put our focus on today, today, today.
Yesterday is gone forever. Tomorrow may not come. All we have is today–and what a gift it is!
When we yoke ourselves to Jesus, He bears the burden and the weight–that is why His yoke is easy on us. The easiness of the end of the world is remembering that in Christ, we know all things. In Christ, we can bear all things. In Christ, we will wake up and trim our lamps.
Jesus Christ is all in all.
When He told His disciples, “where I go you know, and the way you know,” Thomas disagreed. He said, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
Like us, doubting Thomas protested that he didn’t feel very secure about this whole narrative about escaping a doomed planet.
Jesus responded with words that have since become emblazoned in the Christian consciousness.
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'”
Passing through the end times is not an exercise in self-protective omniscience; it is an exercise of trust. May we face our end-time fears in the comfort of Jesus’ arms, pressing in closer and ever closer each day. He is the Way we will be ready for His coming.
And He is the Way to stop being anxious about the end times.
Best wishes on the journey,