1 Corinthians 7:25-31 – “Now concerning virgins, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that, in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a virgin marries, she does not sin. Yet those who marry will experience distress in this life, and I would spare you that. I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.“
Regarding this passage, I want to address the “end is near” mentality that often pervades Christian teaching. Paul (writing almost two thousand years ago) stated that “in view of the impending crisis, it is well for you to remain as you are . . . the present form of this world is passing away.”
The overarching message of this passage has to do with not getting too attached to matters of the world. The reason is that, spiritually, God has transported us to the reality of a time far into the future.
First look at 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!“
Now look at Revelation 21:1-5 – “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.‘”
The present world is passing away when seen from the perspective of this future world where our spiritual consciousness actually resides. When the present age is seen from that perspective, the two thousand years that have passed since Christ was on earth does not have to seem like such a long interval. A period of time, especially a difficult one, always seems longer when you are in the middle of it, or have just come out of it. But in our case, spiritually speaking, we are past it – way past it.
The death and resurrection of Christ was the climax of the eons, the turning point for humanity and all creation toward a redemptive destiny. Living beyond the climax of the eons, these are the “last days” for the world in its present form.
In the passage quoted at the top of this post, Paul’s message is that we should not make life “all about” matters of this world, whether it be marriage, moods, possessions, business, etc. Sometimes people think they have to get married because they think it’s just part of a normal life. Or people who are already married can get so carried away with certain issues within the marriage that they miss the bigger picture of life, which is essential to resolving whatever they’re going through. Or other people strive to maintain a certain mood in attempt to either master themselves or avoid being at odds with the prevailing sentiment.
However, when you see your life in this world from the perspective of the future reality that God has already placed in your spirit, you can feel liberated to pursue healthy desires in this world without having to worry about them consuming you. God has a purpose for us and works through these desires. The key is to know that we are just passing through this world; this is Phase 1 of our journey through the ages.
In the immediate context of this writing from Paul, the “impending crisis” he prophesies is probably the Jewish-Roman war of 66-73 A.D., with the destabilization of the Roman empire, natural disasters, epidemics, and persecution of Christians associated with the era surrounding that war. Jesus also prophesied about this era in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. But the perspective on life that Paul teaches is equally applicable to believers in the present day.