After Church: The End Times (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Them and Just Be a Christian)

Honestly, I never quite got the hoopla over “The End Times”, so called in capital letters because they are Urgent and Important. It’s not that I don’t recognize them as a reality; surely, some cataclysmic event WILL happen at the end of time according to God’s will. At that time, we’ll see a reformation of the whole creation into God’s original desire, and perhaps one better! As Ben Myers, theology blogger, says in his Theology for Beginners:

At the End, God deifies all creatures by raising them up to participate in the movement of his own life; thus we are summoned to join with all creatures in the harmonious symphony of God’s triune love.

Living in God’s grace is easy; it’s obedience that is the hard part. God will take care of the end, so why worry about it? In Mark 13 (and the other Synoptics, though this would appear to be the origins of said verses anyway), Jesus does talk about this quite clearly:

28 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door.

So we learn that we will be able to detect when it is near. Of course, how many people in recent times have you heard claim that, indeed, they’re upon us? Have false prophets and messiahs emerged in such numbers that we see them everywhere? Do we hear of wars and rumors of wars? Earthquakes, famines? Sure, we’ve seen all these things, but so has the rest of history. I think what we’re talking about here is a totally different course from the normal procedure of history. These events would be completely out of the ordinary; as it is, the world hasn’t collapsed yet.

Nor has Christians been arrested in the modern world for their beliefs in the same numbers that they were during the Roman Empire – which later converted to Christianity! Brothers have not betrayed each other to death, fathers haven’t gone against children, nor have children put their parents to death. Many have seen Mark 13 as an allusion to the fall of Jerusalem in the later first century, and portions of this chapter strike that tone quite clearly. Still, let’s assume for example’s sake that this is the end times. The point I’m making is: these “predictions” could be applied to any period in history.

 30 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. 32 But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

And there you go: even Jesus doesn’t know when it’s going to happen. It should be obvious that, because He doesn’t know, that we won’t know either. No specific date has been given, and nothing but warnings to remain vigilant:

33 “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. 34 It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. 35 Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’”

Paul makes a similar remark in 1 Thessalonians 5:

Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.

The “day of the Lord”, so to speak, is shrouded in mystery to the best of us. Nobody can claim any further knowledge than what’s in the actual book? Right?

Well, apparently, many of us didn’t get this clear memo, for we continually try to figure out when it’s going to end. From Harold Camping to those signs strewn about my region that say the Rapture will happen in 1992 (well, we’re twenty years out and waiting), there’s been a continual fascination with the End Times. Even Paul thought it was coming soon, and did it happen in his lifetime? No, it did not. Paul was still human, and Jesus was human (as well as God) – how much better do you think we know?

Barring a prophetic announcment that we can confirm shares some real similarities with it, most of these “eschatological” experts focus on pushing an agenda. They take prophecies made for other times and places out of their context, and given how vague they are (remember, they’re used for descriptive, imaginitive purpose so we can get the gist of it – not necessarily as keys to find particular dates), you can force anything you want into the framework.

As a recent example, we have The Daniel Project. Teaching a class at church, people recommended this film to me. Hey it’s on Netflix Instant Queue – this can’t be bad, right?

WRONG. YOU ARE DEAD WRONG.

Do you know what doesn’t count for an argument? Showing people a picture of a lake, and then attaching a Bible verse about water to it with dramatic music playing in the background. Apparently the “host” of said documentary was a skeptic, but apparently he’s an actor hired to be a skeptic. I’ll show you one of these “claims”: first, they use Deuteronomy 28:64-66 as a prediction of the Jewish dispersion:

64 Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known. 65 Among those nations you shall find no rest, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul. 66 So your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you will be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life.

Sounds pretty convincing, right? Well, I just prefaced it with the prediction, so you’re obviously going to be thinking about said verse with that in mind. Boom, you’re convinced! Of course, they leave out the latter half:

67 In the morning you shall say, ‘Would that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Would that it were morning!’ because of the dread of your heart which you dread, and for the sight of your eyes which you will see. 68 The Lord will bring you back to Egypt in ships, by the way about which I spoke to you, ‘You will never see it again!’ And there you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer.”

Hey, remember the part when all the Jews were taken back to Egypt as slaves? Oh, that part’s now metaphorical? My bad! Seriously, this is the kind of reasoning you get: verses out of context, no historical background. It’s especially damning when they say “It’s irrational that people throughout history persecute Jews.” For thousands of years, people have been anti-Semitic (wrongly) based on the impression that the Jews (even though, really, it’s all people embodied in them, but this is a discussion for another time) killed Jesus – I’d say in a Christian nation, that’d be reason enough to kill them in return.

And, of course, Jewish hatred is mysterious, but the End Times are not. Talk about inconsistent criteria. It totally removes our focus from God and what God wants us to do. It’s a farce, and though we need to be prepared, it should motivate us to even greater action, not wasting our precious time on earth to figuring out when said earth will end. Do you really think God wants us to waste our time trying to figure out when it’s going to happen, or live with it in mind as a motivator to make ourselves more Christ-like?

Which do you think? Please tell me in the comments below (or in the forums above).

 

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.
  • Good stuff, Zach.
     
    I got pretty entrenched in eschatology for a little while. Oddly enough, I almost became a full-on Messianic Jew because of it. Then I realized that preoccupation with eschatology is the best way to miss the point of it. The questions of eternity get summed up in Jesus and His Kingdom. Not destruction futurism or any relative byproduct of John Nelson Darby or another ‘Eschatologist’. Totally miffed by the eschatology that wrongly shaped Americans in the early 1900s through the Skofield bible (and it’s commentary). But whatever. 
     
    The point is, we should look forward to Jesus’ return. And we should be living like Johnny Appleseed: scattering the Message of the Kingdom with joy and optimism.