Not a day or week goes by when I don’t hear mention of someone suggesting, “We’re living in the End Times, Last Days.” The controversy and agro around Covid is a sign, is the implication.
In Christian theology the end times is when the world as we know it ends and God will judge all of creation. The Book of Revelation (the last book of the Bible) contains the most information on this topic recorded by John in revelatory dreams and visions – often complex and open to multiple interpretations. Preachers of a certain mindset have had a great time declaring what they mean and how the end of the world is upon us. Much nonsense has cluttered the airwaves as they have made a living on fearmongering, having the inside scoop, and threatening people with a ‘turn or burn in hell’ manifesto. It can be ugly stuff in the wrong hands, this talk of judgement and the end times.
The problem is that those who solemnly declare that the end of the world is upon us invariably imply that God is going to judge all those who disagree with them, because we are on his side and you’re not. God becomes this vicious pit-bull who loves nothing more than to cast bad people into Dante’s inferno and relegate the wicked to the burning fires of hell.
I think that the Last days/End times is God’s worst nightmare. A conclusion to creation that is probably unavoidable, but a reality that even though it is part of his creation, is not something he delights in or anticipates with joy. Listen to Peter’s words in the third chapter of his second letter.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
God desires everyone to know his love and kindness. For him, to lose even one person is like a father or mother losing their dearest most beloved son or daughter. It’s why we are told by John that God so loved the world that he sent his son, Jesus, as the fullest revelation of his goodness the world will ever see. The greatest deception and falsehood about God’s character and nature is the one where he is portrayed as angry, vindictive, and punishing. Yes, he is powerful, hates evil, and is grieved by the violence and corruption destroying his creation – but he loves people; each one of us as his favorite child. So when any one rebels or distances themselves from him, he grieves and calls them lost – and he sends out a search party (meant to be the church and Christians).
The disciples thought they were living in the ‘end times’ when Jesus became known to them as the Messiah. Their conversation is recorded in Matthew 24 where Jesus describes chaos and tribulation on earth. He warns that there will be much deception and many false claims. He also says: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
His tone is not angry or triumphant, merely a sober warning. God is truth and ultimately holds the universe in his hands. His love in Jesus is genuine, expressed with profound grace, patience, kindness, and mercy to every human being.
For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”
In the 1970’s a cool long haired Christian dude called Larry Norman wrote a song about Christ’s second coming, using Jesus’ words from the quote above. Again, his tone is filled with sorrow at the thought of some being left behind.
It is my prayer that Christians will stop using angry words and misapplied teachings from Jesus to beat others up. It is not God’s way at all. Love and kindness draw people to the revelation of where they have gone wrong or made bad choices. The majority, like I have been at times, are blind, sincerely misguided, and in need of a friend to bring hope. The only people who Jesus really became angry with were the religious leaders. Precisely because they were heaping burdens of judgement on people rather than lovingly serving them as a sign of God’s unconditional love and grace.
Yes, there’s much wrong with the world, the church, and you and me. Anger, wagging accusatory fingers, and threatening a violent end times is not the answer. It wasn’t in Jesus’ day and it is not today. As he is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, so is his love, his sacrificial witness to truth, and his refusal to avoid the Cross. I’ve always believed that spending time worrying about the End Times is a waste of time. Far better to focus on today and how God wants me to live among others today as a testimony of his relevance, reality, and presence. That’s more than enough to keep me busy for the my entire life – the rest is in his hands.
Here’s Larry Norman’s song.