Live for the Present, not the End

I used to be fascinated by the end of the world, the apocalypse, the end of days, whatever name you want to call it. I’ve poured over Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24 (which is also found in Luke 21 and Mark 13); the Book of Revelation, and scoured the prophets as well. I read the first twelve books of the left behind series, anticipated the four blood moons of 2014-2015, sneered at the date setting, and I was an avid watcher of end times teachers. For good measure, I tried to see how current events such as 9/11, the War on Terror, the rise of ISIS and certain world leaders fit into the prophetic timeline.

What I’ve learned: waiting for the end only hampers living in the present. As a Christian I know Jesus and other New Testament writers told us to watch for the signs, but I believe we should be more diligent in teaching and showing God’s grace to the world around us. Don’t let this present moment pass you by as you wait for a heaven that’s a lifetime away.

Apocalyptic teaching, of course is not unique to Christianity, as many religions, cults, sects, and cultures modern and ancient have anticipated some cosmic cataclysm to generate rebirth or to rewrite the wrongs and social ills of their respective societies. In an age of scientific understanding we know that eclipses, meteors, planetary alignments, earthquakes, tsunamis, and so on are all naturally occurring phenomena. In the past ages that had little or no scientific understanding, such events were attributed to the judgment of God or the gods upon society. Since many of our religions are based on these ancient texts and modes of thinking, we as a society still have these thoughts in a technologically advanced Twenty-First Century.

I believe we must take a more reasoned and logical approach in understanding the world around us. I’m not putting down anyone’s beliefs or discounting any sacred teaching, I’m just advocating that while we are “waiting for the end,” we make our current world the best it can be. A prime example is that we cannot trash our planet in the hopes of living on Mars or Jupiter, as those ideas may remain the dreams of science fiction.

As a church, we cannot find ourselves again on the wrong side of history when it comes to such things as civil rights, taking care of the less fortunate, the environment, and being the light of the world as Jesus said we should be. We have real issues that we must address. I have said in many blog posts before, I have no particular political affiliation-I’m not a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or anything like that. However, within the last forty years or so, many American Evangelical Christians have aligned themselves with political parties  who are against many of Jesus’ teachings- taking care of the sick, giving to the poor, elevating the status of women, recognizing those who have a different perceived social status, and just simply showing compassion to your fellow man, woman, and child. Many oppose how their tax dollars are spent, especially when it comes to social programs such as welfare, Obamacare, and other programs, yet fail to realize that the government has simply stepped in to fill the leadership void because a large majority of the church has been waiting for the imminent end of the world.

Let’s put aside the religious and political hostility and examine what is in our own hearts, casting the judgment on ourselves and not on our neighbors. To paraphrase Jesus, we have to stop picking the sawdust out of everyone’s eyes while we walk around with a two-by-four stuck  in our eyes. Let us love those who are different than us and step outside of our comfort zone. Two thousand years or more have passed since the end time discourses. I know the counter arguments about how the world had to catch up to God’s vision or  God’s measurement of time is different than ours, but we can find reason to rejoice in the present. We still have time to show love to our neighbors and try to have a little heaven on earth.


Be on Guard Against False Promises of Peace

Inscribed on a wall at the United Nations building is a quote taken from Isaiah 2:4: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” However, the verses proceeding Isaiah 2:4 are left out which state:

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, ‘Come ye, and let us up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.’ And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”  (Isaiah 2:2-4 KJV, italics mine).

Micah 4:1-3 has a parallel account to Isaiah’s writings. Though the United Nations uses the quote to emphasize its good intentions, true peace will not come from world government or by any means of man, but only by the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will rule in His millennial kingdom and forever after.

The United Nations is the second attempt to form a global government after the failed League of Nations. Formed in the aftermath of the atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, the United Nations has not prevented any wars from happening, as countless millions of people suffered and died at the hands of such dictators as Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Saddam Hussein to name a few. During the 21st Century, we have seen the global rise of terrorism, with such groups as Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and Isis, who have tortured, oppressed, and killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. The United Nations does not seemed poised to stop the unrest in the Middle East, the rise of a soon to be nuclear Iran, or Russia beginning to supplant the United States as the world’s dominant so called super power, as of this writing Russia is taking the lead with the crisis in Syria and seized Ukraine without opposition.

Jesus warned us that we would live in such times before His return:

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”  (Matthew 24:6-8, KJV).

As the Church, we must not be fearful of the times that we live in, but we must be on our guard against deception, whether it is from promises of peace and false teachers and messiahs. We must not grow weary from the trying times ahead, but we must keep our focus on Christ.

“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” (1 Thessalonians 3:3-6, KJV).

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my Name, saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many…And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:4-5, 11-13, KJV).

I believe our world’s current state of war and lawlessness is setting the stage for the final world dictator, the Antichrist. It is pointless to try to speculate as to the identity of the Antichrist, or the son of perdition, but we must be on guard in these Last Days. The Book of Revelation speaks of the apostate church at the time of the Antichrist, but now is the time for the true church of the Living God to rise up and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus warned us of tribulation, but our Lord has overcome this world. We have overcome because Christ has overcame sin, death, and hell. Now is the time to be watchful of the signs of Jesus’ coming and to rejoice in our salvation.

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:25-28, KJV).