It seems pretty clear that something more is going on in the world today. Wars breakout with Twitter support, massive earthquakes are a regular occurrence, storms and floods, tsunamis, tornados, fires and record heat and cold. What’s going on and what should we do about it?
Well the first thing is that we should be shocked, even horrified. This is not math, it’s humanity. These people in Haiti, New Zealand, North Africa, Australia and now Japan are real people, with families and hopes and dreams, they fall in love, they feel loss, they feel pain, just like you and I; if we don’t respond with compassion, prayer and help then what are we?
Then once we have cried and prayed and helped as much as we can, we need to make sense of it. Perhaps we do need to jump to conclusions, but let’s make sure they are the right ones.
Many people will say that these are the signs of the end that Jesus predicted in Matthew 24, I don’t think so. In Matthew 24 Jesus says that we will hear of “wars and rumors of wars,” and that, “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.”
Does that sound pretty accurate so far? What we are seeing seems to be what he’s speaking about I think. Well then let’s be very careful about doing what He suggests we do. Clearly Jesus is speaking into our present, and what we are to do about it, so what does he say? “See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.”
Oh; we should NOT be alarmed, these things are NOT signs of the end… well then if these are not signs of the end then what on earth are they? And how far is the end?
It is possible, I believe, to be shocked and even horrified, but not alarmed. We must learn that kind of level headedness in the midst of tragedy and devastation. There is very good reason why these things must occur, and they are horrific, but they are not the end; and tragedy is the only means by which we can become aware of all that we take for granted.
tragedy is the only means by which we can become aware of all that we take for granted.
These things, says Jesus, are the “beginnings of the birth pains?”
It reminds me so much of what Churchill said early on in the War against Fascism which ravaged Europe, and the world. “This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, it is perhaps the end of the beginning.”
Jesus uses a very real example to illustrate what it is that we are experiencing, this is the beginning of the beginning of something entirely new, it is like a woman in the early stages of labor, He says. Let us not give in to fear, let us not be tempted to bow to Fate and Luck as the Israelites did (Isa 65:11). Let us not forsake our LORD and His holy mountain (which, by the way, has nothing to do with any location in the Middle East).
Now, being male, I have ever experienced labor pains but I understand that they are extreme, that women in labor so often what to send the object of birth back to where she or he came from.
But not too long after the pain (relatively speaking) she experiences a beginning, not an end. She see’s something new come to life, not something old fall away. And the relief she experiences is not just an end to her pain. The relief is said to be more intense than the labor, and this must be so because most women have more than one child.
And that is what Jesus says we are to expect.
The reason why I’m making this point is because we have the tendency to panic, and we Christian humans have panicked before. We have failed to read Matthew 24 accurately, or else we have failed to believe it. We have jumped to the wrong conclusion.
JN Darby in the mid 1800’s picked a particularly panicky time to throw a cat among the pigeons. Dispensationalism was born under very similar circumstances to what we are experiencing today. Revolutions were popping up in Europe, monarchies were collapsing in favor of these democratic governments. Nations were still reeling after Napoleon’s meteoric and bloody ascent. Economies were teetering slavery had just been abolished and almost every Christian expected something cataclysmic to happen.
Many Christians have been under this delusion since those days, we have been predicting and expecting things to get worse and worse till the end, but it seems that Jesus expects them to get a whole lot better, Jesus expects His Church to have the resources to preach the gospel everywhere before the end.
Now, this is just the beginning of the labor, Christians will still be persecuted, treachery will still run both deep and wide. Hatred must still become the overriding action of the world religion of ‘Tolerance’. Some will abandon Christ, and lots more cults will develop with false promises from false prophets. Wickedness will increase, societies will collapse and love will grow cold in the hearts of most people.
But not all people. The glowing embers of love and family and community will remain, and they will grow into a warm bonfire again. Some will love their neighbors more than they tolerate their bad ideas.
And this gospel will not only reach the ends of the earth, it will succeed! It will breakdown philosophies and ideologies and cultures and the demons who rule them, it will set people free and it will be proved right; not by force but by love. It will succeed where every other worldview and ideology and government has failed. Yet it will be neither a system nor a government.
God is going to use this generation, maybe the next and the next after that, to bring into existence a joy beyond comparison. A millennial reign of peace and prosperity. Some see it as Christ reigning with the Church, others see it as Christ reigning through the Church. Either way there is no denying that the best is yet to come.
So don’t give up, fatalism is not a biblical option, and whatever you do don’t panic!