It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

(Stanley Troutman/Pool Photo via AP)

Doing this job, you tend to end up eyeballing the news and news sites for much of your time. If you aren’t careful, it can be pretty darn depressing. Things have been bad, but let’s be honest, it has been a while since they have been this bad. We have a down economy, a nation full of people who hate each other, and constant warnings that bird/bat/whatever flu is about to rise up in the thunderheads over the horizon and lay us all low. Even conservatives and Christians can’t get together on a single page. If you prefer DeSantis over Trump, you’re a RINO. If you prefer Trump over DeSantis, you’re an idiot. “The Chosen” is either the greatest boon to faith since the First Council of Nicaea or a thinly disguised heresy. The revival at Asbury is the start of another Great Awakening or a gathering of well-meaning, easily deluded people who are stuck in cultural Christianity and seeker-sensitive theology. The great news is, whatever side you pick, someone will be lurking in a comments section somewhere to tell you how wrong you are! Awesome! And of course, none of that is counting the civil unrest, rising crime rate, the WEF, the move toward digital currency, accusations of the pope going all-in with Muslims to create a one-world religion, AI, or the threat of nuclear war (which seems to be increasing by the day).

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Yep, it’s looking pretty bleak. Depending on your worldview, we’re all doomed or about to be raptured. Well, at least some of us. I suppose that is why when I sort of tripped over an article titled “Are We Living in the Last Days?” on the website Politicrossing, I took a few minutes to give it a read. The author of the piece, Chris Widener, is convinced that we are indeed in the last days. God is giving us the proverbial Cosmic Last Call.* He lists Matthew 24:6-8, Timothy 3:2-4, and Ezekiel 37:21 as some of the scriptures supporting this assertion. And for all I know, he may be right. But he also adds the wise caveat that we are not to act as if we are living in the End Times.

Years ago I interviewed Frank Turek, who helms an apologetics ministry called CrossExamined. Even back before the rise of BLM, Antifa, the days of economic misery, and what seems to be impending global collapse, annihilation, or tyranny, it was obvious we were moving in a very bad direction. I asked Frank why God seemed content to let the world careen out of control and when he thought God might finally step in and call a halt to the madness. Of course, no one can accurately predict that, no matter how many times they have pored over Revelation, or any of the other prophecies, or how skilled they are at Gematria, which is the practice of finding coded messages in the original text of the Old Testament. Even if they have studied the Book of Jubilees, Enoch, and all of the “lost” books of the Bible and have the blood moons all charted, there is still no way to be 100% sure. Frank was, well, frank with me. He said, “We don’t know when Jesus is coming back. It may be tomorrow; it may be nine thousand years from now.”

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Related: Miami Herald Warns That Christian Rhetoric Could ‘Mobilize Fringe Mobs’

Nine thousand years is a long time to wait. And after a day of watching the news and surfing the web, tomorrow may seem like a long time to wait, too. But Jesus makes a point of not telling people when The End will actually be. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:36-38. We are usually content to go with, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” The idea being that the world was irredeemably fallen in Noah’s time and that we are faced with the same situation today. But if we read further Jesus says, “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.” In other words, when the flood came, people were going about their everyday lives, with no clue about what God had in store for them. The world being evil in this particular case is not the warning. The warning is that those people had no idea what was coming and were going about business as usual when disaster hit. A bit further down he says:

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

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Of course, countless people have spent countless hours over many years showing how the events in Revelation were unfolding right that very minute and the end was nigh. But the end has been nigh for a while now. Of course, Revelation ends with an angel speaking directly to John with words from the Lord:

 Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Many Christians have believed for years that Jesus was coming soon. But another, albeit less popular translation is: “Look, I am coming unexpectedly!” So you may sit down with a cup of coffee in the morning to scroll through your feeds, only to learn that it is Go Time. Or you may not. As Turek said, it may be tomorrow or nine thousand years from now.  So what are we to do?

Well, if you think about it, if the only goal of our existence is to secure a prime spot at the heavenly banquet, it seems highly illogical that God would plop us down on the earth. Why not just keep us in Heaven? Why fret (or rejoice) over the headlines, or kick each other’s shins over matters of doctrine or, God help us, what Bible translation one uses? Are we not meant for more? I ask myself that question from time to time, and when I do, I remember this little story from my youth.

Back when I was studying to be a priest, the priest supervising me took me to an Eastern Orthodox Church. Lent and Easter are later for the Eastern church than the western, and the Orthodox church was still in the midst of Lent even after we had already celebrated Easter. They were having an open house of sorts, and my priest thought we should go. Kind of a student exchange program, if you will. I forget the context, but the Orthodox priest told the following story, which I have adapted.

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There were once three monks. One had been at the monastery for a long time and was well-versed in the ways of the order. The second was the Abbott, who was the head of the monastery. The third was a novice, who had joined just a few months prior.

They had been working in the vegetable garden that morning and were taking a break from their labors. The talk shifted over to what each one would do if they knew for certain that Jesus was coming back in the next 30 minutes. The veteran monk said “I would go to the chapel and pray. That way, when the Lord returned he would find me at prayer and worthy to enter Heaven.” And everyone thought that was a good answer. Then the Abbott said, “I would also go to the chapel and pray, But first, I would go to confession, That way, when the Lord returned, he would find me at prayer and with a clean soul.” And everyone thought that was an even better answer.

Then the two looked at the novice and asked him what he would do. The novice said, “I would go and clean the toilets.” Of course, the other two laughed at him and said “Are you out of your mind? Why would you do that? It isn’t like the Lord will need to make a pit stop. Why would you swab out the urinals with our Lord on the way?”

The novice replied, “In half an hour, it will be 11:00. At 11:00 every day, I go and clean the toilets. That is the work I have been given to do. And when our Lord comes back, that is what I want him to find me doing – the work I have been given to do.”

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In Colossians 3:23 we read: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” May your hands find work that is pleasing to God and that builds up the Kingdom. And may you sleep this night in peace, no matter what the headlines say.

*When I was a waiter, I loved last call. It meant the workday was almost over. And I could finally sit down and rest and have a cold one. Often, the phrase “You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here” has been added over the years. Somewhat apropos, for this topic.

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