The one question extremely few would have answered correctly in June, 2015: Where do you see yourself in five years? A typical question asked by head-hunters or human resources’ interviewers, most would not have anticipated working from home, taking turns watching children who could not attend school, looking for work since so many jobs folded up for the duration of the pandemic, and changing routes to avoid rioting crowds in some cities.
Nine months into 2020, most of us would agree that this year has not gone according to our expectations. From a virus by multiple names from Wuhan to Covid-19, churches that cannot meet or even sing, riots and graffiti disparaging police, a run-up to an election that no one expects to solve anything — to wildfires and locust swarms, hurricanes and extreme deadly heat, the majority of the year has felt like a slow-motion lunge off a ladder face-first onto concrete..
Loneliness settled into some of the most disparaging situations as nursing home residents met the Spectre without even a loved one with whom to hold hands as Death ushered them into an even bigger unknown. Civil unrest erupted into violent lawlessness as BLM appropriated the protests over George Floyd’s death to foment destruction and mayhem, calling for the reorganizing of police the way Hitler did before consolidating his power in the Third Reich.
Some are speculating on whether the pandemic is judgement foretold in Revelation, one of the Four Horseman, perhaps. It has been said that while history does not actually repeat itself, it does rhyme. Such is the case with the current crises through which we are living. A careful reading of the end-time events described in John’s Apocalypse (aka Revelation) will suggest that “these are just the beginnings of birth pains.” There are more to come.
Dr. James Christie describes some of the events of the end of time with a wisdom born of one thoroughly steeped in Scripture and balanced in his understanding of how to disclose a complex piece of literature. I have referenced his work, The Gold Mine, before (), and now it just seems to become more relevant as the months crawl by. I encourage you to download it and read it as soon as possible!
So if we are facing a wrap up of this age, how much worse will things get before they finally get better? Well, things have been much worse at other times in history:
- the Crusades lasted almost 400 years from 1060 to 1430 killing hundreds of thousands in the name of God (on both sides of the Christian/Islamic divide).
- the Bubonic plague of the middle 1300s killed 40% of Egypt, 30% of the Middle East, and about half of the 100,000 people in Paris. The worst hit area was Mediterranean Europe, including Italy, Spain, and southern France. There, about 75% to 80% of the total populations died.
- sometimes called the War to End All Wars, or The Great War, WW1 resulted in 15,000,000 civilian and military deaths and precipitated the Spanish Flu which took another 40,000,000 lives around the world.
- Hitler’s regime murdered 6,000,000 Jews and hundreds of thousands of others in the POW camps, while 60,000,000 soldiers and civilians died on both sides of the avoidable conflict we know as WWII.
- Stalin forced starvation on an estimated 4,000,000 to 10,000,000 Ukrainians when food was scarce in the Soviet Union, but his campaign of Holodomor was entirely a political construct.
- the Chinese famine of ’58-’62 killed an estimated 45,000,000 people.
- in ’75-’79 the Kmer Rouge murdered between 2,500,000 and 3,000,000, sometimes simply because they wore glasses and were therefore suspected of being intellectuals who would oppose Pol Pot’s programs.
And this minuscule list only touches on the “big” man-made events of a few centuries and overlooks the natural disasters and calamities that have fallen on mankind for millennia; think Yellow River flood, Hurricane Katrina, Indonesian tsunami, California wildfires!
And even these do not account for the tremendous damage and suffering caused by Khans, emperors and despots, nor for harm caused by weapons of mass destruction and murder by chemical warfare. Nor does this list take into measure the economic and personal devastation of events such as the Crash of ’29 or the ethnic “cleansing” by almost every group who enjoyed a short season as the “preferred demographic.”
Yet the end times are described by Jesus as being something of a magnitude more! “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved.” (Matthew 24:21-22)
For the follower of Jesus, that is those who are His disciples, and not just “bench warmers” who attend church or have a statue at home, this would be a good time to refocus on how Father can take our struggles and turn them into triumph for His glory. This triumph may seem drowned out by the loud roar of life’s chaos but God’s sovereignty is never at stake, even if it feels like our plans are falling apart. In fact, it is often in the middle of the worst darkness that His goodness and grace can shine the brightest through us.
There are dark days ahead for the world, but “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment.” (2 Peter 2:9) So these are days that call for faith that Father knows what He is accomplishing as the timeclock for this age winds down. It is the opportunity to let our lights shine!
A friend told of some monks who were captured in WWII and put into a concentration camp. Their reaction was that of Christ’s followers: they simply proceeded to serve the new community they were among. And so it may be for some of us. We must be prepared to lose our lives for Jesus’ and righteousness’ sake, or we are clinging too tightly to something we will lose anyway! As Jim Elliott penned before giving his life to reach the Waorani Indians in Ecuador, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
We may not be called to reach hostile Indian tribes or remote island people like John Chau, but we may be called to reach out to our neighbors in love. Who is to say that the mission field might become dangerous in our cities and in our suburbs as people make politicians and “causes” their gods? The end is near, as I have noted in previous blogs, whether that is merely my end or the end of the age. It is certainly closer than when Jesus, Paul, Peter and John predicted it.
So Jesus’ main message was not get ready, not watch for world events, not identify the anti-Christ, not even attend church. His main message was: The Kingdom of God Is Near. BE ready! Now, where do you see yourself in five years?