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Sword & trowel: Apocalypse now?

Plagues and disease. Major events unfolding in the Middle East. Astronomical events in the skies. The upending of entire governments and social structures. It’s easy to see why many correspond these events to those described in the Book of Revelation and the end times.

The years I’m describing, however, are not 2020; I’m describing happenings or events surrounding the year 1000 A.D., as recalled by one historian.

There is a tendency of each generation to believe they are living in the last days. While Jesus Himself said “only the Father knows the day and the hour” of His return (Mark 13:32), Christians—Evangelicals in particular—are prone to interpret the end times and predict a date.

A new LifeWay Research poll showed “almost 9 in 10 pastors see at least some current events matching those Jesus said would occur shortly before He returns to Earth, according to a new survey focused on Christian eschatology.”

It’s certainly not a surprise that Christians see the end nearing (logically speaking, we are closer than we have ever been). All Christians eagerly await the Lord’s return, and it holds special meaning and hope amid challenging times. The heartbeat of Christianity is “Come, Lord Jesus.”

Yet if you could take a time machine and a language interpreter and go back to the Christians living around the year 1000 and tell them, “Hey guys, I know there’s a lot going on in the world. But there’s going to be at least another 1,020 years of human history unfold,” they might be shocked to hear that. I have heard others point this out as well.

For some people, an apocalyptic sense of urgency becomes, not a call to prayer and evangelism; it instead devolves into an excuse for either extreme actions or extreme inaction. What do I mean?

On extreme action, people will justify almost any behavior because they are in short-term survival mode. The things we say online, for example, related to politics are not taken with as great of care, because, win or lose, “we won’t have to deal with those people much longer anyway.”

On the other side, the apocalypse can become an excuse to avoid the long work of obedience. Why take time to repair a building, a budget, or a relationship; why start a new Christian institution or enterprise, if it’s all about to end anyway?

In the Greek poem “Waiting for the Barbarians,” we read of a people residing in a city, where everything has come to a halt because they are waiting for the barbarians to overtake them. The only problem: the barbarians never came.

The poem says, in part, “Why isn’t anything going on in the senate? Why are the senators sitting there without legislating? Because the barbarians are coming today. What’s the point of senators making laws now? Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.”

The poem ends with the powerful words, “Night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come. And some of our men just in from the border say there are no barbarians any longer. Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians? Those people were a kind of solution.”

Brothers and sisters, whether we are living in the last days or not, we cannot be lulled into inaction or extreme action in a sinful manner. Instead, Christians ought to do what we know to do. Live out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment with love and humility, as we advance the Gospel together. These are the great tasks given to us from Jesus.

Let’s each do our part, all while we wait, watch and pray for His return. Come Lord Jesus, come!

Brian Hobbs

Author: Brian Hobbs

Brian is editor of The Baptist Messenger.

View more articles by Brian Hobbs.

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