“END TIMES” I have heard these words three times in last two days, not counting the email links, Facebook posts and texts from well-meaning family and friends. And I do understand where this is coming from. Indeed, the world is in crisis. And many of us instinctively feel the aura of foreboding engulfing the earth. No wonder we believe that this time is more terrible than it has ever been in all our long history as humans on this planet. But is this true?
I personally believe there is nothing new under the sun. [Eccl. 1:9] Human beings have been fearful of death, global annulation, or a Biblical Apocalypse for centuries. In New Testament times most early Christians believed the world order they knew would end in their lifetime and Jesus, their Messiah, would return, descending from the clouds, as he himself predicted. In the Middle Ages the Black Death, or Bubonic Plague killed 30-50% of Europe’s population from 1347 to 1353. Stop and think about this. Count your family and friends. 1, 2, 3 DEAD, 4, 5, 6 DEAD, 7 , 8, 9 DEAD. And this is a conservative estimate, 1 out of 3 humans killed by this horrible disease. Don’t you think that would feel like the Last Days for the survivors? The Japanese who lived through two nuclear bombs dropped on their country surely thought the world was coming to an infernal-fire-storm-from-hell end. In the last century certain Christian denominations have preached that the End Times were upon us and the Great Tribulation was coming very soon. Some Preachers even gave dates which came and went with no Armageddon, no Apocalypse, no Rapture, no second coming and NO New Earth.
I’m not trying to put anyone down for their faith or their legitimate concern for the fate of our planet and all its inhabitants. I too was caught up in this fantastical thinking at one time. Being raised Catholic I was primed to believe stories about end times. Speculation and superstitions that sprang from the Apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima’s secret messages to the Pope were fed to me along with my morning oatmeal. So in the 1970s, not long after my Christian “born-again” experience, when I started watching the 700 Club, I had no trouble following the logical timeline of Jesus’ return that Pat Robertson laid out. He seemed to know so much about scripture, acting like he was the final authority and dispenser of truth. And I believed him, that we were in the beginning of the END TIMES. But, according to Roberson, a few things had to happen first before Jesus could make his glorious return. #1 Israel had to become an independent autonomous nation. Check. (Happened in 1949). #2 Jerusalem has to be the capital of Israel. Coming Soon. #3 The Jewish temple has to be rebuilt on the same place as the ancient temple in Jerusalem in Jesus’ day. This last one is going to be a little problematic, since the temple must be built on the same spot as the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, a sacred place for Muslims where something special happened to Mohammed. So, to sum up, #2 and #3 can’t happen until Israel has a war with Palestine and takes complete control of Jerusalem. Then they must tear down the mosque and build a new Jewish temple (maybe it can be a synagogue). Roberson said this war will be the war of all wars. With the actual battle of Armageddon taking place.
I can still see Pat Robertson preaching before a map of the Middle East predicting how this catastrophic historic war will go down and how it was starting. He even predicted this all would take place by the end of the next decade. And by 1990 we would be in the Last Days, ushering in the new century, along with a New Earth. I can still hear him fervently praying, almost like he was praying for a terrible war to start as soon as possible.
Can you see how utterly ridiculous this sounds? Thank God I got bored with his prattling about Apocalyptic predictions and moved on to my next stage of spiritual growth.
Fast forward to 2022. I find myself obsessed with the terrible news coverage of the war in Ukraine. All my prayer time is spent lifting up the suffering victims of this terror, Ukrainian and Russians alike. I know that prayer is the best thing I can do, for now. And I also know that for some this is just another sign that we are nearing the end of our – the human race – time on earth. Another war, hundreds of natural disasters in the past decade – many caused by global warming – and the world wide plague – COVID19 – all evidence of our ultimate doom. Surely, we are in End Times. Again?
Out of curiosity I read one of the posts on a certain Christian denomination’s web site to get their take on current events. The writer listed all the atrocities and horrors of the war on Ukraine that we have been watching on TV for the last month now, and they added a lot of other evil events going on in the world. Throw in the plague and you have a script right out of the book of Revelations. OK. I agree it is horrific. And I am encouraged that they understand that what Putin is doing is evil. But then the last part of the article was all about how God has a plan and we are not in control. The best we can do is get right with God, study scripture and make ready. Because soon, very soon, it will all come to a end and those who have done the right thing or said the right words, will be able to live forever in the New Earth. Sounds Great! Who wouldn’t want to hold onto this promise?
Now here’s where I’m going with all this. Yes, we all are horrified at what’s happening in Ukraine and yes the Ukrainian people are right to believe the world is ending. Because their world is. Those who survive will never go back to life as it was. But this is not the first or only time this kind of horror and death has been visited upon a nation. Humans have been on this planet for over 200 thousand years. The first civilizations date back at least 10,000 years, when humans learned to cultivate the land allowing them to stay in one place. Civilizations have risen up and made great strides to further the human race’s evolution toward our highest life. And these very same civilizations have come down, crashed and burned, taking millions of human lives with them. Our species has found amazing ways to bless and lift up all creatures on this planet and we have used those very same technologies to create new and more efficient ways to destroy other humans, the earth and all the life on her.
Those who live during the great deconstruction eras which may last 10 or 100 years always feel like they are in the End Times. The world, their world, is ending as they know it. Everyone around them is dying. They will probably die too and never see – in this life – the resurrection and reconstruction that always follows. Or a better word would be re-creation. We will surely go through the “valley of death” before we can stand on the mountain. I believe in the cycle of life and when we are experiencing the downward part of the cycle, we may refer to it as the End Times. No one can start new or fresh until something dies or goes away. The Phoenix rises out of the ashes of destruction. This is the great Pascal Mystery: Life, Death and Resurrection. The model that Jesus of Nazareth shows us.
I do not doubt that this terrible war in Ukraine, started by Russia, will end. And the proud beautiful people of Ukraine will go back and rebuild better. In 10 – 20 maybe even 50 years this great country will be the shining light on the continent of Europe. And I also believe that after the war, Russia will also go through an era of deconstruction maybe even death. And they too will arise and take their place in the world stage as a strong nation of beautiful loving people. If you doubt this, just look at recent history. Germany, France, Great Britain, Poland and Japan all devasted and broken after WWII and they rose out of the ashes and became new.
So those who feel the death tremors shaking the foundations of our world are not wrong. Yes, many of us are in the End Times. And we are afraid, very afraid as we all are to die. But we also will all rise again. Just not in our current form.