The "Are We There Yet" of Many Pondering and Contemplating the End Times!
It was Paul who Thought Christ's Return was Soon!
I might visit places, spend my money and contemplate fun and pleasure if I were leaving on a celestial jet plane.
However, the end of the world that most people are contemplating is violent, horrendous, oceans flowing over the land, volcanoes, poles flipping up and down and crops getting destroyed and cities disappearing. In this case, fun isn't on most people's minds. Pure outright nihilistic hedonism, now that's what many would do, but that's despair and panic and calamity coming down on you, or doing something you have been holding back on. But that's not your real question.
Sure, its human to be fearful of an "end of it all", but from a western and modern point of view, Christians have Paul's Epistles to constantly think about this topic.
TIME SCALES: A Thousand Years for a Day?
The Bible hints that God's timescale is vastly different to ours; "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" - so Jesus has only been away for just over two days, from the divine point of view. Christians always try to take the divine point of view, but one must admit that this can cause a great deal of confusion, especially for those who are perpetually trying to do the impossible job of PREDICTION. Paul seemed to have his own personal "time scale" about the coming "end times and the return of Jesus".
Paul Talked about "his own lifetime"
In 2 Thess. 1:7, which says, "God will provide relief to you who are afflicted AND to us as well, when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire," it appears from a straightforward reading that Paul was contemplating that Jesus would return soon!
Or what about 1 Thess. 4:15-17, how he says, those of us who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then those of us who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air". Certainly there are apologists and theologians who have quick answers for this, but again, a straightforward reading says Paul was talking plainly.
One more example is 1 Cor. 15:51, when Paul says, "Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality." This is a famous Christian scripture and has a powerful effect on people, but for 2000 years the sentence sounds like it sounds. Paul thought this was going to happen to him.
Toward the end of his life, in his pastoral letters, Paul didn't speak this way; see the letters he wrote to Timothy. What Paul might have personally and hoped for and thought can be forgiven from a man who lived every moment spreading the gospel. However the scriptures still remain to point to his verbiage.
The Volcano that Started the "Dark Ages"
There have been different times in history when Christians have thought such heavenly signs were happening. There was a large volcanic eruption that shook the earth and ushered in the Dark Ages in A.D. 535, marking the start of a terrible time on Earth. The sun was blocked behind gray overcast for nearly 10 years, crops failed, food was sparse, there was famine, wars, and it seemed that up to half of the world's population was dying or suffering unto death. Be the four horsemen of the Apocalypse were coming might have been on a few people's minds! But, for all of those who might have prayed daily for the "rest of the end" to come were disappointed in THEIR life time.
My Mother, when she was close to her death at the Age of 85 said it simply. "In our day" simply means that within the context of one's life time all of the important elements of salvation and knowledge and revelation happen to a person before they die. This, from a person near death had a great deal of clarity. The "end is always near" because, like David said: "We are given three score years and 10".
Just Stop Setting Dates
Since this is such a serious topic to those who talk about it and have their lives affected by it, it is difficult to make observations that do not seem jaded, depressing or fatalistic. For my part, I take the point of view that if one is looking for ANY DATE, with constant anticipation, we are going to live in a state of irritation and fitful prayer constantly seeking solace simply BECAUSE of our hope. "Are we there yet" is the constant comic refrain for parents who listen to their kids in the back seat. It seems to me that many live in a state of "are we there yet" for a much more dramatic and earth shaking event.
Good Old 1843 - The Millerites
There once was a preacher named Miller in New York in the middle of the 1800's. People said he "set a date for the Return of Christ". Despite the urging of his supporters, Miller never personally set an exact date for the expected Second Advent. However, in response to their urgings (and this may be a big part of the story), he did narrow the time-period to sometime in 1843, stating: "My principles in brief, are, that Jesus Christ will come again to this earth, cleanse, purify, and take possession of the same, with all the saints, sometime between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844". March 21, 1844 passed without incident, and the majority of Millerites maintained their faith. On March 25, Miller wrote: "I am still looking for the Dear Savior…. The time, as I have calculated it, is now filled up; and I expect every moment to see the Savior descend from Heaven. I have now nothing to look for but this glorious hope." As time passed all of this flurry of anticipation faded.
"The End of Days" and the "Return of Christ" can be hope and fear thoughts. Somehow it seems to be locked in our genes or our subconscious. It's also in our religions. I think also that there is a morbidity about civilization. It is such an incredible accomplishment that many think that civilization is a drunk waiter carrying the dirty dishes to the kitchen on an oil slick.
This is a name coming from a historical moment in time, but it has take on the broad social definition of one who is opposed to technolocial change. Ned Ludd was a Leicestershire workman who destroyed a knitting frame. He was one of a group of early 19th century English workmen destroying labor-saving machinery as a protest. Now a Luddite is an adjective referring to those who dislike the modern world in all of its many technological manifestations. These kinds of people can be found in specific counties and regions of the U.S. and Europe.
We are just sure its all going to fall apart. Will it happen? It remains for history to be written. Somehow something ticks in some of us that deep down inside that is like a dark specter wishing the collapse of all of this "false success". There are many many who see MODERNITY as one of Satan's Curses!
No one knows what is going to happen. The Mayans fell on their sword. Quetzacoatl was probably some kind of UFO guy, but does quoting a hundred historical sources, prophets of doom and scientists who want to scare you about the poles turning over and over -- all of that doesn't mean anyone knows anything!!! The 2012 Event did not happen.
If the end does not come in the next 10 years there are millions of Evangelicals who are going to be disappointed. Does that make them stupid? No. It means that again SOME people are going to Church every Sunday with a hope that certain Christians have had for many generations.
"Are we there yet?" I don't know, but I have some simple advice for those who suffer from this anxiety. It comes from my Mother: "Just live your life as if the end is coming in your life time, because as you die, it will be oh so true."
The last 200 years have been milder than mild compared to other times. And we are probably looking at dire emergencies, calamities, earthquakes, attacks from others, WWIII, or UFOs attacking us. How much could happen to us? If we are still in for lots of dramatic happenings in weather, wars, pandemics, volcanoes, economic collapse -- it means we will have to deal. All of those things do not necessarily mean Jesus is going to return.
The Fall and Destruction of Jerusalem - Jesus Predicted and it Happened!
Just before Jesus died, he talked about the destruction of Jerusalem. It was a human event that people could have escaped. It happened 40 years after he died, and it was total. These kinds of events happening all at once would mean that human destruction would be virtually complete. Those alive would wish themselves dead.
If we perish, then we will be reborn into a better setting. We can not be destroyed. We can lose our bodies and that would be horrendous. But no, in my opinion, what this says is that the world is listening to too many hateful fatalistic people, whose only joy will come if they are right. And that means they will be dead. They will die with a smile on their faces. How bitter and strange.
Those who believe in the Rapture are a different sort. This is a multi-million dollar business too. But that is for another article on another day.
Most people just live their lives and put these heavy thoughts in the back of their minds, or dismiss them so they can deal. There is something about the turning of a millennium that makes people think more about this topic. However, the turning of a clock should not cause calamity. Even though some think there is a relationship. Live your life and enjoy it. That is the best and only answer in the end!