I had a good talk with my wife today when something dawned on me – the real intent of those ‘end times’ teachings and how they can be seen as ‘useable’.
Firstly, I want to start off by saying that the way end-times theology is used in Christian churches is just ‘screw-bally’ and lacks real interpretive strength. Some people even build their core doctrines from books like Revelation and some of the prophets writings – selling fear and brimstone all the time. Some go so far as to get their followers to build places to hide and store up food for after the ‘end times’. Basically, all in all, it’s very strange, useless, and without merit.
However, the teachings on ‘end times’ does exist – I’d be remiss to say they did not. I do believe in Matthew 24 Jesus even breaks into some of this teaching strain. However, there are a lot of things that can be learned from those teachings that can help to deal with society. I’ll get into a few of these things.
(a) End times teaching always relates to actual ‘end times’ scenarios. When Jesus relates his points – well he is referring to Jerusalem being sacked by the Romans in 70 AD – which was literally ‘end times’ for some – namely those in the city when it is being destroyed. John writes Revelations concerning Roman persecution towards Christians in Roman territory – people were being killed. The prophets always address scenarios where people are being brutalized – like a Babylonian captivity. Sometimes – end times – is what is happening in certain scenarios.
(b) The ‘end times’ is always scenarios that can be forseen, warned about, and action can be taken. Usually there are a lot of signs that things are about to move from normal to ‘evil’. Hatred and bigotry are usually on the rise – and very clearly known (not hidden). There is always leaders to back that idea and drive it forward – usually within law and politics. The ideas always involve the worst forms of treatment to the group in trouble – including murder and prisons.
(c) End times teaching is meant to remind you about forces being used for ‘evil’ and our responsibility in such dire straits. For example, when the Germans instituted ‘Crystal Night’ in 1939 – the teachings against Jewish people – the wearing of the stars – the destroying of their property – people should of read the ‘signs of the times’ and went into warning mode. People needed to flee and be rescued from that ‘evil’ regime and their form of ‘end times’ against humanity – and we as humans needed to say more and do more.
Jesus warns people in Matt 24 to ‘flee to the mountains’ (vs.16) – in face of things like genocide and bigotry – in what I would consider ‘pure hatred’ – people need to do something – like an ‘exodus’ from that place of turmoil. It does no good to remain in a place of hatred where they don’t ask questions – but just kill – committ an ‘end times’ scenario. Our response needs to be one of ‘exodus’ and ‘salvation’ of the people in danger.
(d) The people that currently teach on ‘end times’ have no clue what they are talking about – and have developed doctrines based on fantasy more than reality. Everyone in those camps seems to be waiting for some revived Roman Empire or Russia to surround Israel – while a few genocides went overlooked – like Rwanda and the Sudan. Christians basically had no clue concerning warning and dealing with problems on such a magnitude scale – because ‘end times’ to them is some fantastic – fantasy and never a reality.
As much as we hate to believe this – governments have always put in place some ‘end times’ scenarios for certain groups. Nazi Germany was a classic example of ‘end times’. The 2 genocides in Africa are also both good examples. South Africa and apartheid was a very bad time. The thing is – these things do happen and we need to read the signs and get people moving when we see them. We are not to be spectators guessing and wondering what will happen – we are to be active agents for salvation and change.
If end times theology is to have any active meaning and not be considered fantasy – it needs to be about faith moving into action/reality/truth. It needs to be like King Jr. facing the ‘evil’ head to head (endurance) to instruct change or moving people from the interior of the Sudan to refugee places (safety). But doing nothing is ensuring ‘evil’ will win the day. Some people are facing ‘end times’ and it’s best we use this theology constructively and not destructively – those who use these teachings to cause destruction are exactly what the teachings warn against.