I’m in a bit of a rush so I’ll try and make this article like a cocktail skewer. Short and with only a couple of points.
And in keeping with an emphasis on brevity, I'm going to get right to the sharp end:
We must avoid getting sidetracked by speculating on end times references in the New Testament and current geo-political events.
Instead, we must know that we belong to a conquering kingdom led by a conquering king. And he has brought his denizens through storms far worse than the squalls of the looming one — however blustery it appears.
If you’ll permit me to speak anecdotally, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused more theorising in the Christian community at large about the timing of the book of Revelation (and other biblical prophecies) than any other world event I’ve observed.
Given that the majority of Christians believe that the foretold events are still ahead of us, this is understandable. Death, foretold in Revelation 6, rides a pale horse and unleashes, among other things, plagues. And “plague” is actually just another way of spelling “coronavirus”.
Add the pandemic to other fears such as the erosion of freedoms and impending economic instability and you end up with a bubbling cauldron of impending doom.
For those who believe in humanity’s inevitable march downwards, the writing is on the wall (in this case, a most appropriate biblical idiom).
A tunnel’s light, or in other words, it’s the end that counts
At this point, I consider it proper to lay my cards on the table. Rather than future to us, I am persuaded that the great tribulation was something future to the first century church and subsequently fulfilled by the destruction of the temple and the persecution by the Romans.
However, even if you don’t agree with me on that little eschatological rabbit hole, there are still good reasons to believe that current events are not signalling the end.
First, many calamitous events have occurred over the past 2,000 years of church history — many wars, earthquakes, tyrants and yes, even pandemics. Through each of them a case could have been and was made that the end was nigh. Incidentally, many sects have made faulty end-times predictions.
Secondly, and importantly, we serve a conquering king.
King Jesus is ruling over a conquest, announced via the Great Commission, that will happen, not through the spear or the M1 Abrams tank, but through suffering and the power of the gospel to change the human heart.
To tweak my earlier cliche, I believe we, the church, hold the winning hand. Jesus is king.
And so, when we survey the whole of human history – in time frames of generations and centuries rather than years – we decidedly see more gospel influence on society and not less.
The world is going to custard (the good kind)
Every generation, it seems, likes to think of itself as the culmination of the preceding generations. But our focus needs to be on enduring the present struggle for the sake of those who will come after us and ultimately, for the day when the world will finally be judged by its king.
Like the fussy child who holds her nose and chokes down her greens for the promise of a long-awaited pudding of custard and peaches (a favourite of my upbringing), we persist in hopeful expectation of a time when the world will be put to rights.
Let us forget escaping present troubles and endure with tremendous, intense, glorious hope.
We are on the winning team.
Based in Christchurch, Joshua is married to Jacinda and enjoys writing as a way of keeping his thoughts in order. He also freelances. You can contact him via the bird site (Twitter) @I_do_words