Speak more love, not end of time blasts
Maybe you’ve heard from a Henny Penny or two. From a theological perspective, they are sharing the end of time is near.
It is important to remind ourselves that apocalyptic literature has been with us long before the Bible gifted humanity, and, in these particularly challenging times, we should know the value this literature does—and perhaps does not—play.
First, Old Testament books such as Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah contain elements of apocalyptic literature. The same is true in the New Testament. For example, 2 Thessalonians 2, Mark 13, and Matthew 24 hold dire—even strange—warnings of what will be. Of course, the entire book of Revelation is apocalyptic. In fact, the Greek word apocalypse means “revelation.”
Second, apocalyptic literature writing speaks to the difficulty we of faith have when it comes to explaining painful events that shatter the world around us or, given the magnitude of injustice, violence, and a profound loss of humanitarianism these days, we do not understand. Rather than fall into the depths of despair, we turn to scripture. There we look to the greatness of God and His promised return.
Third, apocalyptic literature gives us a glimpse of what will someday be. With it, we do not have to endure hell on earth today as we wait for our blissful eternal lives in some far-off tomorrow. This literature is practical and promising in the moment because it reveals our God in control. In these Old and New Testament texts mentioned, we are given glimpses of the glories of heaven as well as the horrors of final judgment. With this, we can live today in the pursuit of faithfulness, mercy, and justice.
To the Henny Penny people out there, I get it. We all get it, or we should. It is hard out there. So many widespread catastrophic hardships and crushing heartbreaks weigh us down. Hope can seem distant if it is even there at all.
Given the times in which we live, let’s consider what messages we are sending to the world as Christians. Sometimes blunt warnings of end times are needed. I am not certain how often we Christians should do this, however. Yes, we are to keep watch, for we do not know on what day the Lord is coming (Matthew 24:42), but keeping watch and proclaiming that the end of time is upon us are very different, especially when we consider Mark 13:32. This verse states no one knows the day or the hour when the end will be, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
In a 2019 online article titled Bible Odyssey published by the Society of Biblical Literature, Professor Bart D. Ehrman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shares that those firsthand listeners to apocalyptical writing would have read or heard many apocalypses in their day. They would have understood how these daunting, disparaging messages of dark tomorrows led them not to despair but to Christ. “When people today read these apocalypses,” Ehrman cautions, “they often misread them as if these apocalypses are predicting things in our own future. But ancient apocalypses weren’t meant to be talking about what’s going to be happening in 2000 years [into the future]. They’re meant to be talking to people of their own day” [Cited July 4, 2020, https://www.bibleodyssey.org/en/tools/video-gallery/a/apocalyptic-literature].
I invite you to let God, not your own fear or dismay meter, keep leading you as to what to say about God to believers and non-believers in these troubling times. For me, tension and division in our world and in our nation call for even more affirming scripture and pastoral care that aligns or realigns us with our ever-present, ever-loving, and all in control God. Are our end times coming? Yes. Jesus will return. When He does, I pray the two of us are sharing His gospel message of salvation not with blaring horns but with gentle, steady and consistent godly love that points all around us to our unmistakable, undeniable and uninterrupted Savior.