The End of Times

There’s a lot of talk in recent years about The End Times. That’s not all that uncommon, I suppose. There was a bestselling series of books on the subject a few years back, and recently, yet another wave of talk on the subject has started.

It seems that such talk is probably normal. I’m told that every generation since Jesus walked the planet has thought that they might be the last generation. Even the 12 disciples (well, the 11; Judas had left by then) got caught up in a Last Days focus:

4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1

So Jesus is saying, “Get ready for the Holy Spirit,” the boys’ first thought is “Is this the end times? How soon will the end be?” And like us, they’re asking with the assumption that their view of the end is right; they don’t ask, “Will the kingdom be restored to Israel?” but “Will you restore the kingdom to Israel now?” In their case, the assumption was about the restoration of the kingdom of Israel; in our days, it’s usually about “the rapture” that sucks us out of this planet to live in heaven with Jesus. (I can’t help but think that we might have missed it as badly as they did, but that’s another topic.)

What I really love is Jesus’ answer: “That’s not what this is about boys. This is about power; this is about you being my witnesses everywhere you go, both nearby and far away.”

In His answer, I hear something of a rebuke – or at least a correction – of their fascination with figuring out the end times.

Some time ago, I felt the Lord correct my own focus on eschatology through this verse. It’s like He was saying to me personally, “Don’t focus on understanding the end times. Focus instead on the Holy Spirit. I want you to have His power because you have a job to do. I want you to focus instead on being my witness in this world!”

In other words: leave off the emphasis on The End Times. I’m wasting my time focusing on that. The real emphasis needs to be on my work – our work – here on this planet, among these people in this region.

I recognize that this is clearly specific instruction for me; I wonder if there’s some wisdom for other saints in this correction as well. I’ve often felt that a focus on the end times, particularly a focus on “the rapture”, has led many of us to miss God’s heart.

It’s actually pretty difficult to pay a lot of attention on The End Times in our culture and not come away with a self-centered sense of “Jesus is going to rescue from all this!” (Mike Bickle and the iHop team seem to be doing a good job of avoiding that egotistical error.) Many of the brethren I know who focus on eschatology have turned some or all of their attention away from our work while we are in this world (the “be my witnesses” part) and have focused more on His presumed role of rescuing us from this world.

I keep remembering that Jesus said we need to pray this way: “…your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In other words, pray that His kingdom would expand here on Earth, that there would be more of us homo sapiens who place ourselves under His kingship. That’s what our focus is supposed to be. (And of course, we’re not talking about a political kingdom, but the increase of His rule in individuals in our culture.)

That means that a fair bit of my prayers – and presumably my attention – is to be on seeing His kingdom expanding in my community. But if I’m focusing my attention on my belief that “Jesus is coming soon!” to swoop down and carry me away from my community, then how helpful can I actually be at expanding His kingdom here? I’m not saying the Rapture isn’t going to happen; I’m saying it shouldn’t be our focus.

Instead, I am proposing that we back off on looking for the end of this age, and that we put our efforts into fulfilling His purpose for us in this age; being empowered by the Holy Spirit and being His witnesses in this world, both near and far.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Right on! The same could be true of the attention everyone is currently giving to the economy and politics. Although perhaps these are issues one could use to lead people to The One around whom the whole universe revolves! I really appreciate your point. I've been guilty of this myself, but recently realized that I need to keep my focus on Jesus and those He wants to touch through me, instead. So, thanks again!!!