A few years ago, I stumbled across a teaching series on the Olivet Discourse from R.C. Sproul titled The Last Days According to Jesus. At the time, the series was free to view, and I taught through it with a bible study group at our church. Listening to those videos was a truly remarkable experience in my life. It was the first time I learned that Christians believed radically different things about eschatology (the study of last things). Up until that point, I had the vague idea that the “world,” or at least my particular culture would get worse and worse until Jesus came back and set things right. It wasn’t until much later that I realized the scriptures were filled with instances of Jesus “coming back” and setting things right. These encounters are frequently referred to as The Day of the Lord (described here in a video by The Bible Project), and these Days of the Lord culminated but did not end with the destruction of Jerusalem, circa 70 AD, and the subsequent fall of the Roman empire.
I started thinking about this series again after I listened to first Corinthians on my drive to work last week. In chapter seven the Apostle Paul states that, “time is short, …those who are married should live as though they are not,” and later, “for this world in its present form is passing away.” The New Testament is filled with these types of statements, and Dr John Noe describes it as an “intensification of nearness language.” For a list and brief description of these passages, you can watch this video from Dr Noe, starting around the fifteen-minute mark. These bible verses always remind me that what we believe about the end of something is extremely influential in shaping what we believe about the thing itself. How we view the end of our life, effects how we live our lives now, and in a very similar way what we believe God is doing in the world now, is shaped by what we think the world will be like in the future.
If we’re convinced that the world or our community is only going to get worse and worse until “Jesus comes back,” should we be shocked if that is what seems to be happening? No, we shouldn’t be surprised at all. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy; it is something that happens because we believe it is going to happen. Many people believe that the United States of America is quickly approaching its own Day of the Lord, when we will fully experience the tragic consequences of our own selfishness and pride. If you feel that way there is still hope because in the bible, right in the middle of a seemingly endless line of stories about judgement and destruction, we see a story of redemption. Jonah reluctantly visits the city of Nineveh, and as a result, the king leads his people in turning back to God in faith and repentance. Will this redemption happen in our own nation, or will men and women of faith continue to elect leaders who will fight harder and dirtier to get what we want “politically?” Only time will tell.
The painting at the top of this post is a screenshot from The Bible Project video on The Prophets.