15 May 2017

Life in Transit and The End

Airports are strange places. Everyone is waiting to go somewhere and there is an air of excitement and hope as they await their destination. And in the waiting, people eat or go shopping for overpriced designer stuff. Duty free - yeah right!

A 7 hour stop over alone in one of the world's most boring airports last year got me thinking about the second coming of Jesus. Actually it was top of mind because this had been the subject of several recent conversations. So while I contemplated a day in transit I decided to gather a few thoughts of my own on this often confusing subject. And in writing this I'm aware that this is perhaps a topic that for you, may seem way outside the grid of how you think about the future. So if you are just exploring Christianity, I hope this may be a helpful piece of the puzzle.

In my experience, Christians generally fall into one of two categories on the subject of the return of Jesus and the end of this age. Some people just love it and really want you to be equally as passionate. And other people unfortunately don't ever give it a thought. Personally, I think this topic needs to sit somewhere between ignorance and obsessive. Both extremes concern me a bit. For those who ignore it they are missing a major biblical theme. So let's be clear here - the return of Jesus is a foundational promise in scripture. The New Testament is unambiguous that Jesus will return, we are in the last days and that we need to live ready.

Just where we are in the 'last days' is the part that is open to much opinion and the place where my moderating tendencies seem to always kick in. For those who are passionate about the topic, they have a heightened sensitivity to patterns, developments and "signs" of the times. They may view many things presently happening in our world and conclude it is clearly very soon. I really value the way these people have an alertness to the current events of our world and deeply value the scriptures. I want to celebrate these people for their attitude and engagement.

However, some of my hesitancy is in the thinking that 'things are getting worse, therefore it must be any time now because could it really get any worse than it is?'  I know that's a big generalisation. But so too is the view that things are getting worse. I'm really not convinced that the 21st century is more evil than the 20th century. And while the scale might be less in the preceding centuries before the 20th century, evil has been rampant since the beginning. We just hear about it a lot more thanks to the media. In fact, the ability we have to Google and YouTube every theory and unconfirmed news story perhaps feeds our awareness in ways no generation before ever could. And yet, evil is always evil and sin is always sin.

I personally have not drawn many definitive conclusions in this area of theology though I choose to remain open and listen to others' viewpoints. I do however have some interpretive principles that guide me in my thinking, which I submit to you for consideration:
  • I think a healthy view of the end times will produce expectation not apathy, social engagement not disengagement and energise hope in people, not fear.
  • I think a healthy view of end times will never dishonour or demonise people, nor would it allow us to assume the role of judge, something not delegated to us.
  • Lastly, a healthy view of end times will not make the darkness more powerful than the light. The Kingdom of God is an unshakable kingdom that can always bring transformation and light, overcoming anything hell can throw at it. As Lee Ripken put it, 'evil has never stopped doing what evil does, but God has never stopped doing what God does.' 
I'm not anti 'end times.' I think that, just like those in transit at the airport, there should be a general sense of anticipation and hope in the people of God concerning what (who) is coming. The imminent return of Jesus awakens us to live with a sense of alertness, urgency, expectancy and hope.