It’s quite easy for Americans to take a short-term, microscopic view of current events as related to Biblical end times prophecy, but that’s really not how the Bible was written. Middle Easterners just don’t and didn’t think like us. We specialize on the minutia, which Bill Moyers pointed out decades ago: “Americans know everything about the last 24 hours, a little about the last 24 years and almost nothing about the past 24 centuries.” That’s us, and when it comes to end times prophecy, our concentration on the minutia leads us to conclude the kind of things being touted on social media about the Mark of the Beast.
The people of the Bible who received the Word of the Lord and wrote it down—every last one of them—saw the world in vast terms: of millennia, empires coming and going and continents on the move over vast periods of time—of eternity past to eternity future. This is how the Bible was written. In other words, they had a ‘fish-eye-lens’ view of the world and the things that God was doing that worked well enough for many, many generations to wait for a deliverer in Egypt and for the coming of the Messiah, and still hold onto their faith. This vast view is still true of almost everyone living today east of Turkey. We, in our short-term view of history and life (which usually carries over into the way we look at Biblical events), feeds the ‘prophetic’ assertions of various pastors, Christian bloggers and news sources and the immediacy-driven hunger of the social media masses. This is why the people of the Bible seemed so patient and meditative when “the Word of the Lord came to them”—there was always a bigger picture being painted.
This Covid-19 thing is a real eye-opener—it’s a wakeup call of true Biblical proportions of how relatively easy it will be for the antichrist to enrapture the world and introduce his agenda. But it’s also just another springboard for spiritual opportunists to ply short-sighted radical assertions that amp-up the emotions of the masses without really teaching them anything of value about Jesus and His first coming. This is the true essence of our message and walk. Being ready wasn’t a command to get busy speculating about the minutia of what the ‘mark’ may be, but what we are to be and to do while we await His return (Matt. 24:42-25:46). I’m starting to get callouses on my forehead from the fruitless, fear-driven speculations on Facebook that will be passé in a couple years or less, when the next wave of speculations will no doubt hit and everything will be ‘revised’ without apologies. The Lord has constantly provoked His church to serve, shine and use diligently what He’s given us to invest as we see the day approaching. That’s our great opportunity.
Concerning the Mark of the Beast, here’s a ‘fish-eye-lens’ take on it that I videoed in Ephesus, if you want to watch (~15:00).
“Keep about your work that God has given you. Do not flinch because the lion roars; do not stop to stone the devil’s dogs; do not fool away your time chasing the devil’s rabbits. Do your work. Let liars lie, let corporations resolve, let the devil do his worst; but see to it that nothing hinders you from fulfilling the work that GOD has given you. He has not commanded you to get rich. He has never bidden you defended you character. He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood about yourself which Satan and his servants may start to peddle. If you do those things, you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourself and not for the LORD. Keep at your work. Let your aim be as steady as a star. You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered, wounded and rejected of men. But see to it with steadfast determination, with unfaltering zeal, that you pursue the great purpose of your life and object of your being until at last you can say, “I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.” —Pastor Matt M. Hoekstra
While the world runs for cover, we have work to do.
And wash your hands.
“The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else.” —Oswald Chambers
Many people want us to fear what they fear—GMO’s, contrails, immigrants, politicians, global warming, mass extinctions, fluoridated water, FEMA camps, rogue planets, the timing of Jesus’ return—the usual stuff.
Are you afraid?
The Bible assures God’s kids that they’re the most secure people in all time and eternity—even when the sky falls. When we invest in the knowledge of threats—real or imagined—life on earth becomes fleeting and dangerous. Fearing God or fearing all the rest? Both are just symptoms of where we’ve placed our security.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
There are some things ‘Mordor’ can’t touch—all darkness is fleeting. From everlasting to everlasting the star will shine in all its beauty. And us with Him.
His love endures forever.
Now that’s hope.
“THERE EXIST BEINGS WHO…spend more money, waste more time, take more trouble, than would be required for ten good actions, and that gratuitously, for their own pleasure, without receiving any other payment for their curiosity than curiosity…Why? For no reason. A pure passion for seeing, knowing and penetrating into things. A pure itch for talking. And often these secrets once known, these mysteries made public, these enigmas illuminated by the light of day bring on catastrophes, duels, failures, the ruin of families and broken lives, to the great joy of those who have “found out everything,” without any interest in the matter, and by pure instinct. A sad thing. Certain persons are malicious solely through a necessity for talking. Their conversation, the chat of the drawing-room, gossip of the anteroom, is like those chimneys which consume wood rapidly; they need a great amount of combustibles; and their combustibles are furnished by their neighbors.” —Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
The world feasts on fireworks served daily by those who love to watch the world burn—a blue-plate special of flaming bad news and gossip full of all kinds of artificial ingredients.
When will it end?
Jesus is coming.
What can I do?
Bring a heaping course of truth to the table—it’s full of all the Good stuff—hope, life, salvation, Jesus. Show it, tell it, live believably.
Though many have lost their taste for truth, it’s still the main course—and we’re still the waiters.
Jesus is coming back—His followers know it and most are thrilled at the immanent possibility. My friend Don Stewart, however, reminds us to be careful about one important detail…
“Do not make the mistake of replacing the Gospel with talk of the end times events—our main message isn’t the second coming of Christ, but the first.”
It’s not the end of the world—yet. But with all that’s gone wrong on earth, how is it we’re still here? C.S. Lewis wondered that too…
“Why is God landing in this enemy-occupied world in disguise and starting a sort of secret society to undermine the devil? Why is He not landing in force, invading it? Is it because He is not strong enough? Well, Christians think He is going to land in force—we do not know when. But we can guess why He is delaying. He wants to give us the chance of joining His side freely. I do not suppose you and I would have thought much of a Frenchman who waited till the Allies were marching into Germany and then announced he was on our side. God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realize what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right—but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else-something it never entered your head to conceive-comes crashing in—something so beautiful to some of us—and so terrible to others—that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise—something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing—it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realized it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.”
The side we choose is everything, forever. Choose wisely. Choose today.
It used to be that Hippies and Beatniks (remember them?) were America’s counter-culture…
“As Christians [in America], our challenge is to go back as close as we can to the Gospel and truly be the church. Increasingly, we’re likely to be a counter-culture. As that happens, we will be the last great defenders of reason, truth and human dignity, with the task of defending [the Faith] not just theoretically…but practically, as the early church did… Our privilege will be to repeat that story in our time.” —Os Guinness (World Magazine interview, June 29, 2013)
Our passports say “Kingdom of Heaven”.
Our culture is Jesus.
We are light in the darkness at noon.
Far out, man.
Democracy makes people rulers, ideologies are their battlefields and votes are their swords—until a real King happens along…
“As Christians we know that here we have no continuing city—that crowns roll in the dust and every earthly kingdom must sometime flounder, whereas we acknowledge a King men did not crown and cannot dethrone, as we are citizens of a city of God they did not build and cannot destroy. Thus the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, living in a society as depraved and dissolute as ours. Their games, like our television, specialized in spectacles of violence and eroticism. Paul exhorted them to be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in God’s work,” to concern themselves with the things that are unseen. “For the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal.” It was in the breakdown of Rome that Christendom was born. Now in the breakdown of Christendom there are the same requirements and the same possibilities to eschew the fantasy of a disintegrating world and seek the reality of what is not seen and eternal, the reality of Christ.” —Malcolm Muggeridge
The King is coming.
I love the fact that God didn’t ask us to figure Him out. We can’t. Even living eternally with Him, I doubt we ever could—and we might not even want to try. As analytical Westerners, we naturally task ourselves to explain things like how God came to be, how He made the universe, and what the end of the world will be like, because being able to explain God, even a little, makes Him a safer, more predictable God. But Aslan is not a tame Lion. God didn’t explain Himself, He revealed Himself. He can never be measured, only worshipped…
“The Jewish God…is awesome, invisible, the eternal creator, the reason why all is as it is. But belief in such a God tells you nothing about how things work, what they are made of, or how the creator has structured the universe in which we have to find our way. In the beginning, the majesty of God closes all questions.” —Professor John Gaskin, Trinity College
How great Thou art.