Tag Archives: Apocalypse

“Yet, I Will Rejoice”

"Yet, I Will Rejoice" (CaD Hab 3) Wayfarer

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NIV)

Today’s final chapter of Habakkuk contains the lyrics to a psalm that Habakkuk wrote in response to his two-question dialogue with God in the first two chapters. Habakkuk is an ancient multi-media prophecy with two chapters that are almost like the script of a play and ending with a song.

Habakkuk has been warned by God that He is going to bring judgment on His unrepentant people by bringing the Babylonians down upon them. Habakkuk would have known what this meant. The Babylonians, along with their neighbors the Assyrians, had a reputation for violent sieges that destroyed and plundered cities while violently killing the citizens within. But God also promised Habakkuk that the Babylonians themselves would face their own day of judgment.

As I read and pondered the prophet’s lyrics in the quiet this morning, there were a couple of things that struck me.

First, I couldn’t help but see echoes of John’s Revelations in the apocalyptic, doomsday images. Plague and pestilence in verse 5 brought the four horsemen of John’s apocalypse to mind. Earthquakes, mountains crumbling, along with other natural calamities were also in Revelations along with God arriving with wrath. So was John writing about Judah and Babylon, or was he writing about the end times? As I’ve observed before, the metaphors of prophetic and apocalyptic writing are layered with meaning. As I have often observed on this chapter-a-day journey, the answer is “yes/and.”

The second thing that came to mind as I meditated on Habakkuk’s psalm is that he knows God is going to first bring wrath upon His own people and then will eventually execute judgment on the Babylonians. Habakkuk, however, is just like me knowing that the end times will eventually come yet not knowing when. He’s ignorant. His psalm reminds God “In your wrath [on your people] remember mercy” (vs.2) and he gives a nod to God eventually delivering His people (vs. 13) but the rest of the song seems pretty focused on the evil Babylonians getting their just desserts.

I found this to be particularly human on Habakkuk’s part. He knows God is going to bring consequential wrath on the Hebrew people, but Habakkuk doesn’t want to think too much about that. He conveniently skips that part and jumps to God’s deliverance while he waxes apocalyptic about God’s wrath on the Babylonians for most of the song. I have to confess that I’m no different. I don’t want to think about suffering or having to endure hard times or experiencing judgment. I do, however, want to see swift judgment and fiery wrath raining down on those I have judged to be evil on my own personal scales of justice. As I’ve seen oft-quoted in the media of late: “Rules for thee but not for me.”

Yet it’s the end of Habakkuk’s song that, just like the psalmists before him, brings everything together in a pretty amazing statement of faith. He does embrace the notion that he may personally suffer as God makes good on His promised judgment. It’s the beautiful statement of faith I pasted at the top of this post

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

In the quiet this morning, I confess that I identify with these ancient words. We are living in strange times. Things are changing at a rapid pace. Times are difficult and I have no guarantees that even more difficult times aren’t ahead of us on this terrestrial ball…

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Revelations (Jun-Jul 2022)

Each photo below corresponds to the chapter-a-day post for the book of Revelations published by Tom Vander Well in June and July of 2022. Click on the photo linked to each chapter to read the post.

Revelations 1: The Rabbit-Hole and the Three Questions

Revelations 2: Hearing the Simple Message

Revelations 3: Spiritual Self-Exam

Revelations 4: Crowns and Surrender

Revelations 5: The Alpha Point and the Omega Point

Revelations 6: “What Do You Expect?”

Revelations 7: “Every Nation, Tribe, People, & Language”

Revelations 8: Ignorant, Mindful, & Ready

Revelations 9: “Gonna Change My Way of Thinking”

Revelations 10: Justice

Revelations 11: Prophetic Pondering

Revelations 12: Not of this World

Revelations 13: My Choice

Revelations 14: Wisdom to Know the Difference

Revelations 15: The Bigger Picture
Revelations 16: Love and Justice

Revelations 17: Rogues Gallery

Revelations 18: The Funeral

Revelations 19: The Wedding

Revelations 20: The Books

Revelations 21: Death-to-Life

Revelations 22: The End is the Beginning

The Wedding

The Wedding (CaD Rev 19) Wayfarer

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
Revelations 19:9 (NIV)

I mentioned yesterday that Wendy and I were at a wedding this past weekend. The dinner was amazing. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that Wendy and I love a great meal, especially when it’s the trifecta of a great meal with great people enjoying great conversation.

At one point between savory bites, Wendy looked at me, her eyes as wide as saucers. “This is not only the best wedding meal I’ve ever had, but it’s right up there with maybe being the best meal I’ve had, ever.”

High praise, for sure. A great meal is always special amidst the love, laughter, joy, and celebration of two lives being united as one.

The metaphors of a wedding, of a bride and bridegroom, are used repeatedly by Jesus. At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, the metaphor was even understood and shared between Jesus and His cousin, John the Baptist:

[John’s disciples] came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”

Sometime later, the same disciples of John asked Jesus why His disciples didn’t religiously fast the way John made them fast:

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus was still using this metaphor. He told a parable of ten bridesmaids waiting for the bridegroom to arrive so they could accompany him and his bride with their oil lamps to the wedding feast at the house of the bridegroom and his family. Some of the bridesmaids got tired of waiting and they didn’t have their oil lamps filled, trimmed, and ready when the bridegroom arrived.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that the ancients often used weddings and funerals as metaphorical contrasts. John uses this ancient device in yesterday’s chapter (a funeral dirge for the demise of “Babylon the Great”) and today’s chapter in which Jesus, the Bridegroom, having tarried like the bridegroom in His parable for 2000+ earth years (as of today), finally celebrates a heavenly wedding feast and is united with His metaphorical bride, all of His followers whose names are written in the Book of Life.

But the contrasts aren’t over! There’s a feast to come that is a stark contrast to the wedding feast of the Lamb. An angel in heaven cries out to all the vultures and carrion fowl on earth to prepare for their own morbid picnic.

Jesus and a heavenly army then descend to meet the unholy trinity and all of the kings and kingdoms of the earth, those who had steadfastly refused to repent during the great tribulation, gathered against Him. The only weapon brought to the battle is the metaphorical sword of Jesus’ words. The anti-christ and his false prophet are captured and thrown into a lake of fire. Their followers become the entree du jour for the vultures.

In the quiet this morning, I’m struck by the simple roots of these contrasting metaphors. A funeral and a wedding. A death dirge and a wedding feast. The eerie silence of a battlefield when the battle is over and the carrion fowl pick at the corpses, and the raucous cheers of a wedding party, blessedly satiated and maybe a wee bit intoxicated, unabashedly dancing to “YMCA.”

I can’t help but be reminded of what God said to His people at the outset of this Great Story:

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses…I have set before you life and death…”

I made my choice. I sent in the RSVP.

I’m simply waiting for the bridegroom to arrive.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

The Funeral

The Funeral (CaD Rev 18) Wayfarer

Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said:

“With such violence
    the great city of Babylon will be thrown down,
    never to be found again.”

Revelations 18:21 (NIV)

This past weekend, Wendy and I were honored to be part of a friend’s wedding. I officiated and Wendy coordinated the rehearsal and the ceremony, so we were there with the family, friends, and loved ones for the entire shebang. We knew relatively few members of the wedding party and the families, so I spent a lot of time simply observing those involved and their celebration. There really is nothing quite like a wedding to celebrate life, love, family, and community in both the moment as well as its perpetuation.

In ancient literature, writers often contrasted weddings with the lamentation of funerals. Talk about a powerful contrast: the joyous perpetuation of life and the harsh reality of inevitable death. Revelations chapters 18 and 19 are an example of this contrast on an apocalyptic scale.

Today’s chapter, Revelations 18, heralds the final execution of judgment on “Babylon the Great.” Babylon first appears in the Great Story in Genesis 10. The Babylonian empire destroyed Jerusalem and took the Hebrews into exile around 600 BC. The ancient kingdom of Babylon became a metaphor for evil human empires in the prophetic and apocalyptic literature throughout the Great Story.

In John’s day, those reading his Revelations understood “Babylon the Great” to be the Roman Empire. It was Rome who had persecuted Jesus’ followers with cruel and unusual punishments. The Romans were known for their creatively tortuous execution methods, including the tying of a giant millstone to the neck of a victim and tossing the millstone and victim into the sea or a deep river to drown. As people who had seen the luxurious excesses, human cruelty, and unjust persecutions that the Romans flaunted, John’s readers would have read today’s chapter as God’s promise to judge Rome, raze it to the ground, and “pay her back double for what she has done” (vs. 6).

It’s hard not to read Revelations and try to connect the apocalyptic characters to specific people or nations. Throughout my entire spiritual journey, I have heard and read speakers and authors hawking their interpretations to the masses. In the quiet this morning, I read the chapter and thought about the way the global economy works. It is more interconnected than ever before and the economic troubles we are currently experiencing around the globe seem eerily familiar in the text. Merchants lament that they suddenly have no customers to export their goods. Sailors cry out because there are no open ports for their cargo.

As I pondered this, it made me wonder if “Babylon the Great” is less about one specific nation and more about an entire world order that oppresses the poor and vulnerable in order to traffic everything from gold to humans in order to amass wealth for the insatiably rich and powerful kings and kingdoms of this world.

Ultimately, I believe that today’s chapter is about the execution of divine judgment and the funeral pyre of human injustice on earth, complete with the catastrophic ripple effect that comes with the demise of such a system.

In the quiet this morning, my mind can’t help but turn back to current events. The last two years have been an object lesson in just how intertwined our economies and supply chains have become. A global pandemic has led to diverse and widespread social, political, and economic instabilities. As I ponder this, I’m struck by two, make it three, thoughts. The first is just how easily a small group of power-brokers might manipulate and control economics on a global scale. The second is how quickly such a system might fall apart should catastrophe strike, leading to a descent into global chaos.

The third is that John’s Revelations envision both scenarios.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Rogues Gallery

Rogues Gallery (CaD Rev 17) Wayfarer

The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.
Revelation 17:16 (NIV)

In my previous post, I drew upon a comic book character to discuss the topic of justice in relation to the justice God brings upon the earth with a trinity of judgments that culminates in seven bowls of God’s wrath. This morning, as I meditated on the chapter, I found myself once again finding the world of comic books an apt parallel.

In classic comics like Batman and Spiderman, we are introduced to a rogues’ gallery of antagonists with whom our superheroes wage a battle of good and evil. Occasionally, the writers will weave a storyline in which all of the bad guys join together to fight the intrepid hero or heroine.

In a similar way, today’s chapter reveals John being given a vision of a rogues’ gallery of earthly power-players bent on waging war on God and God’s people:

  • The “Great Prostitute”
  • The “Beast” on which she rides
  • Seven Kings that are also seven hills
  • An eighth King, the anti-Christ, allied with the Seven Kings
  • Ten Kings who have yet no kingdom, allied to the Beast

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, Satan (whom Jesus called the “Prince of this World”) showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in all their earthly power and splendor. The Prince of this World then offered to give them all to Jesus if Jesus would only bow and worship him. Jesus passed on the offer, knowing that His kingdom was “not of this world” and that He was sent on a mission with a much higher purpose.

The rapidly approaching climax of John’s Revelation, just like a great story or movie, has the key players from the beginning of the story and conflict advancing towards the story’s ultimate clash: God, the Serpent, and fallen humanity. Satan and his rogues’ gallery scramble for power and authority to wage this war.

What struck me as I read the chapter was the in-fighting among these earthly power players. In his letter to Jesus’ followers in Galatia, Paul listed the characteristics of those who live according to the Prince of this World: “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions.” When you have multiple players each driven by hatred, discord, and selfish ambition, it’s basically impossible to create any sustainable alliance toward a common goal. Evil always ends up imploding from the inside out as evil ones will always eventually turn on their own to satisfy their personal hatred, rage, and selfish ambition.

In the quiet this morning, I am reminded that in the earthly conflict of good and evil to which I am subject on this earthly journey, God continually reminds me to persevere and endure. Jesus passed up the quick and easy way to earthly power offered by the Prince of this World instead choosing instead to endure the suffering and death that led to a eucatastrophic resurrection and eternal power. So Jesus urges me to follow in His footsteps.

The opening verses of Hebrews 12 came to mind as I pondered these things:

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
Hebrews 12:1-3 (MSG)

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Ignorant, Mindful, and Ready

Ignorant, Mindful, and Ready (CaD Rev 8) Wayfarer

The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of God’s people, went up before God from the angel’s hand.
Revelation 8:4 (NIV)

As a student of history and as a mindful observer of life, I have noted that followers of Jesus in every generation seem to be convinced that we are in the end times. This is not the first time I’ve mentioned it on this chapter-a-day journey. It seems to me that as human beings age and we feel our own sense of dread with the inevitable approach of “the end” of our own earthly journey, it is easy to project this sense of “the end” on the world around us.

As a young man, I read books that predicted the world wouldn’t last beyond my high school years. Since I graduated high school in 1984, many would-be prophets mingled Orwell and Revelation in predicting doomsday. I seem to remember televangelists predicting the date of the rapture and the beginning of the end on more than one occasion. Then came the doomsday scenarios of the end of the 20th century that mingled the apocalypse with the Y2K global computer meltdown (history shows that apocalyptic predictions spring up at the end of centuries like flowers in spring). More recently, we had the end of the Mayan calendar that people associated with the end of all things.

With this in mind, I want to be careful with my thoughts on today’s chapter. I don’t want you to read what I’m not writing.

In today’s chapter, John’s vision from God’s throne room in heaven continues. When the seventh seal on the scroll is broken there is a dramatic pause, thirty minutes of silence before the next round of judgments on the earth begin. The prayers of God’s people rise as incense before God’s throne. Recall the cries of those who’d been martyred in chapter six: “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

I always have to remember as I read the Great Story that God layers life with certain themes. Just a few weeks ago in a Message among my local gathering of Jesus followers, I gave the example of how the diagram of an atom looks like a little solar system. The moon revolving around the earth, the planets revolving around the sun, and our solar system in the galaxy continue to expand this layered motif outward into the expanding universe. God is an artist, and he layers themes and motifs in both creation and in the Great Story.

The prayers and cries of the martyrs (those believers through history who were tortured and killed because of their faith) echo God hearing the prayers of God’s people enslaved in Egypt (Ex 3:7). The judgments and plagues in today’s chapter and subsequent chapters echo the plagues on Egypt. God’s deliverance of humanity from the shackles of a fallen world ruled by evil as we read it in the book of Revelation is a macrocosm of the story of God delivering His people from Egypt.

As the angels blow their trumpets of judgment in today’s chapter, plagues fall on the earth. The hail mixed with blood echoes the ninth plague on Egypt. The sea turned to blood echoes the first Egyptian plague. The waters turning bitter in the third trumpet are the reverse of God turning the bitter waters sweet at Marah for the Hebrews. The fourth trumpet echoes the ninth plague on Egypt.

I couldn’t help but notice that the consequences of the trumpet plagues are largely disruptions of nature which will disrupt commerce which in turn will wreak havoc on the global supply chain, which will only fuel economic and international strife, which will only fuel the works of the four riders of the apocalypse that have already been loosed: conquest, war, violence, famine, and death.

Disruption of supply chains, disruptions caused by war, supply shortages, famine, inflation, economic disruption, anger, violence: sound familiar? Yes, I can’t help but see the current events around me and think to myself how quickly things can spiral and descend in an out-of-control chain of events around the globe.

And this is where I don’t want you to read what I’m not writing. I’m not saying we are in the end times. I continue to maintain, as Jesus taught, that no one knows the day and the hour. I’m determined to cling to this ignorance. I can, however, read today’s chapter, look at current events, and appreciate how cataclysmic events like a global pandemic, natural disasters, wars, and famines can quickly destabilize the entire world as is described in the “Trumpet Judgments” in today’s chapter. And while Jesus said that I don’t know the hour and the day, He told multiple parables in which He encouraged His followers to be alert and to always be ready for the end to arrive.

And so, I enter today mindful and endeavoring to be ready, come what may in my own lifetime.

Note: Four recent messages were added to the Messages page today, an archive of YouTube and MP3 fiiles of messages.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

“What Do You Expect?!”

"What Do You Expect?!" (CaD Rev 6) Wayfarer

Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”
Revelation 6:15-17 (NIV)

Wendy and I find ourselves on that section of life’s road in which we get to watch and walk with my parents and her grandma as they traverse the home stretch of this earthly journey, and experience all that happens to the human body as it ages and begins to wear out. There is nothing novel or new about this progression. Ever since the third chapter of Genesis in which God tells Adam and Eve “from dust you came and to dust you will return,” human beings who live long enough have experienced the natural breakdown of the human body and mind until death finally catches up with us.

On our visits to Wendy’s 95-year-old grandmother, I’ve listened and observed as Wendy listens to grandma, who sometimes laments over her aches, pains, and nagging ailments that limit her quality of life. Wendy, ever the Enneagram Eight “challenger” that God made her, responds: “Your body is ninety-five years old, grandma! What do you expect?!”

In today’s chapter, we find John still in heaven’s throne room and Jesus (a.k.a. the Lamb) begins to open the scroll that was sealed with seven seals. As each seal on the scroll is broken, something awful is revealed to John. Conquest, war, famine, death, injustice, and cataclysmic natural disasters. Come to think of it, it’s a lot like what’s revealed to me when I open my news app each morning. Hold that thought.

A couple of observations. First, the prophetic images John sees here are not new or novel in the Great Story. Centuries before John’s vision, the prophets introduced these visionary images. Zechariah also saw the four horsemen (Zech 1 & 8). The souls under the altar connect directly with the Hebrew altar of sacrifice (Ex 29:12; Lev 4:7). The natural catastrophes mentioned were also referred to by Isaiah, Joel, Haggai, and even mentioned by Peter at Pentecost in Acts 2. So I think it’s important for me to understand that everything in this vision of “end times” has been foreseen all along. It’s all connected and it’s all been foreseen for a long time. Even Jesus described it:

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Matthew 24:6-14 (NIV)

Next, I have often stated that human history in the Great Story is very much like one long life cycle. Creation and time are layered with meaning. God’s people have long understood that one day is like a lifetime from birth (sunrise) to death (night). Followers of Jesus have seen that a week is like a metaphorical lifetime of Christ in which every Friday is a memorial of Jesus’ death and every Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection that launches us into a “new” week. In the same way, each year has the same pattern. In my chapter-a-day treks through ancient books like Exodus and Joshua, I often made the case that humanity was in the toddler stage of history. Civilization acted like immature, ignorant, and petulant children who are driven by their appetites, emotions, and base instincts. If I follow that metaphor to its logical conclusion, then Revelation is a vision of humanity in the throes of death, the ultimate conclusion of sin’s curse on humanity that was declared in Genesis chapter three.

And this brings me back to Wendy addressing her grandmother’s shock and lamentation over her body’s slow, uncomfortable decline. “What do you expect?!”

In the quiet this morning, I find that an apt question with regard to the bleak description that Jesus, John, and the prophets foreshadow regarding humanity’s final chapters. Broken and sinful humanity living in our civilization and the kingdoms of this world ruled by the “prince of this world” (as Jesus named the evil one) decline into the throes of death.

Pessimistic, I know, and a bit depressing for the one who has no hope.

But, there is hope! And we’ll eventually get there at the end of this chapter-a-day trek through Revelation. Until then, the journey may seem like a long, slow slog of decline towards death. Hang in there. As Bob Dylan sings, “Just remember, that death is not the end.”

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Hot Times and Cold Love

Hot Times and Cold Love (CaD Matt 24) Wayfarer

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold…”
Matthew 24:12 (NIV)

Our daughter, Taylor, works for a software company that has developed an amazing product, Storii, for those with dementia and Alzheimers. It started with the simple idea of helping those who are losing their memory to build and store their stories for their family and loved ones, but it basically applies to any person who wants to archive their lives and stories for subsequent generations. It’s brilliant.

One of the features of Storii prompts automated calls to the individual a few times a week. Each call asks a question like, “What radio or television programs did you watch growing up?” It then records the answer, places it on that person’s Storii page, and any connected loved ones get an email giving them access to the recording.

In recent weeks, Taylor asked me to help her test this audio recording feature, so I’ve been recording my answers and having a fun time doing it. I confess that it has put me in a nostalgic frame of mind. I’ve even placed a couple of Grumpy Old Man memes on our family text string. So much has changed in 50 years it’s mind-blowing. For my aging parents, I can only imagine that the feeling is magnified.

In today’s chapter, Jesus speaks apocalyptically about the end times. It’s pretty bleak stuff. The Great Story is, after all, a grand epic of conflict between good and evil. The end of most every good vs. evil tale is a final climactic conflict: think of the final battle at the Black Gate in Lord of the Rings, the battle of Hogwarts in Harry Potter, or the final scenes of every Marvel, DC, and Star Wars movie. The last installment of the Chronicles of Narnia is simply titled The Last Battle. You catch my drift. Jesus told His followers to expect the same in the end times, with creation itself adding to the havoc with famines and earthquakes.

What resonated in my heart this morning was Jesus’ prophetic statement that amidst the “increasing wickedness” and heated build-up of the final conflict, as evil persecutes followers of Jesus, the love of many followers will grow cold. I have to imagine that this is true whenever the persecution of believers takes place, like in Nigeria where over 10,000 followers of Jesus have been slaughtered in the last couple of years. When heads literally start to roll, I can only imagine that one asks themselves, “How much do I really believe this?”

In the quiet this morning, I find myself thinking about my own story. I’m thinking about the rapid decline and rejection of Christians and Christian thought across social institutions. I hear echoes in my head of my friend Chuck who helped market Corrie Ten Boom’s movie The Hiding Place. Corrie told him that she was making the film to prepare American Christians for the persecution that they will soon face. As a teenager, I couldn’t imagine that ever happening. Now, I’m not so sure. Am I just being a grumpy old man? It’s entirely possible. Forgive me. I again confess I’ve been in that frame of mind of late.

Whether or not I ever face serious persecution in my lifetime, the big question resonating in my heart on this frigid winter morning in Iowa is this: “As my life story continues to be told, could my love for Jesus ever grow cold?” (rhyme unintended, but nice…😉)

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Is This the End!?

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation…
2 Peter 3:14-15 (NIV)

In recent months, I’ve had multiple followers of Jesus who I know to be learned and wise ask me whether I believe the return of Christ will happen in our lifetime. I’ll get to my response in a few moments, but let me explain the question, and why I find it fascinating.

Jesus spoke quite directly about a day when He would return in the final chapters of the Great Story (see Matthew 24-25). At His ascension, Jesus’ followers were told by angels that He would one day return just as He departed (see Acts 1). Naturally, The Twelve asked Him “when” (multiple times). Each time they asked, Jesus responded that the answer to “when” is “hidden” with Father God. Before the ascension, He quite directly told His followers, “It’s not for you to know.”

So, of course, like children being told we can’t play with a certain toy, it only serves to make us want the thing even more. In today’s chapter, Peter addresses those in his generation who desperately wanted know “when,” along with addressing those who scoffed at the notion it would ever happen. And so, I’ve watched people in my generation obsessed with cracking the mystery that the Son of God Himself said was hidden from even Him and “not for you to know.”

And, that’s why I found it intriguing that my wise and learned friends are asking the question to which they and I both understand to be unknowable. Why is this question being asked now? And how do I answer?

First, as an amateur historian, I’ve come to believe that from the time Peter was first scratching out his second letter to today, there has not been a single generation that has not contained individuals convinced that Jesus return and the end times would happen in their lifetime. In addition, the more tumultuous the times (wars, plagues, revolutions, etc.) the more acutely people have felt “this is it!” Furthermore, I have observed in my own lifetime that the older believers get (and feel the impending end of their own life journey) the more they feel anxious about the changes of life and culture in their own lifetime. Thus, as they feel the end of their own earthly journey drawing nigh, they become convinced that the end of all things is near.

Second, and keeping these things in mind, I must also logically conclude that some of the descriptions of life in the end times as revealed in Revelation have never been more possible: cataclysmic natural disasters, events that affect the entire globe, one-word government, one global currency, the entirety of a persons finances and transactions being dictated by some kind of mark on the hand or forehead, and etc. Never in human history have these descriptions been more possible or probable.

So, it makes sense to me that my friends are asking this unknowable question. We are living in tumultuous times while at the same time observing that the events described in the final chapters of the Great Story feel less like spiritual science fiction and more like current events.

When asked the question of “when” by The Twelve, Jesus told them a story of unmarried bridesmaids whose responsibility it was to have their oil lamps filled and trimmed in anticipation of the bridegroom arriving for the wedding. It was their responsibility to provide illumination for the nighttime ceremony, and their lamps illuminated these eligible girls for all the eligible groomsmen and guests looking for a wife! In the story, some of the bridesmaids (like the scoffers of every generation who say, “It’s never going to happen”) got tired of waiting for the groom, and essentially gave up, believing the groom would never show up. But he did, and they were caught off guard. Not only would they be shamed for not upholding their duty, but they would also miss out on finding a husband themselves.

And, that’s my answer.

Are these events going to happen? Yes! Absolutely!

Will they happen in our life time? I don’t know. Silly question.

Am I ready if they do? Yes, of course. That’s what Jesus asks of me. Bring it on!

In the meantime, I wait and walk this journey doing the best I can to love God and love others in increasing measure in hope that others will follow along with me. I’m ready if Jesus should return, unconcerned whether it happens in my lifetime or not, and content not to know the unknowable.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

Apocalypse and Labor Pains

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
Mark 13:8 (NIV)

I recently finished a three-episode podcast series on time. The second episode of the podcast specifically on the so-called “end times” and the apocalypse. The apocalyptic and dystopian has always captured the human imagination, and one of the observations that I made in the podcast is that every generation has those who believe the end is near. I have also observed a pattern within every community of Jesus followers with whom I’ve been associated. As they get older, the more likely it is that they will be convinced that the return of Jesus and the apocalyptic end prophesied in Revelation is near. There must be something human in us that feels comforted by projecting our fear about the end of our own earthly journey on all humankind.

Well,” I hear an older woman [let’s cast Dame Maggie Smith in the role] saying with a shrug, “If I’ve got to die, it would be nice to have some company.

These things came to mind this morning as Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the persecution of His followers, and His eventual return “in power and glory.”

As I read the chapter, there was one little phrase that Jesus specifically uses that I have overlooked for my entirety of my forty years as a follower. He calls the signs of His prophetic events “birth pains.”

This brings to mind my last podcast episode in which I discussed the over-arching themes of the Great Story. One of them being:

Creation –> Destruction –> New Creation

So, the logical question I have to ask myself is: “What naturally happens after ‘birth pains’?”

A birth.

A new life.

A new start.

A beginning.

In the quiet this morning, I am reminded that Jesus told His followers not to worry, and not to be afraid, even in the midst of persecution, suffering, and apocalyptic predictions of incredible suffering and destruction.

It is ironic that Jesus encourages such faith and trust. It is just a day or two before He knows that He will endure incredible persecution, injustice, suffering, death, and hell. Jesus has prophesied that He will exemplify this apocalyptic, overarching Great Story theme. The events about to take place at the end of His own earthly journey are layered with meaning. They will be both a micro-human event and a macro-spiritual event. His trials, suffering, death, and resurrection are the “birth pains.” Even as Jesus says these words, amidst the escalation of conflict and the death threats of His enemies, He is feeling the contractions of His divine role in the Great Story. He is providing the example. He is blazing the trail. He is leading the way which does not end on the cross. It is the labor that will give birth to new life:

Life –> Death –> Resurrection

I am also reminded this morning that most apocalyptic movies and stories do not end with the depressing end of all things, but with the seeds of new hope being planted.

All good stories are a reflection of the Great Story.

 “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

Jesus

And,” I imagine Jesus saying with a shrug, “if I’m going to live, I’d love to have some company.”