been amused by the number of people who have asked me,
knowing that I was formerly a pastor, if I think that
the end of the world is near. They look at the troubles
in the Middle East and all the other indications of
"wars and rumors of wars" around the world,
and conclude that all the signs of the end times, as
listed in the book of Revelation, are being fulfilled.
And so they live in daily expectation that the Second
Coming may well happen next Tuesday.
They are somewhat taken aback by my response: "If
you live for another billion or so years, you may well
see the end of the world."
of all, I had a professor in seminary who said frankly
that the book of Revelation would either find you cracked
or leave you that way. It's been the happy hunting ground
for nut cases since it was first included in the Bible.
It is such an obscure piece of literature that you can
find in it anything you're looking for. By examining
its pages, people have many times, wrongly, dated the
end of the world. They have also found unique and creative
ways to identify the Anti-Christ, the 666 figure, naming
everyone from Napoleon to Hitler.
fact is that Revelation was written for its own time,
not ours, and it has nothing to say about God's plan
for our day or the future. It's a piece of apocalyptic
literature, typical of its time, which dealt with the
situation that existed between Rome, the great Babylon,
and Israel, the people of God. It was a promise that
God's people would win out in the end against the enemies
of God, not that the world would be destroyed. That,
if anything, is its encouraging message for us today.
far as the world coming to an end at the hand of God,
it's far more likely that we are in the kindergarten
of life than that we have run the full course of God's
plan for humanity. We have a very long way to go, and
a tremendous amount still to learn. We have just begun
to understand what it means to live together in peace,
to create the harmony of the Kingdom of God on Earth,
and we have many more thousands (millions) of years
to go before we realize the full potential which God
has created within us and within society.
let's not project on God all the primitive views that
were common in the first century. He's not some heavenly
tyrant waiting to blow us up. He is a loving father
who feels the same way about us as does a human father
watching his kids mix it up in the back yard. He shakes
his head and prays for them to grow up. So, we can't
expect that this mess we've gotten ourselves into will
be cleaned up by a God who will step in, end it all,
and start a new story where everyone behaves as they
should. It isn't that easy.
we want a better world, in which peace and love are
the primary values, we will have to do the hard work
of creating it ourselves. And we are going to be here
for a long time, so we might as well get started.
John W. Sloat 2006