A few weeks ago, a middle-aged man joined us for our Wednesday service. With urgency, he told us that things were aligning, and the beginning of the end would start this coming Saturday. We listened as he spoke, respecting his insight. I spoke with him after and let him know that in our tradition, we really do not worry much about the end times.
We know they are going to happen, we know that there is not much we can do about it, and if we are lucky enough to be part of them, well, that is just a bonus! It was not meant as a brush-off, but stating a fact that as a people, we are called to live for God and not ourselves.
Apocalyptic stories and teachings have been around since people started to worship together. Archeologists have found apocalyptic stories in most religions. For the Judeo/Christian world, we can find these stories in some of the earliest books of the Bible. In theological texts, we see them written about often. Interestingly, from a historical standpoint, they increase in times of real uncertainty.
But that is an aside to the truth about the apocalypse. It will come one day, and probably by sheer luck, somebody is going to be right, and, thankfully, we won’t have to debate that! We also know if one prediction does not come true, another will come. Regardless, the problem often with living for the apocalypse is the fact that we cannot live for Christ, because our priorities are skewed towards self-preservation.
Accepting that the apocalypse will come eventually is the same as accepting that our individual lives will come to an end, as well. As you can imagine, if you were living to die, the way you would live your life would be very different, and your focus would be, too. It is the problem that arrives with the problem of salvation itself. Most people concerned with the end times and their mortality are often preoccupied with the afterlife.
This begs the ultimate question: who or what you are living for? Granted, I have no doubt that the man who told us was doing so out of his passion for Christ and compassion for fellow believers, but there is a basic truth that occurs when we live our lives preparing for either salvation, the end of the world, or even the end of our lives¾we are no longer living for God.
You may be asking yourself, especially if you are coming out of a tradition that makes a big deal about securing your salvation or preparing for the end times, “What is he talking about?” The problem comes down to what we make “ultimate.” For example, if we make our salvation the goal of our lives, we cannot live for God because we are living for ourselves.
This is a question of motivation. If we are spurred into action because of our desires, our motivation is our self-preservation. Where in the Bible does it give us the idea that our self-preservation is of importance? Sure, you can proof-text a passage here or there, but in context, self-preservation is antithetical to the faithful life of the Christian.
This is about how we order our lives¾living the best we can, working to create a better world and caring for our neighbors. If it so happens that the end of the world comes, we will be prepared because our heart is on God; and if it does not, we will be working to create a world that more closely resembles heaven and honors the dignity and love of God.
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Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen