It seems every week the news delivers further evidence that we are living in the “end times.” Developments in the Middle East alone are enough to give one sleepless nights. There is unrest in Afghanistan and fighting in Iraq; terror in the streets of Israel, and simmering tensions in Pakistan. As if that weren't enough, the worst earthquake in years has left tens of thousands dead in Iran, with thousands more at risk from untreated injuries, exposure to cold, hunger, and epidemic diseases.
As a child, I remember being scared as my father read graphic prophecies from Revelation and thinking, “I hope such terrible things never happen in my lifetime.” Later, as a father, I thought: Just let my children grow up and enjoy a “normal” life first. Now my children are married and have children of their own, but I'm no longer so sure I want them to have a “normal” life. If God's plan for the end of world suffering hinges on the fulfillment of these prophesies, who am I to hope for a delay? What does it mean to pray, “Your will be done”?
The more I think about it, the more I feel that the sooner these prophecies are fulfilled, the better for all of us. As frightening as it is to think of “nations and kingdoms proclaiming war against each other, and earthquakes and famines in many lands,” such horrors are already realities in many parts of the world.
Jeremiah tells us not to panic when we “hear the first rumors of approaching forces, for rumors will keep coming year by year.” But we also cannot ignore Jesus' warning about “a time of persecution such as the world has never seen before and will never see again,” or his promise that his followers will be “dragged into synagogues and prisons and before kings and governors for my sake.” To me, these words are a call to action, especially for those of us who claim to be people of faith. They challenge us to stop hiding, and to let ourselves be used as instruments for God.
The day before Martin Luther King was murdered he said, “Like anybody, I would like to live a long life…But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will.” We must have this same desire if we are going to survive the fear and violence and mass confusion of our time.
If each one of us, regardless of our religious persuasion, focused on God's will, all the need and suffering we face would soon be answered. Then none of us would be depressed or lonely, and even the most faint-hearted person would be given courage. The worst enemies would be reconciled, and we would love and forgive one another.
Then not only the terrifying prophesies, but also the ancient promise of a “peaceable kingdom” will become a reality, and so will John's vision in Revelation: "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. For behold, I make all things new!”
-- by Johann Christoph Arnold
[ Johann Christoph Arnold (www.ChristophArnold.com) is an author and minister with the Bruderhof Communities (www.bruderhof.com). ]