The Times and Our Response


Munch's 'The Scream'

I can’t remember a time in my life when more people are on edge. Short fuses and strong emotions don’t mix. Everywhere I look, people are either ready to pop a vein in their heads or to bury those same heads in their hands out of fear or sorrow.

In the last few days, I have had numerous encounters with people who appear to be losing it. What’s even stranger is that I spent most of last week at home sick. That makes the percentage of tense encounters even higher.

While I’m not one for end times speculations, it sure seems to me that the time before the Lord returns is running out. Reading the biblical descriptions of what people will be like in those days reads like America 2010.

Which is why,  more than ever, the Church needs to be at its most humble, winsome, and loving. We cannot be the angry, fearful, hateful people. Because we are called to be like the Lord, and the Lord is a rock and sure foundation, we need to look like Him in the eyes of desperate, angry, fearful people. We must be solid, but humbly so. We must turn the other cheek more than ever before and refuse to dish back what is dished out to us. We must be willing to accept being called wrong even when we are right. We simply cannot afford to repay anger with anger and fear with fear.

How do we get the American Church to that point? The only answer is to die to self.

Fact is, dying to self is pretty much the answer to 90 percent of the questions and issues that face Christians living in these times. If we only live to preserve our material goods, our status, and our positions on negotiable issues, if we live only to ensure that we always look good in the world’s eyes, then we will fail to stake out the higher ground and only descend into the madness around us.

48 thoughts on “The Times and Our Response

  1. Bob Aarhus


    As you know, I’ve made some previous comments here about America’s economic situation. I’ve been reading a number of contrarian blogs for the past five years, and was not at all surprised by the collapse of the derivatives market and the associated downturn of the economy.

    It may not be the coming Tribulation, but I think it’s fair to warn readers that, as hard times are concerned, we are just getting started.

    There is every indication that we are in for, at best, a Japan-style recovery (which means no significant economic recovery going into its third decade now). There are numerous signs that foreign countries are abandoning the dollar as their reserve currency. And no economy survives the collapse of its bond market — and it is quite possible we will see this shortly.

    If the symptoms you cite are reflections of people’s loss of jobs, homes, their standard of living, their identity as members of society — we are bound for more, and worse.

    I think we are about to see who is ready, willing, and able to die to self — and a whole host of those whose religion is only as sound as their bank account. Like any war, we need to be prepared not only for the refugees who come into our lives, but also for those who were fighting by our sides just moments ago who fall or – worse – drop their weapons and run. Will we be ready for that as well?

    • Bob,

      What troubles me most is that too few people are doing anything to prepare. I’ve been saying for years that the Church here (which is overly attuned to all things eschatological) seems almost oblivious to the run up. Too many churches really are in that “foolish virgin” stage, which has me perplexed. I think that dispensationalism has really lulled too many Christians into a false sense of “rapture” release, that “God’s gonna get me out of here before it gets bad” thinking that I believe is driving a lot of this obliviousness.

      As I’ve said, Pascal’s wager doesn’t just apply to unbelievers. Christians who are throwing all their weight toward a pretrib rapture make the same mistake as the unbeliever who ignores the wager that God may in fact exist, as the smart bet is to assume He does because the penalty for not believing in Him is far worse than the converse. The smart eschatological bet is to prepare as if the rapture is post-trib, whether it is or not.

      • Dan,
        I think you’re picking on dispensationalism too much. We are told in the scriptures that the end will be like in Noah’s day, sudden and unexpected. Life will be progressing in relatively normal fashion when sudden destruction comes upon the earth. Two will be grinding at a mill or sleeping in a bed, just like they normally would, one will be taken, the other left. What are you anticipating in the end: a hermit community of believers, holed up someplace removed from the general chaos living on can goods and prayer meetings while the world descends into hell itself?

        Our ark of safety is not built with human hands and I fail to find any instructions in the Word for building any other kind with ours. How does your view of eschatology fit with what we are told about the tenor of life at the end? No matter what birthpangs may be upon us, no matter what tribulation we may face, I think Jesus counsel stands, “be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.”

        • slw,

          If we really sit down and look at NT descriptions of the end, they seem to go in divergent directions. You have mentioned the more innocuous-seeming end that appears quite everyday.

          But if you go to Matt. 24, prior to the section of Scripture you quoted, you get an entirely different picture from Jesus as to what is happening around the time when one is taken and another left:

          “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.
          —Matthew 24:9-36

          That seems really awful and chaotic to me.

          The hinge verse here is the one where Jesus says that for the sake of the elect those days are cut short. It means that chaos is already happening. It seems to me pretty clear that the elect will go through some or most of the tribulation.

          The ordinariness you cite doesn’t have to mean that people are just going about life like they were in 2008. People in the midst of war still sleep, still have to gather food, still have to live— even if the world around them is in chaos.

          If I lived in Miami and I decided to take a trip to Moscow in January, would I be wise to buy a winter coat at some point before I leave? Let’s say the tribulation begins and lasts seven years. And let’s consider the worst case: that the Church will go through most of that tribulation. What does the Church do during that time? Lay down and wait to die? Is that biblical?

          Let’s imagine another scenario, that the run up to the actual tribulation takes 25 years and each year within that time gets worse and worse. The Bible seems to show a gradual worsening until it gets truly awful. Would we stop educating our children at the beginning of those 25 years? Would we quit our jobs? How then would we live during that worsening? Would we take no precautions at all?

          Consider the Underground Railroad here in the United States. I live right in prime Underground Railroad country. It went right through my town. Folks established safehouses and devised elaborate ways to help slaves to freedom. Most of those wise people who prepared to help slaves were devout believers.

          Consider how the underground Church operates in countries that condone persecution of Christians. I know of Christian missionaries in such lands and the amount of subterfuge they resort to when working to help believers escape being jailed or having church leadership meetings broken up by the authorities is worthy of a John Le Carré spy novel. Read Brother Andrew’s recollections, too.

          My problem (just one of many) with dispensationalism is that it discounts all that and lulls Christians into what I believe is a false sense of being prepared. It dismisses valid questions like “Should we Christians in America be planning safehouses or secret food stashes?” It sniffs at the thought that anti-Christian government authorities may want to come in and take our children away (and maybe even rape our daughters). If we have never once thought about these things because we have a “Hey man, I’m outta here!” pre-trib rapture mentally that never once questions if that’s the absolutely 100 percent certain outcome, then we have not used the minds and wisdom God has given us to make the preparations we should be making.

        • I understand your reasoning, but I still find fault with it biblically. The chaos you mentioned in Matthew 24 is clearly focused on Judea and perhaps not as clearly (even though it is in my mind) Jerusalem. No doubt we interpret Matthew 24 differently, regardless, it’s the application you make that concerns me. How can what you suggest be pursued in light of Matt 6:25ff? Do the end times force Christian to look at life in a patently unchristian way?

          • Paul Walton

            Bottom line gentlemen we should be living our lives as though He could return at anytime, because He could. Christ said “behold I stand at the door” He could step through it at any moment. Do we really think people will treasure Christ more because He may return at anytime? Either He is your your reason for living ( your pearl of great worth) or not, half-hearted Christianity is of no value. The parable of the ten virgins is the most clear cut word picture for the body of Christ. Some will be prepared for His return and some will not. We can shout from the roof tops to ‘be ready for the day of the Lord is near’ but in the end some will have their lamps full and others will not. Most Christians view God’s word with a fortune cookie mentality instead of a well of true God-given, inspirational life giving knowledge.

          • slw,

            The way I read Matthew 24 is this:

            It can’t be a strict Preterist interpretation that has Jesus speaking only of the AD 70 sacking of Jerusalem because Jesus says that there will never be an apocalypse like that again. The Book of Revelation, if read as a Last Days document, would say otherwise.

            It can’t be a strict future (Revelation) interpretation because Jerusalem was indeed sacked within the generation to which Jesus spoke. And it was not pretty.

            Instead, I consider this passage a dual (past/future) fulfillment prophecy. The hinge word, which is a clever choice on the Lord’s part, is genea in v. 34. It means generation, race, or nation.

            In the case of generation, that generation Jesus spoke to would live to see the destruction (AD 70) Jesus foretold.

            In the case of race/nation, that race/nation (the Jews/Israel/Judah) would live to see the destruction (final tribulation of Revelation) Jesus foretold.

            That makes perfect sense to me.

            As to see Matt 6:25ff, I don’t see how that passage negates responsibility on the part of the Christian to take steps to be prepared, only that we should not let fear of lack overwhelm us. The Bible repeatedly uses the image of an untended and unmanaged vineyard as an indictment against the vineyard owner. Paul warns folks not to stop working just because they think the Lord is coming soon.

            This is not to say that God CAN’T provide supernatural manna from heaven to feed us, but the fact is that He still asks us to work. And if that work means storing away food for a week, a month, a year, or even a decade, does that negate Matt 6? Does the dream of the fat & lean years that Joseph interpreted and the practical response negate Matt. 6?

            I think the Matt passage is there to let us know that our primary aim in life is not to go running after the things of the world and worry about them all the time. But that meaning never negates wisdom and planning.

          • Dan,
            Thanks for the response, and for your view on Matthew 24. I think you’re right about seeing two time references within the context, and find your hinge point interesting indeed! I do see it a bit differently, but that’s for neither here nor now. I agree with your stance that Christians should be working until the end. Sitting around idly looking up is a recipe for starvation (2 Thess 3:10).

            I don’t out and out disagree with your points on Matthew 6, but I do think it goes a step further than not running after the things of the world–I think the prime force is about worry. That is where my concern lies in dealing with this post and your response to Bob A. It sounds like you think Christians should take up worry, and that you fault dispensational eschatology for them not doing so in large numbers. As much as Christians should be found working when he returns, I think they should also be found not worrying. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

            • slw,

              I’m a member of a Pentecostal church, so how popular do you think my leaning toward amillennialism is, especially when paired with a mid- to post-trib position? 😉

              I studied under a brilliant New Testament teacher at Wheaton who taught sixteen historic interpretations of Revelation that have all been earnestly held in the Church at one time or another. That really messed with my head. What it taught me was that far better Christians than Dan Edelen held different views and held them strongly. Every generation of the Church thinks it is the terminal generation—and often for good reason. Our generation is no different.

              I am not dogmatic on eschatology because my own position isn’t carved in stone. HOWEVER, I absolutely am not a “pan-tribulationist,” espousing some “who cares?” attitude toward eschatological belief systems. One’s eschatology is CRITICAL because it informs nearly everything else a Christian believes, and especially how one acts out the faith.

              The one position I have the most problems with is “the second the going gets rough, Jesus is going to rapture me out of here.” And while historic premillennialism has some of that problem, it’s pretty much the core of dispensationalism (which I have a ton more problems with, especially the bifurcation of destinies for the Jews and the Christians).

            • Paul,

              You are absolutely correct. I was speaking in generalities. That said, my experience and study have shown that the most commonly held forms of premillennialism presuppose a pretrib rapture.

              What writers/pastors/theologians have you read who are premill but are not pretrib? That might be a good list for readers to know.

          • Paul Walton

            The reason I’m not pre-trib is because of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
            The Man of Lawlessness
            1Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. 3Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for (that day will not come) until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

            From these verses to me it’s clear that the church will be around to witness the rise of the anti-christ and he doesn’t come on the scene until the tribulation is well under way.

            I’m pre-mil because I believe God will fulfill His promise to Israel of a promised earthly kingdom. If that’s not the case, then we can toss out about half of the Old Testament. If God didn’t mean it when He said it would happen, well then if we go down that road, what else didn’t he really mean in His word?

            • Paul.

              I’m not pre-trib because of the Two Trumpets Dilemma, as being pre-trib necessitates a belief that there are two “last” trumpets. I’ve never seen this effectively explained away by pre-tribbers.

              I’m not pre-mil because when the Lord returns the promise is that He will make all things new. How then can there be sin in the restored Kingdom? That’s also why I lean amil.

              I have other reasonings beyond these, but these two points are the standouts.

          • Paul Walton

            My pastor is amil and he and you are much wiser than I. But if the promised Kingdom is spiritual and Christ is ruling from heaven that would mean that satan has been bound and is no longer deceiving the nations. If we line up the timing in the book of Revelation, the promised kingdom and satan being bound are concurrent during this period, I think it’s pretty clear satan still in business.

            • Paul,

              Each millennial view has its “issues.” All I know is that one day everything will be clear, and our response will be, “Of course! How could we not have seen it!”

  2. connie

    I have to laugh. On the way to clicking on the link to your website, I was musing on how tense things are at work these days, and how difficult things are at home as well (everywhere I look, tension and stress!) And I was thinking that too bad I don’t really believe in a pretrib rapture because today surely would have been a good day for it-and THEN I got to your post.


  3. Dying to self is the only way to be a Christian, period. I’m thankful the Lord has taught our family to live by faith. We have learned that the Lord always provides even when there is no earthly means for provision. We, as Christians, should be walking by faith and should have no reason to fear. If we trust and obey, we will be cared for by our loving Father.

    • Lee,

      Most people only learn that lesson over time, though. When we assume that everyone has had the time to learn it, we commit a grave error. It’s one reason why there is so much misunderstanding and judgmentalism in the American Church today.

      • Suzanne

        Unfortunately, as I check through my Facebook feeds, most of my Christian friends are not posting on love, forgiveness, or compassion, but anti-government rants.

  4. So we shouldn’t move into the exurbs, homeschool our children, plant gardens, and stock up food, water, gold bullion, guns, ammunition, diesel, and firewood for the coming One World Antichrist Babylon system? 😉

  5. Sonya

    I was thinking just last night about our Lords return and hoping it might be soon. At least I’m thinking about it and keeping oil in my lamp.

    Trust you are feeling better. Workplace violence is pretty high where I work. I need grace to yield to the Holy Spirit as many times I want to throw it right back.

  6. Paul Walton

    If we are truly surrendered, our entire life will be consumed with the One to whom we have surrendered. In our surrender, we must give ourselves to God in the same way He gave Himself for us— totally, unconditionally, and without reservation.

    Dying to self is being completely delivered from myself, being crucified with Christ, and being placed into perfect union with Christ

    We must seek, trust, and treasure Christ above everything, especially ourselves.

    • Oengus,

      I’m not really into the modernists, but I like that picture because it’s raw emotion. The nearly skeletal figure is just overwhelmed. I have always thought that the figure was walking along and was suddenly overcome by the weight of it all. Heck, I felt like that Sunday!

  7. The local news reported today about a local corporation whose stock went from $1 to $18 per share in one year, a 1700% increase. Last year, though, they laid off 1000 workers. That’s a bitter pill.

  8. Ronda Rolph


    Wow! I have been feeling like there is a spiritual “pressure cooker” atmosphere for many months now and didnt know how to put it in perspective with my life and potentially, the time we are living in. You are 100% correct and I can only hope and pray that I, along with my community, will be ready to act and do His will by being loving, humble and full of faith when the time comes!

  9. David

    I think we get a bit knotted up about the ‘signs’ around us. While we are supposed to be aware, I think that sometimes we are so focused on what is going on, we forget to be prepared. Jesus spoke to this, I think, when he lamented that people were waiting for Him to be what they wanted: “We sang a dirge and you did not weep…” We are so busy manipulating the times to fit what we think it should be, we forget that our role has nothing to do with the times. It’s my main complaint about the “Left Behind” series, that the protagonists were trying to affect the actions of the Anti-Christ. Christians think that by getting people into church, stopping gay marriage and abortion, and keeping America #1, the end will come peacefully, or be delayed a generation.

    We have two things to do: Love God and love others. That’s it. There’s lots to do in those two things. It should keep us so busy we won’t even be aware when the curtain comes down.

  10. Headless Unicorn Guy

    While I’m not one for end times speculations, it sure seems to me that the time before the Lord returns is running out. Reading the biblical descriptions of what people will be like in those days reads like America 2010.


    I heard the same sentiment word-for-word back during Hal Lindsay’s heyday in the 1970s. Word For Word. All the Biblical Descriptions of the Last Days matched, Ye Ende Was Nighye, proven from news headlines and citing that All End Time Prophecies just before the end Are Being Fulfilled As We Speak. “CHRIST IS COMING SOON! ALL THE SIGNS POINT TO IT! WE MIGHT NOT HAVE A 1978! OR EVEN A 1977!” (actual quote from the time).

    It is now 2010.

    • HUG,

      Like I said elsewhere in the comments, every generation thinks it is the terminal generation.

      That said, I have seen a pronounced slide in even the last ten years. My son’s childhood will be filled with junk I never had to contend with. Plus, it seems like half the country is on some mood-altering drug, tension is everywhere, and America 2010 is far more of a hellhole than it may have been in 1977.

      Something is brewing.

  11. Dan, I checked out another dystopian novel to read today when I thought, hey, a good work of Christian speculative fiction (which I know you like to write) would be America (or perhaps the remnants of it) set in the distant future (2100, perhaps?) and what the average Joe Christian thinks about eschatology at that point. Why hasn’t Jesus come back? I think many of us and our forefathers, as much as we don’t want to scratch our heads and seem like the scoffers in Peter’s epistle, would wonder why Jesus has not returned.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      “I checked out another dystopian novel to read today when I thought, hey, a good work of Christian speculative fiction … would be…”

      As someone who’s trying to write the stuff himself, I want to tell everyone that Near-Future Persecution Dystopia is BADLY overdone in Christian Spec-Fic. (Like “Elves, Dwarves, etc” in fantasy.)

      I see it as a just Christian coat of paint on the Dark Future Dystopias that have dominated our SF and pop-culture thinking since the “New Wave” of the late Sixties. Before then (probably ending with original Star Trek), there was a feeling of optimism and hope for a Bright Future — “That Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” in contemporary Disneyland’s Carousel of Progress. Futures you actually wanted to live to see.

      After that, it’s been downhill, with “Life Sucks and then You Die, We’re All Gonna Die, It’s Already Too Late, It’s All Over But The Screaming” Dystopian Dark Futures to look forward to. From “Boldly Going Where No Man Has Gone Before” to breathing shallow to decrease our Carbon Footprint while watching documentary series on how The Planet Will Heal Herself Once The Cancer Of Humanity Is Finally Extinguished.

      And a lot of Christians have gotten on the “It’s All Over But The Screaming” bandwagon through Pop Eschatology, waiting for The End so Christ can Beam Them Up. I’ts All Gonna Burn.

      We need Hope. You can go without Hope only so long before you kill yourself, go crazy, or grab for anyone who promises a way out from the Nihilism and Hopelessness. Anyone wonder why Obama won the election? He preached Hope and we didn’t.

  12. Hopefully the church will refrain from getting swept up in the craziness of the times and will provide a place for people to find refuge and peace. However, as a Pastor living in the craziness, I can see how quickly I can introduce the craziness into the mix.

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