And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, "[As for] these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down."
Luke 21:5-6 (NASB)
Hymn: "The Love of God" F. M. Lehman, Claudia Lehman May
Recently, a man named John Allen Chau was apparently killed on North Sentinel Island after attempting to evangelize to the people who live there. I witnessed a great many responses that showed a very clear lack of understanding about what it is missionaries do and how they do it and even who they are, which has prompted me to start working on a post on missions. That will be finished at some point, but today's reading brought the whole matter to mind because of one very specific claim that was being made about missionaries. The statement that had been made, and showed up a few times, was that Christians (or at least Evangelical Christians) believe Christ cannot return until every people group is reached and therefore missionaries are actively attempting to bring about the end of the world.
Now, there's a lot to unpack there, and we really should start with the fact that what they're talking about is a very specific read of Dispensationalism that is not shared by all Evangelicals, and even then it is being somewhat misunderstood in this context. But this is a devotional, and the thought that came to mind as I was reading today in Revelation 14 and Jesus' prophesy about the destruction of the temple in Luke 21 and the rather violent promises in Psalm 110 and even a chapter of Ecclesiastes (which is always such a cheerful experience as it is) was about how much we really do suggest to the world that the end is our whole focus.
See, because, it is easy to read passages about angels reaping the Earth in which human lives almost seem to lose all individual meaning and forget to view it through the Biblical mindset that people matter. It's easy to read Jesus' words quoted above and just kind of take them as though He is reprimanding the disciples for appreciating the beauty in something that will not last. Even just the tone of voice used in the rare occasions I've heard this passage read aloud belie this innate sense that Jesus is really saying, "Don't bother with any of that, it's coming down anyway" rather than considering that Jesus may also think it's beautiful and maybe, just maybe, He's mourning what He knows about it. We can see the promises of God to deliver the peoples into the hands of Christ as the final judge and king of all the world, and divorce it from the knowledge that Jesus defeats death on the cross and that God shows a consistent desire that none should perish. It's so easy for us to look at the world around us and cry with the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!"
We are told about the end for a reason. It is good that we know about the full extent and power of God's victory. It is good to view this world with some awareness of what awaits us in the age to come and how our actions today impact that. But we are not told about the end so that we can spend all our time there. We are told about the end so that we can live our lives appropriately now. We can have hope now because we know that Christ has taken the victory and that it will be fulfilled.
But what do we do? We talk endlessly about the end times. We invite people into salvation as though it applies to getting into Heaven but not as though it changes us now. What does the world see when we compare world leaders to the Antichrist and talk about this earth passing away as a shroud and do not broadcast that this religion is something that matters every day as we walk this Earth, and not just something that we sign on to now and then get to enjoy later? We are not pre-ordering salvation! We are being asked to lay down our lives, our entire lives, right here and now and let God decide what we will look like going forward. We are commanded to give everything over to Him and let Him decide how much of it will be given back and what we will do with it. How often do we invite people into that? How often do we take seriously that this might include dying for Christ, but it will absolutely include living for Him? And how often do we show that seriousness of purpose to the people around us?
When we look at passages about the end times, or what is to come in general, let us be a people who read it seeking to know what that means for us today rather than sacrificing our today to dwell on the future.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation