End Times

At a consultation with a church session (governing board) a couple of weeks ago, I was asked about the end times … what does the Bible say we should expect of the church during the end times?  Being a good Presbyterian, I evaded the question, thinking it came from a “Left Behind” mindset and not well grounded in Reformed Theology.  But, I have to admit, despite the fact that the whole end of the world thinking is not considered orthodox by most Presbyterians, I do sometimes wonder … the things going on in the world today make our time seem so … dangerously potent.  Change is occurring more rapidly than ever before, and there are now global implications for decisions we make … if not the “end times” we are definitely living through a time pregnant with possibility.

We’ve all heard that we’re in a time of “emerging”, both in the church and in the so many other aspects of our culture.  This week’s Futuring study brought about a huge “ah ha” for me … if it’s a time of something new emerging, then it’s also the time of something old dying.  I know … it takes me a while sometimes ;)  One of our leaders presented some information from a book about the natural cycles of generations, with the opinion that we are currently in the “fourth turning”, a time of crisis.  But times of crisis are always followed by the birth of something new.

Everything has a season the verse says in Ecclesiastes.  Everything runs in cycles.  There is time of birth and a time of death, but the death always leads to a new birth.  There was a huge transition from the hunting/gathering/tribal times to the agricultural times which was the birth of “civilization” as we know it.  We are now in a similar shift from “civilization” to “globalization.”  If he’s right, then we are at the end of civilization.  The question I raise, though, is that so bad?  I think globalization is where we ought to be headed,  Knowing where we’re headed means we have the ability to not just forsee the future, but to shape the future … and how we shape it is so vitally important.

But … I am also very much aware that for some who don’t embrace change and who can’t see a glimpse of the global/Kingdom vision of the new millenium, the end of civilization as we know it, IS the end of the world.  It’s catastrophe; it’s the end times; it’s judgment day.  Perhaps that’s why fear and violence are so rampant.  Perhaps that’s why there are so many in our churches hoping to wake up tomorrow in 1959.  Because the future will be so different; the end of civilization means the end of christendom, the end of denominationalism, the end of the Christian Empire … but I’m wondering … even with that, could our future be just a little closer to the Kingdom?

So,  I’m wondering … what do the “end time” Bible readings have to say to us in this time of re-birth, transition, paradigm-shifting, a new millennium?  Maybe The Book of Revelation and other apocryphal passages are meant to be metaphorical and speak directly to all of us going through “the fourth turning.”  Or any “end time” such as the fall of Jerusalem, the fall of the Roman Empire, and, now, the fall of the American Empire.

It’s funny … when I read the first few “Left Behind” books, I thought it would be a huge responsibility as well as a great adventure to be left behind … to be the ones interpreting, discerning, and leading into a new future … but isn’t that what we’re doing now?  The emerging church movement and others … we are the shapers of the new age.  It’s time to pray.