I got a text from a friend a few weeks ago. It was the kind of question that deserved more than a quick text reply.
She’s worried. She wanted to know what I thought about the state of the union. Specifically, she asked if I thought we were living in the time prophesied in Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation.
Before I continue, a bit more about her. She’s very aware of politics and current events, but it doesn’t run her life. A retired nurse, she’s spent a career caring for others and as an active member of her church, walking the walk of her faith more than talking it.
In re-reading her text it’s clear she’s not worried for herself. Her concern is for others, individually and for the country as a whole.
I’ll admit I had to look up Matthew 24 to get her frame of reference. It’s one of the darker chapters of the New Testament.
When asked about the end of times, Jesus warns the Temple – then the symbol of government and religious power – will be torn down with no stone unturned. He cautions of false prophets, “even the elect”, famines and earthquakes, and “wars and rumors of wars”.
Specifically, he declares that people of faith will be persecuted. The increase of evil will cause love to grow cold, and believers will betray and hate each other.
These aren’t the uplifting words you want to hear when sitting in church on a Sunday morning, when seeking votes from people of faith, or in a reply to a question for reassurance. But there are other similar warnings to those who expect the walk of faith to be easy.
In a political context, we have many modern day prophets who sell entitlement to a Christian nation, despite the founding fathers specifically rejecting the idea of a religious state. They were quite aware of the fickle nature of public opinion. As I’m fond of saying, the only time Jesus was put directly on a ballot, Barabbas won the election.
That was less than a week after Jesus entered Jerusalem with many believing he was to become their earthly king. Less than a week later, his formerly cheering crowds sentenced him to death.
Other warnings throughout the New Testament prepare us to understand that government will not be kind to believers. We’re told that we still need to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and if a solider tells us to carry his pack for one mile, to carry it two.
There’s no mention of epic takedowns on social media. The message, quite literally and directly, is to turn the other cheek.
It’s a hard message to swallow – and is even harder to practice – especially after a generation of prophets for profit have sold one party on the notion that if they vote the right way the country will be saved. The contemporary message has grown darker when you see it through the lens of people of faith claiming that people who vote the wrong way aren’t true believers.
If you are a believer of the Bible, Matthew 24 makes two things clear: The order of things as we know them will not end well, and we do not know when this will happen.
Some biblical scholars spend a lot of time recording events that match the end of times prophecies. The last ten verses of this chapter make it clear that no one knows when the end will occur.
I write this as I’m taking a brief vacation in the Florida Keys. The sunsets down here are amazing. So are the sunrises. The width of the islands makes it possible to see each almost in the same spot.
I’ve been trying to capture a sunset picture for three days, but my schedule and clouds have thus far interfered. I have, however, seen a couple of beautiful sunrises, even if there are a few clouds on the horizon.
It occurs to me that that’s the message here. We can focus on the sunset, but each sunrise is also a thing of beauty. It’s a new day to put to good use.
We need to focus less on the clouds, and more on the day we have in front of us. The rest of these worries are well above our pay grades.