By nature, we try to make sense of chaos, to impose some kind of order or structure upon it, to find a chain of causes and effects. As we consider the problems of our own age and try to make a global picture, a global model, that both explains and predicts events, we need to remember that our own biases and values affect our perceptions (see Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, and the ideas and methodology of gestalt psychology).
The Bible presents us with global claims, but often given in the context of local ideas and practices, be they Near Eastern or Greco-Roman. The covenant people of God are drawn from both the Jews and the Gentiles, but Jerusalem is the “city of the Great King” (Ps. 48; Matt. 5:35; http://www.joelstrumpet.com/?p=8435). We can look at the pieces of history and the regions of the world, but everything converges on Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the place where God’s temples stood, where our Lord was crucified, and where He will set up His throne to judge the nations when He returns.
The problems of this age have been there from the beginning. In His Olivet Discourse, Jesus advised us not be misled by the appearance of “wars and rumours of wars” and other phenomena of a terrifying nature. In themselves, these things do not indicate that the end has come. He likened them to birth-pangs, preliminary signs of an impending birth, to be followed by signs of another kind. However, it should be noted that birth-pangs do change as one gets closer to a birth: their pain becomes more severe, and the interval between them becomes smaller. Therefore, it should not surprise us if our woes today seem on the one hand, to be of the same basic nature as those of history, while on the other more dreadful in their impact. Thus we may understand, for example, World Wars 1 and 2 to have their forerunners in wars like the War of the Spanish Succession, while also affirming their own unique horrors and scope.
These things confirm for the watching Church that her Master is coming, even if we do not know the hour of His return (Matt. 24:36, 44). The time immediately preceding and following His return will be terrible, and will involve a reversal of fortunes. Before Christ’s return the Church will endure terrible persecution: the fallen humanity will think they have finally silenced her voice. Many will be killed; many will become apostate; many will be in hiding (Matt. 24:9-13). But after His return, Christ’s Church will be glorified and enjoy her promised rest and victory, while the unrepentant tremble at His judgement (Matt. 24:30-31).
As certain as those events are to happen, so the events that lead to them must be. Even now, we witness terrible persecution in the Middle East, in Africa, in North Korea, and parts of China and India. In the West many families that once professed to be Christian are abandoning their commitment to our God and His Christ. The end is not yet, but who can doubt that it will one day come?
Amidst this terrible persecution, however, is a beautiful sign: the conversion of the Gentiles. As has often been said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Great numbers in the Muslim world are becoming Christians, escaping from the hard bondage of their former spiritual overlords. In other parts of the world, missionaries are having an impact: people groups who have never heard the Gospel are hearing it for the first time, and the Bible is being translated into their native tongues (Matt. 24:14). This is why the Bible refers to true believers as stars shining in the darkness, particularly at the time of Antichrist’s great persecution: as the spiritual darkness gets worse around them, their witness to the goodness, power, and glory of God becomes greater as they submit to martyrdom and unbelievers respond through conversion.
The story of the end, then, is one of great extremes: great faith that submits to execution; and great darkness that persecutes God’s Elect. A time of chaos will be followed by a time of order. Christ will rule from Jerusalem, and the nations will acknowledge those whom He loves.
What other factors do you discern that will contribute to this perfect storm and perfect redemption?