These things must happen

Do not fear the end times, even if it appears they may be upon us.

We’ve come a long way, and we don’t know how much time we have left.

Scholars believe that the Book of Job was the first book of the Bible actually written down. It may have been written five hundred years before Moses penned the Pentateuch (the Torah). Studies of ancient writing find the earliest examples of “full writing-systems” in Mesoptoamia about a thousand years earlier. It took the Mesoptoamians around 1,500 years to develop writing from pictorial signs and cave drawings.

Before about 5,500 years ago, we have no written records of humanity, except for a few mysteries like the Rapa Nui on Easter Island. There is evidence that humans inhabited large portions of the Earth for many tens of thousands of years, leaving no written record.

Scientific evidence shows humans like us roamed the planet from about 300,000 years ago, along with our close cousins, Homo erectus, and Neanderthals. Whether you believe that we descended from common evolutionary ancestors, or that we were imbued by God with a unique spirit is irrelevant for the purpose of this discussion, for most of us. If you’re a “young Earth” believer, then I can’t offer you any evidence to persuade you, so please don’t email me.

I believe that God created Man, as Genesis recounts, but Genesis is poetic in nature, not given as a vision (like Revelation), or spoken from God’s mouth (like Jesus’s words). So yes, God created Man, along with everything else, but the manner of His creation is not our ken. Or at least not mine.

I tend to go with God’s answer in the Book of Job. In chapter 38, God asks Job “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” along with many other questions, as the conversation goes on for several chapters. When Christians spend our days over-interpreting Scripture to fit our own insecurities and human frailty, and to somehow arrive at pleasing God without faith (because we have all the answers), I believe we are wasting our time and offending God with our intransigence, when we could be building each other up with faith and good works.

This has strayed a bit from my topic, so let me bring it back in.

In mankind’s 300,000 years on this planet (again, don’t argue theology with me), for 290,000 years, we don’t know precisely what happened from first person accounts because nobody wrote anything down. After we started writing things down, transferring knowledge, as well as cultural stories, from one generation to another, civilization developed rapidly. Between 3,500 B.C. and the birth of Christ, which was close to the apotheosis of the Roman Empire, mankind went from small bands of hunter-gatherers to highly organized nation states, with agriculture, ranching, running water, septic systems, and all manner of ways to kill each other.

There was also no shortage of people writing everything down, from Josephus to Aristotle. Of the most reliable ancient works, we have the Bible, specifically the Torah. The scribes who copied the scrolls were under such strict and specific protocols, including assigning numerical values to each Hebrew letter, then adding up each line and column of text on parchment, and comparing the “masoretic text” totals from predetermined portions of Scripture to the original being copied. The degree of craftsmanship and exactness used in creating a single Torah scroll is truly fascinating.

Because of this care, the Torah we see today in any synagogue is almost guaranteed to be the same as the ones Jesus would have used over 2,000 years ago. The Dead Sea Scrolls have given us strong evidence that the words of the Hebrew prophets, written hundreds, or even a thousand years after Moses wrote the Pentateuch, are much the same as when they were originally inspired.

The prophet Daniel, who lived in the years of exile around 600 B.C., wrote of the “end times.” In Daniel chapter 12:

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”

John, studying the words of Daniel 700 years later, after his friend and savior Jesus Christ died on the cross, and himself having witnessed Jesus resurrected, referred to many seals and scrolls. In Revelation 22, John wrote that the angel told him not to “seal up the words of the prophecy of this scroll, because the time is near.”

From the time when Daniel wrote of the end times, to the time when John wrote “the time is near” was only 700 years, but during that time, the mission of the Church was established, to make the knowledge of Daniel’s prophecy known. And knowledge has increased in general along with it.

In the last 200 years, since the Industrial Revolution, the speed of knowledge has multiplied at a logarithmic pace. We’ve gone from horse and ox and donkey and ships of sail, as Jesus and His disciples would recognize, to cars and jets and cruise ships in just over a century.

The Internet, in 1995, when I started an ISP, there were less than 40 million users worldwide. There were only 23,500 websites in June, 1995, and the total transmitted amount of information was estimated at 1.5 million Gigabytes. In 2019, that number was estimated to reach 44 zettabytes by 2020. A zettabyte is 1,000 exabytes; an exabyte is a million terabytes. that estimate projected that 463 exabytes will be created daily by 2025. That’s 169 yottabytes per year.

The entire Bible can be stored in as little as 5 megabytes. That means 3.38e+19 (3.38 x 1 followed by 19 zeroes) Bibles worth of data will be created each year by 2025. It’s truly a mind-boggling number. There will be nearly as many Bible-sized chunks created on the Internet by 2020 as there are estimated stars in the observable universe.

As knowledge, and content, continues to increase at an increasing pace, how can anyone dispute Daniel’s words?

The Apostle Paul wrote to the young pastor Timothy, from Macedonia, over 60 years after Christ’s death and resurrection, about the end times. 2 Timothy chapter 3:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents,ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

The Apostle Matthew recorded Jesus talking about the end times in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 24.

4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be faminesand earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

Such things must happen. Jesus continued.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Wickedness will increase. People who claim the faith will betray and hate each other. These things happen in cycles, and every generation has contended with internecine religious wars among Christians, some resulting in much physical bloodshed.

These things were written down beginning with Daniel, 600 years before Christ. Jesus Himself spoke of them. Paul and John, both learned in Bible and prophecy, both having met the Lord Jesus in the flesh (John being one of the closest friends of Jesus), wrote about Daniel’s words and the end times. These accounts are consistent, and attested to by 2,000 years of actual history.

In the last 100 years, more humans have perished in war than in the history of war, or even all of human history, and in the 290,000 years before we had written history. The best estimates of the number of people who have ever lived is around 100 billion. There are around 7.8 billion people alive today, and by 2050 it’s estimated there will be 9.8 billion alive (barring war or other catastrophe), out of 121 billion total born. In 2020, 6.7 percent of all who ever lived were alive, and by 2050 the percentage will grow to over 8 percent.

While the standard of living of everyone on earth continues to rise, the pure misery of war, disease and anger continue to grow at an unprecedented pace. In 1995, we barely had cell phones. In 2008, the smart phone was made ubiquitous. By 2050, everyone on the planet will be plugged in.

Will anyone be surprised if some time between now and then, some enterprising progressive politician will propose to identity tag everyone on the planet using microchip technology? Will anyone be surprised today if cash is eliminated, and replaced by a single crypto wallet, tied to the unique identity tag? Will anyone be surprised if, without this tag and the medical information contained in it (like vaccinations, for instance), people will not be permitted to buy or sell anything in the official economy, or to visit otherwise public places?

Will anyone be surprised if millions die of some mystery disease that is only spread through church attendance? If they all died at once, who would question it? Will anyone be surprised if aliens show up and eliminate the Christian extremists all in one shot? Christians call this the “rapture.” The world will call it “good riddance.”

The Apostle Peter was with Jesus, along with John and James, at the Mount of Transfiguration, when Jesus met with Moses and Elijah. He wrote about the reliability of Scripture and prophecy. 2 Peter chapter 1:

19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

These things must happen. The wars, hate, disobedience, and self-love of mankind, multiplied a thousandfold by the ever-quickening pace of knowledge will continue, while the ever-present magnificent light of the Gospel shining in the hearts of the faithful keeps the darkness from overtaking all.

The darkness will always be with us, even until the very end, when it is finally defeated forever and a new heaven and a new earth are our eternal home. Jesus said to let the tares grow up with the wheat, “together until the harvest.” Matthew 13:29-30.

“At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Though these things must happen, our hope is not found in stopping them, or in rebuking the weeds. Our hope is found in the permanence, the reliability, the absolute truth, and the unchangeable heart of goodness found in the Gospel.

Do not fear the end times, even if it appears they may be upon us. Keep your eyes upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Do not look at what is going on around us, because those things must occur. Look to love of God, and love of your neighbor. In this, hope will never die.

Though this church or that church might fail, and our human failings might for a time become an overwhelming burden, remember that we are in the end times, and in the end, we win. God has already won the war, and all our battles are His. We win.

Forgive me for stealing David French’s shtick, but this version of “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Shane & Shane uplifted my soul. Enjoy.

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