“Discerning” the news: Seeking “signs of the times.”

End Times prognosticator Hal Lindsey is fond of saying when we read the bible, particularly Revelation, we oughta do it with the scriptures in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Because the events of his End Times timeline are happening. Right this instant.

Even though every five years or so, he has to write another End Times book to update all the predictions of his previous End Times book. For some reason they keep not turning into the harbingers of the End he insists they are.

Y’see, what Lindsey does, and what many other End Times fixated Christians do, is what they call “discerning the news.” What they’re doing, they claim, is what Jesus tells us to: They’re looking at the signs of the day. Or as the KJV puts it, “the signs of the times.”

Matthew 16.1-4 KWL
1 Approaching Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a heavenly sign to show them.
2 In reply Jesus told them, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It’s red; clear sky.’
3 And in the morning, ‘Storms today, for the sky is red and gloomy.’
So you know to interpret the face of the sky—and can’t interpret the signs of the day?”

In context, Jesus said this phrase when Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus ’cause he wasn’t doing as they expected Messiah to do in their End Times timelines, so they asked him to perform one of those signs. Yeah, it’s ironic how these “signs of the times” seekers are doing the very same thing. Irony’s pretty common when people don’t know their bibles.

Jesus wasn’t telling these religious folks to study current events and so they could find fulfilled prophecy in them. He was pointing out how greatly they missed the obvious. They could interpret the weather, which is right there, above their heads; but when Jesus was likewise right in front of them, they wanted signs. Somehow they’d gone blind.

Likewise with End Times events. When they happen, they’re as obvious as a pimple on your nose. They don’t require you, or anyone, to go digging through news websites, looking for stories which sorta kinda resemble a comment in Isaiah or Psalms or Nahum. They don’t require any special powers of discernment, where you somehow are able to see the things no one else can. God wants them to be visible to everyone, Christian and pagan alike, with no question in our minds that these are God-events, so we’ll repent and turn to him and be saved. Not so Christians can be forewarned, and get our End Times bunkers ready, and buy guns.

These “prophecy scholars” who claim current events are pointing to how the future’s gonna turn out? In five years they’ll need to update their books and websites for the very same reason Lindsey does: Prophets they ain’t.

And yet. Because of these nuts, I know too many Christians who think “discerning the news” is an entirely legitimate practice. They scour the news for bible-like articles, then try to connect the dots between the article and the “prophecies.” Any match, no matter how iffy, no matter how far it stretches credibility, will do for them. They point to the article, point to the proof text, and declare, “This is fulfillment!” and share it with anyone who’ll listen. They call this discernment, but to quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride out of context,


Giphy

If you want a scripture it fulfills, okay: Here ya go.

Mark 13.5-8 KWL
5 Jesus began to tell them, “Watch out, lest someone trick you.
6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I’m him!’ They’ll trick many.
7 Don’t freak out when you overhear conflicts, and hearsay about conflicts.
These things happen, but it’s not the End yet.
8 People will rise against people; kingdoms against kingdoms.
Earthquakes will happen in other lands. Recessions will happen.
They’re early labor pains.”

Wave-tossed by current events. Not led by Jesus.

Clearly Christians who dig through news websites looking for signs of the End, who subscribe to End Times websites for regular alerts about the very latest harbingers of doom and destruction and death, who buy the latest books and videos about middle eastern conflicts: They’re literally looking for the “conflicts, and hearsay about conflicts” Jesus dismissed as the “early labor pains,” the Braxton-Hicks contractions, which actually don’t mean the baby’s coming… but freak out naïve parents-to-be just the same.

These Christians don’t care that Jesus said these things don’t mean anything. Their actions demonstrate they don’t trust him. Which is understandable in a newbie, but some of these folks claim they’ve been following Jesus all their lives. And no doubt they’ve been Christian all their lives, or at least have adopted the title. But actually following Jesus? They need better fruit.

Meanwhile their loyalty to End Times wingnuts prove what they really trust, is their gut and their fears. They trust the kooks who stoke their fears. Regularly checking in on these guys, just to see what the latest news and “signs” are, means they’re dwelling in those fears. They’re not letting God handle these things, and sort ’em out as he sees fit; they don’t recognize these things are not for them to know, Ac 1.7 which is why God’s concealed them behind apocalyptic images. Like I said, they don’t trust him. They gotta know what these things are, so they can be ready.

If we follow these End Times prognosticators, and repeat their practices, we’re deliberately letting them lead us instead of Jesus. Letting ’em lead us away from Jesus. Helping them lead others away from Jesus. Spreading panic instead of peace. Worry instead of joy. Anger instead of love.

“But we need to know what’s going on in the world!” Well yeah, you kinda do. In democratic countries, we citizens run the country: We vote, we participate in civic duties, we sometimes run for office. We need to know what’s going on, lest our leaders ignore real problems, try to distract us by inventing irrelevant controversies, and even create some of those real problems through their own incompetence, or out of selfish gain. Citizens who ignore the news, or who demand it specially filtered by their favorite pundits, are gonna wind up with the worst leaders. That’s why we pay attention to what’s going on: So we can contribute to our society wisely.

But when it comes to the End, Jesus is gonna return.

  • Whether we know how and when, or not. (According to the scriptures, not.)
  • Whether we see him coming, or not. (According to the scriptures, everyone will see him.)
  • Whether we identify the proper order of events, or have no idea which comes first. (According to the scriptures, some idea. But nowhere near to the level the “prophecy scholars” claim.)

“Discerning the news” is simply indulging our fears… and just as bad, practicing some really poor deductive-reasoning skills. ’Cause that’s not how you figure out connections between one thing and another. That’s treating coincidence as if it’s cause and effect. You’d totally flunk your science classes. Stop that.

End Times.