Wars and rumors of war.

by K.W. Leslie, 10 March
Mark 13.7-8 KWL
7 “Whenever you might personally hear war,
and war news, don’t freak out.
These things happen, but the End is yet to come!
8 For ethnic group will rise up against ethnic group.
Kingdom against kingdom.
Earthquakes will happen various places. Scarcity will happen.
These things are early birth-pains.”
 
Matthew 24.6-8 KWL
6 “You will personally hear war
and war news. See that you don’t freak out!
These things happen, but it’s not the End yet!
7 For ethnic group will rise up against ethnic group.
Kingdom against kingdom.
Scarcity will happen, and earthquakes in various places.
8 All these things are early birth-pains.”
 
Luke 21.9-11 KWL
9 “You will personally hear war
and chaos. Don’t be terrified!
These things happen first, but the End doesn’t immediately follow!”
10 Then Jesus told them, “Ethnic group will rise up against ethnic group.
Kingdom against kingdom.
11 Great earthquakes will happen various places.
Scarcity and plague will happen.
Terrors and great signs from heaven will happen.”
Previously:
  • “The Olivet Discourse: The temple’s coming down.” Mk 13.1-4, Mt 24.1-3, Lk 21.5-7
  • “Look out! Fake Messiahs!” Mk 13.3-6, Mt 24.3-5, Lk 21.7-8
  • If you’ve read the Sermon on the Mount, as I hope you have (you are Christian, right? It’s kinda mandatory), you know Jesus orders us followers not to worry.

    Matthew 6.31-34 KJV
    31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

    But when we’ve not surrendered our lives, our entire lives, to Jesus, we’re gonna suck at obeying this teaching. We’re gonna worry.

    If we’re poor, we’re gonna worry about survival. Like food, drink, clothing, rent, crime, health, petty expenses, massive unexpected bills. Other things too, but these will take up the bulk of our worries.

    If we’re comfortable or wealthy, we’re gonna about keeping those comforts and wealth. And the things which influence or threaten them, like markets, politics, laws, agitators, possible revolutions. You know, oligarch stuff.

    Most of the professional End Times prognosticators especially want us to worry about comfort and stability. Not just because they wanna sell us food buckets for our End Times bunkers. Most of ’em are preaching out of their very own paranoia. They worry even more than you do about the stuff they agitate about. Their own End Times bunkers are very well-stocked.

    All of ’em ignore today’s passage. Or in some cases flip its meaning over entirely.

    Yes, I translated Mark 13.7 and Matthew 24.6 as “don’t freak out.” It’s a legitimate interpretation of μὴ θροεῖσθε/mi throeísthe, “don’t wail aloud in terror.” Then as now, people would hear about violence, earthquakes, signs from heaven, and immediately think, “What does it mean?” Then spend a whole lot of time speculating what it might mean. Is it a sign from the gods, like the superstitious Greeks insisted?

    Clearly they never read Ecclesiastes—or if they had, they ignore everything it teaches. Most of the time it doesn’t mean anything. But the human brain wants to make connections—and even in the absence of evidence, it’ll go haywire and make connections anyway. Everything’s a conspiracy to such people. Everything’s a “sign of the times.”

    But I just showed you three different Jesus-quotes in the bible which say no it’s not. And if you don’t trust my translation, fine; read others. They’re all gonna mean the same thing though. Stop prematurely freaking out about the End!

    Calamities happen. It’s not the End yet.

    We all know Christians who do nothing but panic over every rumor, every conspiracy theory, every world event. They insist every last one of ’em is part of the End Times timeline.

    I’ve been a Christian five decades. I grew up in a church where people were whipped into a frenzy over every current event which just had to “mean something.” Sad to say, it took me about three decades before I realized all this agitation got us nowhere. Certainly nowhere fruitful.

    Less than fruitful, really. Christians were too busy flinching at every new terror, every potential disaster, to grow any good fruit. To do any good works—for fear it’d make us targets for antichrists, for fear our good works would get co-opted and corrupted by evildoers. We weren’t reading our bibles—unless we were digging for loopholes, or proof some current event “fulfilled prophecy.”

    We were definitely alienating everyone around us with our End Times hysteria. I have a coworker who’s used to do that with everybody at work; he finally stopped after a private discussion with our bosses about proselytism in the workplace. “What is wrong with that guy?” was the usual complaint I heard about him. He’s still convinced the Beast is coming, and still frets about anyone and everything he perceives as Beast-like.

    Of course he’s just passing along the fear-based dark Christianity his church teaches him. He doesn’t realize it presents Christianity as bad news, not good.

    But “discerning the news” is a very old game, and Christians have been practicing it ever since the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled by the Jewish War. Because one part of it—Jesus’s second coming—hasn’t happened yet, y’notice. And End Times prognosticators are convinced the disasters of the Jewish War have to happen again. Hence every war we hear and hear about, every war and rumor of war, becomes “a sign.”

    The current crisis was always identified as a sign of the end, whether it was the Russo-Japanese War, the First World War, the Second World War, the Palestine War, the Suez Crisis, the June War, or the Yom Kippur War. The revival of the Roman Empire has been identified variously as Mussolini’s empire, the League of Nations, the United Nations, the European Defense Community, the Common Market, and NATO. Speculation on the Antichrist has included Napoleon, Mussolini, Hitler, and Henry Kissinger. The northern confederation was supposedly formed by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, the Rapallo Treaty, the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and then the Soviet Bloc. The “kings of the east” have been variously the Turks, the lost tribes of Israel, Japan, India, and China. The supposed restoration of Israel has confused the problem of whether the Jews are to be restored before or after the coming of the Messiah. The restoration of the latter rain has been pinpointed to have begun in 1897, 1917, and 1948. The end of the “times of the Gentiles” has been placed in 1895, 1917, 1948, and 1967. “Gog” has been an impending threat since the Crimean War, both under the Czars and the Communists.

    —Dwight Wilson, Armageddon Now! 216.

    Wilson wrote that in 1977, back when the Cold War was definitely expected to usher in the End Times. Today it’s the coronavirus pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine War, the Saudi Arabia-Yemen War, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the stock market, the United Nations, NATO, the G7 Summit, you name it. Basically any major event and anything which wields worldwide power. ’Cause End Times prognosticators are entirely sure the Beast is gonna take it over.

    Anything else in the news will do as well:

    • Stories about new and greater drug use in America? Fulfills prophecy.
    • Stories about promiscuity, sexual immorality, more divorce, lowered standards in TV programs? Fulfills prophecy.
    • Stories about more crime? (Even though the stats say otherwise.) Fulfills prophecy.

    I’ve taught history, and the crime stats have definitely gone down over the past century. That’s because concerned citizens—many of ’em Christian!—have been shining a lot of light into the darkness.

    But for those folks who insist a great tribulation is coming, they believe the world’s gotta become as evil as possible. Stats don’t matter; that’s what they believe in their hearts to be true, and you can’t tell ’em otherwise. And just as they’re not above distorting the bible to suit their End Times Timeline, they’re also not above ignoring or manipulating stats to fit their timeline too.

    But as Jesus stated in red and white, “These things happen, but the End is yet to come!”

    To listen to these bible-twisters, Jesus was only talking about wars and rumors of war, as not the End yet. But everything after he says this—the earthquakes, the scarcity, the plagues, the terrors in the heavens—those are End Times signs. Skip manmade events; any man can make those. The natural disasters—those mean it’s the End. And after they happen, then wars are part of the End.

    Nope. It’s all of one piece. Disasters happen. They’ve happened for millennia, for tens of millennia, throughout human history. They didn’t mean the End then; they don’t mean the End now.

    The End is when the baby comes out, not when the pregnant mother feels the first contraction. Or even Braxton Hicks contractions, which aren’t even labor pains—which is arguably what Jesus meant by “first contractions” as opposed to just plain “contractions.”

    Wars happen. Wars have always happened. There were wars before God called Abraham. There were wars before Moses; there were wars involving Moses, and Joshua, and David, and Ahab, and Nebuchadnezzar, and all the way up to Jesus’s day. There have been thousands, if not millions, of wars since. There are wars now. Yet Christians regularly freak out at every war which touches upon us, and insist it must mean the End is right round the corner.

    Earthquakes happen. Earthquakes have always happened; the bible tells us of a few. Economic recessions happen, and have always happened; there were plenty of famines in the bible. Tornadoes and tsunamis and floods and polar vortices and solar flares and giant meteors have all happened, and will happen. Man-made climate change is a new one, but even that isn’t a sign of the End. It’s just not.

    But we humans are jumpy. When disasters happen, we wanna know why they happened. We want a cause. A reason. Something to blame. We just can’t accept the existence of meaningless things in the universe; there’s gotta be a reason, an explanation, a plan. Maybe we sinned. Maybe you sinned. Maybe the wrath of God is falling upon all of us. Maybe it’s the End.

    No it’s not.

    Watch out for the End—and for fakes.

    This is why Jesus warns us lest someone trick us. Yes the End will come. But first, the con artists and frauds will come, and try to make a buck off fearful people. They’ll sell you End Times books. And maybe try to get you to invest in gold or cryptocurrency or some other Beast-proof financial package. Or buy survival kits and MREs and guns, or move to their compound in Guyana.

    Back in 1999 I was a newspaper editor, and an advertiser offered to Y2K-proof her customers’ houses and businesses. (It’s been a few decades, so now I gotta explain what Y2K means to the youngsters: Early computers were programmed with two-digit years, not four. So once the year rolled over from 99 to 00, the computer might think it’s 1900 instead of 2000. It’s a minor problem and had an easy fix. But loads of con artists claimed it’d shut down computers, and computers are in everything, so they were talking as if the world would end.) I knew enough about computers to know Y2K-proofing was ridiculous, so I wrote a column about it. The advertiser was furious, pulled her tiny ad, wrote an angry letter… and 1 January 2000 came and went, and as I predicted, nothing happened.

    It’s entirely possible she believed her outrageous warnings, just as many a doomsayer has. But Jesus-followers should be taking our lead from Christ Jesus himself. And he told us to be on our guard against such people, and check these things out. Not just believe everything we hear! And not to worry.

    Yet many Christians, knowing the End is inevitable, do believe and worry. They see antichrists behind every government official, see End Times prophecies fulfilled in every war, and point to every natural disaster as a sign. They fear everyone and everything. ’Cause they’re not following Jesus; they’re following their fears.

    Jesus doesn’t want us tossed to and fro by every scam artist inside and outside Christendom. Ep 4.14 We’re to watch out, not just for the End, but for fakes too. Don’t confuse the usual chaos in the world with the End!