Stop prematurely freaking out over the End!

by K.W. Leslie, 11 September 2022

Mk 13.7-8, Mt 24.6-8, Lk 21.9-11.

No doubt you’ve read the Sermon on the Mount. (You are Christian, right? It’s kinda required reading.) So you’re aware Jesus orders us followers not to worry.

Matthew 6.31-34 NRSV
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the gentiles who seek all these things, and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Kinda straightforward instructions. But when we’ve not surrendered our lives to Jesus—our entire lives, not just the religious bits and beliefs—we’re gonna suck at obeying them. We’re gonna worry. If we’re poor, about the necessities of life; if we’re wealthy, about staying comfortable and influential.

Professional End Times prognosticators try to make us worry about both. If we’re wealthy, they want us to worry about losing our wealth; if we’re poor, they want us to worry about losing our freedom. Believe it or don’t, it’s not because they’re trying to con us into buying their lousy books—or worse, their lousy food buckets for our End Times bunkers. It’s because they’re preaching out of their own paranoia. They worry even more than you do about the rubbish they write about. They write it because they believe it.

And they write it because they don’t believe Jesus. “Don’t worry about tomorrow”? That’s all they do. Because tribulation is coming. Oppressive governments, cashless societies, stealth drones that could blow you up when you least expect, spy cameras in every computer and phone, people trying to rig elections… They’re everywhere. Read the times, man!

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

Mark 13.7-8 KWL
7 “When any of you hear wars
and the noises of wars,
don’t panic. It happens.
But it’s not the end yet.
8 For ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
Quakes will happen various places.
Scarcity will happen.
These are first birth pangs.”
Matthew 24.6-8 KWL
6 “You’re all about to hear wars
and the noises of wars.
Look, don’t panic, for it happens.
But it’s not the end yet.
7 For ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
Quakes and scarcity will happen various places.
8 All these are first birth pangs.”
Luke 21.9-11 KWL
9 “When any of you hear wars
and instability,
don’t panic, for these things happen first.
But the end isn’t at hand.”
10 Then Jesus told them,
“Ethnic group will be pitted against ethnic group,
and kingdom against kingdom.
11 Both great quakes and scarcity in various places,
and plagues will happen.
Both terrifying events
and signs from heaven will happen.”

I translated μὴ θροεῖσθε/mi throeísthe, “don’t wail aloud in terror,” Mk 13.7, Mt 24.6, Lk 21.9 as “don’t panic.” I could also go with “don’t freak out,” and have in the past.

’Cause people do. Did back then. They’d hear of 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 ancient pagans insisted?—or like “prophecy scholars” still do?

Well I just showed you three synced-up Jesus quotes 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 over the End!

Calamities happen. Doesn’t make it the End!

We all know Christians who flinch and agitate over every rumor, every conspiracy theory, every world event. They insist every last one of ’em is part of the End Times timeline. The “prophecy scholars” say so.

I’ve been a Christian more than five decades. I grew up in a church where every current event just had to “mean something,” because Hal Lindsey said so. 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 spasming at every potential disaster and new horror, to grow any good fruit. To do any good works—for fear antichrists were just looking for do-gooders, so they could put us on their lists of people to oppress once they took power, or so they could co-opt and corrupt those works.

We weren’t checking out what our bibles had to say about such things. Didn’t bother to read Jesus’s instructions to not worry, nor the bits of Ecclesiastes which point such things don’t even mean anything. The human brain wants to find meaning in the meaningless; it’s designed to make connections, and it’ll make ’em even when there aren’t any. Hence all the popular End Times timelines, in which the end of the world is pulled from the scriptures much like Percival Lowell saw smudges on Mars through his telescope and turned them into very detailed maps of canals.

“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 significant Jesus speaks of—his second coming—hasn’t yet happened, y’notice. And End Times prognosticators are convinced it’s part of it… so the devastation of the Jewish War has to happen again.

Hence every war and noise of war becomes “a sign.” Every bit of bad news rumored on Facebook “fulfills prophecy.” Anecdotes about promiscuity, sexual immorality, drug use, and more crime, “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 who insist a great tribulation is coming, stats don’t matter: The world’s foretold to become as evil as possible. It’s gotta be getting worse. Your statistics must be lying.

So 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, “Look, don’t panic, for it happens. But it’s not the end yet.”

Jesus wasn’t even speaking of the End; he’s speaking of the Jewish War. But to listen to these bible-twisters, okay, “wars and rumors of war” may not mean it’s the End, but everything that followed this verse—the earthquakes, the scarcity, the plagues, the terrors in the heavens—these are definitely End Times signs. Skip manmade events; any man can make those. The natural disasters—those mean it’s the End. And when they’re happening, then wars will be part of the End.

Nope. Jesus’s teachings are all about the same thing, and are 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.

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 scriptures even tell 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.

But it’s not.

Watch out for the End—and for fakes.

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 warns us to watch lest someone trick us. The End will eventually come, but meanwhile con artists and frauds will try to make a fortune off fearful people. As they have for centuries.

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. We’re supposed to have our guard up against all of them, and check ’em out instead of believing everything we hear.

Yet many Christians, fearing the End is near, get fleeced. Because despite Jesus, they fear everyone and everything. 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 get tossed to and fro by every scam inside and outside Christendom. Ep 4.14

Don’t you fall for that. 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!