This past Sunday here at Asbury, we had a service that we have every Labor Day Weekend, something we call “Bring Your Cell Phone to Church.” In this service, the congregation will text in questions to me that I will attempt to answer to the best of my ability during the sermon.
It’s always a fun Sunday, and I enjoy the rush of thinking, “Oh no, I may say something stupid now!”
I can always get a feel for some of the questions that I will get beforehand. Some will be personal (what’s your favorite verse/song), some will be big picture theological (how can God be sovereign and we have free will – yeah, that’s fun!) and some will be tied to things that are currently happening in our community and in the world.
So, for instance, I knew I was going to get a question on Syria. Now, from a political stand point, there are many people that are much smarter than I am in regards to this. I have political opinions on this, and most subjects, but that is not my area of expertise. If you are looking for a really good article that really lays out the basics on Syria in a relatively easy to understand fashion, check this out.
For me, though the question that a lot of people have asked (and this may just be partial to my neck of the woods) is how does this conflict in Syria related to the Second Coming? And what about Egypt? And Iran? And all of the Arab Spring? Surely these things lead us to believe that we are living in the Last Days and the Lord’s Return must be soon. After all, rumors of wars, unrest, tsunamis, earth quakes, famines, fires, droughts, floods. Surely His return is soon.
And my response is. . . . . maybe.
I taught a class in Ripley about John Wesley’s belief on the Second Coming. Want to know what he believed? It’s really complicated. Ready? Here it is.
Yeah, it’s gonna happen.
That’s it. That’s what he, John Calvin, Martin Luther, so many great saints and teachers believed. In the end, the Lord will return. That’s as specific as they got. The left the rest up to God.
Biblically, every day that we are here is a day that we are closer to the Lord’s return. But, here’s the thing. In our modern society, and for many of us in our modern evangelical faith, we are so used to talking about, hearing about, and thinking about the end of the world. And then thinking about how do certain things relate to the Lord’s return. I remember as a child, one of my dad’s favorite tv shows was Jack Van Impe Presents, which sought to, week after week, explain how what happened that week fit into the scenario leading to the Lord’s return.
CS Lewis in his book The Screwtape Letters famous wrote these words:
There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
I’ve always took that to mean that it’s unhealthy to spend too much time focusing on the devil and seeing him everywhere, just as it’s unhealthy to deny his existence and the effects that he has upon us and the world a large.
Why am I saying that? I think we fall into the same trap with the end of the world. We can either worry too much about it, thinking that everything that happens in the world is a sign that the Lord is coming back tomorrow. We can spend too much time focusing on it, worrying about it, perhaps even being afraid, that we will forget what we are here for. To love God and love each other. To be salt and light. To make a difference for the kingdom.
If we become so obsessed with the end of the world that we don’t have the time/energy/desire to be faithful, then we are aren’t doing what we need to be doing.
The other mistake that we can make is to forget that is going to happen. The Lord will return. There will be a day when He will set all things right, things will be fixed, restored, and made right. We don’t need to forget that either. Come, quickly Lord, and restore creation, and all that believe, to the condition in which you first created us!
So, Syria, is this end of the world? In short, I don’t know. That’s not my call. The bible says no man knows the hour or day. That’s God’s call. John Wesley taught his followers that the earth would give witness to His return, He would physically appear, the dead in Christ would rise, and we would stand before the judgment throne.
But, no dates. No times. None of that. That’s God’s decision. Not ours.
So, don’t worry about it. Be faithful. Love. Serve. Forgive. Give grace. Be salt and light. And leave it in God’s hands and God’s time. He’s got this.
As I like to tell folks at Asbury, I’ve read the back of the book. God wins. Don’t worry about it. Whether He returns today, or a thousand years from now, it’s all in His hands. We have important things to do for the kingdom. Let’s focus on that.
And leave the rest up to Him. And know that in the end, for those of us that believe, it will all be ok.