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Why End-Times Mania Never Goes Away

October 1, 2009

As long as history has been written, it seems there has been a significant thread of expectation for God to intervene on “our” side, or that of his “chosen people.”  And with that intervention, set up a perfected kingdom.  That has been a powerful, influencing theme through Judaism and Christianity.  I won’t trace much of that history and theology here, but quickly apply it to present circumstances.

From the beginnings of Christianity, Jesus’ Jewish disciples expected his return within their lifetimes to bring in the Kingdom of God, centered in Jerusalem.  Much of their actions oriented around the short-term-only planning consistent with that.   That got revised fairly soon, and eventually Christian leaders moved from supportiveness toward civil government to joining forces with it, and for many centuries virtually becoming it.   

But the marginalized, with visionary idealists, periodically realized even a religiously-centered, supposedly submitted-to-God society was not moving toward an ideal Kindgom.  They then picked up the recurring theme from Scripture of God’s “millennium” (1000 year, or extended period) of peace and righteousness.  This was the messianic promise that some Jews still await fulfillment of in a “first coming.”   The majority (seemingly) of Christians see partial fulfillment, for personal salvation, of this promise in Jesus Christ, and expect complete fulfillment in his “second coming.”

This second coming, in the minds of millions of American Christians, is intimately and intricately tied up with political events in Israel and that region.  Either right before or right after Jesus’ return, they believe biblical prophecy infallibly predicts a quick succession of horrific events via massive armies converged on Israel.  This will be the “Battle of Armageddon,” supposedly in the Valley of Megiddo. 

I’ve not heard this massive battle typically called World War III, but it is hard to imagine, if such a thing literally took place, that it would not amount to this, or lead to it.  But those who believe it must and will happen don’t tend to worry much about this, as they will either be “raptured” (taken up from earth) ahead of this (one interpretive scheme) or perhaps endure it as the final event of God’s earthly judgment just prior to establishing his peaceful, perfect kingdom. 

So why am I here repeating what can be found in many books, from various angles of belief or academic study? If a person is not familiar with this aspect of Scripture and how it is taken very seriously by millions and applied to today’s geopolitical situations, it is something they will now be alerted to, and perhaps determine to learn a bit about.  That is important on a number of levels. 

It is pertinent to ask seekers of public office, particularly on a national level, what their views are regarding this, and look into their church affiliations, etc.  It apparently was pertinent in the case of our last U.S. President.  It also was with Sarah Palin in her potential VP role, and will be in any possible future office-seeking by her.  This is to name only two of many.   

But it’s more than voting and creation of foreign policy, critical as that is.  It is also important to non-judgmentally explore with any religious friends or family who will do so, just what they believe regarding these things, and why.  Perhaps even the asking of some probing, though respectful questions will both educate you and allow you to help them do some deeper reflection and perhaps study.  A person may start to see the long, long pattern of similar expectations and social organization around them, sometimes leading to military action and great destruction.  This seems clearly one major factor in the 66-70 and 132-135 C.E. Jewish rebellions against Rome.  These ended in the almost total destruction of Jerusalem first, and then the expulsion, after the 2nd rebellion, of all Jews from the city, and “the rest is history.”

Along with some deeper knowledge, perhaps will come the insight that prophecies may not be divine revelations of inevitable events as much as expressions of continual inner human fears and desires.  And when enough passion is invested in both those aspects, it is possible to make prophecies “self fulfilling,” horrendous violence and all.  Yet such passion, applied in love, not fear, within the vision of an increasingly peaceful world (even as it slowly struggles to get there), will at least move us in the direction of the same biblical ideal, and safely.

What are your thoughts? You may find things to question or differ with in what I’ve said.  If so, feel free to reply.  Or if you see things similarly, please add your observations.

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