In a world of pluralism and relativism and even more so now, a growing narcissistic society, one can get depressed wondering if ultimate truth or commitment to belief still exists. I have always had a fascination with extreme Islamic terrorists and those that have done atrocious things in the name of their religion. Their conviction led them to do things—yes, horrible things, but extreme things, sacrificial things and sometimes selfless things. The fact remains they believe. They believe so strongly they give up everything, travel thousands of miles, train, pray, fight and kill because of this belief. I am not saying we need to become militant or violent by any means. But possibly we can learn something.
I recently read an article in the Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-really-wants/384980/) which sparked some new consideration. I warn you it is disturbing but if nothing else it will help you understand this group of dedicated individuals. In a nutshell it explains that according to a particular vein of Muslim eschatology, they believe Jesus will indeed return, but only when a war with the “west” is waged on the plane of Dabiq near Aleppo in Syria. They believe so strongly in fact they will do anything to provoke it.
All Muslims acknowledge that God is the only one who knows the future. But they also agree that he has offered us a peek at it, in the Koran and in narrations of the Prophet. The Islamic State differs from nearly every other current jihadist movement in believing that it is written into God’s script as a central character. It is in this casting that the Islamic State is most boldly distinctive from its predecessors, and clearest in the religious nature of its mission. (from part 3 of article).
And Jesus, the second most revered prophet in Islam, will lead the Muslims to victory over the earth. Is this a majority view of Muslim believers, no, but it is strong, powerful and motivating. As you read the article and reflect on our own beliefs, messianic and eschatological may we be convicted of our own failure and see how our faith has been corrupted and compromised with societies we live in.
How often have you waited for someone to come and they were late? It becomes so frustrating, exasperating really. All our plans and hopes are often based on the other person getting there on time, and when they don’t arrive on time we are instantly annoyed. Worse still, the longer they take to arrive the more we become angry until finally we write them off, we give up and go about our business.
What about Jesus’ return? What about the signs of the end of the times. We love them, we hate them. Usually we get all worked up and excited but sadly, within a few days we lose that immediate urgency and fall back into old patterns of thinking. For me the problem has always been the vagueness of the ‘when’. It seems everyone interprets the end times differently. Some think it is upon us now, while others believe certain events are yet to come while still others think we will be gone when Jesus returns. Over Christmas I was stuck on the idea, no, the fact that Jesus will come back and he will disperse once and for all the curse of sin and rain down with justice over all the works of Satan. The lies will be exposed, those who have done evil we be punished and those who remained faithful will be rewarded. What a glorious, terrible day that will be. That being said, I began to ask myself, is there ANY clear indicator of WHEN he will come? Because of the controversies and debates for years I have refused to look at proposed signs and in fact ignored the proximity of his return, much to my loss, loss of expectancy, loss of hope, loss of excitement. And then God started to show me something through a series of scriptures which started my mind racing and heart pounding.
It began in Mathew 24:14 where it reads, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Looking at this verse we can take it in a general way and not be moved. It sounds nice and of course, the end will come. But looking closer, ‘whole world’ is actually pretty clear. By ‘nations’, the writer was not referring to our governmental lines and divisions but rather peoples, people groups.
The second scripture that penetrated my apathy is Revelation 7:9. “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” Here in John’s account he is incredibly clear that a representative from every nation, tribe, people and language’ will be present. But you ask, what does this mean for the end times? It means, not UNTIL everyone has heard the end will not come. Let me repeat, until EVERYONE has heard the gospel of the kingdom of God coming to earth, Jesus Christ will NOT come back.
So whatever the timing of Christ’s return will be, his return cannot happen unless and until everyone has heard of Him and what he has done. I love this because it is so simple, whatever role you can play, be it sharing with neighbors or preaching in front of a crowd, from working cross culturally to cross town, each step in verbally explaining, physically living out His gospel, love and reconciliation is a step closer to His return. If you are not anxious for Jesus to come back, that is fine, sit back, relax, do nothing. But if you know Christ, if your relationship with him has proved him faithful, kind, grace-full, healing and loving, if you are longing for his physical, earthly return, we have work to do. This is why I have been shocked by the article I mentioned in the beginning. Some of our neighbors with their belief in Muhammad are anxious for Christ to return. So much so in fact that they are giving up everything to in effect force world powers and God to act.
What are we as Christ’s followers doing to speed his return according to our end time beliefs?
So back to the opening thought: What if the person wasn’t arriving because you hadn’t done something? What if His return was somehow interconnected with your doing something? What if we could play an integral part not in bringing the world to war but to a restored relationship with our Creator? What if you, by how you live, what you say, what you sacrifice and do in your community, in your family could be part of God’s objective reality and Christ’s most certain return?
Let us hasten the day!
(2 Peter 3:12)
(For more on ISIS and their growth, allure and expression a good read is the April 2016 “Wired” article, #jihad by Brendan Koerner)