"And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon" (Revelation 16:16, ESV).
Has Vladimir Putin triggered Armageddon? Is Putin fulfilling the end times prophecies? Is he initiating some great battle that will annihilate mankind? Are we now on the brink of the end? Should we even expect to make it through the year 2014 without a catastrophic end?
Maybe, as you observe the recent events in the Ukraine, you've wondered if we have a glimpse of what's to come — wondering if the movement of Russian troops into Crimea is signaling the beginning of the end. Will Russia finally team up with China (as some have speculated, these two superpowers surely are in the book of Revelation) and fulfill the "Gog-Magog" alliance of Revelation 20:8? Will Russia and China surround Jerusalem and destroy the Holy City?
I doubt it.
We haven't had a decade of consistent world peace before or since Jesus walked the dusty roads of Galilee. I would guess during the Black Plague people began looking for the end of times, or the perhaps during any of the major revolutions in Europe during the last 1,500 years. Does anyone remember Y2K? Besides, Jesus Himself said, "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet" (Matthew 24:6, ESV).
But what about all these social uprising, riots, overpopulation, problems in the Ukraine, Egypt, Syria, tension in the Middle East, threats from North Korea, Iran building their bomb, all the tsunamis, earthquakes and bad weather we are having?
"For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains" (Mark 13:8, ESV).
John, the beloved Apostle who was Jesus' closest friend wrote to the seven churches of Asia — convinced he was in the "tribulation," and the "Kingdom" of God was already in existence: "I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 1:9, ESV). So, we don't have to await the beginning of the Kingdom, it's already here, and the tribulation has already happened — according to John.
No more tribulation? But what about Putin being the antichrist? Sorry. That's a term not even mentioned in the book of Revelation. But, the Apostle John did have a few things to say about the antichrist in his epistles. No. 1: The antichrist already came to earth. No. 2: There were multiple antichrists and the "end times" already began. And No. 3: The antichrist wasn't a world ruler. An antichrist is anyone who denies the Incarnation. For example: "Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour" (1 John 2:18, ESV).
"Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son" (1 John 2:22, ESV).
"And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already" (1 John 4:3, ESV).
But my preacher, father, teacher (you fill in the blank) said they know when the end of time will happen. Really? Jesus said, "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man (Matthew 24:36-37, ESV).
Looking for the tribulation or a future Kingdom in each and every current event makes for great literature in the Christian Fiction Department, but it is terrible theology. These things have plainly already transpired. Plus, Jesus doesn't start an earthly Kingdom with a capital in Jerusalem anywhere in the Bible. Instead, at the end He relinquishes His already established Kingdom: "Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power" (1 Corinthians 15:24, ESV).
I believe Jesus is coming back and when He does, we will be with Him forever in heaven. I believe He could come before you drop this newspaper in your recycle bin or He might not return for another 10,000 years. It's true, the Eschaton is a fascinating topic, but to sensationalize it falls short of our calling to be faithful. There's a temptation to obsess about the "End" that leans towards escapism — it's easier to speculate about a spectacular end than it is to humbly/simply bear our crosses daily, today.
Craig Cottongim is the minister for New Song Church, Kingsport. He is an avid blood donor, and he's certified in conflict resolution. You can find him at @craigcottongim on Twitter and he blogs at craigcottongim.blogspot.com. Email him at email@example.com powered by Disqus