Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Whole of Human History in One-and-a-Half Chapters

Luke 21:5-19
Many people, beginning with the first disciples, have interpreted this passage as a prophecy about the end of the world and what it will be like. But maybe that is to misunderstand what Jesus is saying. Perhaps it is better to see these words as a prophecy about the whole of human history from the time of Jesus until the present.

Times will always be hard for believers. Each generation will face new risks and challenges. In every age many will be led astray by false ideas and false teachers. There will always be wars, insurrections, earthquakes, famines and plagues. And people will also see dreadful portents of future disaster. When Christians stick fearlessly to the proclamation of the Gospel, they will always face persecution and betrayal, and they will need the guidance of Jesus' Spirit to know how to deal with these challenges. Endurance and faithfulness have been the name of the game for true Christians throughout history.

But maybe there is also something especially portentous about the times we now live in. While it is true that Jesus' followers have always thought this, never before have human beings had the capacity to destroy their own environment and jeopardise their own history. Perhaps the day of judgement really is approaching this time! Will human beings turn out to have the humility and openness to work together and save themselves, or will we finally perish from the earth?

Believers are offered the consolation that, so long as they speak the truth in love and wisdom, they will gain their souls. I don't think this means that we can expect to escape whatever conflagration might finally engulf the human race. But at least we can expect to be safe in God's eternal keeping.

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