We woke up this week to the news of Russia invading Ukraine. As I have listened to people, I have noticed a variety of emotions: fear, helplessness, grief, anger, and anxiety. May I ask, how are you feeling?
Whenever there is a major world event there are two questions I get asked most often, “Do you think this is the start of WWIII?” I am not a military expert; however, the reason I get asked the first questions is so people can ask me the religious version of the question, “Is this the end?”
Oh, it might not be asked quite as succinctly, or it might just come out as a statement:
“Well, it’s Gog and Magog.”
“Well, we are living in the end times.”
“He is the antichrist.”
There are people trying to sell you fear and they are trying to use the Bible to do it. Before buying in, let’s try to ask some questions and see what the Bible actually says.
- When are the last days?
When Peter is preaching to the crowd on Pentecost, he says that what the crowd is experiencing is a fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy from Joel: “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;” (Acts 2:16–17, ESV)The author of Hebrews points out the supremacy of Christ in the last days: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1–2, ESV)
Yes, we are living in the Last Days. However, everyone has been living in the Last Days since Christ.
- Who is the antichrist?
The Apostle John writes to Christians warning them of people who oppose Christ. “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)And he goes on to say, “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)
Notice that he says there is not one antichrist, but there are many. Also notice that they have already come. He uses the term to describe people who deny Jesus.
On a side note, did you know that the word antichrist is never used in the book of Revelation?
- When is Armageddon?
The word is used one time in scripture and describes a valley where a multitude of people assembled. “And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.” (Revelation 16:16, ESV)
This valley is alluded to a few chapters later, “and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.” (Revelation 20:8, ESV)
The rest of the passage goes on to say, “And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:9–10, ESV)
For all the fear that is talked about surrounding this great battle to happen, there isn’t much of a battle at all. The Devil’s time is short lived.
- What questions are being answered?
The difficulty with prophecy within Scripture is that passages can talk about the past, the present, and the future. It takes interpretation skills to determine where those lines are drawn. And even then, there are disagreements by scholars.
For example, Matthew 24 is often referenced about the end times. The context of the passage is that Jesus is looking down onto the temple. “Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1–2, ESV)
Recognizing the significance of such an event, the end of an age, the disciples ask the question about when these things take place. “As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”” (Matthew 24:3, ESV)
Specifically, they were asking, “when the temple will be destroyed?” In this context, it is difficult to believe the disciples were asking about the second coming of Christ. I’m not saying that Jesus didn’t say anything about his second coming, I just want people to think about where and how they draw lines in Scripture. We need to have clear and well thought out reasons why we believe a passage is speaking about something contemporary with the author or about a future event.
- How does Scripture comfort?
As we read scripture, we need to recognize that the Word of God was beneficial for the first Christians, for Christians today, and for Christians tomorrow. There are some interpretations of scripture that leave the text behind. In other words, all the events occurred in the past and there is no need to understand them today. There are other interpretations that place all the events in the future, and in doing so the book was irrelevant to the early church.
I trust the author’s words in Revelation when he says, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3, ESV)
The text is a template so that we might be able to understand the world events around us and in doing so, have confidence that we won’t be lost in the chaos. Take the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The white horse came out conquering and to conquer, the red horse came out to make war, the black horse came out to make famine, the pale horse came whose rider’s name was Death.
Anytime the leaders of governments, kings, dictators, or presidents, start exalting themselves (white horse), it has the potential to lead to war (red horse), famine always follows war (black horse), which eventually leads to death (pale horse).
This is what is unfolding in the news today. Putin came out boasting and now it has given way to war. Famine will follow, leaving death in its wake. The decisions being made will be felt for generations. AND it will happen again, and again. We have seen it throughout all of history.
I truly believe that the book of Revelation, and other passages of prophecy, were never intended to frighten us, but to give us hope. With all the chaos going on, with all the blood that is shed, you will not be harmed. Oh, sure, you may lose your life – but Jesus has your soul.
“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:10–11, ESV)
- Is this the beginning of the end?
Does the Russian invasion of Ukraine start a string of events that will lead to the end of the world? Maybe.
A more important question to ask is, “Are you prepared for your world to end?” Whether it’s through war, a car accident, a heart attack, or another way, are you prepared to die?
Jesus tells the story of rich man who was building up wealth on earth and neglected his eternity. “And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” (Luke 12:19–20, ESV)
You don’t have to live with uncertainty! You can live with confidence knowing that whatever happens, you are secure with the hope of Christ. Everyone is invited!
“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”” (Acts 2:37–39, ESV)
- What can you do?
The people who are suffering the most are the ones in the middle. The innocent men, women, and children whose desire is to simply live.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1–4, ESV)
The prayers of the saints move the hand of God. “And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:3–5, ESV)
I believe these questions can serve as a framework to help you avoid being sold the lie of fear. However, don’t take my word for it. What do you believe about such things? What do the people who are trying to sell you something think about these things? Be like the Bereans who searched the Scriptures daily to see if the Apostle Paul was accurate (Acts 17:11).