Author: Theresa Marks (formerly Schumacher)
See me on Youtube
Here’s my essay which was in answer to the question…What is the benefit of shifting Christianity away from end-times prophecy?
The topic of end times prophecy is a broad one that seems to be prevalent with modern Christians. Everywhere you look, there are so-called end times prophecies that. although differing widely in detail, tend to have the same deletorious effects on the unfortunate folks who get caught up in them. Many seem to live in fear of apocalyptic scenarios and Divine “chastisements” and consequently focus on doing whatever they can to save themselves from looming doom. For a lot of people, it can quickly turn into an obsession that hampers and even halts spiritual growth – at least that’s what happened to me some years ago when I became steeped in it and eventually realized what a negative impact it was having on my life.
End times obsession can result in a kind of victim mentality in which people give up trying to improve the world around them and instead focus only on the chaos happening in the world, while impatiently praying for Jesus to return and instantly transform everything. As true faith sons and daughters, we are anything but powerless victims. We have full access to Jesus’s Spirit of Truth to teach and guide us in how to positively transform ourselves and our world, one day at a time, and in the unique way that God has in mind for each of us. If we abrogate our responsibility to cooperate with the Holy Spirit toward our own spiritual growth in favor of submissively waiting for God’s judgement to come crashing down on those we may judge as evil, and/or likewise focus our lives solely on waiting for Jesus to return and in one instant change the world into heaven on earth, we only contribute to the total load of the world’s spiritual darkness and unwittingly work against God’s plan for healing our world. It’s true that only God’s grace has the power to transform hearts and thus transform the world, but He is patiently waiting for humanity’s consent to this transformation, starting with each one of us who actively choose His love then spread it to others.
End times obsession can also cause people to grab hold so tightly to Jesus’s second coming that they pray fervently for the end to come quickly, while at the same time they may judgmentally point fingers at other groups as if to claim “They’re the evil ones that God will rain his wrath upon and destroy–not us!” Under the influence of this damaging obsession, we can easily become like Jonah at Ninevah, really miffed that God doesn’t immediately fry the whole entire city. Ensnarled by spiritual pride, we can easily forget how to love others and so set ourselves on a path headed away from, not toward God. I remember beginning to develop this same attitude during the years of my own end times obsession. When I finally became aware of it, I was surprised how easily I fell into this prideful way of thinking after trying so hard to align myself with God and His “chosen people.”
It’s sad when I see so many well-intentioned folks, especially people who really want to be devoted to God, lose their spiritual equilibrium in end times obsession. It can cause good people to spin out of control with fear, anxiety and spiritual pride, all of which express in myriads of negative ways further contributing to general moral darkness and personal anguish, sometimes even leading to physical violence. Many a false modern prophet has used end times obsession to convince their followers to commit murder or suicide. If people would only channel the energy they are putting into, for instance, trying to identify the Anti-Christ or stockpiling tribulation supplies (There’s absolutely nothing wrong with preparedness, but fear of the end times can also tend to encourage hoarding.) and turn their efforts toward helping others, they could be making a real difference in the world. Another negative effect I’ve observed with end times obsession is that it can arouse superstitious beliefs and practices, further stunting a person’s spiritual growth.
I’m sorry to break it to the end-times-obsessed, but I really don’t think Jesus is returning in the next few years just so that we can be spared having to work at our own spiritual growth. One of the main reasons we are put here is to go through the experience of choosing to love and grow in God’s grace. Even if Jesus did return imminently–and maybe He will–still, I don’t believe He would miraculously solve all our problems without us having to do our part to clean up our personal and worldwide messes. There are no magical ways out of steady spiritual growth powered by God’s constant grace that alone uplifts everyday human life. That was exactly how Jesus chose to live his life as an example to all of us. We as humanity can’t simply click our heels and wish our way into an era of light and life. Instead of bemoaning our difficult lot, we should try to see the huge opportunities for spiritual growth and help each other in the here and now. In this way – Jesus’s way – we partner with Him in spreading His saving message and love, so, person by person, the whole world eventually catches fire with His love.
As humans we are all prone to longing for miraculous signs and wonders. What greater wonder could there be than the sudden physical transformation of our world from chaos to paradise, as many end times scenarios seem to promise. But what we don’t appreciate in our spiritual immaturity is that most times God does not choose stupendous material miracles to do His greatest work. Jesus himself was always trying to convince his followers that his kingdom was not a material, but a spiritual one. Also consider this–a couple centuries ago, technology like airplanes, cell phones and computers would have been thought of as absolutely miraculous – not to mention modern medical science. Technological evolution is chiefly humanity’s domain and is inevitable given civilization’s steady progress. One day, perhaps already, we may indeed have the technology to make all aspects of our physical world healthy and beautiful. Probably the only reason this has not already happened is the lack of love and cooperation of people toward one another. However, true miracles consist in the conversion and transformation of the soul, which is solely the spiritual domain of God and His grace. No technology, however astounding, could ever mimic the power of God’s love. So when Jesus said we could do more than move mountains with God’s grace, He was right. Moving mountains is no big deal compared to one fear-ridden soul who is saved by God’s grace.
So here’s my point about the miraculous and the end times – God is certainly infinitely powerful to act in whatever way He chooses in our world. But being also infinitely loving and, therefore, infinitely sharing of His Divine nature, He wants to give us all a shot at partnering with His Spirit to transform this world from the inside out, not simply wave His all-powerful hand and do it all for us. That’s because He wants us to become more like Him – and the only way we start to become like Him is to day-by-day choose to love Him and love others. As an all-wise Father, He is constantly parenting each one of us to become more mature in our faith journey. It’s true that we will always be His children, yet His goal for us is to become “adult” children of God and not simply remain “baby Christians” as the expression goes.
Here are my suggestions for dealing with end times obsession…forget about spiritual warfare, forget praying against demonic forces, forget the rapture (Personally, I don’t think the rapture says anything good about God. In my opinion, a loving God wouldn’t just save one chosen group then leave behind the rest of his children to suffer. But if it brings some folks comfort, I won’t try to talk them out of it.), also forget the climate apocalypse, forget the end of the Mayan calendar, and (please!) forget Donald Trump as the savior of western civilization —Just focus on doing good!
Many may vehemently disagree with me on this idea, but I believe praying “against” anyone or anything is akin to spinning our spiritual wheels. You could expend a lot of energy praying against Lucifer, Satan, demons or whatever other archenemies of God there are, but that would essentially be counterproductive because the more we focus on the direct opposition of evil, the less energy we have for simply overcoming evil with loving actions — not to mention that constant praying against evil can also attract attention to it by focusing on it so much. In a consistent practice of praying against evil, it’s also easy to adopt an attitude of hatred toward demonic forces. But I would argue that God Himself doesn’t hate anyone – even Satan or Lucifer. Hate is not in God’s repertoire – He can only Love (albeit His justice is also part of that love). So it makes sense that if we adopt an attitude of hatred, even if it’s toward someone we think is truly evil, we are not truly imitating God. Jesus himself always advocated overcoming evil by positively doing good, not merely negating it with equal force. “Turn the other cheek” refers not to an attitude of submission and meekness, but one of doing something positive to transform the situation–to literally disarm and dissolve it–like that great photo from the 1960s peace protests that shows students placing flowers in the gun barrels of opposing soldiers. If each day we ask for God’s guidance to see what good we can do, we will be literally dissolving evil by doing good. That’s the real answer to bring about the end of these chaotic times and lead us into light and life.
Here’s a great suggestion on how to go about doing good from near-death-experiencer Howard Storm, a former atheist who met Jesus after death and returned to tell about it. According to Howard, Jesus’s solution for healing our world is for everyone to simply love the one that you’re with at any particular moment. Jesus tells Howard that this is God’s “big plan”. It’s very simple, but not always easy! So let’s get on board with God’s big plan and do this together! (Howard tells part of his story in this 7 minute video – worth the watch – – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGfSsPZtpJ4)
Also, let’s not overlook the infinite mercy and patience of God. We can’t deny that there is definitely a small percentage of people in this world who are purposely doing a lot of evil things. God’s justice will come eventually to all, to be sure; but He extends His mercy and patience first – and to a degree that our small hearts just don’t like to hear about sometimes. We tend to judge others through our limited black and white view of the world. But only God sees all the colors of our souls and knows when there may be hidden good intentions in otherwise damaged people. However minuscule the good, He will make use of it for as long as He can to try to turn around his prodigal sons and daughters. Again, many may strongly disagree with me on this point, but I personally believe it is not out of the realm of possibility that sometime in the unknown future, God’s mercy may melt Lucifer’s heart and turn him from the dark side. (I know, I know – I can hear your reaction, “Darth Vader is one thing, but Lucifer?!?”) Then a very humbled Lucifer could potentially go about the rest of eternity putting right what ages ago he rent asunder. How’s that for an end-times scenario? 🙂
Before I wrap up, I’d like to focus some loving attention on our atheist, agnostic and spiritual-but-not-religious brothers and sisters. I hear a lot from Christians sometimes about these folks being essentially in league with the evil forces that have our world teetering on the brink of apocalypse. But what I also know as a former spiritual-not-religious myself, is the reason I gave up on organized religion was because of the authoritarian side of Christianity which tried to teach me some not-so-nice things about God and to some degree used guilt and fear to control me. I know this has happened to countless other folks out there that then throw up their hands on religion. Let’s face it, people are tired of the hypocrisy of authoritarian religions of all types and they’re not buying it anymore. In my case, thankfully, God stuck with me through all my searching and finally I discovered who the real God and the real Jesus are. So I can understand it when some people who have had bad experiences with religion not only throw out religion, but also give up on God. It’s tragic that in reacting to authoritarian Christianity, so many give up the priceless treasure that Christianity truly offers – a personal relationship with the source of love Himself – our loving Father – and the chance to walk with the most perfect human and Divine reflection of our Father that ever walked this earth – Jesus Christ. Notwithstanding, when I look around and see that so much good is also being done by non-religious people out there, that’s proof that God is working with all of us. Even if they do spread erring ideas about God, Jesus and religion, we should not overlook the loving things they do. After all, I’m sure we all know cases of non-religious people who treat their fellow humans better than some supposed “Christians.” We as Christians are not shining our light by getting caught up in end-times obsession and targeting particularly these folks for our finger-wagging. The good news is that Jesus’s Spirit of Truth is constantly knocking on everyone’s door. People of all beliefs are desperately seeking truth out there and God is trying to guide them toward it, even if they’re unaware of that. I believe that, like myself, once they begin to understand who God really is, they will surely find their way to a personal relationship with Him. Like the prodigal son, celebrations will abound on both heaven and earth when more people decide they need God in their lives.
I believe what really needs to be “left behind” in modern Christianity is all the fear and finger-pointing of end-times obsession. Trusting that God is in control and has a big plan for our world–and that, despite our endless postulating, He alone knows the day and the hour–frees us from going through this totally unnecessary anxiety. In my experience, it’s a much happier way to live that will establish the Kingdom of God more quickly and securely as we learn to focus on what truly matters – loving God and loving each other.