Submitted by: Veronica Coffin
Written by Bill Muehlenberg
When I write on something over and over again, it is usually because it is a very important matter, or because some folks just don’t seem to get it. Thus I have often written on eschatology, and the need to not let end-times fixations become excuses for inactivity or even fatalism.
There are many concerns about those believers who are inordinately fixated on all things eschatological. The fact that they seem to spend all their time setting dates, but doing little to make an impact in the world around them can be a real worry.
While the biblical teaching on the return of Christ is a wonderful doctrine indeed, it was never meant to become an excuse for laziness, for apathy, for carelessness, or for failing to be salt and the light in the community. But that all too often in fact happens.
One of the really problematic outcomes of such end-times fetishism is that it produces a fatalism and inertia in too many believers. “It is all inevitable.” “It was meant to happen.” “This was all predicted long ago.” Far too many believers offer these unhelpful copouts.
They are so convinced that Jesus is coming back tomorrow – if not sooner – that they have their bags packed and their feet up as they await the Lord’s return. They stop doing anything useful and constructive in other words, and just sit back in idle, going nowhere.
I get this all the time as I seek to alert people to what is happening all around us. I will point out how our freedoms are being lost by the militant homosexual lobby, or I will warn about the grave dangers of creeping sharia and stealth jihad. But far too often I will get misguided believers coming back with rather useless replies such as these:
“Yep, it is all happening according to prophecy.”
“It is just as Revelation says it will be.”
“All this has been prophesied about.”
“We are living in the end times.”
“Jesus must be coming any moment now.”
“We have been told all this would happen.”
Now all these replies in one sense may be more or less true. But all too often they are used as a cheap excuse. The idea is this: ‘well, Christ is coming back real soon and all this was prophesied about anyway, so don’t worry about it.’ They use their eschatology as an excuse for inaction, for complacency, and as a smokescreen for doing nothing.That my friends is certainly not very helpful. I could offer plenty of concrete examples of this, but let me provide just one recent example. I had written on a concerning trend on the radical sexuality front, and got this in reply: “Not sure we are meant to prevent this social engineering process because it is clearly prophesied in the Holy Bible that these things would happen in the end times of our World”
Oh dear. Another unhelpful and rather unbiblical fatalist. I responded with words along these lines: Of course we are to fight against this evil with all our might. The fact that we are warned about evil to come is never meant to be an excuse for passivity and non-action. Undoubtedly Wilberforce was given similar words, but it is a very good thing that he ignored them.
We are always to stand for righteousness and always to fight against evil. God will take care of his end of things, but we must always do our bit. We must do the right thing. We must always get involved, and not use end-times fixations to become a lousy excuse for doing nothing.
And related to all this is an unhelpful emphasis on God’s sovereignty when it detracts from our own responsibility. Of course God is sovereign, of course God is in control, and of course God is working things out in human history towards his desired ends.
But that does not mean we therefore have no role to play in his work. He calls us to partner with him. He calls us to share the gospel with the whole world. He calls us to stand for righteousness and oppose unrighteousness. That is our calling as believers.
Yes God is sovereign, but he has also chosen to accomplish his purposes with and through us as well. If he wanted to, he could just zap everyone into salvation, or holiness, or obedience, or righteousness. But his normal means is by way of our cooperation with him.
His normal means is for us to exercise our wills to cooperate in the work of the Kingdom. He expects us to do the necessary spiritual exercises in order to grow. He expects us to tell other people about the gospel in order for them to get saved. He expects us to work for righteousness in this world. So please, no more unhelpful copouts by appealing to God being in control, while ignoring other biblical truths.
A similar line that often gets thrown at me is that we should not really fight any of this, because this is God’s judgment on us. But there are problems with this line of thought as well. Firstly, how can we be absolutely certain a particular sinful agenda or evil ruler is indeed a God-given judgment?
In the Old Testament we had prophets telling us this quite often. But they had the inspiration of God to make such claims. I am not sure we have the same such authoritative voices today. Back then we had “thus sayeth the Lord.” Today we need to be a bit more circumspect, relying on the Word of God, the canon of which is now closed.
I am not saying God is unable to speak to us today, but we must always treat all such claims with great care, and make sure they all line up fully with Scripture. But there is another problem with this kind of statement. Even if God was judging us in certain ways or at certain times, what are the implications of this?
We already know that the entire world will one day be judged by the Righteous Judge. But what does that have to do with throwing in the towel now? Of course he is coming again to judge fully and finally. But until he does, we have work to do. Jesus said ‘occupy till I come’ and he meant it.
Knowing that he is coming – maybe soon – to judge should not stop us from doing what is right. Should we stop evangelising, helping the poor and starving, caring for loved ones, etc., because he may even now be judging the West? Should we stop eating, sleeping, and putting our clothes on because of this?
Even if a wicked leader like Obama is part of the judging and sifting process of God, does that mean we just sit back and do nothing? Do we stop standing up for the sanctity of life? Do we stop standing up for the God-ordained institutions of marriage and family?
Do we stop praying for the lost because it is of no avail since God is judging? Even if he were judging the West by horrible leaders like Obama, that does not absolve us of our responsibilities to do good and resist evil. We must always do the work of the Kingdom until he calls us home or he returns.
So I for one tire of these rather lame and biblically unhelpful excuses so often thrown up. Whether it is a manic obsession with all things eschatological, or a faulty understanding of God’s sovereignty, we must reject these misguided approaches and get back to work.
We have a job to do – so let’s do it.