Saturday, April 23, 2011

Is it the End of the World?

Published in Challenge Weekly 2011

There is some speculation around that current events indicate that the end of the world is nigh. This is no doubt due to Jesus' predictions of wars and earthquakes as the end approaches. It is certainly true that our news is full of earthquakes and Middle Eastern turmoil. So, is this the beginning of the end?

The first thing is to admit that we just don't know. Jesus himself did not know when the end would come. There are texts that point to Jesus returning like a thief in the night, surprising most of the people of the world. So, his return may be imminent. But, a sensible Christian does no claim too much on the basis of a few world events.

Secondly, such events are not really that unusual. Seismologists tell us that the number of earthquakes remains constant. The difference for us in NZ is that one hit us! Further, we are now able to watch their effects dramatically on live TV! The truth is that there have been earthquakes and turmoil since the time of Christ, and they will go on.

Thirdly, while it is true that these are potentially signs, other key signs remain unfulfilled. For example, the gospel is yet to be preached to every known people group on earth. Neither is there any sign of a world-wide economic, political, and spiritual power taking control.

Fourthly, while the world is in many instances a dangerous place, the idea of a rising intensity of evil in the earth is not clear-cut, although one could argue that the conditions are coming into place for such world-wide chaos (e.g. ecology, globalisation, technology, tension). When we think back to last century there were times of great intensity such as the World Wars, the Cuban Missile crisis, and more, yet these did not signal the end. As such, we Christians should always on our guard, but act with sober realism and judgment concerning the return of Christ at a time like this.

Then there is the question of whether when Jesus returns will in fact the end of the world at all. The assumption behind the idea is that Jesus returns, the world is enveloped in a cataclysmic end and believers are whipped off to live in heaven for eternity. In Rom 8:19-23 a very different picture is given. It speaks of the creation (all things) groaning in suffering (e.g. earthquakes), waiting eagerly for the coming of Christ, of the creation subjected to futility, and of the hope that the creation will be liberated from its enslavement to decay and brought into glorious resurrection freedom. This is a thrilling picture not of the end of the world, but the renewal of this one! So, even if it is 'the end,' this should not lead us to despair or fear, but to joy and hope, because our savior is coming and the renewal of God's creation is at hand. Go deeper!


steve said...

I take issue with your statement:
“Thirdly, while it is true that these are potentially signs, other key signs remain unfulfilled. For example, the gospel is yet to be preached to every known people group on earth.”

First the Bible does not teach that the good news would be preached to every known people group on earth. It states that the good news would be preached throughout the inhabit earth.

Secondly, the good news has been preached and continues to be preached throughout the inhabited earth. In fact, it is being preach in 236 lands right now. There is only one organization on the earth dedicated, among other things, to preaching and teaching about the good news of Gods Kingdom. I am sure you know who they are.

Mark Keown said...

Enlighten me Steve.

steve said...

There are 266 nations, dependent areas, and other entities around the world. In 2010 alone, Jehovah’s Witnesses spent over 1.6 billion hours proclaiming the good news about God Kingdom in 236 lands. That is an average of 30 minutes in the preaching and teaching work each day by every witness. There are more than 7 million worldwide. Over the past decade, they have produced and distributed more than 20 billion items of Bible-education literature.

Now, some may say that many have preached something about the Bible’s message. However, most have done so only for a brief time and on a limited scale. By contrast, Jehovah’s Witnesses are accomplishing an organized global preaching work despite severe opposition from some of the most powerful and ruthless organizations in human history (i.e., Nazi Concentration Camps and currently Russia and Armenia just to name a few). Moreover, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not paid to preach. Rather, they volunteer their time, and they offer their literature free of charge. Their work is supported entirely by voluntary contributions.

In the 30 Oceania lands alone, there are more than 99,000 witnesses. They conducted more than 59,000 bible studies in 2010. Worldwide, more than 7.5 million bible studies were conducted.

That being sad, what do you think? Is the good news of the Kingdom being preached worldwide?

David Mary said...

Sorry, but the Jehova's Witnesses are a sect of heresy, a modern novelty without a single Church Father to quote in support of their ravings. What they preach is heresy and perdition.

Jesus Christ is true God and true man, the Eternal Second Person of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, who assumed flesh in the world for our salvation. This is the Catholic Faith, outside which no one is ever saved.

steve said...

I am surprised that you would say this. You stated that you had not seen any evidence of a worldwide preaching work or rather that the good news has not been preached throughout the inhabited earth.

At first when I read your statement, I thought there was a chance that you had not encountered one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. But based on your comments, you either have or you have relied on what others have told you or both.

When you use the word sect, I am wondering how you are defining the word. You are correct. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have an “a single Church Father to quote in support of their ravings”. This is because Jehovah’s Witnesses are not an offshoot of some church but include persons from all walks of life and from many religious backgrounds. They do not look to any human, but rather to Jesus Christ, as their leader. According to them, they follow their leader and listen to his voice. One of the things Jesus instructed his followers to do was to go and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things he has commanded. Preaching and teaching about the good news of God’s Kingdom is what Jesus did and what he instructed his followers to do as well. This is what I have seen of this group.

So when I pointed out to you that Jehovah’s Witnesses are preaching in 233 out of 266 lands and in 2010they spent 1.6 BILLION hours preaching and teaching with the result of 7.5 Bible studies, you became defensive for the Catholic Church. The numbers I am quoting can be gotten from any Google search or just by talking to one of them.

Do not the members of the Catholic Church preach and teach about the good news of God’s Kingdom? I know you have a clergy class but what about the laity? I would think with any where from 1 to 1.5 BILLION estimated registered Catholic taking the lead in the preaching and teaching, the good news of God’s Kingdom would have been more than preached throughout the inhabited earth. If this is not the case, and as you stated “Catholic Faith, outside which no one is ever saved”, how can people be saved if no one is bringing the message to them?

As an observer, it would appear that Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing just what the Christ instructed. Where am I wrong? What am I missing?

Mark Keown said...

Steve, you have not read the source of the previous comment, it is not me but David Mary, perhaps you should direct your question to him and not me.

I have in fact not replied on your comment, as it requires careful thought. I will do so here.

If it is true that the Jehovah's Witnesses are authentic 'Christians' (let God be the judge), your argument could be correct. As you know however, among many 'mainstream Christians' of which I one, there is a view that the Jehovah's Witnesses perspective is not orthodox and faithful to the teaching of the NT.

As such, I certainly hold a different theology than Jehovah's Witness and speaking out of my corner of God's people, did not take into account their work in the world in my post.

As to whether your claim is correct, I would prefer to leave God to be the judge. While I disgree with the Jehovah Witness view of Jesus at some crucial points, I do not simply write off the church - I will leave God to judge us all (I also know that I have theological flaws and continually seek to review my thinking in light of the revelation through the Word.

In terms of those who hold to an apostolic and a faith that affirms the divinity of Christ and Trinity, there remains much work to do to see the gospel go to all nations.

Having said that, you and your church have my respect for the work you do, and as I said above, it could be that you are correct. If so, then the coming of Christ may be closer than I suggested.

Indeed, I admit to having a lot of admiration for the mission work you do and your commitment to the task, if only all churches were as focussed.

That being said, is it not true that the Jehovah's Witnesses have repeatedly claimed to know the date of Jesus' return, and we remain waiting?

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