Should The Church Be Focused on the End Times?

QUESTION: I am struggling to understand why “Christians” are so hyper-focused on the end times. I don’t feel like revelations is meant for us to put into our daily lives and try and search/find how it fits into today’s society. I’ve heard that the world is ending by churches and Christians my whole life and I am just wondering if it is healthy to be so focused on it all the time? Also seems a little self-centered that American churches mostly focus on things happening in the USA and how the Bible must be written for the USA only. I just don’t understand the Christian society’s focal point on this.

HYPER=BAD

Think of all the perfectly nice words that get tanked by adding the prefix, “hyper”:

  • active,
  • sensitive,
  • critical,
  • alert,
  • Calvinist.

Is anything “hyper” good? I guess there is “hypersonic”, but you get my point.

It’s easy for me to agree with your general feeling here: being hyper-focused on the End Times is not good. Any time Christians take one aspect of our belief system and focus on it to the exclusion of all others, it becomes very unhealthy – in many ways. It becomes unhealthy to our own spiritual growth. It becomes unhealthy to our collective witness to the outside world.

EQUAL AND OPPOSITE ERRORS

CS Lewis underlines this same point in the introduction to his book, Screwtape Letters, which talks about spiritual warfare. Lewis says,

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

Screwtape Letters Introduction

In the same way, we can fall into two equal and opposite errors when it comes to the End Times. We can completely disbelieve that Jesus had anything to say about it, and that believing that human history will one day conclude is a fantasy. Or, we can focus on the coming Judgment so exclusively that we actually forget our primary work in the world as Christians.

All instances of physical disease come from an overabundance or underabundance of something good. Too much fat, too much sugar, too much protein. All goods, but in hyper amounts, not good. But equally so when these things are lacking.

JESUS AND END TIMES

Let’s be clear: to have no focus on the End Times would impoverish the Church. Why? For two obvious reasons: One, is that Jesus talked a lot about his Second Coming. If you want to love and follow Jesus, it’s very inconsistent to completely ignore or even repudiate an idea that was so baked into Jesus’ teaching and self-understanding, from start to finish.

In other words, this isn’t an incidental or vague part of what Jesus had to say, like his passing reference to “casting pearls before swine” or the relationship of fasting to prayer for the demon-possessed. No, the theme of Jesus coming back someday to judge the living and the dead was regularly on his lips: Matt 16:27-28, Matt 24:3, Mark 13:26, Mark 14:62, Luke 12:40, Luke 18:8, Luke 21:27, John 14:28, John 21:23.

WHAT’S THE POINT?

The second reason it’s bad to ignore this dominant theme is the very reason Jesus kept coming back to it. Jesus tells us explicitly why he warns that history was going to conclude. “Therefore be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.” (Matt 24:42-43). In story after story (you can read them in Matthew 24, 25) Jesus stresses the “End Times” for a clear purpose: to make us “ready” (Matthew 24:44).

Because He wants his disciples to live life with a pressing sense of urgency. To live our one and only life like an inherited treasure, the spending of which we will one day be held to account. That day of accounting was the Day of the Lord. Jesus knew that forgetting this coming Finish Line would lead to people abusing the stewardship of their life and turn to short term pleasures instead.

TOO MUCH IS NOT ENOUGH

But this fact is what leads to your frustration. When Christians have a hyper-focus on the end times, they usually express it by ignoring the very reason Jesus was focused on the End Times. So in the same way you can’t be “too healthy” or “too loving,” you can never really be “too focused” on the End Times, except by deforming the doctrine in some way. So to stress the doctrine too much is the same as not stressing other things enough: our accountability to God, the urgency with which we must live passionately for Jesus, being great stewards of our gifts and talents and resources God has given us for His causes, trusting God’s sovereignty over history.

Not enough of those things leads to too much other things. Like what?

Well, like the things you mention: the satisfaction of our curiosity about the future; obsessing about connecting Biblical predictions to current events; obsessing about our own country’s role in the End Times. For more on this topic, I did a blog about our obsession with finding the USA in Bible Prophecy which you can read here.

There are some rational reasons Christians search for such connections, which I explain. But overall, the goal of believing in the Day is clearly spelled out by Jesus himself, and it’s not to gratify our interest in successful predictions or being able to read the Bible as an “advanced newspaper”.

It is this: “Therefore be alert, because you don’t know either the day or the hour.” (Matt 25:9)

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