Is this a new beginning or are we close to the end?
This is the poignant question asked by British punk/dance crossover band Enter Shikari in their new release song The Great Unknown.
We have certainly entered into a unique and unusual moment in history. Life as we know it seems to have changed almost overnight. The whole world has been put on pause and there seems to be a lot of fear and uncertainty about the future and where things are heading.
In this environment it is natural that many people would be searching for answers and asking the kinds of questions posed by Enter Shikari in their song.
If there is any time that a strong prophetic voice is needed it is now. The Church and the world need to hear what God is saying for this time right now.
Are we close to the end?
One thing is for sure there seems to be a lot more interest among Christians in biblical prophecy and the future of the world and how it all ends. People are asking whether we are in the very last days. Is the rapture, when God will take believers away into the sky to escape the tribulations to come, drawing near?
And what about the acceleration of society into a cashless economy due to the Coronavirus? Is the Anti-Christ coming on the scene soon and will we be forced to have a microchip to buy and sell? Are the scenario's envisioned by the Left Behind movies about to unfold?
What do I think about these questions? I think they are largely a distraction from what God wants to say to us prophetically right now.
These discussions are very speculative and not at all central to the biblical message. Jesus told us no one will know the time when He returns. We can speculate but it is just speculation at the end of the day.
Also some of these subjects are far from exegetically concrete. For example the biblical evidence for the rapture belief seems to be pretty weak to me and largely based on one passage taken out of context.
What about the Anti-Christ? Like the rapture it is pretty vague. It seems to be the result of stringing a number of unrelated New Testament passages together to create the ultimate end times villain. It seems far more plausible to me, exegetically, that the number 666 in Revelation was code for the Emperor Nero who was persecuting Christians at the time when the book was written.
Hope not fear
How relevant are any of these subjects really to what we are experiencing right now? The prophetic message we need to hear right now is hope over fear.
To be honest I don't know if we are in the very end times or not. There have been Christians in every age since Christ who were convinced that they were in the very end times. But I do know the world needs hope right now and so much of the talk about end times is coming from a place of fear not hope.
If we are in the very end times the biblical message about the end times is overwhelmingly one of hope. History is heading towards an eternal utopia where God makes all things new and there is no more suffering. To me this is the message about the end times that actually matters. It is all about Christ and His glory and the hope we have in Him rather than speculating about fearful things that may happen in the future.
Some will say yes it is true the focus should be on hope in Christ but we don't want to be unaware of the tribulations to come and be prepared for them.
I agree that there very well may be hard times coming for us westerners. But when hasn't there been hard times for Christians somewhere in the world? It is a very western perspective to see any sign of hardship, such as Coronavirus, as a sign of being in the very last days. In many other parts of the world suffering and tribulation is normal and has been for a long time.
A new beginning
When we look at a book like Revelation that is often associated with end times prophecy it is good to keep in mind that it was primarily written for believers at the time it was written. It was written as a message of hope for believers who were experiencing persecution and suffering. It was a prophetic document that spoke powerfully into the times that they were facing then and there in the present.
It is a message that is relevant for all times including our own. There is hope in the midst of difficult times and rather than being close to the end I believe we are at a new beginning in some sense.
Some have said that things have so changed in the world that it will not go back to normal. I think this may be true and I think now is a time of incredible opportunity to see God move mightily in the world and experience His power and blessing like never before if we are open to it. Trials often bring out the best in us and I am confident that things can be better than they ever have been before.
Let's focus on God's goodness, blessing, hope and joy in this time instead of fear and seek Him with all our hearts for a fresh outpouring of His Spirit.
Conor is from Adelaide, South Australia. He has a history degree from Tabor College and has a gardening business. Conor has played in Christian heavy metal band Synnove. He is involved in Operation Canaan, a ministry that prays and intercedes for the music scene. He loves God, music, reading, traveling and thinking deeply about philosophy and current events in the world.
Conor Ryan’s previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/conor-ryan.html