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Ready for the Apocalypse

[ Touchstone, May 2003]

I blush to say that I was one of the people who thought Y2K might mean a world’s end— some kind of ending anyway. Not to the extent of a friend who talked about converting all her assets to gold coins and digging a well in her suburban yard. But at that time I was one of those who thought Y2K might have significant impact, and took the time to think through and picture what it would look like if everything went kerflooey.

Now all that looks like dress rehearsal. Likewise for the days after 9/11, when we all thought a second blow was imminent. Now things are bubbling again, not just politically but perhaps also spiritually, and some suspect the end is at hand. Of course there is no lack of signs for those who have eyes to see, but maybe there always have been. I don’t know that there are more signs now than there have been on any day in the last 2000 years. But it’s going to be the Last Day *someday*, that’s for sure, and it’s closer now than ever.

How should we then live? It seems to me that there are three possibilities:

  1. Things stay mostly the same, as between 9/11 and today. In that case, just go on prayerfully making the wisest plans you can. You might want to keep or change a job, sell or buy a house, regardless of what future world history holds.
  2. It’s the End of the World. Jesus is coming back. In that case, cancel that appointment to change your hairstyle. Honestly, *nothing* is going to matter. Don’t move, don’t change jobs, don’t tell your broker to sell. Jesus especially warned that it would be tough on those who are pregnant or nursing babies. Just tell everybody you love ‘em, make friends with your enemies, forgive everyone who ever hurt you, and sit tight.
  3. It’s the End of the World as we know it. There is going to be war and it will not take place solely overseas. We will see effects in our homeland. This alternative is maddening to plan for because the extent is completely unpredictable. What’s more, the extent of the "end" today might not be as bad as what lies ahead a year or two or a decade further along. Or, as with 9/11, a disaster might be followed by a return to near normal and swift rebuilding. No way to predict, so no way to plan.

Picture the range. It might be nuclear winter with a rare few damaged survivors (the equivalent, as far as we’re concerned, of # 2). It might be germ warfare, with those who are immune and survive reuniting to create a civilization again (rent "The Stand" to see how this might work out in practice). It might be just one terrible decade after another of reduced resources, misery, and terror—and at the same time, buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage, babies and funerals, and life continuing somewhat as we know it now, though limping and frequently sad.

Times like these are good for the soul, because uncertainty is a good thing—rousing, focusing, stimulating, compelling us to face ultimate priorities. Complacency and comfort is what we’ll seek ten times out of ten, but it’s not nearly as good for us. Of course times like these are also extremely uncomfortable, if not outright distressing. That’s when it’s good to remember in Whom we have trusted. We can’t see a speck of anything that lies ahead, not predictably. We don’t know what’s going to happen. But we see Jesus. The more we keep our attention fixed on Him alone, the more we can rest in certainty of what the ultimate End will be.

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