To A World That Is All About Money, The End-Game Is Beginning To Look Really Ugly
The disciples of Jesus posed a fascinating question to him at the very end of His ministry. Jesus had just finished telling them about the coming destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and in Matthew 24:3 they responded with a more expansive question: “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (NKJV). Jesus then went on to answer them in great detail, taking up the rest of Matthew chapter 24 and chapter 25 with His response. Matthew provided the most extensive account of what Christ said, but Mark (chapter 13) and Luke (chapter 21) also included the exchange in their gospels, and each provided a few details the others left out, so for the fullest knowledge possible it is necessary to read all three accounts.
And reading all three accounts, you get a pretty clear picture of what will happen in the final days just before the return of Christ. Deceptions will abound, including many false Christs (Matthew 24:4,5). There will dramatic increases in conflict, including between countries (like, say, Syria and Israel) and between people groups (like, say, between Shiite and Sunni Muslims). And of course, there will be conflict between states and people groups, as with Turkey and the Kurds. At the same time, there will be famines, outbreaks of disease, and a marked uptick in earthquakes (Matthew 24:6,7). Christ warns that these things are precursors – the beginning of sorrows (Matthew 24:8) that takes place before widespread persecution of Christ’s followers. And then, concurrent with the persecution, is a general collapse of world order and the natural environment, which is neatly summed up in Matthew 24:21&22: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.”
Christ also pointedly observes in Matthew 24:38&39 that, though destruction is upon the world, and though conflict, hunger and disease are at epic levels, those who can party will continue doing so. “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Except, this time, everyone will know there is epic trouble. Luke gives us the best sense of this in chapter 21 of his gospel, verses 25-28: And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
So here is the thing: All this has started to happen. We’re in the early phase of the last days, but we’re still in the last days. The natural world itself is (as I have extensively chronicled and explained here) in an accelerating downward spiral that is chipping away at the foundations of human society. And, of course, the world is partying on, albeit through expressions of concern for things that are affecting the wealth and economy of the world. Where these things are beginning to meet most visibly is in coastal areas, where accelerating sea-level rise is threatening some 300 million world-wide, and also in other corridors and regions that are impacted by the dramatic increases in disasters such as, oh, say, all of California.
CBS had a good article out yesterday explaining how sea level rise and increasing natural disasters could dramatically impact the availability of home mortgages (and insurance). Basically, if you can’t get either or both insurance or a mortgage, you can neither buy nor sell a home using traditional financing methods. We will, of course, figure out another way to distribute risk and make financial transactions possible. We’re pretty smart. After all, we were created in the image of God. But isn’t it interesting that, after all the politically-charged “debate” over the climate crisis, it is the money guys who make a clear-eyed proclamation of the situation we’re entering. The CBS article goes on to describe how problems in the mortgage market are compounded in our infrastructure, where taxes are needed to fund maintenance and repairs on our roads, water systems, electric grid, etc. (and where we have a truly massive technical debt, though the article did not expressly say that).
Being as we live in a post-Christian, mammonist society, it will be the high priests in our society who sound the alarm over impending crisis. So of course the Federal Reserve (or at least the more progressive regional presidents of the Reserve) held a meeting this week to talk about economic impacts of increased disasters and of climate change generally. Interestingly, though, our Federal Reserve bank here in America is probably the slowest such institution on the world stage to recognize the threat, no doubt a reflection of politics in America. The high priests of mammonism around the globe are engaged in threat assessment. Meanwhile the politicians in the United States – or, as they are better described these days, the elected entertainers and attention-seekers – are either paying scant attention to the problem or completely denying it. But what else should we expect? Come what may, the party will go on as long as it possibly can. But as the party goes on, human society is fracturing, which leads to even more conflict, hunger and disease. It is an accelerating downward spiral and its ending is very, very ugly.
Now is the time for clear-eyed Christians to be about their Master’s business, which is to say, we should be the hands and feet of Christ, meekly attending to those who are weak or poor or abused or sick or at risk, proclaiming the Christ by action and word to all who will listen for even a moment, and growing ever more closer to Christ so that we more and more reflect His character of love, compassion, service and truth-telling.
As the world becomes more and more embroiled in the logical results of its rebellion and separation from God, those who follow Christ must be examples of His character, proclaiming that there is another way, that there is a kingdom based on love and not based on selfishness, and proclaiming that that kingdom is at hand.