I stated in my usual flippant way about a year ago that if Obama were elected I would consider it a sign of God’s judgment getting seriously underway. Yet I was more than half serious. The Bible is emphatic in saying He will not always strive with man—there is an end to the pathetic metaphysical rebellion of creatures who would overthrow their creator, and all the forms that rebellion takes. I don’t consider the United States or any political entity the new Israel, nor do I think we are his “chosen people” in any covenantal sense, though we certainly are blessed in many ways. Yet I’ve wondered at the timeframe of this Christian and now post-Christian era, as it stretches into two millennia since His ascension and promise to return. Every generation, beginning with the evangelists and apostles who themselves walked the earth with Christ, were looking for the end of days in their lifetimes, since the signs of the end of the age He gave have been plausibly ascribed to every previous generation. Certain it is that some generation will be the one which sees His coming—but all believers at all times were given to understand that it could be any day. The world has seen horrendous moral evil, social and cultural upheavals, economic and political catastrophes, disease and natural disasters that in many ways exceed anything we who are now living have seen. Frightening events have characterized every era, and believers have lived their lives fearing on the one hand the awful judgment preceding His return, and on the other looking forward to their vindication and His, when the Author and finisher of their faith puts paid to the works of evil in this world.
There are reasons to think we are declining into the days foretold of old, reasons no previous generation had—though we can see the whole of history, Anno Domine, as pitching toward the inevitable end.
The first is the nuclear technology slowly seeping out into the barbarian world for a decade or two —the second time will not be flood but fire, recall; the agents of proliferation have been busy putting it by the august and wise councils of the transnationalists in charge of ruling the world, and it is very near the time when an insane dictator or group of apocalyptic mullahs pulls the trigger and unwittingly fulfills the will of God in bringing to a fiery end wide swaths of humanity. It cannot escape notice that Israel is ground zero in most of these apocalyptic nightmare scenarios.
The second is the abandonment of Israel by the only nation who ever really acted as an ally—America. The Obama administration appears to be setting the predicate for a European approach to relations with Israel-i.e., throwing them to the wolves. Across Europe, throughout the U.N., and increasingly in the upper echelons of elite American institutions, anti-Semitism is once again in vogue, a sickening undercurrent becoming more brazen and open by the day. Another run at a “final solution” seems on tap for the very near future, if the Iranian mullahs have their way. I suspect many Europeans of the WWII era remained unrepentant of their feelings against Jews, even after the atrocities of the Nazis came to light. The hard hearts of today's hard Left would shed few tears over a nuked Israel—they brought it on themselves, after all, and aren’t we all better off without the Zionist entity?.
The third is the great turning away—“the hearts of most will grow cold”. The “post Christian” era finds the rise of a militant and evangelical atheism, along with an official and determined persecution of Christians unprecedented under a constitution that expressly prohibits it. The widespread and general rejection of God by those people who knew the Gospel is one of the signs of the end, and even though there have been many such periods before, this seems a much more knowing and final rejection, given the presumption of knowledge modernity and science have thrown down, and given the self referential and narcissistic self absorption of postmodern types .
A great flourishing epoch of vast wealth is crashing into a worldwide depression, providing the antecedent crisis conditions for that ultimate demagogue foreseen in John’s Revelation, the anti-Christ himself. Is this the turn of the wheel that sees the Man of Perdition walk onstage? Only time will tell; many another era has had the look and smell of the final judgment. But did you ever notice how the sand at the end of an hour glass seems to run so much faster? The sand seems like it’s running faster to me…so many exigencies at once, so many abrupt cultural and constitutional changes forced on us by the One…
Some changes come so very slowly—over decades and centuries of years—but some come rushing past so fast people are left with their hands in their pockets as everything is swept before them. Did you ever really think you would live in a socialist America, with a ruined economy, moral anarchy in the form of gay “marriage”, abortion and even infanticide officially supported, our sovereignty handed over to transnational organizations? The deliberate crushing of individual freedom, and the fomenting of crisis conditions to augment the taking? Maybe the twenty-first century A.D. is the last. Twenty one is enough I think.
Take heart, brother. Try to see the whole thing in a broader covenantal perspective. Think of the Solomon's reign. It seemed to be the Kingdom of God itself. And in an anticipatory way, it way. Then it all came crashing down. The kingdom divided. Idolatry was everywhere. Eventually, Jerusalem was overrun by the ungodly and the Temple was desecrated and even toppled. he world had come to an end. But God's plans were bigger and more gloriosu than anything they could imagine.
In 476 AD, Rome was sacked. We often think of Rome as having an adversarial relationship with Christianity, but not only was the world shocked by this fall, Christians saw the end of all things in it. Jerome wept in his cave at Bethlehem where he was writing his commentary on Ezekiel when he received the news. He did not rejoice over the fall of what could surely be called a city of great sin. Rather he wrote, “Who could have believed that Rome, founded on triumphs over the world, could fall to ruin; and that she, the mother of nations, should also be their grave?” And again, “The world is rushing to ruin. The glorious city, the capital of the Roman Empire, has been swallowed up in one conflagration.” And indeed centuries of civilizational darkness followed, but then a great flourishing of the gospel and of civilization. The Puritans took the opposite view of their age. They thought that things were going so well that the millenial rule of Christ prior to his return must be at hand. (Many were post-mil). It seems they were wrong. The end of liberty as we have known it in America is not necessarily the end of the world, much as it breaks my heart to see great chunks of it fall off into the advancing sea of the nanny state.
Eschatology is a tricky subject to square with current events, though I respect your long paragraph of qualification. Even when our exegesis and theology are spot on, we're just too caught up emotionally with out times to judge them soberly one way or another.
A book on the eschatology of the early church that came recommended to me today is Dale C. Allison, Jr., The End of the Ages Has Come: An Early Interpretation of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus (Fortress Presss, 1985).