Pastor Kevin Schaal wrote recently to address the question of whether recent events—and our times in general—signal Christ’s return to end human history. I agree with his conclusion on that question.
I want to respond to his introduction, though.
We live in dark times. The world is in such a state of insanity, sorrow, and rage, that it makes us wonder at the viability of humanity because of its tendency to self-destruct. War in Ukraine, war in Israel, rumored war with China against Taiwan, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, nuclear weapons, arrogant politicians, and mentally incompetent human leaders—it is enough to make your head spin.
I don’t have a complaint with Kevin in particular about this observation. Maybe it’s confirmation bias, but I feel like I’m hearing and reading variations of this assessment of our times constantly.
I just don’t really understand why.
If you’re under 40, this perspective is more understandable. You have less recent history to compare to today. But even twenty-somethings should be mindful of world history. Our records are full of times when the situation around the world was as dark as, or darker than, now.
Those of us 50 or older have plenty of “dark times” to look back on in our own lifetime.
So I have a request for leaders and influencers: Please stop feeding Christians’ anxieties about our times. They get enough of that from watching the news!
I realize we could add “yet” to the end of each of the items below. It’s still true that …
- We are not in the midst of world war.
- The US economy is not in a depression.
- We don’t have double digit unemployment (2009) or double digit inflation (1980)
- We didn’t just lose 3,000 people at once to a terrorist attack on our own soil.
- We don’t have Roe v. Wade.
- Egypt and Syria are not at war with Israel (1973).
- We are not on the brink of nuclear war (1962).
Of course, we could also make a bullet list of things that aren’t good these days—some of which are pretty unprecedented. The gender revolution we’re in is not quite “been there, done that” in U.S. history—or Western Civilization. In the U.S., we’ve broken all our records for quantities of people who don’t attend church and don’t claim Christian faith. Suicides are allegedly at an “all time high.” We could expand that list.
But our gender revolution is pretty much a continuation of the one that’s been going on since the 1960’s. Our cultural march into post-Christian territory has also been in progress since at least the early 20th century. And though some sources say suicides are at an all time high, other sources don’t seem to support that claim.
Yes, Dark Times
But don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of reasons for concern about the world in general, and Western and American culture in particular. It’s just that there have always been lots of reasons for concern—in every place and every age.
Human lives have always been fragile and brief, like grass and flowers (1 Peter 1:24). Our days have always been vaporous and full of uncertainty (James 4:14). Even when humans lived a lot longer (Gen. 5:27!) life was still a bit of mist relative to eternity, and we were “born to trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).
Some readers may have noticed that what I’m saying bears some resemblance to these guys:
knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” (NKJV, 2 Pet 3:3–4)
But Peter isn’t denying that human society has been in the same sort of mess since the Fall. He’s confronting the argument that since things are pretty much the same as always, judgment will never come.
For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
8But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:5–9)
Peter argues that the order of things is in God’s hands and that He has judged before and will judge again. The continuation of everything pretty much the same as always is an expression of God’s mercy as He saves more people. (It’s true that as He waits, more are also perishing in unbelief. But Peter isn’t talking about increasing the overall percentage of humans who believe. He’s talking about giving “you” who are alive right now the chance to repent.)
So back to the original question: Do we live in dark times? Yes, but not unusually dark.
- As in Jesus’ day, humans love darkness rather than light (John 3:19).
- As in Paul’s day, “unfruitful works of darkness” abound (Eph 5:11-12).
- We’re probably not quite at the darkness level of Noah’s day, when human hearts “thought … only of evil continually” (Gen 6:5). But …
- As in Paul’s day, the times are “perilous” and full of self love, greed, pride, blasphemy, and more (2 Tim 3:1-5).
- As in Paul’s day, we’re no longer children of darkness and are called to “walk as children of light” (Eph 5:7-8).
- As in the first century, we’re in the middle of a “crooked and perverse generation” where we get to “shine as lights” (Php 2:15).
The words of Martin Luther’s hymn vividly described his “dark times.” They describe our own just as well. They also describe our unchanging God, and what ought to be our joyful confidence.
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us;
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Aaron Blumer is a Michigan native and graduate of Bob Jones University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He and his family live in small-town western Wisconsin, not far from where he pastored Grace Baptist Church for thirteen years. In his full time job, he is content manager for a law-enforcement digital library service.