This is the fifth in a series of posts where I re-imagine Jesus’ five big sermons as TED Talks, in which he Educates people in God’s new Design for a world that runs on the Technology called love. This post is an interpretive paraphrase of Matthew 24.
When I say our civilization is on the brink of destruction, most people don’t believe me. But for those who do, their next questions are always “When?” and “How will we know?”
First of all, don’t freak out when the Bible-thumping crazies calculate dates based on what’s happening in the news. Look — wars and earthquakes happen, people; they’re not the end of the world. Chill.
Another thing that is not the end of the world: People hating you because you’re joining me in loving the wrong people. This is to be the normal state of affairs for you, so again, don’t freak out when it happens. This will cause some to give up on the love thing, but not you. Love until you die, and you will have known and experienced life to the full.
But… Our civilization has a Design problem. It is built on the Technology of Hate, and that has consequences:
A day is coming when you will see the Capitol surrounded by armies. On that day, you may think that the time for violence has arrived; you may think that God will give you victory “because this is God’s country” or whatever.
That will not be a day to fight; it will be a day to run. The day to bug-out and head for the hills. Because it will be a massacre the likes of which you have never seen.
There will be politicians and demagogues who will claim that they can save us from this fate, if only we pledge our allegiance to them — along with their pet schemes, miraculous technologies, and scapegoats du jour. Don’t fall for that. Our civilization is unsustainable, so don’t believe anyone who tells you they can sustain it.
Don’t follow anyone who says they have found such a savior. You don’t need anyone to tell you where lightning is, because it brightens up the whole sky. Likewise, you won’t need anyone to tell you that the Son of Man rules and that wannabe-Napoleons do not. Everyone will see them fall. The hovering flock of vultures will show you where they landed.
Everything will fall to pieces.
The powers-that-be will be shaken to their foundations.
The “masters of the universe” will be brought back down to the ground.
The game of thrones will end.
When this happens, you will see that I was right, and I will be vindicated before those who have oppressed my people. They will see that I am the Son of Man, now come to rule at the right hand of God. They will weep. They will see:
- What the Egyptians saw (Isaiah 19.1)
- What the Babylonians saw (539 BCE)
- What the Romans saw (410 CE)
- What the Nazis saw (1945 CE)
- What the subprime mortgage industry saw (2008 CE)
They will discover that it is the Son of Man — not they — who rides the clouds. He is the one who sits in the driver’s seat of the world, watching their monuments become ruins.
No one can predict the exact timing of this sort of thing, but I’ll tell you this for damn sure: There are children in this room who will live to see it happen.
It will be like the story of Noah, where everything was business-as-usual until the first drop fell. The day will come like a thief in the night — and not one of those polite thieves who call you to let you know when they’ll arrive. So stay awake. When a society functions unsustainably, it eventually comes to an end. Every single time.
It’s like a CEO going away on a long trip and leaving her butler with the job of managing the house and the rest of the staff. When she returns and finds him doing the job well, she’ll give him any promotion he wants. But what if, instead, the butler beats up the other members of the household staff and destroys the house, hosting wild drunken parties? The CEO will return at the time he least expects it, and she’ll send him straight to the Unemployment line, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
John Stonecypher is a theologian/blogger/speaker living in Denver with his wife, Karen, and their 3 sons. John’s other endeavors include The Jesus Benyosef Project, a 4-year interactive social media drama of Jesus’ ministry years, and Geeked-Out Soul, a blog exploring geek spirituality.