Are The End Times At Hand? Should We Pack Anything?

This is my end times suitcase. You never know.

Yesterday I received an email that said, “John, I’m hearing much discussion on the recent wave of natural disasters pointing to the fact that the end of the world is near. I’d love to hear your take on it.”

Naturally, the first thing I imagined was the following dialogue between me and a person I’ll call E.T. (for “End Times”) who thinks the recent waves of natural disasters means the end of the world is near.

E.T: Hi, John! Thanks for coming over for a visit. It’s great to have a friend with whom I really don’t have much in common. Have a seat!

ME: Thanks!

E.T.: So. The end of the world is at hand.

ME: Excuse me?

E.T: The end of the world. It’s at hand.

ME: It is?

E.T: Don’t you follow the news?

ME: Well, sure. I mean, I guess. I think I saw something about Brad Pitt and that great actress with the lips breaking up. But it didn’t really seem like the end of the world or anything. It is too bad, though. You know, I never understood how Brad could have left Jennifer Aniston. She really seems like …

E.T: John, you’re not listening. The end of the world is upon us.

ME: So you weren’t joking.

E.T: Look at the recent wave of natural disasters!

ME: You mean the earthquakes?

E.T: Yes, the earthquakes!

ME: But … we’ve always had earthquakes. Besides, I don’t think the world’s going to end by the planet shaking itself to death. Now, about Brad Pitt. Why can’t that guy settle down? And have you seen that beard he’s grown? Talk about the end of the world! I–

E.T: “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places!”

ME: [pause] Um … Mark. No, Luke! Wait, not Luke. Revelation! Book of Revelation. Right?

E.T: It’s Matthew, John. It’s Matthew 24:7.

ME: I was gonna say that! I really was. What threw me off was that word “divers.” I love that word. But it is pretty old school. I think that’s actually Brad Pitt’s real problem. He’s getting older, see, and sometimes men in midlfe …

E.T: John! You’re not listening! The end of the world is upon us! Divers signs in the Bible point to it!

ME: [pause] Cool way of working divers into a conversation.

E.T: You are a Christian, right, John?

ME: Right. I am.

E.T: And yet you’re not worried about End Times.

ME: Well, what if this is the End Times? What’s anyone supposed to do about that? How do you pack for something like that?

E.T: You don’t pack for the End Times, John. You prepare yourself spiritually.

ME: But I’m already a Christian. I can’t be more of a Christian.

E.T: Are the people you love and care about Christian?

ME: Some are. Some aren’t.

E.T: Before the End Times arrive, we must do everything we can to save the unbelieving sinners from being left behind!

ME: Hey, did you ever try to actually read the Left Behind books? Man, if the end of literacy is a harbinger of End Times, I’m surprised I’m not flying up to heaven right  now.

E.T: We must save the sinners!

ME: Great! [pause] Oh, did you mean right now? Can’t we at least finish our coffee first?

E.T: There’s no time!

ME: Right … right. Because it’s the end of times. No more … watches.

E.T: Let’s go save the sinners! [E.T. bolts wildly out the door.]

ME: Holy cow! That is one intense believer. Man, it’s so hard to believe that in this day and age, anyone could actually believe that—whoa! Did this house just shake?

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://www.myspace.com/whitenoisemetalpodcast Brian Shields

    I know there's some controversy over whether John the Apostle wrote both the Gospel of John and the Revelation of St. John the Divine. Either way both are tremendous works of literature. I am intrigued by the assertion in the G of J that logos preceded everything (maybe even God)… and certainly there's great imagery in the R of SJ the D. Still it doesn't seem to compare with the sheer terror and beauty of the End Times prophecy of the astronomers who posit the transition from sun to giant to dwarf.

    If I can appreciate the literature of the Bible while rejecting the idea that I needed Jesus or anyone else to die for my alleged sins and still meet your definition of Christian, I'll take it.

  • http://living3dfaith.blogspot.com/ Tim

    @redlefty—Jesus spoke of signs that would be a warning of His eminent return. While earthquakes, floods, famines, diseases, and the like, have been with us for millennia, only in the last 50 years have we possessed the technology to know what is happening around the globe instantaneously. Now we hear about everything when it happens. Maybe a 'perception' of more instead of a reality of more. Maybe ALL nations aren't persecuting Christians and putting them to death quite yet, but I don't think the list of nations that ARE hasn't gotten any shorter. In 1949, Israel was re-established. The Middle East wants to expel them like a mother gone far past due with her pregnancy. The birth pains have been going on and now everyone knows about it on a moments notice.

    There is a Temple (replica) being built in Mitzpe Yericho. Once finished the Cohanim Priests will begin to minister in that temple according to every jot and tittle of the law. As far as Temple Mount Muslims and the rest of the world are concerned, the Mitzpe Yericho Temple isn't a 'valid' temple. But keep in mind that Mark 2:27 informs us that man (Jewish man) is not made for the Sabbath, but actually the reverse. In the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:20), the father (symbolizing God) ran out from his property and met his son where the son was (out and away from the father's house). God is not under Temple Mount arrest. He wears no tether that prevents Him from going here or there. Why does man continue to insist that God perform according to our expectations or understanding? Haven't we figured out by know that He is sovereign?

    Sorry for the wordy reply.

    Cheers

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    ME: Hey, did you ever try to actually read the Left Behind books? Man, if the end of literacy is a harbinger of End Times, I’m surprised I’m not flying up to heaven right now.

    Haha! I could not get into them at all. ugh.

  • http://jerrisblog.blogspot.com Jerri Harrington

    ….so backwards as to believe the world will end….so backwards as to believe that the things that are happening in the world could serve as reminders that the world will come to an end? I don’t think any of us know, but I do think compassion would dictate that we concern ourselves with sharing our faith with others who may be lost and seeking answers. Afterall, we would share our peanut butter sandwich with them, right? The only thing we have to fear is fear, itself.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Hey, Ric, I’m glad you wrote. I wanted to thank you for leaving the kind comment you did on my HuffPo piece. That sort of thing really helps me out. Thank you.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Jerri: You’ll see that through my ending the piece the way I did I don’t necessarily take lightly at all the idea that This Could Be It.

  • http://living3dfaith.blogspot.com/ Tim

    John, you madman! Stop shooting those firebrands and deadly arrows.

  • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty

    The bible also says that “no man will know the hour”. So when a Christian starts building a case that this year is the end, I then know for sure that they will be wrong and the world will keep on spinning. And you know what that means!

    My annual campaign of rampant sin can continue as planned! Yeah baby!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Oh, Red. How I … well, frankly, wish you would quit sending me those pictures of yourself. And those newest “props” of yours–those banana leaves—aren’t helping. I’m begging you. Stop.

  • onemansbeliefs

    Yep, Jesus is coming back and it's a good thing to expect His return. In 1 John 3:2-3 we are told, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when HE SHALL APPEAR, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him PURIFIETH HIMSELF, even as he is pure."

    On a side note. When I scrolled down this post really fast my mind's eye saw eat me.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    (Jerri: I took the “backwards” part out of the last sentence. I did find it too harsh. Thanks for help with that.)

  • http://www.myspace.com/whitenoisemetalpodcast Brian Shields

    The latest models suggest that the world will end in about five billion years when the sun starts to run out of its fuel. It will then start to fuse helium into heavier elements and expand until it eventually swallows the earth. After a billion years or so after that, it will collapse into a white dwarf.

    This seems even more dire and literary than the ravings of the guy in Revelations.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Who you callin’ a white dwarf?

  • http://dlkelley.wordpress.com dlkelley

    This reminds me of part of a back-and-forth on my Facebook a few months ago…because I’m too brain-dead at the moment to write something original that I didn’t write already :)

    Friend: “I just watch the video called The Obama Deception. I agree with what the video says. It’s shows that it’s getting ready for the Anti-Christ.”

    Me: “…as Christians, isn’t that something we should be okay with? I mean, doesn’t that mean that His return is that much sooner? Though, for the record, I tend not to get caught up with who may or may not be preparing the way for whatever…I’d rather be caught up with the people God has put in my every-day path and leave speculations alone. I think He can work things out without me postulating how He’s going to do it.”

    In case that’s unclear, pretty much if the end of the world is at hand, then praise God. If not, then praise God. He’s got it under control, and I’m not sure why a certainty of the imminent doom of earth should make us live differently than we ought to already be living.

    Also, people are pretty intuitive. They know if you have an agenda for talking to them or “taking an interest” in them. And most people hate it. So why not put aside our agenda and actually love people like Christ did and does?

    In the wise words of Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou, “We all well know we’re going to reap what we sow. And grace, we all know, will take the place of all we owe. So why not let’s forgive everyone everywhere everything? All the time, everyone, everywhere, everything!”

  • http://dlkelley.wordpress.com dlkelley

    And also, for the record, I don’t believe Obama is Satan or the Anti-Christ or even really paving the way for the Anti-Christ. I just happen to have a lot of conspiracy-theorist friends who want me to agree with them. Telling them I think they’re crazy doesn’t work so much as conveying to them my apathy about what drives their need to believe in conspiracy theories. Maybe I’m not such a good friend after all… :)

  • http://www.myspace.com/whitenoisemetalpodcast Brian Shields

    That’s right John Shore… you”ll be a white dwarf but only after spending a billion years as a red giant!

    And if you’re worried about what will happen to your housepets, I recommend the folks at

    http://www.postrapturepetcare.com/

    Brian

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Brian: You may find Revelations no more than ranting (and verily, but it’s basically undecipherable), but, as a man who appreciates the aesthetics of the written word, I KNOW you love the Gospel of John (John is also generally assumed to have written the Book of Revelation). It just doesn’t get any more beautiful, no matter what you believe. Talk about phenomenal writing. And you love writing!

    Hence, you’re a Christian. I knew it.

  • Jake Halsted

    Bad times, Good Times, End Times…whatever. As a Christian, it doesn't matter to me. My affairs are in order. I treat my fellow person with respect, with humility and with consideration. I think that Jesus wants Health Care to pass in the United States, Jesus wants 30 million Americans to have health insurance. Jesus wants peace between Palestine and Israel…I don't CARE what the prophesy says, as a Christian, we need to work towards it. I was baptized Catholic, I practice Catholic, I am Catholic. I live Christian HERE and NOW. I have enough to worry about today.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Jake: Exactly right. Thank you.

  • http://living3dfaith.blogspot.com/ Tim

    @redlefty—Forgive me my typographical trespasses and please…resume your annual campaign of rampant sin.

  • James

    I never quite understood the fascination with 'end times,' except for the need to be "right with God" . . . and isn't that something that we should strive for regardless of what time it is? I lost a brother at age 19, and another when he was 42, and a father when he was 79. I can assure you that the end times means nothing to them. They have met their own 'end times.' We all do. We don't know when Christ will return. We don't know when that runaway Greyhound bus will hit us, either. Just love God, love your fellow man, and don't linger at the bus stop.

  • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty

    @Tim — No problem, and besides, most people interpreted Jesus’ warnings to mean that the world would end in their lifetime. And every generation since has had the same ideas. And still we’re here. It’s like when I meet with the life insurance agent about my policy and premiums:

    Me: (makes payment) Bet I”m gonna die!

    Agent: (takes money’) Bet you aren’t.

    Wash, rinse, repeat on an annual basis.

    And Brian, who you calling a red giant? :)

  • http://jerrisblog.blogspot.com Jerri Harrington

    Hey, John….thanks for removing the “backwards” part! :) Thankfully, we aren’t meant to know the day and time…..Jesus said He didn’t even know when He was on the earth. Knowing us (including myself…) if we knew the day, we might procrastinate until the last minute, try to force others to believe or render ourselves paralyzed from worrying. I take great comfort in knowing that until He comes again there will be springtime and harvest….and all of that stuff! In other words, we need to just do the work He gave us to do, and know He’s coming. Friends from my church have college kids who were planning to go to Chile on Tues for a semester of study away from home–and they are still going! Paul told the Thessalonians not to stand around looking up in the clouds waiting for Jesus. I think that’s the equivalent of stressing over the possible signs in the world around us. It’s not our job to control world events. But we can pray about anything so that we have peace in all circumstances. (Sorry to be so serious….I know that everyone enjoys a little light heartedness in view of the horrible disasters that have been occuring. I tend to get serious after disasters like we’ve seen, because a lot of people in my life have some serious questions. I don’t have the answers, though. I just believe God is love, He is always faithful, He is good and He loves us all!)

  • Sharon

    As someone raised Catholic, "end times" and "rapture" were not phrases/words I grew up with, and as I found myself drawn towards a more Biblical Christianity (for lack of a better term), I never really got the fascination with all that, either. As James, in the comment just before this one, says, odds are we'll all meet our own personal "end time" individually and relatively quietly. We should be ready. We should know, in our hearts, we did the best we could, not passively, but actively, in this world.

    Gotta add — beating your friends and relatives over the head with end-times prophecies and dire rapture threats is really only gonna give rise to a lot of snarky comments behind your back. Better to follow St. Francis' advice on preaching the gospel — win-win for everyone — Ifirmly believe behavior is catching — behave well, and those around you will, be a jerk, and pretty soon all your best friends will be fellow-jerks along the way.

  • http://heckledtrio.wordpress.com HK

    I thought the definition of "end times" meant the time between Christ's first coming and his second. So, haven't we *already* been living in end times for the past 2000+ years? What's new, really? ;-P

  • http://mystique772.wordpress.com mystique772

    Very refreshing for me to see a Christian with a good dose of rationality and a sense of humour. Didn't get any of that growing up in my Christian community and now I am quite cynical and easily angered by the 'extreme believer' I will call it. Very funny post. I'm happy I've discovered your blog.

  • yoyo

    Haha.

    Guess what, John?

    We're in the end times.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Burns

    I have recently become mesmerized by the revelations espoused through a local radio station outside Chicago who’s founder is espousing the rapture will be on May 21st, 2011 (and the end of the physical earth will be October 21st, 2011). The founder of Family Radio, Harold Camping, is claiming unambiguous and precise knowledge of the End Times.

    I am utterly fascinated by the psychology of his delusion and the callers into his network of radio stations. It is at once riotously funny and numbingly sad. Camping is utterly confident and committed to his claims (despite making the claims twice before and having been wrong). He, of course, may be more committed to keeping the ‘Love Offerings’ coming in.

    Wanna take any bets that there will be a ‘new revelation’ provided on May 22nd?

  • Steve