Apocalypse Now? A Millennial’s Reaction to the End Times predictions

The End is Nigh

I am a Christian and I have grown to love the earthly church and all its glorious strengths and shortcomings, mostly because the church has extended that very same grace toward me.

I am seeing a growing trend in the church that confuses me. I have read posters in school, read articles online, heard people I care about discussing this topic: many believe the End Times are here, and that Jesus is making his way back to earth post-haste to render his wrath and judgment.

Perhaps it’s just the sci-fi enthusiast in me, but I don’t think we’re nearly to the point of the End Times yet. I’ve seen too many post-apocalytic movies to even think we’ve graced the heart of what Revelation discusses.

Blood moons? Conflict in the Middle East? Imminent war on the horizon? An evil anti-Christ figure that reigns death and destruction throughout the earth? Okay. I hear you. But it’s all been done before. There is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

People have been pairing the End Times with significant astrological events since at least the 1500’s. When has there NOT been conflict it the Middle East? When has there not been war? I can name at least 4 famous megalomaniacs that ruled countries and massacred countless people.

As far as I’m aware, no one in popular Christian authority has committed to a date where the world will end. I have read about the Blood Moons and the potential significance that holds for Israel. But this feeling I get from other Christians is a general rumbling of expectation. People are believing the End Times as described in Revelation is here, or is coming shortly. I have no way to disprove that just as they have no way to prove it.

It bothers me. 

I’ll flat out admit that I am not one of those Christians that wearily says, “I just wish Jesus would come back today.” Some of these people I know who pray this have seen horrors I’ve never dreamed of. I know their wish that Christ would return is a wish of compassion: they want death and sin to be over with so no one else has to suffer. I can see a certain kind of beauty and love in that viewpoint. Then there are others who say those words and the skeptic in me thinks of that prayer as an escapist cop-out.

I don’t view Jesus’ return as a welcome escape from earth and into Heaven. I see it as a death sentence. The Apocalypse would mean mass death and destruction for half the people I know and love. I’m not looking to escape the earth and its horrors. I want to dig in and make it better. I want Jesus to change me enough so that I can actually make something of my life and use it for His glory. I want Jesus to shine through me and reveal himself to those in my life who are lost and need love and grace and peace. These people don’t need hell fire and destruction, they need a chance to be shown Jesus.

Does my desire stem from fear? I honestly don’t know. I ask myself that a lot in the quiet of my soul. It could be my age or spiritual maturity or my natural disposition for desiring peaceful coexistence. How do we balance feeling joy for Christ’s return and staying humble with the knowledge that we know nothing?

How Millennials React to the Apocalypse

I understand Millennials because I am one. I believe they are my primary mission field, especially those in the arts. I choose to live on a college campus to work for a university regardless of the fact that I am 26 and married. While my observations do not speak for all Millennials, I believe my generalizations will be helpful for you to understand their mindset.

People my age have lived through several apocalyptic proclamations: Hayley’s Comet, Y2K, Harold Camping the May 21, 2011 billboard guy. They were all wrong. (Everyone predicting this since 66 AD has been wrong.) When Millennials hear someone talking about The End, we immediately shut off. I think it is partially because we are unwilling to imagine a timeline where our dreams do not come true, and partially because we have lived in the Internet era of debunking myths and ridiculing those with false proclamations who rely on fear tactics. Even the weather person can’t escape our scrutiny.

Christians have a hard time reaching Millennials. In general, Millennials do not respond well to judgement and beliefs that cannot be proven. In general, Millennials distrust organized religion and dislike being associated with organizations or parties.

Based on the popular culture we consume and the hyped up outbreaks covering things like Mad Cow Disease and Bird Flu, Millennials are probably more likely to believe in some sort of cataclysmic modern Black Plague that wipes out the earth’s population (or turns them into zombies.)

Has anyone in authority given thought to how damaging this viewpoint about the imminent End Times could be? How many seekers are you willing to gamble by spouting off theories when Jesus himself says he does not know the hour or day? If you are wrong, you stand to lose credibility with countless souls who are already skeptical of the church.

If you are right, what do we stand to gain between now and then? Are we hoping to convert lost souls this way? I suppose it’s a way to evangelize, but I have never met someone my age who looks upon messages of hell fire and destruction without immediately rolling their eyes and running the other way. I have found that reaching Millennials is most effective through personal relationships with Christians rooted in consistency and openness. That’s how I and several of my friends came to know Jesus.

Unfortunately, Christianity has a horrible reputation in the Millennial world: it is seen as a judgmental religion that forces behavioral modification, requires belief in fact-less and science-less fairy tales, and promotes social injustice for anyone that refuses to follow “the rules”. I’m not exaggerating. We Christians think Christianity is all about grace and love and forgiveness, because that is what Christ has freely given to us. Others don’t see our relationship with Christ as something to celebrate, they see it as a potential threat to their way of life. Are you going to challenge those beliefs by scaring people into believing The End is coming, or would you rather love them and serve them humbly the way Christ loves and serves us?

How Christians should respond

I am not suggesting we never talk about Revelation or the End Times. We should not avoid discussing something in Scripture. But we miss the point when we predict dates (even if we are only half convinced) and start to focus on what will come rather than what is.

I believe many of these beliefs are folly and Jesus warns against it in Luke 21:7-36 (emphasis added).

They questioned Him, saying, “Teacher, when therefore will these things happen? And what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And He said, “See to it that you are not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not go after them.9 When you hear of wars and disturbances, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end does not follow immediately.” 10 Then He continued by saying to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, 11 and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for My name’s sake.

Is it possible Jesus will return this year? Yes, of course. It’s possible any day, any time. I won’t blame you if you keep an emergency Apocalypse bag packed a la The Zombie Survival Guide. The point is we should always be prepared in our hearts for Jesus’ return. We should not be modifying our behavior because we think it’s possible Jesus will return in our lifetime; our behavior should always sync up with this belief.

If that’s the case, it should put more pressure on us to prioritize reaching the world with the Good News, because the reality is that Christ could return NOW. I think that’s why He chooses to keep the details vague and tells us to stop focusing on The End and start focusing on glorifying His name throughout the world. The Great Commission applies to all of us who confess Christ as our Savior, not just those who are vocational missionaries.

When you hear popular theories about The End times, guard your heart against treating these human predictions as God-breathed facts. No man truly knows the hour when the Lord will come.

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