While waiting for my Western blot to run (huh? what’s that?), I spent some time mulling over the news covering the recent release of more photographs showing the torture that went on at the Abu-Ghraib prison (Iraq) in 2003. And, of course, timing could not have been better, what with the ongoing uproar from that stupid cartoon incident. Something about fans and flames comes readily to mind.
But what was far more worrying was to read some of the responses of readers across the world to all this. It seems, my friends, that we have finally done it: Everyone is pissed off at everyone else. It’s the East vs the West, the Liberals vs the Conservatives and the hippies vs pretty much everyone.
I’m not going to get political, mostly because I’m not qualified. But man, that’s some bad vibes going around the globe right now and it’s a hard knot of conspiracy theories to untie. Everyone has an opinion, uninformed or misinformed as they might be, and everyone wants to talk but not listen (I hope it’s clear that I’m not just talking about the Abu-Ghraib issue). It is, in fact, like a Greek TV talk show.
And all this admittedly makes me thankful that I can trust in a God who can see everything far better than any of us. It’s reassuring to know that He has all of History in His hands and everything ultimately works out according to His plans. It’s been happening for a while now – before the time when “while” and “time” meant anything. And when I read and hear about all this, I can’t help but think about the book of Revelation (last book in the Bible), and it’s startling accuracy, even in the most symbolic of its passages. And I am surprised that, over the centuries, Christians have treated Revelation just like they have treated social issues: either become obsessed with it or all but ignore it altogether.
And yet, it’s an amazing, unparalleled text. It begins with seven letters (“epistles”) of Christ to seven churches (that represent all the others) and then launches into a dazzling, no-nonsense, hands-on narrative of the end of the world. Frightening? Yes. Unsettling? Yes. Shocking? No, unless you’ve lived all your life on a deserted island (in which case, HOW ARE YOU READING THIS?).
It surprises me that every kind of worldview, mythology, philosophy and religion has something to say about the end of the world as we know it, and yet we live as if we’re going to be here forever. Even Science, in its almighty pants, admits and even attempts to calculate The End by extrapolating and projecting current phenomena and fiddling around with the laws of Thermodynamics (especially Entropy – huh? what’s that?) and Chaos Theory (huh? what’s – never mind). I guess it’s the one thing mankind pretty much agrees on: Somewhere, there’s a clock ticking and we’re not listening.
Many – Christians and non – have agreed that Revelation has a very different character from any other End Times text, be it ancient or modern. The reason, I believe (other than that it is God’s word, which you may think is subjective) is because it outlines future events in a very authoritative and assured manner. This isn’t Nostradamus’s “bird hits twin towers and empire falls” multi-interpreted riddles. It’s not foggy Valhalla or the Scandinavian Wolf. You don’t believe me? Then ask yourself why you feel so uncomfortable when Revelation is mentioned. Because, if anything else, it rings disturbingly true.
I better leave it there. It went a long way from where I started, but I think that it’s important to bring such sensitive issues up, not to frighten people or to Bible-bash them, but because above all this is the remarkable hope, peace and security that Christians find in Jesus Christ, and the truth that God is as loving as He is wrathful, and a Father as He is a Judge.
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. – Matthew 24:5-10
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever. – Revelation 22:1-5