Peace in the Middle East? The End Times and Obedience to Jesus
by Rick Love
“You shouldn’t work for peace in the Middle East, because the Bible teaches there will never be peace there. What you are trying to do is contrary to Scripture. The Bible teaches that the end times will be an age of horrendous persecution and spiritual darkness. Your efforts are useless!”
I hear stuff like this all the time.
What bothers me is that people don’t just apply it to the Middle East. They apply it to all of life. Society is sinking into the cesspool of sin, and there is no way out.
Tthe Bible is full of statements about future darkness and persecution, and it makes important statements about the end times. The books of Daniel and Revelation reveal the future return of Christ in rich symbolism and mind-boggling imagery. Our coming King will judge an evil world and will heal and restore a broken creation. As my mentor, Vern Poythress of Westminster Seminary used to say with a big smile on his face, “the book of Revelation can be summarized in two words: God wins!” That much is crystal clear. What isn’t clear are the details.
Many Bible scholars weave together complex prophetic schemes about the end times, especially from Daniel and Revelation. They act like they understand all the details, and they think their interpretation describes what is going on in our world today, and they seek to make these prophetic systems central to our faith.
But these “end times experts” break the basic rules of biblical interpretation. You are supposed to interpret the unclear texts in light of the clear texts. I like how John Wimber (founder of the Vineyard) used to say it: "the main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things." We need to focus on the plain things: following Jesus, loving our neighbors, and making disciples.
So this “end times” focus actually distorts our discipleship. This doomsday message about the future paralyzes our present engagement with a broken world, as it produces a siege mentality and an attitude of hostility. It leads to fear and becomes an excuse not to obey Jesus in the present.
Let me dig a little deeper for a second. Theologians say it like this. There are two aspects of God’s will: that which is decreed and that which is declared. God’s decreed will is secret and known only to Him, while God’s declared will is made clear in Scripture. We build our lives on God’s declared will, not His decreed will.
End times teachers want us to think they understand God’s decreed will. They have it all figured out. But a preoccupation with the minutiae of the end times should NEVER trump the clear commands of Christ. Never!
Moses has some important insights for us: "The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions (Deuteronomy 29:29 NLT).
Yes, we are accountable for what God has clearly revealed to us. So let’s stop speculating about the end times and start obeying what Jesus calls us to do right now. Jesus is our future coming King. He is our hope. But let’s not forget that he is also our present commander in chief! So... in obedience to Jesus, we will continue working on Middle East Peace, plus a few other things.