Pastor Phil McCutchen

Disasters and the last days.

Our hearts go out to the victims throughout the region whose lives have been turned upside down by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.  Apparently some find that trying to prove these catastrophic events signal the end is near is helpful.  While I do believe in the promise of a “new heaven and a new earth,” which by implication says what is present must be removed to make room for what is better, however  “I am against  a) proclaiming a specific natural disaster is the direct judgment of God, b) proclaiming confidently that this it is the end of the end, even if you do think the Solar Eclipse occurring on the 21 and Harvey making landfall on the 25 means it is the fulfillment of Luke 21:25 which says, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea,”  and c) setting dates or projecting time lines for the end of the world

I’ll never forget the dear lady in our church in 1988, who on the Friday before Labor day brought me a packet of books and tapes entitled, “88 reason Jesus will come in 1988.  In those days, I was more polite than I am now, plus we only had about twenty five people and she represented a family of four. Losing 16% of my church over an insane theological argument seemed even more insane.  So I gently  explained to her that I was really busy and wouldn’t be able to go over her material until Tuesday.  With steely eyes she looked at me and said, “it will be too late.”  I was to learn that her materials, written by a rocket scientist’ no lie, a rocket scientist, claimed to have mathematically figured out that Jesus Christ was  coming back to earth on Labor Day of 1988.  Well if Jesus came in 1988, he took one look at us and went back home.

We lived through the prophetic hysteria of Y2K, so I was prepared when the “Blood Moons” prophecy, which coincided with the rise of ISIS, caused grown men to tremble and people urged me not to let the opportunity to warn the wicked pass.  So you see I am understandably skeptical of what I view as a clever manipulation of scripture.  But let me tell you why I think pinpoint judgment pronouncements and apocalyptic date setting are really counterproductive to what we are trying to do in the earth.

  • Saying, “now it’s the last days,” misses the meaning of the term last days.  We have been in the final era before Christ gives the world a new beginning for the past 2000 years. When Jesus stepped foot on the earth the last days began and to make sure we didn’t create a prophetic calendar he said, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matthew 25:13  Jesus was affirming the wisdom of Solomon who said, “no man knows when his hour will come.”  Ecc. 9:12
  • When Jesus described the instability of earths climate he was describing the last two thousands years not the last two years.  I saw a graph this morning that actually showed a decrease in the number of hurricanes in recent times and a couple of years ago, reputable “Forbes Magazine,” published an article on the decrease in the number of cyclones and tornadoes over the past few years.  My point is, that you are going to get distracted and drive yourself crazy trying to prove these disaster/judgment theories.
  • When Paul described the increasing degeneration of human behavior he was describing the last two thousand years, not the last two years.  God just wants us to know that the world is always going to be a crazy place to live and we’ll have a lot more serenity if put our greatest hopes and fondest affections elsewhere.
  • There are specific scenarios described in the Book of Revelation, but those scenarios happen in some form over and over again, so good luck in trying to figure out which time is the last time the world will reel and rock like a drunk on an ocean liner. This doesn’t make me doubt God, in fact every cycle of tribulation affirms to me that God is the only one I can trust.
  • My greatest problem with focusing on judgment right now is that we will miss our greatest opportunity to show the love of the Father by bringing relief from suffering; I am positive that’s what Jesus would do.  While we are serving we just might get the opportunity to point out to hurting people that there is serenity and hope in Jesus when we trade our idolatry of earth for the worship of an eternal Christ in heaven.

Jesus said, “do business until I come.” That scripture has two profound implication for me.  One directive I get from that verse is that until Christ returns, I am to live a normal productive human life. If I make widgets, keep making widgets and make the best widgets in the land. The second insight that verse give me is that I should always be sharing the hope of Jesus as though this is our last day on earth, which it very well could be.  If I suddenly get all fervent and evangelistic because NOW the end is near then it simply proves I was being a slacker at loving and caring for the world around me.  If you’re a sensationalist then you’ll drift back into lethargy once Florida, Texas and the Caribbean rebuilds.

Here’s my favorite foretelling word from God and it’s found in Jeremiah 31:31-34 31  “The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  32  It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. 33  “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  34  No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”