- Daniel Klassen
The Worst Time In History
Both the first and second World Wars changed the theological landscape of American Christianity as much as they did the political landscape. In the late 19th century, Christianity was filled with a prideful spirit from its over-realized sense of intellectual and emotional driven faith. That pride was cut down to size when the world went to war; it shrivelled up, hunkered down in a small corner, and shook with fear and anxiety. Humanity was not as good as they thought.
After the war, a new generation rose up, promising never to let any catastrophe happen again. They desired a peaceful world. Many Christians saw the war as a loss of the influence they once held over society, and they also desired peace. They desired a country governed by the moral law of God, so they set out to reach the youth. They also set up revival meetings the same way their forefathers did before the wars. Their actions, however, did not produce the ultimate results they intended. For a time, the “moral majority” (as they were called) gained control over the way the country was governed, which created a mindset among Christians that America was again a Christian nation. Through the youth programs and revival meetings, many became sympathizers of the Christian movement. They were labelled as converts, but their allegiance was not to Christ. Their allegiance was to the American dream which became abundantly clear when the shockwaves of the sexual revolution hit mainstream and the Christian America they desired to create began to die.
As their dream crumbled, a new teaching about the end-times rose to prominence. It wasn’t all new, of course, but this particular combination of ideas was new. The fundamental aspect of this teaching was that the world was only getting worse, and it would get worse and worse until the second coming of Christ. They created a timetable of the end-times loosely based on the book of Revelation, with all the Christians taken up to heaven conveniently before the end of times began. Around this time, the term "rapture" became popular to describe this great event.
Because Christianity in America was losing prominence in culture and government, this idea of the world growing worse until the end became attractive. It coincided with the attitude many Christians already had about the loss of a Christian America because it looked like the end to them. In the span of a few years, books predicting the year in which the church would be raptured began to appear in stores, and each year a new book would predict a new year. The Left Behind series detailed the atrocious events of the end-times in an attractive fictional format, and it became massively popular, informing a generation of what was to come, and shaping their view of the modern world.
To believe the world is getting worse until the end is not heresy, of course, and many great Christians see the end-times through its lens, but it is unhelpful. It produces an ahistorical mindset which is perhaps one of the most detrimental mindsets for thinking clearly about the Bible and how the Bible applies to us in our current cultural setting. To be ahistorical means to think about this world without regard to its history, not necessarily to forgo studying history. With an ahistorical perspective, it isn't difficult to think the world is only getting worse, especially because it also fosters the idea that the current generations are the greatest generations to exist.
In recent times, when the governments locked down their countries in fear of spreading an unknown and uncontainable virus, many Christians began to talk of the end-time events beginning to fall into place. Governmental overreach combined with uncertainty began to look like a possible formation of the "one-world government" with the possibility of a vaccine in the form of an implanted chip to replace medicine and currency. Then, a conspiracy theory about the danger and end-time significance of 5G networks arose, further stirring the muddy waters about the end times beginning now. Because of this, the attitude that this is the worst time in history has arisen, not only as expected in the lives of unbelievers, but even in the lives of believers.
It is not, however, the worst time in history.
Pick up any history book and you will find that the movers and shakers of history are religion and war. Without religion and war, we wouldn't be where we are today, not in a long shot. They are the two areas of life that have shaped the history of the world more than anything else. And guess what? They are full of horrible events. They are riddled with times much worse than the times in which we live. Read Foxes Book of Martyrs by John Foxe to learn of the Christians of the past persecuted and killed for their faith. Read books about the World Wars, about the wars of history, or about the medieval plagues. Read books about life in Soviet Russia to learn of more recent persecutions against Christians and major governmental overreach. Read and learn that we live in one of the best times and places in the history of the world.
All that is not to say we live in perfect times, however. We don't. Sin is still present which means bad things still happen.
For Christians, we have an eternal hope that makes even the best of times here on earth look like the worst of times. The best this world has to offer—an abundance of economic success, food, and health—pales in comparison to heaven's offer. Nevertheless, it should not cause a dour attitude when troubles arise. We have hope. We have a desire to love our neighbour and make this world the best we can. Therefore, Christians today ought to have two thoughts in their minds when facing turmoil in this world: we live in a good time compared to the history of the world, and we have a better world waiting for us.