Is there anything, any person, who can help settle our minds and depressed spirits as we observe the proliferation of disasters, human hatred and violence, assaultive and abusive behaviors in workplaces, sexual exploitation, and the threats around the world? What perspective can alleviate our anxieties? Who will assert power and/or authority on behalf of God’s people? Are we doomed to suffering forever? Or is there some astonishing deliverance in view?
Recently, at a meeting I attended, one presenter commented on a commercial for a major business entity that stated, “Mayhem is everywhere.”
This well-known phrase, used to sell a popular product in the United States, inadvertently directed my thoughts toward global realities in 2017 and 2018 that generally trouble both religious and nonreligious people. The realities range from manufactured conflicts that revolve around nations’ or individuals’ functioning or nonfunctioning nuclear devices (buttons) and threats of wars that can lead to national annihilation. And the realities contemplated move across the gamut from there to violence perpetrated by humans against humans, and natural disasters that have had devastating effects on the lives of nations and communities. These portents demonstrate some truth to the statement “Mayhem is everywhere.”
Seventeen people were killed and others wounded in a shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida. According to Mass Shooting Tracker, it was the eighteenth school shooting and forty-first mass shooting of the year in the United States.
At least 59 people were killed and 527 injured as a gunman fired on people attending a country music festival in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017. The previous year another gunman killed 49 and wounded 58 at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016.
California’s largest and most destructive fires in recorded history occurred in 2017, more than 9,000 of them. They set ablaze approximately 1.4 million acres of the state’s land (an area more than the size of Delaware), burning 10,800 structures and killing at least 46 people. These fires behaved as things with no respect for human genius and capacity to extinguish them.
The most expensive hurricane season in United States history occurred in 2017 with 103 deaths. The rains, winds, and waves behaved as if an evil intelligence guided them to maximum destructiveness. Hurricances Harvey and Irma attacked the United States with winds of more than 130 miles per hour. Hurricane Maria unleashed her assaults against Puerto Rico and other territories with winds of 155 miles per hour. The calculated cost of damages in the United States exceeds $202 billion. These damages were wreaked upon the country by 17 named storms between June 1 to November 30, 2017, the most expensive in U.S. history, exceeding the previously high cost of $158 billion during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Caribbean Island territories of Dominica, Turks and Caicos, Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Maarten and the Dominican Republic were all victims of storms as they experienced death and destruction in varying degrees.
Even more daunting than the natural and human-manufactured disasters was the increased tension across the world as the United States and North Korea threatened each other with attacks of both conventional and nuclear weapons. Human beings around the globe watched, wondered, and feared as men with dubious motive bantered about the capabilities of their war-making and country-conquering powers, and about the effectiveness and efficiency of their respective nuclear buttons.
Their threats represented the potential human carnage beyond so much already inflicted upon people by their own governments and armies around the globe. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Mexico approximately 90,000 individuals were killed in 2017 (drug wars). Human minds outthinking each other for evil, whether in thought and feeling, or sudden actions and sustained behaviors that descend to the very nadir of human decency.
The danger in our age is palpable. Humans seething with hatred against each other, are yet unwilling to investigate truth in secular and biblical matters.
Optimists notwithstanding, these hardships, disasters and wars, and the indignities of humanity to humanity, seem to define our times and our world much more so than the goodness and philantropy of our better natures. And their appearance and practice echoes the testimony of sacred Scripture about the climax of human existence on this earth.
Consider Jesus’ response to a question from His disciples: “Tell us,” they said, “what will be the sign of . . . the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3).
Jesus replied: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (verses 6-8). Jesus was clear about the wars and natural disaster as signs of the end.
Then there are Paul’s references to other signs. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:1-4). Paul’s narration of the evil in people’s personalities and characters as they lose their focus on God may be repudiated by conscientious humanists, but they are nevertheless conspicuous elements of life all around us. We do not need to lie about what we see all around us, and even—in our moments of greatest candor—within us.
Scripture’s prediction is that these evils will increase as human beings allow their minds to be controlled more and more by evil as we rapidly approach the time for “the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:27). The times suggest the relevance of the question Jesus posed: “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).
The danger in our age is palpable. Humans seething with hatred against each other, are yet unwilling to investigate truth in secular and biblical matters. This behavior is seen both among those who claim no religion and those who claim religion and spirituality, and may include insensitivity with those who are poor; unwillingness to share food with those who are hungry; governments facilitating the suffering of society’s less fortunate; brutality in wars; proliferation of weapons; and efforts to deliberately enlarge the gap between those who are wealthy and those who are poor. The powers of godlessness are loose in the land, deliberately fighting against God and goodness.
How long will this last? No one knows. According to Jesus, it is not for us to know “the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:7). One thing seems certain: it will not last much longer. In the epilogue of Revelation 22, our Lord predicted, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (verses 12, 13). It has ever been God’s will that we think of Christ’s return at the end of time as imminent and not far distant, for He knows the impact of thought on behavior. As Jesus points out, the person who begins to think “My Lord delayeth his coming” will, on the basis of such thinking, pursue a life of profligacy and violence (Matt. 24:48, 49). He wants us to be ready for Him when He comes or when our time on earth expires.
In the book of Daniel, the end of time features Michael, one of Christ’s divine names (Jude 9; Rev. 12:7), as standing to put an end to human suffering. The time of His standing may be understood as a “time of the end” that may culminate in “the end of time,” a time when human history as we conceptualize and experience it will end. This prophetic time is described in Daniel 11:40-45.
It is a time of battles, spiritual in nature, that occupy the whole earth. At its climax “Satan and all his host will be defeated in this final great spiritual battle on earth.”
Scripture indicates that to stand at the “time of the end”involves a position of “judicial and also military responsibility.”
3 Michael’s stand vanquishes the kings of the earth who have been standing and falling in political succession over the centuries. He brings all of them to an end. Moreover, His standing establishes a separation of people: survivors versus those undone by the time of trouble; His people whose identity is documented in His book versus those who have not been thus registered. His standing also separates the wise from the unwise. In sum, Michael’s standing results in the deliberate deliverance of God’s people in contrast to the ultimate destruction of those who reject God (Dan. 12:1-3).
It is noteworthy that Christ’s faithful survivors have not necessarily escaped all suffering, but have experienced God’s deliverance in the midst of suffering, as the Hebrew youth did in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3:8-27) and as Daniel did when delivered from a den of lions (Dan. 6:21, 22). Christ’s faithful ones will come through great tribulation to ultimately shine in victorious glory (Rev. 7:14; Dan. 12:3), while those condemned, on the other hand, will have had their days of apparent magnificence, but will come to their end in “shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2).
The wise are people who have accepted salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ; the shamed are those who rejected God’s salvation and were ashamed to receive and confess Jesus as their Savior from sin (Matt. 10:32, 33), choosing rather the pleasures of sin for a season. Among other things, Michael’s standing serves as an act that separates those who are righteous, those who have chosen salvation and have been given eternal life, from those who have rejected salvation and have chosen a destiny of shame and everlasting contempt. The names of the saved are written in the book of life (Dan. 12:1; Rev. 21:27), and they will shine as the brightness of heaven. The names of the rejected ones are not found written in the book of life (Rev. 20:14, 15), and their destiny is the lake of fire (Rev. 19:11-20).
Though it is God’s will that all be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), everyone will not be saved. Instead, everyone ends up where they are in the end, based on their personal choice (Deut. 30:19; Joshua 24:15), a choice that will be recognized in this separation, whether for eternal companionship with God or everlasting separation from the pleasure of His presence.
Humans are afraid of pain, suffering, disease, death, and destruction, the consequences of sin (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). Mayhem strikes terror because, among other things, our pain and distress ends in that which seems to be the end of all things, death.
But those who know Michael know that death and oblivion are not the end. Michael holds the key and power of ultimate deliverance from earth’s mayhem. Michael will end the existence of death forever: the resurrection He generates is the total upending of the kingdom of evil that reigns in torment and concludes in death. “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise (1 Thess. 4:16, KJV).
Death is not the end; there is something after death. It may be an everlasting life of peace and happiness, or a resurrection to shame and everlasting contempt. “Just as the fall was a reversal of creation, so the resurrection is a sort of new creation that reverses the consequences of the fall on the human race.”
This ultimate reversal of the Fall brings to this lost, little planet the restoration of life as God established it at creation. All things are made new and death and mayhem will no longer reign among us: “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4, KJV).
Michael’s people understand that the worst things that happen in this life are nothing to worry about in the context of forever. And they understand that death is not the last event. If death claims our lives or the lives of our loved ones, whether through human-manufactured disasters, natural disasters, diseases, or nuclear disaster, whether through sheer accident or intentional evil, death is not the last thing. God’s ultimate disruption of Satan’s reign of evil will be a glorious resurrection that reverses the fall of Adam’s race, and brings to earth and nature and humanity the glory of God’s first and final intention in a land where the order of pain and chaos and sin will be forever past, and all things will be new (verse 5).
To God be the glory!
Horatius Gittens is pastor of the Thirty-first Street Seventh-day Adventist Church in San Diego, California.