Anyone conscious of recent events is keenly aware that, worldwide, we are in turbulent times what with poverty, climate change, food insecurity, refugee rights, COVID-19, healthcare politicization, mental health issues, disability rights, reproductive justice, children’s rights, gender equality, cybersecurity, disinformation, freedom of the press, debt crises, inflation, government corruption, authoritarianism, and global discord. That list is not exhaustive but should be more than enough to make one’s head spin and wonder where it’s all coming from and why seemingly all of a sudden. Maybe it’s been slowly building up and we are just now seeing it bubble to the surface. But to be sure, it is upon us all, and there doesn’t seem to be any place in the world one can go to completely escape.
Two schools of thought
All these issues going on at one time makes some in the Christian community consider that the end times, as described in Revelation, are here, or at least knocking on our chronological door. They also cite Jesus’ own words as He answers His Disciple’s question as to “what will be the signs of the end of the age?” Jesus’ response to the question is called the Olivet Discourse and sure sounds like the here and now.
Others take an opposite time-perspective view and say society has been going through cycles of societal morals and upheaval like this since the beginning of time. We are merely in a temporary societal downturn. Consider the many historical accounts of barbarism, man’s warring, destroying societies, and taking slaves. Or how about the inhumanity of the US civil war, the two world wars, and multiple genocidal wars? Even closer to today’s events, US politics is an exact duplication of the infighting and discord surrounding Andrew Johnson’s 1865-1869 presidency. It’s been an up-and-down cycle for years. This view says life as we know it could go on for many years to come before the end times.
A third option
Let me propose a third scenario. Prior to the actual end times and Jesus’ second coming, God may be chastising the world to bring people back to Him, just as He did with His chosen people, the Jews, for millennia.
God chastises Israel
In addition to telling how the Jewish nation came to be, the Old Testament is full of stories about the endless cycle of Israel turning from God, repenting, and turning back to God. Only to repeat that cycle over and over. In many cases, God personally chastised Israel to get them to turn back to Him, such as when He chastised them with fiery serpents in the wilderness. Only looking to Him, as represented by the serpent atop a pole, would save them.
In some cases, God used others to do the chastising. God has used various people to chastise Israel for turning away from God. The most famous of those cases is God using Nebuchadnezzar to attack and plunder Jerusalem because Israel turned to idol worship and other peoples’ worship.
The message is all the same
In all cases, the message is the same, however. God pleads with Israel to turn back to Him and He will be their God. He uses the illustration of how “a hen gathers her brood under her wings” to tell Israel how He loves them and wants to be their God. He uses chastisement (discipline) to prod them away from their evil and Godless ways and back to Him.
We started as a Christian nation
The US was founded on the belief in God. Not to say all of the founding fathers were believers in Christ but, by and large, they claimed that the principles of freedom and human rights were from God. We know this because God is mentioned in the very first paragraph of our constitution when it speaks about “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” And the more famous lines in the second paragraph of that same constitution says “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Look at your coins and dollar bills. You will see the phrase “In God We Trust” on them. Those are words straight from Psalm 56:4 which says “in God I trust; I will not be afraid.”
George Washington, in his farewell to the nation speech said “Christians should live godly lives, teach the Bible, and pray for rulers.”
Additionally, God, or the divine, is referenced in all state constitutions for a total of 200 times.
The list goes on. You can choose to not like these writings or disagree with the sentiments but it is clear that our nation was indeed founded on God.
We also have turned from God
We have since turned from our early acknowledgment of God, as Israel of old had done multiple times. Consider that in 1962 the Supreme Court ruled that school-sponsored prayer was no longer allowed. The prayer in question was “Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our Country.” The words of this prayer would be quite comfortable nestled within our country’s founding documents but is no longer acceptable or allowed. Today in some areas of the US, the Bible, which George Washington in his farewell address to the nation urged to be taught, is now considered hate speech. And in 2019, the Pew Research Center documented the decline of Christianity in the US.
Ways that God chastises us
Today, regardless of which side of the political aisle you sit on, most agree that our country is extremely fractured. Maybe no less than before the civil war. Things are said on both sides which the opposing side cannot believe they are hearing. Both sides claim the other is the greatest threat to our country. Either side wonders where the other side is getting their information and wonders how they could believe the things they are saying. Could it be God is chastising American to bring us back to Him?
Could God be allowing satan to run rampant right now to chastise America and the world? Just like He let Nebuchadnezzar chastise Jerusalem. As Nebuchadnezzar wanted to destroy Jerusalem, Satan would love to destroy America, if he was allowed. It is in Satan’s nature, after all, to destroy. In John 10:10 Satan is called the destroyer who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” and has done just that ever since he instigated the rebellion within Eve’s heart in the Garden of Eden.
What if instead of using Satan, God is using a deluding spirit as stated in 2 Thessalonians 2:11, to bring all this division to our world? The deluding spirit would cause mankind, not attuned to Him, to believe lies and be unable to see the truth. It’s not like He doesn’t warn us that He will do so in the end times. This is one part of the argument that we are indeed living in the End Times.
Could God be using people in leadership to chastise America as He did with Nebuchadnezzar? Or could He be using our own hearts deluded by a spirit from God to drive us to Him?
Reconciliation and revival
When God chastised Israel, it was always to bring about reconciliation between Him and Israel. Regardless of the methods just mentioned, could God be chastising the US to prod us back to Him? Could all this mayhem be allowed or brought on by God, for the purpose of bringing us back to Him?
Our personal response
We can’t individually take responsibility for all the hearts of a nation or world. We can however take responsibility for our own hearts. With that in mind and assuming this third option has any credence, we can individually make sure our hearts are turned toward God.
In part two of this article, I will investigate what exactly is meant when scripture says to turn your heart towards God. This would look different for the believer and non-believer, as well as for one’s spiritual maturity.
For now, take a step back and ask, as David did in Psalm 139:23-24, for God to search his heart and show him if there was any hurtful way in him. I dare say that if we take the Psalm 139 challenge there are things in our life that God may be wanting us to do to turn back to Him.
Questions for thought
Are we knocking on the door to the end times? Maybe. Are we centuries away from Jesus’ second coming? Possibly. Is God chastising the United States and the whole world in an effort to bring us closer to Him? Perhaps. Would taking one personal step closer to God be a good thing regardless of which option is true? Yes. Is now a good time to ask God to search our hearts and take a step closer to God? Absolutely.