I want to make a comment about the apocalyptic references that have been appearing in the news lately. But politicians (mostly on the hard right) and certain (so-called) Christian "Leaders" like to trot out their version of the apocalyptic story which they claim is from the Bible, but really isn't. Apparently some of these folks are simply thrilled whenever we are appear to be hurtling towards war in the middle east, since, in their mind, this means we can prompt or push God to initiate "Armegedon," the "Rapture" and "Jesus 2nd coming." So where to begin. I'll try to make it concise:
1. You cannot push God into action. All you need to do is look at a little history to see that this has been tried before and unlike the sheeplike mindless and fear-filled followers of your cult God will not be manipulated into action. Whatever is to come will come in its own time.
2. There is NO RAPTURE! I'll say it again - there is NO RAPTURE in the bible. It is a complete misreading and mis-interpretation of a few texts which have been pulled out of their textual and cultural contexts. Look it up - the so-called "rapture" was invented in the early 19th century. But this religious fabrication has proven to be a useful tool to manipulate and create fear.
3. Luther says (and I paraphrase) that Christians should always read scripture through the eyes of the Gospel. So instead of going right to the Revelation of John or the other brief apocalyptic passages found here when concerned and wondering about the "end times" I would suggest starting with the Gospels of Jesus. Specifically God's unconditional love for ALL God's children, including and especially those who are in need, those who are attacked, those who are refugees those who are rejected and discriminated against, those who are the victims of violence. God's love and mercy are UNCONDITIONAL. The entire theology of the "rapture" rejects and undermines this. Also, folks, go back and read the Hebrew Bible and you find the same thing - "God's steadfast love endures forever."
4. The promise of New Testament apocalyptic is NOT that we will be fished out of this world and brought to another world, but that God / Jesus will enter into this world and transform it. This is why in Genesis at the creation humanity is given the job of stewarding the creation. Well, we have done a crummy job of it. And we need to do everything we can to turn this around and treasure this creation as a gift, not as a vehicle for profit.
5. We have a responsibility to each other and to this world. It is up to us to start working on treasuring the creation, working to reduce pollution, cutting back and eliminating completely our dependence on oil and gas which are simply destroying our planet. We have a responsibility to work for peace - to find diplomatic solutions - to respect other cultures and other peoples. To work against racism, anti-semitism, homophobia, transphobia and begin to see all our neighbors as brothers and sisters, with whom we may not always agree, and who perhaps have a different way of being in the world than we do. But that doesn't mean our way is "right." We have a responsibility to start working on listening, learning from and respecting others.
6. Lastly, one of the most important cornerstones of Stoicism (and you can read about this in the writings of Marcus Aurelius) is that fear is created by an overly strong focus on the future. Stoicism teaches that one of the great tasks of life is to learn to live today and eliminate obsessing about the future, because you can't do anything about it and it only leads to fear. I am not talking about exercising personal responsibility by the way. I am talking about working to curb the future orientation of our society and our religion. Future focus has become way too much a central part of Christianity. Jesus says, "Perfect Love casts out all fear." And if we believe that our relationship with God or Jesus is based on unconditional love, then what are we fretting about the future for? This should free us to do the work of loving others, including (according to Matthew) our enemies.