Why It's NOT the End Times & You Aren't Persecuted
Now, some of you will unfollow me after reading this post. FYI--no hard feelings. I’ll miss ya, but if ya gotta go then ya gotta go!
Let's talk... too many American Christians are saying things like:
We're being persecuted!
It's the end times! The last days have fallen upon us!!
Please stop saying that stuff. It's not the end of the world as we know it and I want you to feel fine (cue the REM song)! We don't need anymore end times shock jocks!!! We already have too many--the quota is met! I know my words don't apply to the majority of you, but you probably know someone who is an end times shock jock, so pass the word along. If you are saying this stuff, I'm gonna give you the benefit of the doubt: I'm sure you didn't mean it... but please, PLEASE, Puh-LEAZZE no more. Here's my thoughts on why:
Revelation Isn’t American-centric
Some American Christians really do believe this country is the center of the theological world—but it ain’t and your being as anoying as the mispeling and grammor error in this sentences! I love the red, white, and blue, but sorry, it’s true—the events, metaphors, and prophecy in Revelation don't revolve around America. My country and its people mean a lot to me, but the United States is not God's ultimate answer to the world's evils... Jesus Christ is God's answer. God didn’t inspire John to write Revelation and then wait on pins and needles for America to arrive on the scene (technically, according to scripture, we've been in the last days since Acts 2). That mindset will wreck your view of scripture.
If Americana is your lens for reading Revelation, you'll never understand the book.
Reading Revelation primarily with an American or Western mindset (instead of a Near Eastern perspective) leaves you with distorted interpretations of God's words. Such twisted interpretations are why NASA engineer Edgar Whisenant wrote the following books:
88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.
The Final Shout: Rapture Report 1989.
23 Reasons Why a Pre-Tribulation Rapture Looks Like It Will Occur on Rosh-Hashanah 1993.
And Now the Earth's Destruction By Fire, Nuclear Bomb Fire.
SPOILER ALTERT: Edgar (aka, Ed) was wrong on all the above. He died in 2001---he would've loved writing a book about 2020, hahahaha!!!!
Even though dear Edgar will be in heaven, please don't be like Edgar on earth. The locusts in Revelation 9:3-7 aren't Apache Helicopters. Ronald Wilson Reagan is not the Antichrist (6 letters in each of his names). The events in this country don't dictate God's program for the rest of the world. You may believe it's the end of the world, but it's not. Actually, It’s been the “end of the world” in places like North Korea for a while.
Part of Revelation's brilliance and beauty is its relevance for all people in every society within any century.
Revelation is always relevant. Somewhere in the world, people are enduring great suffering, witnessing miracles of God, fighting evil & injustice, and having amazing victories. A soldier in WWII on the front lines can read Revelation and receive hope. Parents who just lost a child can read Revelation 20-22 and remember that their separation is only momentary. Victims of injustice can be reminded that God will bring justice. Those who suffered the Spanish Flu can take heart in God's promise that pain will die. Revelation isn't only about what will happen, but what's always happening.
By the way, speaking of the Spanish Flu, check out these stats from the CDC:
It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States.
$10 says they thought it was the end of the world in 1917-1918! Somehow, it wasn't because God had other plans.
You're Confused, Not Persecuted
Does quarantine annoy me? Yup.
Have 572K global & 138K USA deaths kept me up at night? Yes, many nights.
Am I concerned about the government's power? Always.
How am I at homeschooling? Better than Thanos.
Do I wear a mask? Yes... either a Chiefs or Darth Vader design.
Do I worry about mental health in this season? 100% YES.
Am I worried about the economy and unemployed people? More than you know.
Are Christians in America being persecuted? Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full.
Hear me out: some politicians really do have axes to grind with religious individuals. A few people despise the tax-exempt status granted to churches, synagogues, and mosques. There are influential leaders who want to limit free speech. But these examples and more aren't true persecution. We become thieves when we cry out "persecution" even though we aren't being persecuted.
Falsely claiming persecution is stolen valor.
People who are TRULY faithful in the midst of persecution receive honor from God. When we falsely cry out “persecution” we’re invalidating their faith and experiences. Just as it's illegal to impersonate a soldier and steal their valor, it should bother us when Christians steal the valor of those who pay heavy prices for their faith. If you believe America's current environment is persecution, go to some places in India, the Middle East, Indonesia, or head back to observe some of the persecutions in the past.
For instance, in 64 A.D. the Roman Emperor Nero was responsible for burning down some of Rome in hopes being able to rebuild and create a new section of the city. But the plan backfired as people began to figure out that the Emperor had something to do with the fire. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, Nero had to stop the rumor and needed a scapegoat. Tacitus writes:
Therefore, to stop the rumor (that he had set Rome on fire), he (Emperor Nero) falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians…
Tacitus lived in Rome during his childhood. He gives us an eyewitness account to Nero’s persecution of Christians:
In their very deaths they were made the subjects of sport: for they were covered with the hides of wild beasts, and worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set fire to, and when the day waned, burned to serve for the evening lights. Nero offered his own garden players for the spectacle, and exhibited a Circensian game, indiscriminately mingling with the common people in the dress of a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot. For this cause a feeling of compassion arose towards the sufferers, though guilty and deserving of exemplary capital punishment, because they seemed not to be cut off for the public good, but were victims of the ferocity of one man. 
That picture, just like the descriptions of Domitian’s persecution (who was Roman Emperor when Revelation was written), constitutes real persecution.
Too many American Christians wouldn't have done well in first century Roman persecutions. First century believers were faithful in the face of DEATH... slow building re-openings, scaling back to phase 1 or 2, etc. would've been a walk in the park for them. Why is it not easier for us? Some of us really have experienced tremendous loss during this season and trust me, you have my prayers. Maybe some of us don't fear the end of the world, but the end of our world. Maybe we should be asking,
What would end my world?
I wish I could say more about that, but I'll just leave it alone and write a post about it sometime.
God Has This!
Some of you might say, "Well, this is the start of persecution!” My response is, "Seriously? Like…. really?"
Can we take a moment and observe the entitlement that empowers such a claim? The ONLY reason any of us can even claim persecution, talk about it openly, and write about it on social media is due to the privilege of American religious freedom. Religious freedom is worth defending, but don't misappropriate the freedom of religion to make weird statements or treat people poorly.
Quite the contrary, in 1 Peter 2:13, 17, Peter wrote the following about the Roman Emperor Nero: "Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority...honor the emperor."
Even though Peter probably wrote these words around 62-64 AD (right before Nero initiated his localized persecution), Nero was still crazy. I doubt Peter knew that he was writing about the Emperor who would begin a localized persecution claiming his and Paul’s lives. But Peter still said to honor the emperor. He and Paul saw our respect of authorities as respecting Him (His plan) because He places authorities in place.
Regardless of how we feel or what we believe in the moment, God has this.
God never ceases to have authority.
He isn't pacing back and forth in heaven wondering what's gonna happen next. He's carrying out His plan and is fully present in the world and in our lives--even when we think or feel otherwise.
Daniel 2:2 says, "He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others." Paul echoes Daniel's words and goes further in Romans 13:1-2, "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted."
Now, that doesn't mean we can't question or stand up to those in authority. But according to Peter, Paul, and others, it does mean that we don't disrespect or insult them. Would Peter have changed his mind when he saw the atrocities that Nero committed and allowed? Nope. He would follow the example of Jesus and probably mirror the reaction of Paul because they looked towards what was to come.
Joyfully Anticipate the End Times
How did Jesus respond to those who persecuted him? Did He lash out, verbally attack, etc.? He was peaceful. Jesus spoke and remained silent when needed. How did Paul respond when he faced local and imperial leaders? He wasn’t disrespectful, but was gracious and shared the gospel when the moment was appropriate.
You see, the second coming (“end times”) weren’t frightening thoughts to the New Testament writers or early Christians. Rather, they longed for the return of Jesus. It was their hope to see it happen in their lifetimes. When we read scripture with an Americana lens and false cry persecution, we shift the spotlight from God to us. We become the main attraction instead of highlighting God... and that causes fear.
One of the best definitions of fear comes from one of my favorite authors, Agatha Christie (in her book, Death Comes as the End),
"Fear is incomplete knowledge."
We naturally fear what we don't understand and makes us feel powerless. Contrary to popular belief, fear isn't bad. If you're hiking and see a rattlesnake, you should be afraid. Don't pick it up and snuggle it! Fear is a constant companion in life and can serve us well.
However, fear becomes toxic when it dictates our life's direction and our relationships. So, if we fear what we don't understand and makes us feel powerless, then we need to trust Him who knows everything and has all power. And again, we've read Revelation 20-22... in the end GOD WINS!!!
Christians should strive to be the most joyous and hope-filled people around if we truly believe that God has all power and wins in the end. Instead of looking for reasons to be outraged, begin seeking opportunities to be gracious and kind—our society will drastically improve! Paul encourages us: "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience… encourage one another and build each other up… Be kind to one another" (Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Ephesians 4:32).
So, let's be kind and take this to heart: most of us aren't being persecuted. We can use our American religious freedom to make a difference for Jesus instead of spreading rumors about the end times or persecution. Be joyful in the second coming instead of fearful of what might happen to you. Respect those around you and don't give into an entitled attitude when it comes to your faith.
Anticipate what's to come instead of fearing what is...
___________________________  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html.  Kelly J. Murphy & Justin Jeffcoat Schedtler (eds), Apocalypses in Context: Apocalyptic Currents Through History (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016).  Jolyon Mitchell, Martyrdom: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).