I came to faith in Yeshua in the early years of the Jesus Movement in the United States. At that time there was tremendous emphasis on the last days and the imminent return of the Messiah. Books were written, movies were produced and seminars held about the signs of the times. Sound familiar? In fact, at one point in the early 70’s there were stories of a mysterious person appearing as a hitchhiker in various places, who after being picked up announced, “Jesus is coming soon,” and then would disappear. The story actually appeared on nightly news shows. As a result, many of us, expecting the soon return of the Lord, focused exclusively on spiritual things to the neglect of almost everything else. This occurred more than forty years ago, and yet, we still await His return.
In addition, the so-called “Jesus people,” many of whom were Jews, found traditional churches lacked, among other things, zeal for the Lord. Consequently, many were drawn into cults, where the emphasis was on seeking God, evangelism and participation in the supernatural. This is not to suggest that the above defines a cult since these characteristics also reflect genuine faith in God. Rather, cults become attractive because they reject the spiritual status quo, where hypocrisy seemingly abounds. According to cult leadership, the cult was the one true expression of following God. Thus, genuine believers, usually the young, were lured into them by shelving their mental objectivity. The leaders often justified irrational actions by saying that one’s mind, which was raising red alerts, was a hindrance to true faith in God. Sadly, my wife and I participated in such cults for twelve years.
Living in Israel now for the past four years highlights the emphasis on sensationalism, both for many in the community here and for even more from those on the outside. In my reading of the Scriptures, there is no question that the reestablishment of the nation of Israel and the return of the Jewish people to the land is a fulfillment of prophecy. In many ways, these facts seem to reflect the “signs of the times,” thus portending the return of the Lord. However, an undue focus on these and related matters diverts many from genuinely serving God, preparing for and living a Biblically normal life, and having a real impact on their local communities.
Forty years ago, the formation of the European Common Market (the resurrected Roman Empire), the power and influence of the Soviet Union (the kings of the North) and the imminent revelation of the anti-Christ (Henry Kissinger?) all proved “the end of the age.” Today, it’s the blood moons, the coming economic crash and the sh’mitah year (the year the land in Israel lies fallow). Some or all of these things may prove true. But so what?
One of the Bible’s emphases is on gaining and utilizing wisdom and understanding. Hear Proverbs: “My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight…get wisdom, get understanding.” These passages do not mean to get understanding about the end times. Rather, the thrust is on following God, living a godly life and producing real benefits to one’s self, family and society. How does that happen? By acquiring a good education, working hard, integrating into the larger community, building a strong family, all the while putting God first in everything. Then, “through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” II Cor. 2:14.
The human mind is not a hindrance to God but, rather, a gift from God. It’s how we judge things and make decisions. When God is first in our lives, we have access to the “mind of the Messiah.” I Cor. 2:16. Sensationalism clouds God-given mental acuity. If something appears incredulous, it probably is. Investigate it, using reliable sources. When lives are lived this way, they become fruitful, rewarding and attractive to others, like our Messiah’s.