I grow weary of the endless talk about the end times. Especially the type spouted by those eager churchgoers who burn their heads over Nineveh so seriously like Jonah, saying things like: "You don't have to look too far to see the signs of the end times. Everywhere is terrible. If there was a ever a time for the Apocalypse, it has to be this time." All this kind of babbling thinking and speaking smacks of wishing God would destroy the world rather than save it. It smacks of a false solemnity with barely a pretense of fear; like that of an Aztec priest discussing his grim sacrificial duty, who, safe from the fires himself, almost seems to enjoy the thought of a virgin (which almost by definition is a person who doesn't know any better) being flung into a volcano. And because I have been the unwilling participant in so many of these end times discussions, either formal or informal, I have discovered it is apparently the special purview of everyone from 13 to 103 who has, one, an opinion and, two, circumstances. Which means, even though it is a favorite topic of a wide variety of Christians, it is not an especially Christian topic, but only an especially human one. But for my part, I do not grow weary merely because it is the darkest way to talk about a thing as beautifully lit as Christ and His Church, but because it is the dullest. And it is exactly because of this penchant by puritans for tirelessly polishing a dark thing up into a dull thing, that I believe this sour-hearted, half-speak so commonly heard at church to also be the most wrong thing.
The human idea of the judgment and wrath of god and its terrible effects is not especially special, but the Christian idea is. The Christian idea is this: The warning of End Times, of ultimate Judgment and wrath, is not to produce flight. It is to produce fruit. It is not to start a person fleeing for their lives, but to stop them--for there is nowhere to go--to stop them fleeing from their lives, and to stand firm, plant roots and grow for their lives. It is not to make them run, but make them repent. Not to make them focus on the End, but on the Beginning. Not to increase worry to withered heads already hanging down in their hands, but to encourage those withered heads to rise up and wait at the door all night and look for the Lord in the darkness.
The frightening warnings in Revelation should not induce fighting and fierceness, anger and resentment, complaining and bitterness within the soul—all of these of course are already there. If the only frightening they do is frighten the soul to a gnashing pessimism, then that soul was not nearly frightened enough. The warnings should, and in fact do when read properly, induce the opposite. Which is: they should induce change. For that is what a revelation is. It is a new vision. One gained not merely by changing one desolate landscape for the next, but by changing one’s point of view--so all at once one may see the entirety of the universe in the portrait of a sinner. A shift in point of view so remarkable that one no longer casts his narrow, roving eyes upon the horizon from now till the end of time, but instead does the reverse. He goes all the way to the end and turns around--in essence, goes to Hell and back-- and by placing his back to tomorrow, looks toward today; comes back to that which is new and right now; sees not the time a human ends, but the time he begins. He stands with the glowing Hell of fire and brimstone behind him, with the smell of ash still in his nose, shining with a new spirit, one of hope for the hopeless and charity for the undeserving and faith in the faithless.