When I was growing up, I was fascinated with “end times” prophecy and theology. I read all the usual goofs on it – Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, Paul Meier. I read the newspaper, ignoring most local news (because I knew Pittsburgh didn’t actually figure in God’s Great Plan for the End of the World™), and focused on figuring out what was going on in Israel (particularly any Third Temple plans), Europe (Antichrist had to start somewhere, right?), and the UN. Increasingly, I freaked out…anticipating that the Rapture could happen at any moment. It’s a common stereotype for Pentecostalism…and I totally fit it. I was a bona fide end-times crazy. There’s good and bad in that…The bad in it is that most of my understanding of the end times didn’t come from Scripture. I didn’t understand the genre of Revelation or Daniel (or parts of Ezekiel). I hadn’t learned to read things in context (my reading of Scripture was about as episodic as Saturday morning cartoons). I was following my own reasoning, instead of the leading of the Spirit. And the most fundamental error I made was assuming that the eschatological texts of Scripture had no bearing on my own way of life.
Those last two — following the leading of the Spirit and not hearing the Scriptures’ challenges to my own life are completely against how we read the Scriptures as Pentecostals. We are the people who otherwise experience the text of Scripture. It doesn’t matter that the text itself is addressing a situation from 3000 years ago. The Holy Spirit speaks through the Word into our lives now. Even if the texts in Revelation, Daniel and others speak to events strictly in the future (and that’s doubtful), the Holy Spirit speaks through the Word into our lives now.
So it’s fine for Pentecostals to be “end-times crazies” — not in the sense of reading Scripture right next to the newspaper (that’s a terrible way to read the Bible) — but in the sense that we are people who stand as signs of the Lord’s coming. We stand as witnesses to the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus to defeat sin, Satan and the world. We also stand as heralds for His return to completely finish the Kingdom He inaugurated in His earthly ministry. In Genesis 10, the diversity of languages signalled a change in the world. At Pentecost, a change in the world was signalled by the same sign. As people marked by the same sign (and other signs), we mark the coming change in the world through the work of Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, don’t waste your time trying to identify (or fight) the Antichrist or freaking out about international developments to fit your “end times chart.” Remember that Jesus is on the throne. The Kingdom has been inaugurated. You’ve been tasked with proclaiming this Kingdom that Jesus is coming back to consummate. As the Church, let’s get back to it.