Unification News for April and May 2000

The Last Days

Volume 4 - Part 5

It was not without reason that after the crucifixion the disciples of Jesus expected the quick return of their lord. Jesus had indicated that they should. Matthew reports him telling his disciples:

Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste my death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom (Mt 16:28).

That the hopes of the early Christians were dashed has never dissuaded the generations of their successors. Churches of every age have believed that their time was the Last Days and therefore the time for Christ's return.

The Millerites, for example, the forerunners of the modern day Seventh-Day Adventists, were born in the expectation that Christ would return between March 1843 and March 1844. Their conviction was so strong that in anticipation of the great day many of the faithful disposed of their material goods. In the 20th-century the Jehovah's Witnesses initially proclaimed Christ return in 1914 to inaugurate his Kingdom. Even though he did not return physically. Witnesses nevertheless still affirm that Christ returned spiritually at that time.

Clearly, if one is to assert a certain time as the Last Days, he must have sound reason to do so. Mere speculation, dreams, intuitions and astrological wonders can hardly be a persuasive basis upon which to proclaim the actual arrival of the end of the age. More sound and rational criteria must be found.

Unlike the Past

Without particular reference to the concept of the Last Days, a number of people have sensed that something new is happening in our time. Former Cornell Professor Alvin Toffler, for example, in his classic analysis of change in today's world, vividly affirms the fact that we have entered an age totally unlike the past:

"By changing our relationship to the resources that surround us, by violently expanding the scope of change, and, most crucially, by accelerating its pace, we have broken irretrievably with the past. We have cut ourselves off from the old ways of thinking, of feeling, of adapting. We have set the stage for a completely new society and we are now racing toward it." (Future Shock)

In addition to Toffler, others also see that we have entered a new age. Speaking from his own vast experience, the late Indian Prime Minister Nehru argued that humankind was "leaving the age of religion and politics, and...entering the age of science and spirituality".

Canadian media-guru Marshal McLuhan has stated that we have left the age of communication through print and are living in an electronic age in which "a totally new environment has been created'. This, he says, is changing man's consciousness, social structure and culture and is hurtling him toward a coming "global village".

Potential Holocaust

As an alternative to the global village, of course, we have the potential of nuclear holocaust. Such modern films as Dr. Strangelove and On the Beach have reflected only too well the popular awareness of this prospect facing humankind.

Arnold Toynbee, among others, has recognized such cataclysmic prospects, yet affirms that this very threat can be the source of a radically new and higher world order:

"We are now moving into a chapter in human history in which our choice is going to be, not between a whole world and a shredded up world, but between one world and no world. I believe that the human race is going to choose life and good, not death and evil. I therefore believe in the imminence of one world, and I believe that, in the 21st century, human life is going to be a unity again in all its aspects and activities". (New York Times)

New spiritual trends

Beyond there more or less secular commentators, there are many new spiritual trends now abroad which suggest something special about our age, For one thing, more people are striving for self-realization by seeking inward truth.

The eminent Berkeley sociologists Robert Bellah and Charles Glock document the rise of a new religious consciousness among idealistic youth, beginning in the late 1960s and 1970s.

The entry on the scene of the New Religions and their phenomenal growth a decade later, testifies to a new spirituality afoot in the land. Moreover, evangelical Christianity is prospering. This has even extended the charismatic experience and "gifts of the spirit" to formerly conventional, nominal Christians. Much of this has developed since 1960.

Despite these provocative assertions and hopeful stirrings, can we say our day is indeed the period of the Last Days? Jesus said that we could know by the sings around us:

"From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates".

What kinds of signs would indicate that he is "at the very gates", that in fact we are in the dawn of the Kingdom? What things would make sense as indicators of the advent of the Kingdom?

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