Listen to the commentary
If you could see – with certainty – the future, would that foreknowledge affect what you do today, leading to that resolute tomorrow?
Carl Sagan was an astronomer and educator known for connecting average people to science. He was able to communicate with millions of people through print and broadcast media; he died in 1996, before the era when internet and social media platforms became the new connectors.
In his book The Demon-Haunted World, Sagan said: “I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time when the United States is a service and information economy; where nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical factors in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide – almost without noticing – back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing-down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.”
Sagan’s view of the future was prescient; 30 years ago, he perceived the cultural trendlines that were already emerging in America. Most would say that his forecast made him a reliable futurist. He saw the likelihood of a slide backward for his country, with no notion of a culminating breakthrough that would introduce a new and more positive era to come.
In AD 30, the men closest to Jesus asked a question that only God could accurately answer: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).
Jesus’ answer was not a prediction, but a declaration: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:4-14).
It’s been 2000 years since Jesus laid-out the headlines of the last days, but most people – even those deemed most academically erudite – are likely to miss the signs. Peter knew that would be likely: “You must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
Things are building toward a grand zenith; Sagan saw no positive turning point, but Jesus promised that the culmination would be worth waiting for: His return would be God’s pivot of history.
Peter’s advice to us, given the signs of the times: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.” (2 Peter 3:11-12).
Are you living through today’s challenges in anticipation of tomorrow’s dramatic transition?