In my opinion, the tumultuous and chaotic end-times period prophesied in the Bible is the era in Christianity of the triumph of the “small” person on a universal scale. There will of course be individual Christians who are larger-than-life characters, gifted movers-and-shakers…Spirit-filled prophets of God leading the way through a danger zone of faith characterized in Matthew 24:21 as being like no other in history.
But at the end of human redemptive history, when the dawn of eternal destinies awaits billions of people on earth, it is incumbent upon God to hold nothing back in His loving outreach to mankind. With an end-point of time in sight, worldly conventional normalcy no longer has relevance. Making long-range plans becomes an “exercise in futility.” “Occupy till I come” (Lk. 19:13) has run out of time. For believers and non-believers alike, God’s task of closing out human redemptive history reaches a final crescendo. Only God knows the time of the end. Only God knows the magnitude of the shake-up that will be required.
Joel 2:28-29 reads: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.”
In Genesis 17:18 Abraham says to God: “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” revealing that Abraham, after such a long wait in time, is on the verge of quitting on the promise of God. In Genesis 40:14-15 Joseph attempts, quite understandably, to procure his own release from Pharaoh’s prison by an appeal to the Pharaoh’s butler and baker, revealing that Joseph was at the edge of giving up on his two divinely inspired dreams received years ago as a young man at home in Canaan.
Moses, at the burning bush, protests to God to find someone else for the daunting task of delivering the Israelites from Egypt (Ex. 3:11; 4:1, 10, 13). Towards the end of the 40-year period of being a herdsman in the land of Midian, Moses as an older man probably gave up on the absurdity of the idea of himself still being the called-out person to deliver his people from bondage in Egypt, now seemingly a distant, long past, impossible reality.
God says to Joshua and to Israel: “Be strong and of good courage” (Dt. 31:6), and personally visits Joshua before the decisive battle to take the city of Jericho (Josh. 5:13-15). The walls of Jericho seemed too high and too strong for any hope of success through a conventional, frontal assault.
Gideon protests to God that he is a “nobody” in Israel and even within his own family (Jud. 6:15), and therefore requires a supernatural sign from God to authenticate his calling against seemingly insurmountable odds (Jud. 6:17).
Elijah complained to God that the evil opposition of Ahab the king and Jezebel the queen in Israel was too strong for him (1 Ki. 19:10). Jeremiah protested to God that he was too young in age to become an effective prophet to Israel…to be taken seriously by the leaders in Jerusalem (Jer. 1:6).
Peter said to Jesus: “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” not seeing his future potential as a bold speaker and leader through the power of the Holy Spirit (Lk. 5:8). Paul confesses that he is the chief of sinners, yet God crafts him into the finest and most accurate spokesman for the gospel message of forgiveness, grace, and redemption, to initially lost and misguided persons like himself, that the world has ever known (1 Tim. 1:15).
All of these people of faith recorded in the Bible, along with many more, are examples of a reality that could not have come solely from the horizontally conventional thinking of gifted and talented people carving out their own fame and fortune through self-directed efforts. All of these people reached a point in time in their God-composed journey of faith life-scripts where a positive fulfillment of their mission seemed on the surface to be nearly hopeless. Their faith in God and in themselves reached the end-point of the despair of the outward appearance of seeming impossibility in obtaining success in their life’s calling.
When all seems lost, futile, and hopeless, it is here that God steps in and says: “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14; Jer. 32:27). No one could make this up. It is beyond humanistic or naturalistic invention. It requires the actual presence and participation of the living God who created the heavens and the earth.
What is a miracle from God’s perspective? It is a transformed life that comes up to the potential that God created within a person (Jn. 4:23). It is the fulfillment of a joint-venture of faith which at times faces challenges that seem on the surface to be insurmountable. It is the free-will response of people of faith to take up their cross and to follow God when the way ahead appears narrow and difficult. It is people of faith who allow God through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to love lost and broken people in the world through us…especially when this means the sacrificing of our supposed right to enjoy normalcy according to worldly conventional thinking.
There is no getting around this component of the biblical narrative stories of faith. God authenticates His rightful authority to rule and to reign as a brilliant, loving, and righteous King for all time, through journeys of faith that reveal his unmistakable, overcoming presence when all hope and human confidence is lost.
Jesus says at the Last Supper: “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Lk. 22:20). The seeming finality of Jesus’ death on the cross is an inseparable component of the hope-dashing despair of the disciple’s experience, despite Jesus foretelling of His death and resurrection to these disciples only days and weeks before. Peter’s future eternal destiny, along with the destinies of all of the other disciples, rests in this improbable and almost unimaginable resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Pet. 1:3).