The Western Church waffles between two opinions:
Evil in the world is gradually disappearing. We have arrived at a generally wholesome place, and with a few technological, medical, and educational advances, we will have evil snuffed out—the myth of progress.
Or on the other hand, Western Christians believe the world is going to Hell in a hand-basket. The end of all things is near. The world will inevitably become worse and worse.
Oddly enough, we seem capable of living as though both of these outlooks are correct at the same time. We often subconsciously assume the myth of progress while believing that the world has gone from bad to worse with the worst just around the corner. It seems to me that we are neither on the brink of Hell nor of Heaven. We are in the overlap of the ages. The Kingdom of God has come, but the Kingdom of darkness has not yet received its full banishment. It is defeated, but not finally vanquished altogether. Our Christian culture is so saturated with the narrative of the end times and the rapture; it will take time for what I am proposing to settle in and begin to change your worldview. But I am not making this up. The eschatological worldview that I offer is Biblical, though competing Biblical theories have crowded it out in modern times. This reclaimed Christian eschatology's exciting result is that we have meaningful work to do for the Kingdom at the end of the day because this planet, right now, matters. And since Jesus has already won the ultimate battle and has claimed His seat as Lord of Heaven and earth, we should expect victories in His name.
On the other hand, since evil isn't altogether banished, it also means that the power of darkness is real and is still with us and able to do us harm. Pain is not only a real possibility; it is a guarantee. Jesus said,
"In the world, you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." John 16:33 NASB
Pain discourages and, at times, defeats us. It is pain or the fear of pain that sometimes causes Christians to throw up their hands and wish for the end of all things. While we do pray, "Come quickly, Lord!", we also need the fortitude to continue to pursue the Truth in a world that may not be at its end but which is often dominated by lies. We are not to sit by passively waiting for the escape. We should allow ourselves to be part of the solution. Jesus also said,
"So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." John 20:21 NASB
As Christians, God calls us to live as Citizens of Heaven here on earth. That concept regularly gets twisted around. Being a "citizen of heaven" doesn't mean that we detach from earthly matters and irresponsibly say, "This world is not my home; I am only passing through. No, being a citizen of Heaven means that God calls us to act as though Heaven is in charge here on earth. That is the Gospel announcement: The Kingdom of God has arrived! In Jesus' name, we are to set up colonies of Heaven here on earth. We are advanced signposts of the coming consummation of the Kingdom of God.
Knowing that we may be in the middle of the story and not necessarily the end should provoke us to make a more profound commitment to the fight for justice and Truth now, and not surrender or wait for an escape.
When Jesus and His disciples were approaching Jerusalem, Luke tells us that the disciples anticipated the Kingdom of God's consummation "immediately" (Luke 19:11). In other words, they thought that they were on their way to Jerusalem to sweep all before them and establish Jesus as God's rightful King in Jerusalem. After Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, and raised the dead, it was quite natural for the disciples to feel that nothing could stop them. They were correct, but, in a short while, it would feel and appear as though they were wrong.
At this time, Jesus told a critical story that challenged His followers to hold on and trust Him when things don't work out quite as they expect, and when the days ahead are dark. Jesus prepared his disciples for the waiting game and in that game, to learn fortitude and faith. The story Jesus told went like this:
The Parable of the Talents (or Coins)
While people were listening to this, Jesus went on to tell a parable. They were, after all, getting close to Jerusalem, and they thought that the Kingdom of God was going to appear at once.
'There was once a nobleman,' he said, 'who went into a country far away to be given royal authority and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves and gave them ten silver coins. "Do business with these," he said, "until I come back." His subjects, though, hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, "We don't want this man to be our king."
'So it happened that when he received the kingship and came back again, he gave orders to summon these slaves who had received the money, so that he could find out how they had got on with their business efforts. The first came forward and said, "Master, your money has made ten times its value!"
'"Well done, you splendid servant!" he said. "You've been trustworthy with something small; now you can take command of ten cities."
'The second came and said, "Master, your money has made five times its value!"
'"You too – you can take charge of five cities."
'The other came and said, "Master, here is your money. I kept it wrapped in this handkerchief. You see, I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man: you profit where you made no investment, and you harvest what you didn't sow."
'"I'll condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked scoundrel of a servant!" he replied. "So: you knew that I was a hard man, profiting where I didn't invest and harvesting where I didn't sow? So why didn't you put my money with the bankers? Then I'd have had the interest when I got back!"
'"Take the money from him," he said to the bystanders, "and give it to the man who's got it ten times over!" ("Master," they said to him, "he's got ten times that already!")
'Let me tell you: everyone who has will be given more; but if someone has nothing, even what he has will be taken away from him. But as for these enemies of mine, who didn't want me to be king over them – bring them here and slaughter them in front of me.'
Most sermons misappropriate this story. Countless messages have led us in the wrong direction, supposing that this story is a lesson in not wasting the "talents" God gives us. That message isn't completely void of relevance, but it is not the heart or purpose of this parable. Other teachers treat this passage as a lesson in financial risk investments. That is not the point either. Remember that Jesus told this story because the disciples expected the Kingdom to appear immediately. In the parable, the nobleman, who parallels Jesus, goes off to receive a kingdom. The issue that is not perceived by us but known to all parties in Jesus' immediate audience is that the nobleman may not succeed at being confirmed in his authority.
Jesus was fully aware that the Herod family had to be confirmed regularly as the Romans' authority in Jerusalem. Sometimes, the unpopular family of Herod did not succeed in acquiring confirmation. One time in-particular, Archelaus, Herod Antipas' older brother, went to Rome to be confirmed as "king of the Jews." The Jews sent a delegation to follow Archelaus to Rome, saying, "We don't want this man to rule over us." And Rome listened. Archelaus did not return as King of the Jews.
When the nobleman sought his confirmation of authority, nobody knew if He would succeed. Jesus is warning His disciples that a dark moment is coming when you think I have failed to acquire my Kingdom. Your faith will shake on that dark day, but I call you to fidelity and fortitude, that is, faith and loyalty.
The nobleman's primary concern isn't the profits. What the nobleman is asking of his servants is to act in his name while he is away. By doing this, the nobleman's subjects will declare their loyalty and good faith in their Master. They are publicly associating with their Master, anticipating that he will succeed and return, confirmed as the rightful ruler. If he does not receive confirmation, those who had publicly declared their loyalty to him will catch the wrath of the community that rejected him. The issue is not so much about finances as it is about physical well-being and future prosperity. Everyone's future, including the nobleman's, is in jeopardy. The nobleman wants loyalty, proven by the servant's sharing in the nobleman's vulnerability. Servants desire security. The question concerning each party is: who will be the dependable party? Who will provide security? Who will provide loyalty?
When the nobleman returns after successfully being confirmed as king, he is pleased with two of his three subjects. The third servant, the one who did not invest at all, stirred up the wrath of the returning Lord. What was the sin of this servant? The sin wasn't a lack of nerve or fear of financial failure. The issue is loyalty. The unfaithful servant gave a fumbling answer to his Master's inquiries: "I knew you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow...so I hid your money in the ground." The servant meant to portray his behavior in a prudent light, hoping to flatter the nobleman through groveling. But the Master doesn't buy it and calls him out, saying: "I will condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked scoundrel. You knew I was a hard man, picking up what I didn't lay down. So, why didn't you put my money in the bank so that I could get it back with interest?!" The servant failed in even this menial effort because he didn't expect the Master to return and didn't want to go on record as backing the wrong horse. If the servant had done the simplest of investments with his Master's money, he would have been on public record as a servant of the ex-nobleman when he failed to return. The servant was not willing to make the association. That is why the Master's anger burns against him. The disloyal servant bet against his Master and lost.
As I write this, an Election scandal broods over our nation. Many people, like myself, are convinced that there is massive election fraud. It seems that most of our nation's leaders want to know nothing about it. They know that there is a war between President Trump and the Washington establishment. Many are waiting to see who will win while others are kissing up to the apparent incoming power. Many of our elected Government officials are actively working against our current President, like a delegation sent to say, "We don't want this man to be our king." Everyone is hedging their bets where the center of power will be on inauguration day, January 20, 2021. The alarming thing to me is how little the Truth matters to our leaders—issues of power matter more than Truth to most people in Washington. We are not far from Pilates' praetorium, where power is the only "truth" (John 18:38). But Jesus is asking his followers to wait on the Lord. That is why He told this parable. Things are going to look dark for the Truth. Everything will not resolve "immediately" as you imagine. You are going to have to declare your loyalty before you see the victory. You will have to have faith when all seems lost. Are you prepared to do that?
When the Romans and the Jews crucified Jesus, the disciples believed it was all over. They went into hiding because they had become convinced that they had lost and bet on the wrong horse. It was common among would-be Messiah movements that the failed Messiah's followers would be rounded up with their leader to ensure the revolution's end. The disciples were seeking to avoid the same fate as Jesus and remained hidden. Jesus had told his parable of the talents for this precise moment.
I don't know what will happen with our Presidential election, but this much I know: Jesus is the Truth, and God calls us to invest in Truth no matter where the power seems to lie in the days ahead. Jesus said, "Know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32). We will only ever be a free people when we are walking in the Truth, even if that Truth is that a rough, unpolished, inarticulate President legitimately won the election against the will of the power brokers and the media. Even if you don't like Trump, you should care about the Truth. The Truth is, he won, and unless he is confirmed and installed as the winner, our country descends into dark and enslaved days. If the Truth is told, many of us have lived in lies for quite some time now. It shouldn't shock us that our leaders do the same. Only the Truth will set us free, and if we invest in Lies because we don't see the Truth winning, we are wicked, lazy, servants. Today's challenges call for loyalty, faith, and courage. Let the wicked grovel for the power of lies; We must stand in the Truth and trust that God will raise the Truth even from the dead.
Despite their fear, doubts, and failures, the disciples ultimately embodied the loyalty that Jesus sought. Right before they arrested Jesus, He said to his followers:
"You are the ones who have stuck it out with me through the trials I've had to endure. This is my bequest to you: the Kingdom my father bequeathed to me!" Luke 22:28-29