If you’re like me, you sometimes suffer from ‘apocalypse fatigue.’ I’ve sincerely expected the end of the age to start (resulting in the great tribulation, the Antichrist’s defeat, and the return of Jesus) many times since 1981, but obviously it hasn’t happened yet. Here’s a short list of apocalyptic signs I have followed (or am still tracking) with interest:
1981 – the planets of the solar system were supposed to align, triggering great earthquakes, etc. (Signs in the heavens and on earth)
1988 – 40 years after Israel became a nation (The olive tree parable…this generation will not pass away until the end comes)
The Bush presidents, 9/11, and their promotion of the ‘new world order’
2008-2016 – Is Obama the Antichrist?
2013 – The last pope takes office according to the prophecy of St Malachy. Is Pope Francis the false prophet of Revelation 13?
2015 – four consecutive ‘blood moons’ coinciding with Jewish Passover and Tabernacles festivals. Did the 7-year tribulation covenant period start on Yom Kippur, 9/22/15?
2017 – Is Trump or Jared Kushner the Antichrist?
Possible Second Coming dates: Yom Kippur of 2022, 2036, or 2055?
I’ve made life-direction decisions based on some of these, resulting in life-long consequences and lost career opportunities. After so many false leads, over decades, it’s tempting to simply stop looking for end-time clues and just join the rest of the world—asleep in their blissful ignorance.
But, as I was meditating on my apocalypse fatigue this morning, the scripture to “watch and pray” came to me. Regarding the end of this age, Jesus warned:
Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be weighed down by dissipation, drunkenness, and the worries of life—and that day will spring upon you suddenly like a snare. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. So, keepwatch always, and pray that you may have the strength to escape all that is about to happen and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)
What does it mean to keep watch? According to BibleHub.com, the original Greek word literally means “to be sleepless, intent upon a thing, Ephesians 6:18; or, to exercise constant vigilance over something (an image drawn from shepherds).”
Examples of watching:
Shepherds keep watch over their sheep, making sure they’re safe from predators and other dangers.
Soldiers are routinely assigned to guard duty. They keep watch over (guard) a specific place or thing during a specified period of time.
Offensive: Hunters watch intently for their prey. They constantly search for clues and signs that will lead them to success in their hunt. They focus all their senses on the hunt; looking for animal tracks, listening for twigs snapping, and smelling their upwind quarry.
What should we ‘keep watch’ for?
Watch so that no one deceives you.
In all three synoptic gospels, this is the first warning Jesus gave His disciples regarding the end time.
Matthew 24:4 See to it that no one deceives you.
Mark 13:5 See to it that no one deceives you.
Luke 21:8-9 See to it that you are not deceived. For many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.When you hear of wars and rebellions, do not be alarmed. These things must happen first, but the end is not imminent.”
Watch to be able to withstand persecution.
Mark 13:9-13 So be on your guard. You will be handed over to the councils and beaten in the synagogues. On My account, you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them… Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by everyone on account of My name, but the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.
Matthew 24:9-12 Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and killed, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray and hate one another, and many false prophets will arise and mislead many. Because of the multiplication of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.
Luke 21:12-19 But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. On account of My name, they will deliver you to the synagogues and prisons, and they will bring you before kings and governors. This will be your opportunity to serve as witnesses. So make up your mind not to worry beforehand how to defend yourselves. For I will give you speech and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you will be put to death. And you will be hated by everyone because of My name. Yet not even a hair of your head will perish. By your patient endurance, you will gain your souls.
Learn from Peter’s failure to watch
The night before Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter said: “I will die with you.” But Jesus warned Peter that he would deny Jesus three times before sunrise. Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter was sleepy and didn’t ‘watch’ with the Lord. As a result, when the trial came for Peter early the next morning, he wasn’t spiritually prepared, and so he denied the Lord to preserve himself from pain.
Like Peter, we will all have trials, during which our faith and commitment will be tested. If you haven’t strengthened yourself through watching and prayer, you’ll naturally choose the path of self-protection and, like Peter, you’ll deny the truth.
Watch to anticipate the Messiah’s return.
Matthew 24:32-51, especially verse 42, Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day on which your Lord will come.
Mark 13:32-33 But as for that day or hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.Be on your guard and stay alert! For you do not know when the appointed time will come.
Luke 21:34-36 But watch yourselves, or your hearts will be weighed down by dissipation, drunkenness, and the worries of life—and that day will spring upon you suddenly like a snare. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. So keep watch at all times, and pray that you may have the strength to escape all that is about to happen and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Why is it important for us to watch for the Lord’s return?
Those who don’t watch will be ensnared when that day comes upon the world.
Watching and prayer are required to build the strength required to overcome what will happen and to stand before the Son of Man.
Rev 12:11, “They conquered him (the dragon) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives so as to shy away from death.”
Like Watching, prayer has both defensive and offensive components.
Pray that you’ll have strength to prevail against all that is about to happen in the earth, and to stand righteous and victorious before the Son of Man. “Lead us not into trials, but deliver us from evil.”
Pray that when you stand before Him that He will be able to say to you, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
In general, pray “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.”
Specifically, pray for the kingdom of God to be manifested in your family, community, and nation.
The prayers of the saints fill the golden altar before God’s throne in heaven. (Rev 8:3, 8:5, 9:13, 16:7)
Jesus said, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations…” (Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46). Many believe that since God delegated authority to Adam to rule the earth, God can do nothing in the earth unless it’s in response to human prayer.
Watch and Pray
So, what does it mean to watch and pray?
Before the Lord Jesus returns, scripture teaches there’ll be a great delusion upon everyone who doesn’t love and follow the truth. Watch and pray to follow God’s truth and not to be deceived and deluded with the masses.
Persecution against Christians is already exploding around the world. Watch and pray that you’ll remain faithful, even at personal cost.
Watch and pray that you’ll be strengthened toovercome the evil that’s coming to this world.
Bottom Line—like Peter, it’s understandable if we get tired. But let’s learn from his example and overcome apocalypse fatigue. We have two choices; (1) watch and pray to become an overcomer, or (2) follow the world system into delusion and judgement.
In refusing to submit themselves to God’s Word, the vast majority of people in our world have chosen to walk in moral darkness and death rather than light and life.
“God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:17-21 NASB)
There’s a heavy price to pay for choosing darkness over light. “The way of sinners is hard, and its end is destruction.” (Proverbs 13:15)
In contrast, as the ancient prayer (Etz Chayim) states, the way of the Lord is “a Tree of Life to those who hold fast to it, and all those who cling to it find happiness. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.”
Like most people, I have experienced despair to the point where the #Destroyer tempted me to commit #suicide. He is the enemy of our souls, and of God’s good plan for your life. People who act on the Destroyer’s temptation to kill themselves permanently terminate their own potential success in this world. They jump off a cliff into a bottomless pit, not knowing what awaits them in the dark abyss of death below.
Likewise, all the people who don’t jump, but who unthinkingly follow the way of darkness all their life–they stumble into the same abyss–dying without achieving their potential as a son or daughter of God. In effect, they commit slow suicide by rejecting the light and life they could have apprehended. On the scoreboard of life, their clock runs out of time but they haven’t scored.
So, instead of following darkness unto its eventual terminus of death, wouldn’t it be better to turn from your selfish path toward the Savior, and begin walking in His light and life?
World War II is the last time an enemy threatened to invade American territory.
Since 1945, Americans have fought and died in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other places, in support of politically-directed, propaganda-driven, “national interest” conflicts.
What’s worth dying for?
I was 20 years old when I arrived in Vietnam on December 4, 1971. I was a Cobra copilot/gunner, flying combat missions over Cambodia.
After two almost-catastrophic experiences due to in-flight mechanical failures during combat, I volunteered to fly light observation helicopters (LOH), scouting enemy positions at low (treetop) level.
People called them ‘bush-bait’ and their mission was known as ‘recon by sacrifice’.
In early March, I was piloting a low-level scouting mission when my inexperienced back-seat gunner caused a tear gas grenade to explode in my cockpit, causing our LOH to crash upside-down into a hillside.
My two gunners survived and escaped with hardly a scratch. I was pinned against the ground, unconscious, with the chopper’s turbine engine still running erratically, in death throes; the stubby main rotor blade remnants throw continuous geysers of dirt into the air. When I didn’t respond to their shouts and tugs, they assumed I was dead. Expecting the dying LOH to explode at any second, they ran away from the throbbing wreckage, leaving me in it.
I awoke, dazed, sometime after they left. My face was lying against dirt and leaves. The wreckage vibrated as the rotors dug into the hillside. As you can see in the photo, my seat was twisted rearward, and I couldn’t unlatch my shoulder harness and seat belt. I was trapped. The bloodstains were from minor shrapnel cuts.
After repeatedly trying to unlatch my seat belt, I remember realizing that my death was imminent—if the tear gas didn’t kill me, the struggling turbine engine was sure to start a fire at any moment. I was tempted to lose hope and give up, but I kept trying. Blinded by the tear gas, and gasping desperately for air, I was finally able to free myself from the seat belt. Then, still blinded and completely disoriented, I escaped through the missing front windscreen and crawled away from the noise, hoping not to get hit by the spinning rotor. As soon as I got away from the gas I started regaining my sight and my bearings. I gathered my crew, who were surprised to see me, and a Huey helicopter picked us up a few minutes later. They took us straight to the hospital, where we were treated and released. I spent the next few weeks recuperating from a concussion, a few stitches, and some very severe bruises before I was medically cleared to fly again.
Dying for Others?
After crashing my LOH in March ‘72, I was assigned to copilot duties in the Huey platoon. Although this was a demotion of responsibility, I welcomed it. Crashing my LOH had shaken my confidence; I needed some time to get my ‘edge’ back.
During the entire month of April ‘72 the North Vietnamese invaded South Vietnam with tanks and tens of thousands of troops. The last American infantry had already left Vietnam by 1972, so our South Vietnamese Army ground troop allies were forced to retreat, losing a lot of territory to the communists.
Remember, times were much different in 1972 than now. The rebellion and cynicism of that generation is exemplified in movies such as: “Born on the 4th of July, Easy Rider, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Rambo, The Deer Hunter, and Apocalypse Now.
In the US, soldiers were taunted as ‘baby killers’ and spit at when they walked through airports. As a result, few wanted to wear their uniform in public, and some soldiers even bought wigs to conceal their military haircut.
Politicians in Washington and Hanoi were in ‘peace talks’ so that America could disengage itself totally from Southeast Asia. Nixon called it “Peace with honor.” Nixon had already withdrawn all American ground troops, leaving aviation units to keep the pressure on Hanoi until Kissinger could negotiate our complete exit from Vietnam and the return of our POWs.
Knowing we were fighting an unpopular, lost cause didn’t help morale. Drug use, especially heroin and marijuana, was rampant in American units at the time. Nobody wanted to be ‘the last one to die.’
On May 2, 1972 my flight school classmate Dan Miller and I were flying a Huey on a routine resupply mission when we heard a frantic emergency radio call from Air Force F-4 jet fighter crew, saying they’d been hit by a missile and were ejecting near the coastline—just a few miles East from our position.
We immediately turned our Huey to rescue them, but then we heard another classmate, John Joseph “JJ” Petrilla, who was copiloting another Huey. JJ said he had the chutes in sight, so we returned to our planned route, but continued to monitor the rescue on our radio. We heard JJ say they saw where the F-4 pilots’ chutes landed…then, that they’d picked them up…then, that they were ‘climbing out’ with the rescued pilots aboard.
Then, one of our Cobra pilot’s shouted, “Break Right! Break Right! SAM!!” Then…stunned silence. JJ’s Huey had been hit by a shoulder-fired, heat-seeking missile, exploding their Huey in mid-air at 700 feet.
JJ’s fellow crew members, CW2 Jesse Clifton, SP4 Morgan Vernon, and SP4 Porterfield Kyette also died that day. After machine gun fire shot down another Huey nearby (the crew was rescued) commanders decided the area was too hot to extract the bodies. (We recovered their bodily remains two months later, after allied ground forces recaptured the territory.)
That night, back at our small island base, I felt like my life’s potential was being wasted for nothing, and I was sorry that I’d never live to see my grandchildren. I remember consciously and seriously considering shooting myself in the foot, in order to escape the war alive. But the risk of dying couldn’t overcome the certain shame of being a coward.
I walked out onto the beach and prayed. “God, I don’t know you, and I know I’m not worthy, but if you get me out of this I’ll serve you.”
So, What’s Worth Dying For?
If I had died when I crashed my LOH, would my death have been worth it? What good would I have achieved? I’d say “None.” At the time, I was trying to find and kill ‘enemy’ human beings, whom I didn’t know or dislike, because some US government policy bureaucrats (had previously) wanted to make a point about stopping communist expansion in Southeast Asia. I emphasized “had previously” because by 1972 they knew their point wasn’t going to be made, but they were having trouble extricating themselves from the quagmire they’d created. In the meantime, good people were dying on both sides. So, dying ‘for the cause’ was meaningless.
Or, do you think God would give me credit for patriotically supporting my country’s national interests at the expense of my fellow man? No, I don’t think so. When I stand before Almighty God at the final judgment, I would’ve been speechless.
In contrast, JJ and his crew risked their lives to save others. Even though the dice rolled against them and they were killed, they died in the selfless act of trying to save strangers.
What’s worth dying for?
You have only one life to give, and nobody knows when you’ll be called upon to risk your life, so I suggest you pre-decide what you’re willing to sacrifice your life for.
Will you risk your life following orders to achieve the current ‘interests’ of incumbent politicians?
Isn’t that what Hitler’s henchmen did? Wasn’t “I was just following orders” their excuse?
The realization that I could no longer support “national interest” as justification for the government’s use of military force caused me to exit my military career.
Every nation’s propaganda machine paints a patriotic picture, waves the flag, and calls its troops heroes, but the Bible says all earthly nations will be destroyed because of their evil practices when the Messiah returns. There are no moral nations on the earth; all are corrupt in varying degrees.
Will you risk your life to save others? I suggest that this is the only valid reason to risk your physical life.
Policemen and firemen (and everyone else) should risk themselves only to preserve life; not to preserve or protect property. No property is worth your life.
Soldiers should only risk their lives (or use force against others) to defend their nation’s territory against invasion, or to save lives. At the final judgment before God, every soldier must account for what they’ve done. Regarding God’s final judgment:
Like many combat veterans, I did things that I’m now ashamed of. But, full forgiveness is available now through repentance and the blood of Jesus. I’m not ‘a shrink,’ but from experience and observation I believe PTSD is caused by a combination of (1) guilt and (2) fear.
There’s no reason to be tormented by guilt. Repent of your sins and receive forgiveness by the blood of Jesus.
After you receive God’s forgiveness, and start walking in His Spirit, there’s nothing to fear. If you’re injured or die while walking in God’s will, you’ll be rewarded by God; so there’s nothing left to fear, from God or man.
Will you give your life as a disciple of the Messiah, Jesus?
Jesus doesn’t just call us to risk our lives; Christian disciples are called to give themselves as living sacrifices, as the Lord Jesus did for us.
Soldiers, policemen, and firemen risk their lives to help others, but they hope to survive through each dangerous situation.
Disciples of Jesus are to be like the ancient samurai, reckoning themselves already dead in this world. We are to “reckon ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” so that the Spirit of Christ can be revealed through us. (Romans 6:8-11)
I think of it this way…I believe I ‘died’ in 1972 in that LOH crash. My life since then is a gift, and I owe it to the Lord Jesus Christ—who loves us and gave Himself for us. He is the perfect human model to emulate in my life, and (I hope) yours.
He gave His life, His soul, and His blood for me; He is the only one worthy to give my life to.