The past 100 years we’ve experienced and continue to experience the decay of cultures and empires in a faster and larger scale than ever before in human history. 100 years ago the Austro-Hungarian empire collapsed, then Germany, Great-Britain and Russia (Soviet-union) lost its hegemony. After WWII the U.S. aspired to become the new “Rome”, but that role is greatly challenged by new empires arising in Asia. We witness the stumbling of the EU and the power-struggle between the U.S. and China. Conflicts of interest and crises are popping up daily everywhere.
Sir John Glubb in his essay, the “Fate of Empires” identifies 6 stages of the rise and fall of great nations. The final stage before a nation collapses is “The Age of Decadence”. The Age of Decadence is marked by materialism, consumers who become a burden on the state, extreme display of wealth, loss of sense of duty, a weakening of religion, massive disparity between rich and poor, obsession with sex, the debasement of the currency, overextended military and the worship of sport-idols and celebrities.
Jesus has promised that we will witness the intensity of signs of decay as we get closer to His second coming. In Mark 13:3-13 He warns us that we will experience moral instability by being exposed to ongoing lies (“false teachers will come”), political instability by seeing wars and hearing rumors of wars, environmental instability by seeing increasing number of natural disasters (“earthquakes”), economic instability (“famine”) and animosity against Christians (“they will deliver you over…” “you will be hated by all”, “brother will deliver brother over to death and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to them…”).
Jesus describes the decay of environment, of nations, of cultures, of communities and of families as something that is a natural outcome of the future. The way He sees the natural flow where humanity is heading is a complete decay and disaster. To him it’s like 2 + 2 equals 4. He sees that our sinful, selfish nature creates sinful, selfish cultures and sinful, selfish cultures conflict with each other and consume and destroy things around them. He has not promised to stop the process of decay, yet He clearly states that there is hope to live life through this with a great prospect of a different personal outcome.
Jesus gave 2 commands and 1 promise of how we should live in The Age of Decay. These commands are for our protection and preparation. If we don’t follow these commands, we will be consumed by the decay of our culture.
The Command to See.
“See that no one leads you astray.” Mk 13:5b, says Jesus and repeats that in 13:9 as he says “be on your guard”. Basically he is using the same greek word: ‘blepo’ which means: ‘see, watch’. The only way you can protect and guard yourself if you have the skill to ‘see’. If you don’t ‘see’, then you are unprotected, defenseless, naked and unguarded. Your sight, your vision on the truth is your #1 skill to protect yourself. That’s why Jesus warns us to ‘see’.
The command to “see” means, to watch, to be mindful, to live our life with careful consideration, to observe everything with care and understanding. Jesus warns us that many influencers will want to blind us. Yet, the overwhelming flow of lies around us and the cultural pressure is not an excuse not to have clear spiritual sight. There is no excuse for not seeing. Our ability and responsibility is to see.
Gertraud “Traudl” Junge was the private secretary of Hitler. She was young and naive. First, she gave herself an excuse why she didn’t ‘see’ the evilness and horror of what Hitler did:
“Of course, the horrors, of which I heard in connection of the Nuremberg trials; the fate of the 6 million Jews, their killing and those of many others who represented different races and creeds, shocked me greatly, but, at that time, I could not see any connection between these things and my own past. I was only happy that I had not personally been guilty of these things and that I had not been aware of the scale of these things. However, one day, I walked past a plaque on the Franz-Joseph Straße (in Munich), on the wall in memory of Sophie Scholl. I could see that she had been born the same year as I, and that she had been executed the same year I entered into Hitler’s service. And, at that moment, I really realized that being young is no excuse, but that it might, perhaps, have been possible to find these things out.”
There was no excuse not to see when others saw what she didn’t. Sophie Scholl died with his brother because she saw the truth and acted.
So few have the ability to ‘see’ clearly today. People are blinded and lost their ’sight’ and follow the many ‘false teachers’, cultural influencers and self-proclaiming ‘saviors’.
Here are 5 major reasons why people are BLINDED:
- Pleasures – it’s easy just to focus on personal gratification. We are happy until some of our basic, simple needs are met. C.S. Lewis said it well: “We are way too easily pleased.”
- Ignorance – it’s convenient to live our life in the little bubble of ignorance and indifference. Most people keep their heads in the sand.
- Pain – it’s too painful to face the brutal reality of our world.
- Fear – it’s too fearful to face that the brutal reality around us would demand a personal change, it would come with a price. We don’t want to change our life or the way we think; we don’t want anything to disrupt our personal space and challenge our security or identity.
- Hate – it’s too hard to face our past, our failures, it’s easier to blame and hate others for the problems around us. It sees that nothing united people more in the course of history than shared hate. Hate creates a bound between people, releases them from the “burden” of personal responsibility and frees their conscious. Hate gives people a way out from owning their life and their problems and from living with maximum responsibility, while at the same time it gives them a sense of belonging: “we are together in this”.
No one, but you are responsible to not let hate, fear, ignorance and pleasure blinging you! Otherwise these things will control you and consume you.
The Command to Trust.
“Do not be anxious!” – says Jesus (13:11b). In the midst of all the moral, economic, political, environmental and relational chaos our natural reaction is to panic, to be anxious, to worry and to lose hope. We are commanded not to go there. We are commanded to trust in the Ruler of History and the Creator of this Universe – trust in the One keeps everything under His control. The decay doesn’t surprise Him. He told us that this will happen 2000 years ago.
The Promise of Words.
“Say whatever is given to you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” (13:11b).
He has NOT promised that we will not be hated, that our life will be spared, that we will live a peaceful life, that we will not experience betrayal, losses, pain and disappointment. Matter fact, He has promised the opposite: trials, betrayal, isolation, persecution, etc.
The only thing that He has promised in the hour of abomination is the POWER of WORDS: the Words of the Holy Spirit spoken through us! God created the universe with the power of His Words. The creating power of words spoken through us by the Holy Spirit is the way how we can defend ourselves in the age of decay.
Words create wars and stop them. Words cause wounds or heal them. Words destroy relationships or build them. Words separate us or bind us.
When the power of WORDS, the SPOKEN TRUTH is taken away, then we become completely defenseless.