I remember attempting to read the beginning of a history/political science book called The Causes of War for my Scientific Study of War class in the basement of my school’s library several years ago. I said, “attempting to read” because I was really struggling to stay awake and struggling to concentrate after waking up at 4AM that day. After an hour, I managed to reach Page 12 where I encountered a startling passage from a letter written by a Scottish man in 1848 (a time of Revolution in some European countries). The following passage stood out to me so much that I remember it to this date:
“Since the smoke of Waterloo rolled away, no such important events have taken place as those of 1848. The present is a chaos, the future a mystery. Even in Scotland, far from the street fighting of so many continental cities, many of the devout were predicting that ‘some mighty change, if not the end of time, is at hand’ and that in a few years ‘Christ as a King shall appear upon this earth’”.1
After I read this passage, I realized that there are people in every generation who inevitably conclude that their generation is the one that will see the end times. The Scottish man who wrote the letter noted startling events in his time that convinced many religious people that the end times were near. Obviously, the Scottish man’s generation lived nowhere near the start of the end times, but his contemporaries’ belief that their generation would see the end of the world should be at least be a reminder to us that the belief that the end is near is not a new phenomenon.
The Scottish man’s observation that some people were panicking should serve as an example of why it is important to have a grasp of history when trying to gauge the importance of ongoing world events. Many panicking people in 1848 forgot about the Napoleonic Wars and the turmoil in Europe during that time. As a result, many people misjudged the importance of the events of their era and incorrectly guessed that they were living in the end times or were living close to the end times. Today, we hear about the Napoleonic Wars and not the events in Europe in the late 1840s.
I’ve heard from and read many people who believe that we are living in the end times or are living close to the end times. Sometimes when I hear such calls I am sort of reminded of what the Scottish man observed in 1848. However, I see a major difference between what the world is like now and what the world was like in 1848 that makes today’s calls that the end times are near far more reasonable and understandable than they were in 1848:
- The events that need to happen before the beginning of the end times were not even close to happening in 1848. For instance, hardly any Jews lived in Israel in 1848 and Israel wasn’t even a country that belonged to the Jews during that time.
- Many of the events that need to happen before the beginning of end times have already occurred now. Although there are some other things that need to happen before the end times can begin, the catalysts driving how many of the remaining events will occur can be identified now.
Although I agree with people who believe we will see the end times in our lifetime, I try to keep some historical perspective when gauging the importance of current events and developments so I do not overreact to certain events and developments. For instance, I do not get overly nervous when I read about how Arab countries do not like Israel because Israel’s neighbors have always hated them and there has been past wars between Israel and its neighbors that did not lead to the end times beginning.
We live in very interesting times. Remember to consider history when gauging the importance of ongoing current events and developments. If you do so you will be less likely to overreact to certain events and developments and will be more likely to react to the “right” events and developments. History matters…