“Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:4–9, NIV 1984).
My Musings – How many times have you heard the current pandemic described as unprecedented (never before known or experienced)? In light of 1918, not yet. When I was in business school, I was taught that we learned so much from the great depression, and built in so many safeguards to our economic systems afterwards, that there would never be another one. Maybe not, but we’re trying. The first world war was, for a time, known as the “war to end all wars.” With carnage so unprecedented (there’s that word again) that it was unthinkable that mankind would allow it to be repeated. Within a generation, however, we began to number the world wars. Yet by the end of the second one, and the advent of nuclear armament, the fear is there will not be another number. It will a letter, the letter “Z.”
What has been done will be done again – Left to our own devices, mankind will never end war. They will, instead, increase (“wars and rumors of war“). We will not eradicate disease. Instead, we have learned to manufacture it. As long as there is greed, there will be recessions and depressions, excess and want. Man does not learn from it. Man cannot fix it.
There is nothing new under the sun – Nothing unprecedented. Well, not exactly. The writer of the above text was writing about his own observations, with perhaps a bit of hyperbole. But it does underscore the futility of the man’s devices to solve the evils “under the sun.” The evils of this world can only be solved “under the Son.”
So what do I mean by “not exactly?” Unprecedented times are indeed coming. They will not even be close to what has previously been known or experienced. “For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:21–22, NIV 1984). Not to be too melodramatic, but that’s what you call unprecedented.
My Advice – During these so-called “unprecedented” times many have said, myself included, that “things will never be the same.” In a sense that is likely true. They likely said the same thing after both world wars and the great depression. Some things did change, but in many respects things went back to the way they were before “ever returning to its course.” Shortly after warning about the unprecedented times to come, Jesus went on to say, “as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Mt 24:37–39, NIV 1984). He warned us, but life seems to go on as if we “[know] nothing about what [will] happen.“
To the unsaved – Jesus said, “see, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matthew 24:25, NIV 1984). Time is the operative word. We do not know how long it will be before the times warned about will occur. It could be soon (we may be seeing the beginning, Jesus described them as “birth pains” — increasing in frequency and intensity), or far in the distant future (“God is patient, not wanting anyone to perish.“). But none of us know how long our “lease” on this life will end. So time is of the essence. No choice, (even a delayed choice) is saying no to salvation.
To the saved (the Church) – While we may take some degree of personal comfort that “for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened,” we have a responsibility to the perishing. A commission from none other than Jesus Himself to proclaim the Gospel. “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the [Church Age] last for a thousand [more] years, [angels] will still say, “This was [its] finest hour.” (with apologies to Sir Winston Churchill and the 1st century Church).