The End Time
Daniel's apocalyptic vision is quite overwhelming. Figures rise from the sea, representing kingdoms, powers and rulers whose influence will affect both the known world and the interests of the people of God. Representations of Assyria, Babylon, Media, Persia and Greece, frightening beasts all, are shown to Daniel. Then, we welcome Gabriel himself, the herald of God, to the banks of the Ulai. He brings interpretation, and a command for Daniel to record and seal his vision for future review.
And Daniel comes to himself and is sick abed for days.
In the Revelation, we are getting to another climax in apocalyptic vision as well. The final battle is about to take place. The conflict is paralleled with the call of the heavenly host to the feast of the supper of the Lamb. Even while the temporal powers are defeated and consumed, the faithful are to be gathered up and brought into fellowship with those who gather around the Throne. You can almost hear the war trumpets, the cawing of the carrion-eaters who linger at the edge of conflict and wait for their turn in the wake of battle, the tramp of many feet and the drumming hoof beats of the horse troops. It's a gruesome scene, but arguably necessary if the depredations of the characters in previous parts of the vision are to be dealt with, in order that the things that are to come may take place.
It's the end of the world.
Now here's the thing: what do we do with all these portents? Realizing that Daniel and John were speaking out of a particular historical context is one "out." The other is to relegate these visions to representational, metaphorical imaginings inspired by religious fervor. The other, opposite side of the spectrum is to spend our time searching the news, the heavens and the events of our personal lives for signs of these end times...much akin to the fabled long-haired, long-bearded man wearing the sandwich board sign as he walks down the street that informs anyone looking that "The END is NEAR."
Or, we could do what we are ultimately called to do as people of faith by a loving God who is continually redeeming the face of the earth through the grace and presence of a beloved Son...we could follow Daniel's example when he finally arose from his bed (and what John is commanded to do later----but no spoilers!) and chose to continue on with the business of the king.
As faithful people, we are called upon to inhabit the "now" that we are given to the fullest extent possible, to love mercy, do justice and to walk humbly before our creator. We are called to use this present moment to BE the Body of the Christ to the world and to serve all we meet as he came to serve us. The rest of the apocalypse can care for itself, for we have work to do for the kingdom of God today, now.