Thus, we are in fact not speaking of things “apocalyptic” when dealing with everything which since the Fall belongs to existence on earth, as described in Matthew 24 and parallel chapters in other gospels:
- hate, killings, wars and tribulations, “spin” and deceit among human beings, and so on
- wars, famines, earthquakes on and in the earth itself.
Such are, as the gospels say, “the beginnings of the birth-pangs” only – indications that something is stirring (Mt 24:8, Mk 13:8), something like that rattle in the car which disturbs one when driving, because one can’t find what causes it.
One effect such a “disturbing rattle” may have on us, such stirrings, is that we begin to pay attention, become more aware. In the gospels we indeed are exhorted again and again to “be aware”, to “be awake”, to “watch” and “take heed” (in Mt 24:42-43, Mk 13:34-35, 37, in Luke 21:36-37 as well as in Mt 25:13).
That rattle in the car may be important, or not – what is stirring in our world is the kingdom of the heavens, the kingdom of God coming near, slowly and gently beginning the process of unsettling settled existence.
When the Christ came near and Jesus started to walk on earth and the first stirrings had begun, he and John the Baptist before him told people that the only way to meet this “rattling” was to “change heart and mind” (to “repent”, using old church language). The first step would be to “go inward”, shutting the door on the world outside (advice given those going to pray), in order to find ways and means fully to orientate oneself anew in the world. Whoever doesn’t take such steps, might at some point of the apocalyptic process find that it would be already too late to begin re-orientating oneself in such a way (Rev 9:20-21, 16:9-11 and later 21:8 and 22:15).
Those who have taken the trouble to try to “change their heart and mind” will also become aware of what happens in cosmos, as they will perceive the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven. The Seven Letters written to the angels of the seven congregations in the first vision speak of this “going inward”, to come to terms with oneself and to be able to be meet what is to come.