From Left Behind to four blood moons to end time prophecies, practically everyone has become a self-proclaimed theologian, prophet, or authority on the end of the world.
Whether we like it or not, believe in it or not, the Rapture, the Second Coming of Jesus, the Tribulation, Millennialism, Pre-trib, Post-Trib, the End Times, the Last Judgment, Last Call, Last Dance—all the theories are here to stay. Just talking about it and throwing around the terms makes us feel so scholarly. The unfortunately popular Left Behind series has done much to make sure we don’t stop thinking about it, debating it, or surreptitiously trying to kick it under the rug in front of our amused or bored non-Christian friends.
Eschatology is the study of “end times”—be it referring to the end of one’s life, this age, parousia, final judgment, Christ’s Second Coming, or the New Heaven and New Earth. People throughout the ages, both Old and New Testament times, have always been fascinated with eschatology.
The simple question is, Why? Is this just an excuse to generate fear, to contribute more dissension to an already polarized Christian community, or gain some vague spiritual superiority? Or, like some pastor-prophets, just a way to generate wealth to enjoy a lavish, pleasure-filled stay in this lifetime?
When we look at the history of Israel, it appears that disillusionment and despair propelled their flight into eschatological paradise—something wondrously manipulated by the “chosen” sects of the day. Blessed Judgment Day would take care of all their problems—the wicked (their oppressors) would be destroyed and the remnant would live happily ever after.
I think we’ve all been at a place where we’ve thought, “Why doesn’t Jesus just come and wrap this whole business up?” We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired! Illness, incurable disease, marital problems, divorce, financial distress, harassment at the hands of someone, betrayal, persecution—there are many reasons that we long for Christ’s Second Coming. It’s a very fertile soil for the pundits who promise us an out from our trials and tribulations.
But is this focus on the future what Jesus would consider our calling here on earth? Or is this posturing just a way of escaping into an environment that renders null and void our accountability to living a life of faith, suffering, and service here and now? You know, doing those difficult things like caring for others, being sacrificial, enduring our cross, and fulfilling the Great Commission. Wouldn’t being so preoccupied with being Left Behind actually leave us behind? Maybe we need to stop paying attention to the gurus of fear and manipulation.
From the Independent: “Solar eclipse will be the beginning of the end of the world, say Christian pastors: This is the way the world ends; not with a bang but an eclipse…Many on the internet are worried that Friday’s solar eclipse is a sign of the end times, or a message of judgement from God.”
So was Friday, March 20, 2015, the end of the world?
Not so, says The Fury of God author, Pastor Jeremy Lundmark in his article Four Blood Moons: Interesting Astrology, Terrible Theology: “Let me do what I’ve promised to do from now until I die…I’m going to predict that this is not the end, and you need to stop wasting your time on fanciful prophetic pooey (running out of “p” words) and start sharing and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You don’t need to scare people with a tribulation to get them to believe the Gospel, hell is sufficiently scary enough. You don’t have to freak them out by telling them Christ could return tomorrow, it’s sufficiently worrisome enough that they might get hit by a bus tomorrow (which is far more likely than the end of the world at this point).”
Who is right—Lundmark, or the eschatological prophets of escapism?
We could heed Jerry Fisher’s profound observation in his article Eschatological Escapism: “Unfortunately, the real danger of eschatological escapism is not just in the wish for an easy way out. When it is mixed with a general bitterness towards the world and biblical motifs of judgment, this fantasy can spawn a much more sinister element. In much the same way as a psychologically troubled individual may make a cruel and fateful decision to go on a murderous rampage before ending it all, some of the secret fantasies of a burdened escapist may stem from a similar desire of not only seeing their own destruction, but also to witness the suffering and retribution against all those who are not burdened by the same heavy yolk…. Worse than that, this fantasizing can be spiritual poison, which at best is immature escapism, and at worst is passive-aggressive malice. It does not honor the God of the living to dream of mass death. It does honor the God of the living to embrace the life of all those around us.”
Why is it just so hard to accept Jesus’ admonition, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mk 13:32)?
Human nature just doesn’t change. We want to know, and sometimes even think we know, more than God. We want to eat off of that Tree of Knowledge like our first ancestors did in the Garden. The serpent is alive and well!
In 2 Peter 3:4, we find the lament, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised?” Dr. John Snyder in his book The Promise of His Coming: The Eschatology of 2 Peter states: “It is incorrect to say, therefore, that in 2 Peter the author’s concern is merely eschatology and its defense. Rather, it is the nature and character of God and his saving purposes. If the epistle may be called an apology, it is an apology of the character of God whose promises are unshakable and whose purposes in history and beyond history are unthwartable, either by disobedience of his commands or denial of his promises.”
So instead of finding our comfort and hope in alarmists who encourage our escape into eschatology, it would be of more lasting impact to focus on our Sovereign God and place our trust in him to do as he sees fit. Our time will be better spent worshipping God and serving him and others with our gifts, time, and talents.