About a week ago, or so, give or take a day, or two (get on with it!) I promised the people over in FB-land an article on what I believe about the end times. Earlier today, I reblogged an excellent article that tackles the current hype over “blood moons” (seriously, every time that word is read or said, you should hear some ominous music, just for fun). I highly encourage you to read that before getting into this article. Just because. 🙂
And with that…let’s get into my newest post! “Get on with it!”
The problem I have found with having a more optimistic and historical view of the end-times, does not lie in the fact that you exalt Jesus more due to your belief and view (which you do) but that it goes against everything (almost literally everything) that the current mainstream of churchianity teaches, preaches, sells, makes money off of and believes. So don’t be alarmed when people think you are a heretic or an apostate, simply because you don’t believe in a bunch of the same end-times craziness that they do.
So, what do I believe about the “End-Times”?
An interesting question, really.
As I recently quoted C.S. Lewis, I’ll do it again here:
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
There is a lot of hoopla out there about “the end of Days”, the “end times”, “Armageddon”, the “Rapture”, the “Second Coming”, “the Last Day” etc., you get the idea. Let’s back up a bit and go over some of my own personal history with “the end times”. As a teen and young adult, well over the course of a decade, I saw a lot of “christian” movies and short films regarding the end-times, being left behind, etc. “The Omega Code”, “Megiddo: The Omega Code Part 2”, “Revelation”, “Tribulation”, “Judgement”, “End of the Harvest” … just to name a FEW. Many of them I watched more than once. I attended church service after church service that discussed end-times events and “eschatology”. I’ve sat through many ‘special services’ where “prophetic” speakers would talk about how God has shown them “things” and that as we keep coming back the speaker promises he or she will share those “things” with us…yet they never really revealed anything in their week-long stay… I even sat through a 9 or 10 hour video course at a church I used to attend where a gentleman “explained” the entire book of Revelation, the Rapture, etc., complete with graphs and time tables. It was, impressive to say the least, I mean, the charts and graphs weren’t two stories tall like John Hagee’s, but still… It is important that you know that I pretty much believed in the end-times like a good majority of christians do: some sort of Rapture (pre, mid or post-trib…take your pick, usually pre-trib), massive craziness in the world ensues, a one-world government, a one-world ruler/AntiChrist and a mark of the beast, a final judgement where God kills everyone who is bad and then everything gets made good again.
Or something to that effect… loosely speaking, of course. Anyhow, let’s get down to the topic? I’ll preface the rest of this and say that you shouldn’t expect an exhaustive work here or a well laid out five point theological presentation. I’m still learning.
Almost on their own cycle, things begin to happen in our world – wars, earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, comets, meteor showers, solar eclipses, lunar eclipses, etc. People then begin to read “signs and wonders” into them, proof of the “end times” finally coming. Scriptures regarding “wars & rumors of wars”, “earthquakes” and the “moon turning to blood” are thrown around like ninja stars and holy hand grenades. World leaders are accused of being “The Anti-Christ”; the Pope, Obama, Bush, Clinton, take your pick…I’d list links, but I really don’t want to draw attention to them, they really aren’t worth your time! You can and will find them on your own, I’m sure.
It’s definitely NOT Sparta, it’s just plain madness.
“No one knows the hour or the day.” Right? You’d like to think so, at least. Yet, so many people try to do the exact opposite and give prediction after prediction, and more frustrating than that, is people still listen to these guys! So called prophets & “watchmen”. What happens when their predictions and prophecies don’t come true? “Oh, well… we never said it was a prophecy,per se… (Yet they said he is coming by a certain time or “x” event will happen within a certain time frame.) And well, we all see through a glass darkly. And well, no one knows the hour or the day (yet again…they did give a date or range of dates…) and we’re only imperfect vessels. We’re just trying to be obedient to the Spirit of God… But watch out for the next blood moon! It’s a sure sign of the return of the Lord!”
Ahhh… I’ll stop my ranting, the paragraph above might have stopped a few from reading the rest of my article. Please, keep reading, it gets better.
Now I can’t say the exact date and time that I began to have my doubts or to even question the teachings I had swallowed and blindly believed for so long regarding the end times. Honestly, the last few years of me questioning the deeply held beliefs I’ve had just kind of bleed into one another, really. I did notice questions surfacing, for example:
Why would Jesus and the Disciples say certain things would happen to a specific generation and act as if it was so, even to the point of direct urgency, and yet it seems like we’ve been waiting almost 2000 years for those things to come to pass?
Then about a year ago or so, I read the first six chapters of Jonathan Welton’s “Raptureless: An Optimistic Guide to the End of the World”. I am still chewing on and unpacking what was said there. Honestly I haven’t finished the book yet, but, the first six chapters alone are worth the read. Best part is, he gives it out free for Kindle or just to read online! I’ve got the Kindle version. Seriously, since it’s free, what have you to lose? Like anyone else I’ve mentioned on this blog I don’t endorse Mr. Welton 100%, I’m just going off of what I’ve read so far in the book “Raptureless” and a handful of his blog posts that revolve around the same topic.
Then more recently, as in the last few months, I found another website, Pursuing Truth which hits on similar aspects of the end-times, like the Olivet Discourse – which is the prophecies Jesus gives surrounding the destruction of the temple, etc.,(something Welton gets into fairly deeply in “Raptureless”) and digs into a lot of the meaning into the book of Revelation and other end-times prophecies. Their line-by-line breakdown of the end-times Scriptures in the Gospels alone are worth a few hours of your time. There is so much to dig through on the website. Besides the line-by-line breakdown, study and teaching that they do there you aren’t going to get very many goosebumps. You’re not going to find any fantastical end-times views that you do elsewhere. I don’t find their teachings “tickling my ears” in any way. I do find that they give you a few different options when looking at certain meanings in Scripture (for example being left or being taken) and let you, the reader, decide. There are some differences in theirs views compared to Welton’s, which is all the better for me, since I’m just digging and learning. Take for example a difference in their view of “the man of lawlessness”: Welton vs. Pursuing Truth. Both provide some interesting input on this.
So what do I believe?
One the one hand, I believe in a “return” of a Christ in the form of a Christ-centered Gospel and a Christ-centered Body, one where we as a body live outside the boundaries of the institution and where the world marvels at Christ coming out of each of us in a genuine reflection of what He has created us to be. One the other hand, I believe in a “return” of Christ to establish the final Kingdom. As much as this life counts for something, I cannot believe that it ends here, nor can I accept that Heaven is just an eternal church service in the sky where we constantly sing worship songs…forever. I guess in theological terms, that would “classify” me as some sort of Preterist. I hate labels, but that’s what will happen, “Ah, so you’re a Preterist, then! Now I understand.” Well, no, I’m still working it out. Somewhere between 3/4 to full Preterist, I guess, regarding the end-times. I can’t emphasize how much I hate labels when it comes to this stuff! I don’t hold to all that Preterism holds to, a quick search of some of the definitions of Preterism says something to the degree of the Atonement not being complete until the destruction of the Temple. I firmly believe in the Finished Work of Jesus at the Cross and also what was accomplished for us in His Burial, Resurrection, and Ascension. I lean towards the Preterist end times belief because I see a lot of what has been prophesied regarding the end-times as fulfilled, and confirmed fairly accurately in history. For example, I believe that “The Day” which was being warned about came and that the Christians of that time did in fact heed the call and were “saved”, they just weren’t Raptured in a mystical disappearing act in the clouds. Much of this viewpoint revolves around the accounts surrounding the siege and fall of Jerusalem and the complete and utter destruction of the Temple, including historical accounts of events that happened in the span of time from Jesus’s crucifixion up to the destruction of the Temple. I believe that the words of Jesus and the supporting words of his disciples regarding certain events were aimed at a specific audience, a specific generation, not some special westernized church who supports Israel two-thousand years in the future.
I believe that this specific viewpoint shifts everything about the current, mainstream, end-times beliefs and how I should conduct my life. Instead of trying to “look busy” and be a “wise virgin” so I can get “raptured”, my focus can rest solely in the Finished Work of Jesus. I’m free to do “the work” of Christ, which from Jesus’s own mouth was to believe in He who was sent (you know, believe in Christ). With the gift of faith in Christ that I have been given, my focus can rest in allowing Him, the Author and Finisher of my faith, to continue and to finish the work He began in me. As I do this, I try (for lack of a better word) to live my life in and with Christ. Letting him have His own natural, organic expression in and through my life as I love family, friends and the everyday stranger that comes my way. To let the influence of His Kingdom come from the inside of me to the outside. (That all sounds good, too, but I know that I am not perfected in this daily practice either)
Most importantly: I believe that I am still learning; I am still working this out. I believe that I do not have a full grasp on everything regarding the end-times and that I am willing to throw out anything in exchange for the bed-rock truth.
So, what have I got to lose? Well, not much, really. It’s like Mr. Welton’s version of Pascal’s Wager. If I live a Christ-centered life, allowing His Life to flow through me and I never see “The Rapture”, then I go to meet my Savior after getting rid of “this mortal coil”. To be with Christ is gain. However, if I do these same things and then suddenly get “raptured” out of here…well, then, I get Raptured, right? Again, to be with Christ is gain. I don’t think that living a Christ-centered life and having His Life flow through me qualifies as saying “My master doth tarry-eth and he doest forsaketh his coming…eth” just because I don’t think “The Rapture” will happen like the mainstream church does do you?
Bottom line message from me regarding end-times/eschatology: don’t believe all the hype, take a time-out and a step back, ask some questions and do a little digging, even if it means looking at the opposing view. You might be pleasantly surprised.