Are you a bit embarrassed through the years as fellow believers, who love the Lord and the Bible, get all stirred up about world events and then rather dogmatically proclaim them to be signs of pending apocalyptic disasters associated with the prophecies of Jesus or St. John and others? The phenomena of the recent “blood moons” seems to fit this mold, even though many thoughtful believers tried to “warn" us all that these “warnings” were “unwarranted"! Unfortunately, these writers didn’t get the same attention from our culture. ("Follow the money" on this point if you need to understand a reason why these kinds of fear-evoking messages gain traction for preachers and their followings!)
One of my recent experiences that sparks my writing about this, is a conversation with Jr. High aged kids regarding their fear that our time/space world is ending very soon. I am rather tired of this kind of thing and, to me, it does the cause of Christ no good in the eyes of the watching world. Isn't the fact that each of us will very soon (even if it's 80 years from now!) stand before Christ face to face to give an account of our lives enough reason to create the right kind of "urgency" into the mix of healthy spiritual motivations? Do we have to believe that He is coming in our lifetime to hold the right kind of zeal in our hearts for His gospel? Too much "urgency" boarders on "panic" and sabotages a long-term and lasting missional strategy in my view. Is is possible that the hype that so easily surrounds a rather immediate return of Jesus could hinder us from laboring faithfully in the earth for the sake of Jesus and future generations of His followers. The apostles referred to the Second Coming, but they deliberately focused on proclaiming the amazing big news, and the practical implications, of the First Coming of Jesus! If this was good enough for them, it should be good enough for us.
Don’t get me wrong…I love all believers and always seek to respect them for their sincere faith. I don’t think that we will all agree, or need to agree, on the details of eschatology (the doctrine of “last things”) in our local churches. (I will still love and respect you if you disagree with this little post!) I don’t think that we should make a certain “end time” view, that stays within the framework of orthodoxy, a point of contention or a basis of joining or dividing our local churches. I do believe though that local church leaders must be free to teach what they believe to their members. I think we should create a culture in our communities of faith that welcomes an open and loving discussion about these various views and allow our friends to make up their own minds. However, many believers do not even know that genuine Jesus-loving people hold to quite different “interpretive grids” for understanding the apocalyptic passages of the Bible. I personally hold to a more optimistic view of what God is doing and will do in His world before the bodily return of Jesus than most of my dear friends…and I believe that I have primarily Scriptural reasons for such a hope.
I am coming to a point in my journey as a spiritual leader and father where I am planning to share more openly the questions and plausible answers that surround what I consider to be a problems with the “Pop Eschatology” that has captivated the hearts and minds of many American Christians, churches and church movements. This is due to the influence of ideas conceived by J. N. Darby in the late 1800’s, codified by C. I. Scofield in the early 1900’s, institutionalized by fundamentalist/conservative seminaries in successive decades, highly popularized by Hal Lindsay in the 1970’s and again more recently filling people’s minds through the best-selling Left Behind books and movies. In my humble opinion, the brightest and best Biblical scholars and teachers of our generation, not to mention the ones from past generations, have very different views on eschatology than this particular, and very complicated, “dispensational premillennial” view. (I do promise to remain gentle and kind!)
I honestly fear that what I’m terming “Pop Eschatology” has been one of the most powerful, but subtle, influences that has caused Christians to live far too far below the privileges and promises of the inheritance that Christ purchased for us through His First Coming, Ascension and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. If there is a chance that this is true, isn’t it worth challenging some of the assumptions that have resulted in a fearful “siege mentality” within our ranks, thereby hindering our confidence and effectiveness in reaching people with the news of our beautiful, powerful and loving Lord and King, Jesus Christ?
A VOICE OF HOPE
Michael Sullivant's Blog
I am a child of God, husband, father, grandfather, spiritual father, author, speaker and hope coach.