I want to talk to the end of the world.
Well I’m sure most of you have heard by now that we have survived yet another end of the world prediction.
David Meade (Doomsday Conspiracy Theorist) predicted that the planet Nibiru would collide with earth killing 1 billion people and that this would happen on September 23rd, 2017. So, we survived. Although I read that he has now changed his prediction to October 15th.
From his website: The actual event of the beginning of the Tribulation occurs on October 15. That’s when the action starts. Hold on and watch – wait until the middle of October and I don’t believe you’ll be disappointed.
But it seems like every few years this type of thing comes up.
Always trying to predict dates, telling us it’s right at hand, warning us of the coming apocalypse.
Basically the idea is the rapture happens, and if you don’t know what that is, BLESS YOU, and as a result all these people are left behind. And so now there’s all these people who are left to fend for themselves during the apocalypse. And trying to resist getting the mark of the beast, meanwhile the Antichrist taking off heads.
Wonderful entertainment for children.
Great way to get kids to follow Jesus.
Lots of good fruit come from this kind of tactic.
Not abusive at all.
This is the kind of stuff that’s been keeping me up most of my life.
I don’t know how many of you as kids had the experience of calling out to your parents, they don’t answer. Sure they’ve been raptured and you missed it. And then once you finally DO find your parents, you think ‘Well apparently they weren’t real Christians either, and now the anti-Christ is gonna chop off all our heads together. How does that help?
But this was a huge deal for me. I thought about it A LOT.
There’s actually 16 ‘Left behind’ books. Hovering around 350 pages a piece. Totaling around 5600 pages total.
I don’t know if I’m embarrassed or proud to say that I’ve read even single one of those pages. I think twice. I was really into them during bible college, I was thinking ‘I’m being entertained AND I’m learning the Bible, this is incredible.
U2 - We ate the food, we drank the wine
Everybody having a good time except you.
You’re still talking about the end of the world.
Well one day I was talking to our theology professor Leon, and I was so proud to tell him that I was finishing reading the left behind series for the 2nd time. And I’ll never forget it, he turned to me and said ‘David, Serious bible scholars don’t take that stuff seriously.’ And as weird as it sounds, that’s was a turning point for me and my theological journey.
And what has really been happening in me for the last 15 years it would be this:
My theology has become less about me going up, and more about the kingdom of God coming down.
The prayer that Jesus prayed ‘Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.’ That’s the prayer that the church has been praying for 2000 years. You can of course see how that’s a very different prayer than ‘Jesus, get me the heck out of here.’ And which of those 2 mindsets you align with has a tremendous impact of how you live your live.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the idea of the ‘lectionary’ but it’s essentially a collection of passages that correlate to the Christian calendar, and the purpose is that it provides scripture to preach for churches who want to follow a thing like that. And so basically over the course of 3 years, the lectionary tries to cover all the major themes of the Bible and so there’s a year A, year B, and year C. For those of you interested, 2017 is year ‘A’.
I’ve always been intrigued by the lectionary, and though I’ve never preached from it for any length of time, I appreciate it and I love how it ends up grouping different segments of the Bible together in a way that maybe previously I hadn’t considered. Well I want to read for you 3 passages that come from ‘All Saints Day’ year B. - The next time preachers who preach from the lectionary will use these passages is November 1, 2018.
Also, weird, but I’d like to read them in reverse order, because I think you can see a beautiful continuation here.
This is the climax of the entire bible, really of the Christian faith. This is where it’s all going.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1)
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (Revelation 21:2)
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (Revelation 21:3)
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:5)
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. (Revelation 21:6)
One of the most beautiful passages in the book of Isaiah
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. (Isaiah 25:6)
On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; (Isaiah 25:7)
he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8)
In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:9)
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; (Psalm 24:1)
What you believe about the end affects how you live in the present. And if you want to be on God’s team, it’s important for you to understand where the end zone is. Where we’re trying to throw the ball.
Let me start by saying: Christianity is not an ‘End of the World’ Religion, Christianity is a ‘Heal the World’ Religion. And that’s a big, fat difference.
You know John 3:16, but how about John 3:17
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17)
Eschatology is the study of how something ends - Our eschatological end game, is not destruction but resurrection.
Titus 2:13 Talks about blessed hope, not the blessed ‘doom.
But for some reason that point is lost on a lot of Christian tribes. I think it might be because we have too much doomsday-prepper Christianity.
Anyone ever seen that show? Where these guys are obsessed with filling their bunkers with supplies and getting ready for the apocalypse.
Well Christianity has had too much of that. And I’m kinda tired of it. I’m tired of doomsday oriented eschatology. - Where the message is this whole thing is coming down.
Doomsday Christianity makes for wonderful TV, and sells lots of books (In fact I heard ‘late great planet earth’ by Hal Lindsey was the best selling book of the 1970’s, selling 10’s of millions of copies. It’s all non-sense and if you read it now you’ll be able to tell that.) - but it’s terrible theology.
And it produces a distorted, fear-based Christianity. And so it’s time we take Christianity back from Doomsday Christians. We have to decide that that’s not how we’re gonna talk about the Christian faith. I have a daughter now, and so that changes a lot of stuff for me. And I refuse to raise my daughter with the worldview that any day now God is going to come and slaughter almost everybody.
How is that anything other then control and by fear?
Ok, so where did this doomsday Christianity come from?
Doomsday Christianity really comes from a theological system that finds it’s way to the mainstream in the middle of the 1800's.
John Nelson Darby was the founder of this kind of thought.
And it’s a very specific kind of dispensationalism that has a really rigid way of reading the Bible.
Passed on to a man named ‘C.I. Scofield’ - who was NOT a theologian, he wasn’t a scholar, he was a lawyer and he read the Bible like a lawyer. - Looking for charts and graphs, and timelines, and all that.
He created this thing called the ‘Scofield Study Bible’ perhaps you’ve heard of it, or even have one. - And in it is a lot of time end times, doomsday kind of thinking.
Ironically, as much as Charismatic Christians still hold on to his ideas, he was passionately non-Charismatic. He was an adamant cessationist, which means he believes all miracles, gifts of the spirit, all that ended with the apostles 2000 years ago, and anything like that that we see now is just completely bogus.
So as a response to THAT, there was a man named ‘Finnis Dake’ who put together the ‘Dake Study Bible’ which incorporated Scofields ideas about the end times, but left out all his beliefs about the gifts of the spirit.
And over time, becomes a very prevalent view of the church.
My mom as saying that when they were growing up I. Church people who went to college were 'worldly' cuz it was the end times anyway.
I think it’s important to mention, that this is not the prevailing view of ANY church tradition historically. Only within the last 150 years or so has this become mainstream. That’s not to say there has no been differences in how the church thinks about the end, there’s always been differences, so it’s not my heart to belittle people who have different beliefs that I do, I think it’s important for us to unite under things that are bigger than this. There’s space for lots of views while still being ‘one’ in the body of Christ.
The predominant eschatological posture can be summed up in the lyrics of the hymn ‘this is my fathers world’. You know it?
This is my Father's world.
O let me never forget
That though the wrong seems often so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father's world:
why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!
A few points from the Bible:
Paul in Romans 8 talks about how: The earth is groaning and sighing for the redemption.
Why is the earth groaning and sighing if it all just gets decimated and God starts over? What are they longing for? If there’s not restoration?
Isaiah prophecies that about the day when the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea.
That’s the hope that’s found in the Christian faith.
But it’s not the message that many of us have received.
Many of us have received the idea that we get taken away while God comes and destroys everything.
So long as you picture God coming back with the fury of 1000 suns coming to kill all of humanity, you’ll always be partially afraid of him.
Earlier in my journey with God because I really knew how to articulate it, those ideas just started to not ‘feel right’ to me. I didn’t know why. But it felt like there’s this beautiful story of redemption that we see throughout the Bible, and then this super weird ending just gets tacked on at the end. And I don’t know how to put words to that, but I knew it felt wrong.
And it’s amazing how more and more I’m hearing stories about people who are a lot of like me, that grew up in this ‘God’s gonna come slaughter everyone’ mindset, and how it actually pushed them AWAY from the Christian faith.
I would argue that the reason that doesn’t sit right for lots of Christians is because the Holy Spirit that inspires the bible is at work in our hearts.
I remember the first time I started reading the Bible differently. And by that I mean reading the Bible through the lens of Jesus. I remember when I first started letting go of the doomsday stuff, I could read the book of revelation and I was amazed at the beauty of the cross. And the incomprehensible love of Jesus. And all of a sudden, the whole story ‘clicked’ for me.
And I don’t have time to get into it, but I do believe Jesus comes back to judge, for sure.
But like we talked about in the revelation series, he judges the world with a sword that comes out of his MOUTH. Which is beautiful imagery of his words.
God judges the world the same way he created the world - with his word.
And in the end, he defeats evil the same way he defeated evil on the cross - with self-sacrificial love.
If you’re curious about that, I’ve got a book recommendation for you: Reading Revelation Responsibly - Michael J. Gorman
Reverse Thunder by Eugene Peterson.
Don’t believe that Jesus is like Dirty Harry, he comes back the first time and he’s compassionate and kind and loving and then the next time he comes it’s gonna be like a Quinton Terrintino movie.
In fact, look at this scripture:
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
So Jesus doesn’t come and reject the sword of Cesar the first time he comes only to pick it up and slaughter everyone the 2nd time.
Paul makes it VERY clear in the Bible that God conquers evil through THE CROSS.
But see now, I see God through the lens of Jesus, and I trust him completely. I believe that God loves my daughter than I do. And I don’t need to protect her from him.
See the person who has a eschatology of doom is put in an unusual predicament when it comes to something like the devastation we’re seeing in Puerto Rico.
B/C on one hand they’re thinking, ‘Gosh how horrible.’ On the other hand they’re thinking ‘Well, it’s the end times, so in a way, it’s God’s will.’
But a person who understands the heart of God for the world, will do everything they can to help ‘heal’ the world. Tikkun Olam. ‘To heal the world’.
Jesus's current project is to colonize earth with the culture of heaven.
You could say it like this: Jesus didn’t come to bring the end of the world, but he DID come to bring an end to the world as we know it. The world of pain, and suffering, and death, and racism, and bigotry, and greed.
And how does he do that? By the power of self-sacrificial love. And through the people who would claim to be his followers who become the hands and feet to the world.
And so we’re 100% clear that when we stand up against the principalities and the powers of the world that would seek to keep people in bondage and fear, we know that’s we’re doing to work of God.
As I close I’d like to share with you one Martin Luther King Jr quote that’s really been in my heart these last few weeks:
It’s all right to talk about streets flowing with milk and honey, but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here and His children who can’t eat three square meals a day.
It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee.
(MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.)
When you think God is a vicious lion, you'll always be partially afraid of him.
No matter where you are, what you've done - He wants to win your heart - beauty of His love.