The Gospel Story – Act 3: Future Hope and God’s Wrath
In Act 1, we discussed the events that lead to the fall of our world (which brought about death and destruction and nasty things that we do not like). In Act 2, we discussed the love of God in sending Jesus to save us from a problem which we had no part in creating. Finally, in this act we will be discussing the wonderful news that death has been conquered and Jesus is coming back again and how you can make the most advantage of the vagueness associated with this notion and help the church make money and thereby fulfill the great commission and help God!
Where did we leave off? Oh, yes, right about where Mel Gibson left Jesus: in the grave. Well, you know that tiny clip of Jesus walking naked out of the tomb? That, my new believer friends, is only the beginning.
You see, Jesus not only died, but he rose again according to the Scriptures on the third day (I would highly recommend never looking for the passage in the Old Testament that predicts this because you wouldn’t want to damage your new found faith!) He did this to conquer one of mankind’s greatest personified enemies: death. And this was also done so that Jesus would become the first fruits (that is a fancy sacrifice) among all mankind. Just as Adam died and brought death into the world, so Jesus rose and brought life and light to all mankind. This is joy and wonder of your faith, my brothers and sisters!
Now that you know what happened, the next important thing is to think about the future because the future can even be scarier when God is involved (remember the flood?). God has promised to some day not only return but to destroy the entire earth with fire. While this may sound simple, this is extremely complicated theology because God needed to give theologians something super hard to study while he was being patient for every elect person to be saved. So what follows is a careful analysis as to how you can become a master end-times sleuth! Put on your urim and thummim and grab your seven golden lamp stands and join in the fun that is predicting (or discovering) the future!
You see, there is one major tactic to interpreting Bible prophecy that everyone must know. Because most of the Bible is prophecy and does not know it yet, if you do some clever pattern matching between events that have actually happened and passages that look like they are talking about those events, you can end up a neat mosaic of beautiful (even though they look disjointed) passages of fulfilled and not-yet-fulfilled prophecies. All of the passages that fit events that actually happen might be fulfillment of prophecies. All the tiny pieces of passages that do not yet fit can normally fit into one of many hermeneutical categories that account for these things (like double prophecies and such.) As any eschatological (yep, that’s a big word for studying future things!) expert will tell you, it is super hard to tell if your pattern matching of actual events to Biblical narratives (vague and disjointed though they may appear) is accurate until new events happen that break your hypothesis and then you have to start over. But that is part of the fun! Try, try again! Never give up and let Hal Lindsay be your role model! Keep your head in your hat and give it the ole’ Mormon try! Eventually you’ll dig up a pattern that cannot be refuted and then you can sell millions of books and inspire an entire generation to frenzied converting with your prophetic discovery!
You see, now that you are saved, you have to just trust that the Bible knows what it is talking about even when it does not make sense because the key is to make the church some cents and to not allow some smart-ass church member to pick up the foul scent of what you are doing. Part of the cool thing about eschatology is that it is ever morphing into a closer version of the truth (this is proven by the fact that almost everyone in the last two thousand years has been wrong and there are not a lot of options left!). The trick is to sound prophetic yourself while fulfilling some old prophecies that everyone is as yet confused about.
The truth is that no one yet knows exactly what or when Christ’s return and massive Armageddon of bloodshed (with blood being so deep it reaches the bridle of a horse even though people do not use horses anymore in battles!) of all God’s enemies will happen, because only God knows. Not even the son knows, even though He is God (because God can make Himself forget things).
If you decide to study end times, here are some tips:
Make sure your prophetic interpretations and fulfillments include lots of bloodshed followed by great amounts of peace for the faithful. Most believers are annoyed that God rarely, if ever, actually shows up in this lifetime so they want retribution and justice in the future. But not too much bloodshed, because you do not want to reduce the love or patience of God to a human level and you do not want believers being terrified of what is going to happen to their unbelieving relatives. Remember, God is perfect love and perfect wrath. Try to avoid Hebrews 10 if you can because it might scare people. And Hebrews 6. And 2 Peter 2. And some of the scary passages in Revelation. Oh, and if people notice you are avoiding these passages, just say it is a “difficult passage” and lots of scholars “struggle” with proper interpretation. And if they keep pressing, you might be able to point out that some scholars do not think they were even written by an apostle and they might not even be inspired. And if they press you more, tell them that they are showing a lack of faith. And if that does not satisfy them, they are obviously showing an unhealthy interest in controversy and disputes about interpretation of Scripture and are causing divisions and should be treated like an unbeliever until they feel remorse (for being neglected) and repent of their waywardness and then you can invite them back into the fold as a brother. So make sure you balance that line between God’s wrath toward His enemies and God’s mercy toward those who are still unbelievers very well. You might even try ignoring this topic because it can get really emotional for people.
Jesus once supposedly said that this massive list of end-times prophecies he made would happen in the very same generation. Don’t make the mistake of calling this an error! Obviously he didn’t mean that. After all, God cannot lie and so Jesus cannot lie and so even though it looks like he made a mistake he did not! So when you run across a prophecy that looks like it has failed, just remember that you probably should split the passage into bite-sized pieces and convince your congregation that that is the proper way to break up the passage because you know more Greek than they do. Yes, that’s right, learn Greek. The Bible can only properly be understood in its original language. This also gives you a nice barrier (like the Catholic church once used to great effectiveness) to convince the amateur readers of the Bible that your interpretation is more accurate and they could not possibly understand what it actually meant unless they had special training like you! Oh, and always give those spiritual babes in your care the impression that most scholars are in agreement with your interpretation or else they will start to think that being an expert theologian is nothing less than coming up with your own interpretation and teaching it as if it were true. And, of course, that is not what is happening because you have the Holy Spirit who is leading you into all truth!
About precision in prophecies: this is a tricky subject. For example, Ezekiel once prophesied that the city of Tyre would be scraped “bare like a rock” by Nebuchadnezzar. He also prophesied about a new temple, a new priesthood, and a new prince that never actually happened. First of all, never, ever, ever be this specific! The trick is to combine vagueness with a sense of awe. If your prophetic interpretation is awe-striking (like cataclysmic or something) then people ignore the fact that you are not providing specifics. If you do provide specifics, make sure that they are self-fulfilling. You have to get people to want the prophecy to come true so bad that they do the very things which cause the prophecy to come true! This is not dishonesty, it is helping God because God has to work through people who have an illusion of free will and so you are actually helping God get the glory in the end! Second, when doing eschatology, rank the prophecies in order of “difficulty of understanding”. Make sure that your prophecy fits the clearer passages effectively and when you cannot make it fit the more difficult passages (like the Ezekiel one), just say “well, that is a difficult prophecy that we do not fully understand” and leave it at that. The truth is that there are tons of prophecies that are completely misunderstood by everyone in the church because God has lots of mysteries. This helps keep the awe factor up and keeps people worshiping God in anticipation as to how in the world he can make all the confusing disjointed Biblical prophecies actually happen in any conceivable order within a time-space-continuum. But God is God and He cannot lie and since all the books we have in the canon have to be fully inspired because if they were not this would mean God failed in preserving His Word and so we cannot have that so we have to just make do with what we have and so we just keep trusting God and making everything fit as best we can. One example: nobody is supposed to know the day or the hour Jesus is coming back so if you find a nice pattern in the Bible that seems to predict something that specific you had better start over! Make sure your prophetic interpretations are no more specific than one year, and always provide an exception so if you are wrong you can name your next books in one number increments from the previous one.
Anyway, despite all the confusion about pre-millenialism, a-millenialism, post-millenialism, the recent invention of the rapture, Paul’s confusing statement about “we who remain”, the entire book of Revelation not appearing to be written by John because of the Greek used, and the odd way in which eschatological views seem to change in the New Testament Pauline letters, and the bizarrely easy way people like Thessalonians became convinced Christ had already returned in their time, and all the other confusing things about New Testament prophecy – the truth is that it is all trustworthy and you should not question this. If you get super confused, just fall back on the simple promise that Jesus will return and nobody knows when and just trust God that even though He put all this stuff in His Word supposedly so we could have a decent understanding of what is happening in this crazy world you actually do not have to understand any of it to be saved.
And at the end of the day you should be focusing on making disciples anyway (known to those deceived in the world as “proselytizing”), because Christianity is not about influencing world events or lobbying for change or convincing people your end-times interpretation is accurate. It is about telling people about Jesus and saving as many people as God has elected. As long as you do that, you cannot fail, and you do not want to be one of the poor souls who gets whipped with many lashes when Jesus returns. Actually, make sure you really know Jesus because you also do not want to be one of the poor souls who hears “I never knew you, depart from me…” That would really suck.
So, in conclusion, make sure you are not so confused that it causes you to doubt your salvation or the promises of God. So only study just enough so that you feel comfortable about your faith, and never put yourself in a position where any current events could cause you to doubt your faith. In other words, never be too specific and make sure your theology cannot be contradicted by reality. And keep trusting that Jesus will return. And never add to the Bible or you will be cursed with tons of plagues like Revelation says.
So, in conclusion, to speak in a similar vein as the Apostles Paul and John:
To God be the glory. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Come quickly. May your wrath be poured out on the enemies of the church so that your infinite patience may become known in saving all the elect from the eternal damnation that all the non-elect are destined to find not because they were not elect but because they chose with their illusion of free will to reject the Lamb of God and His infinite mercy in choosing some people to be elect even though His blood is sufficient for the entire world according to some theologies and the apostle John and all people have to do is repent and turn to the true church and the true gospel which is so evident even though those outside the church think it is not clear enough to warrant listening to any of it at all and they think that the Bible is not inspired when it is and it is so obvious to everyone and they are just suppressing the truth even though they probably have no choice because they are blinded from the truth by Satan who is bigger than them but you will destroy Satan someday and death and all the bad things that are part of the curse because Adam ate a fruit and did not have a choice because you chose before the foundation of the world that all this would happen and so this is all about You and to You be the ultimate glory for being so wise and awesome and in control of everything and for being the Alpha and the Omega and the Beginning and the End and for sending your Holy Spirit who makes this all so obvious and ultimately we thank you for your sacrifice and to You be the glory for saving your Creation! Amen.
I hope you all have enjoyed this little series. I doubt any noticed, but I discovered that the first day I began posting this series caused the content of my posts to almost fit perfectly with the dates. I posted Act 1, about sin and the fall of mankind on Friday the 13th. Act 2, about God’s love and the death of the Savior was posted on Valentines Day. And finally, the resurrection and return of Christ and eschatology (this Act 3) was posted on a Sunday when the gospel story holds that Christ rose from the dead. If I were still a Christian, I would consider this timing divine, but, well, sometimes things just happen, you know?