November 1, 2014

Advent I: Apocalypse Then. What about Now?

ADVENT IC

  • Jeremiah 33:14-16
  • Psalm 25:1-10
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
  • Luke 21:25-36

Prayer of the Day
Stir up your power, O Lord, and come. Protect us by your strength and save us from the threatening dangers of our sins, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

* * *

Apocalypse Then. What about Now?

Advent is about the Lord’s coming. Many of the Biblical texts we hear in Advent sound ominous. The refreshing rain of salvation comes amidst dark thunderous clouds of judgment and brisk winds of prophetic warning that send shivers down our spines. The warning signs are everywhere: Repent, for the End is near!

On this first Sunday of Advent, I have a confession: the older I get, the more I find apocalyptic doom and gloom the least helpful kind of Christian (or human) perspective. The other day, while sitting in a waiting room, I caught a glimpse of the National Geographic television show, “Doomsday Preppers.” Wow. You can go to their website and take a survey to find out your “Prepper Score” — how prepared you are to face a global cataclysm. I’m guessing mine’s hovering around zero.

However, there are times in history when apocalyptic is appropriate. Today’s Gospel text is an example.

One key to understanding Jesus’ words in Luke 21:25-36 is to accept the timing he pinpoints: “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place” (21:32). Our Lord was warning his disciples about tumultuous events that would happen in their lifetime. Therefore, I think Tom Wright has it right in terms of the basic contours of how we should interpret Jesus’ words in Luke 21:

The best place to begin is on safe ground — safe for us in terms of our understanding the text, but decidedly unsafe for anyone there at the time. Verses 20-24 are clear, and fit with everything Luke has reported Jesus as saying up to this point. A time of great crisis is coming, in which the failure of Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular to repent and follow the kingdom-way advocated by Jesus would have its disastrous result. The Romans would come (they are not mentioned by name, but if anyone was likely to surround Jerusalem with armies it was surely them) and would lay siege to the city. The result would not be in doubt.

Luke for Everyone

Wright proceeds to discuss how the apocalyptic language in the passage is best understood in terms of the prophetic visions of Daniel 7, which speak to the vindication of the Son of Man and the people of God. Whether or not Jesus’ words have reverberations beyond the Fall of Jerusalem is another question, but I accept the position that the events described here took place within the lifetime of his audience.

So then, what we have in today’s gospel lesson is “Apocalypse Then” — a look back at a pending crisis that would affect Jerusalem, the Jewish nation and religion, and the young Christian church forever. Jesus exhorts his disciples to recognize the signs of things to come and to stay prepared and alert to face the impending onslaught. The Fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, with its national and international impact, was an event tied to both world history and salvation history — an apocalyptic occurrence worthy of that kind of thinking, talking, and acting.

Aftermath of the bombing of Dresden

What about Now?

I’ve been hearing this same kind of apocalyptic language since the early 1970’s. In the U.S. one of the waves that caused evangelicalism to rise and gain momentum was a wave of end-time teaching. The Lord was coming back any day, and identifying “signs of the times” became a regular preoccupation.

Israel’s 1947 return to Palestine and Jerusalem for the first time since 70 AD provided much of the impetus for that emphasis. Then, the Cold War divided the world and created a standoff between powers capable of destroying the world with nuclear weapons. The social upheavals of the 1960’s and 70’s led into a generation of escalating culture wars that continue to this day, ever more divisive. After the Berlin Wall fell, Islamic terrorists rose and took center stage as last days villains of impending doom. Warnings about changes in the earth’s climate have grown increasingly dire. Technologies have increased our awareness of global events, simultaneously multiplying our partially educated opinions and full blown fears. The dogmatic language and division of the world into clear black and white alternatives characteristic of apocalyptic seems to have become more prominent, at least in our public expressions of politics and religion.

These days, at every turn, preachers and prognosticators of all stripes are pronouncing dire predictions of the end of the world (at least as we know it). A militant shadow is cast over almost every issue, and one is urged to choose sides and store up provisions for hard times ahead.

But are we living in days that portend imminent crises which justify stirring up the faithful into apocalyptic fervor?

I don’t think we are. Of course, in many ways, every age has its reasons for thinking disasters may be right around the corner. It is also true that we never know when some great cataclysm may suddenly fall from the skies and change our lives forever. Ask folks living in New Jersey and New York about that.

But are we who hear this Gospel text today facing calamitous events of imminent destruction like what the Jewish nation experienced in 70 AD?

Do you believe in “the end of the world”?

Can we humans, who have been through such events as the Crusades, the Black Death, and countless wars — including two “world” wars — and genocides, foresee, as Jesus did, a comparable day of destruction and re-ordering worthy of “last days” language?

If not, what does a text like this say to us today?

If apocalyptic is not the best language to use to prepare us for the days to come, what is?

Comments

  1. We are always on the edge of apocalypse. Nature is unstable and volatile as are we human beings. The mantle of Earth floats on an unimaginable globe of molten lava, liquid hell. Human being are violent and capricious and capable of every iniquity. The world of spirit is full of principalities and powers that claim honors due only to God. Apocalypse is the normal condition of fallen creation. God is merciful and gracious in restraining the full power of destruction and chaos that this unbalanced world contains. We should always be ready for all the moments of apocalypse to add up to the final Apocalypse that is inevitably coming. Normalcy and continuity are illusions.

    • I think that’s an unhealthy view, Robert. The Psalms reveal seasons of orientation, distorientation, and reorientation and wise pastoral work involves speaking a word in due season. If we’re always on the edge of apocalypse, then the shrill voices of end times preachers would be constantly appropriate, and I don’t think that’s the case.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And after an unending diet of “shrill voices of end times preachers”, there is only one end state.

        Suicidal Despair.

      • Aidan Clevinger says:

        I don’t think it needs to be an unhealthy view, because the apocalypse – for Christians – is a *good* thing. It means Christ’s return to establish His Kingdom in its fullness, to save us eternally from sin and death, and to lead us into a blessed eternity with Him. I think that we’ve been in “the end times” since the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, and Christ could return as I finish this sentence (I sincerely hope we will). Rather than having that be a message of despair or woe or the need to shape up and get one’s nose clean, I think it’s a message of *hope*: Jesus is coming back to rescue me from my sins and pains and weaknesses, and to take me to be with Him.

        I think the Creed puts it wonderfully: “I *look for* the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come”.

        • Aidan Clevinger says:

          I’ll immediately add, however, that I completely understand your disdain for the message of the “shrill” end times preachers; having been hurt by their teachings myself, I sympathize deeply. But the whole question of the end times took a different form when I realized that the kernel of truth in their preaching (namely, that Jesus could come back at any time) was beautiful when placed with the other things that Scripture says about the end: Jesus could come back at any time, and when He does I will be ushered into eternal joy in the resurrection, and the universe will be made right again and healed of the effects of sin.

          Moreover, I think the answer to the despair that can be brought on by considering the apocalypse is to constantly, constantly, constantly preach that our standing and security on the Last Day is because of Christ alone, and not our own goodness or progress in sanctification. The “preparation” that I do is to repent of my sins and put my faith in Him; *He* is coming to wash *me*.

      • Unhealthy? Thank you: I take that as a compliment. I can only aspire to lead a life even a fraction as unbalanced (that is, leaning into the Kingdom of God) as Jesus’ life; besides, I have eschatological hope (consult Jurgen Moltmann), which is better than health.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Human being are violent and capricious and capable of every iniquity. The world of spirit is full of principalities and powers that claim honors due only to God. Apocalypse is the normal condition of fallen creation. God is merciful and gracious in restraining the full power of destruction and chaos that this unbalanced world contains. We should always be ready for all the moments of apocalypse to add up to the final Apocalypse that is inevitably coming.

      Sounds like some guy who got banned from Internet Monk around six years ago, who would end such Crapsack rub-in-the-faces with “And I will be Laughing while the World Burns.”

      i.e. Grinning Nihilism.

      Grimdark and Crapsack as Warhammer 40K. And any bright spot is just Crapsaccharine.

      It’s All Over But The Screaming.

      • It’s called fallenness, HUG. It extends to the very structure of the universe. Ever hear of the Second Law of Thermodynamics? You just don’t seem to take evil very seriously. You seem to grin at the idea of evil. Is it funny? The Scriptures don’t seem to imply that it’s funny. Is there anyplace in the gospels where it says of Jesus: “Jesus laughed.” ?

        • Robert, what I would say is that there is a restfulness and even “leisureliness” about Jesus’ ministry. One thing we forget is the simple fact that he and his disciples walked from location to location, took time to share meals together, and spend time in solitude and prayer. We can take evil seriously and “lean into the Kingdom” (I like that phrase) without the constant intensity and dire pronouncements that, in my mind, betray a lack of trust in God’s sovereignty, goodness, and grace. This “apocalyptic” mindset also misses the ebb and flow of life itself, with its long stretches of ordinary days punctuated by occasional crises. Of course, there are far too many who don’t experience that but appear to move from crisis to crisis. Apocalypse appears in Scripture at times of great crisis, it is not a constant drumbeat.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            For “constant drumbeat”, I refer everyone to the Internet Monk Classic “Wretched Urgency: the Grace of God or Hamsters on a Wheel” at http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-classic-wretched-urgency%e2%80%94the-grace-of-god-or-hamsters-on-a-wheel.

          • The reason that so many sensationalistic end- time prognosticators are able to exploit apocalyptic scenarios of their own devising is because responsible Christian thinkers and theologians have largely ignored what is a primary aspect of Christian discipleship, life, experience, expectation and hope. The metanarrative that shapes the Christian story is not a cyclical one, like that of Hindu cosmology or Aztec calendars; Jesus is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. But there is an end to the current dispensation wherein death and predation undo every human project. And this is not to accept the framework of Scofieldian dispensationalism. The good news is that Jesus has won the victory over evil and will cosmically reveal himself as the giver of life at his Parousia; that good news is given in the wake of the bad news that without Jesus, there is no hope for this dying world or any individual inhabiting it. We are to proclaim both of these truths in our life and words. This is the content of apocalyptic consciousness and of eschatological hope.

    • “God is merciful and gracious in restraining the full power of destruction and chaos that this unbalanced world contains.”

      I have shared this here at iMonk before, and here it is again….I had an epiphany last year regarding this, that perhaps God is more active in preventing calamities for befalling us than we realize. And not just natural disaster calamities, but health calamities, financial calamities, relationship calamities…whatever “good” that’s going on around us, perhaps it is God actively preventing worse from happening.

      Funny, though…that doesn’t make me think an apocalypse is coming; it just makes me thankful that God loves us and is the reason for any good that is happening right now.

      • Rick, I think I remember your comment….because it made me think about the car crashes I was 5 seconds too early or late to be affected by, and the kidney stone that revealed ovarain cancer at its very most initial and treatable stage, and similar events in my life.

        The end of the world, or just the end of my life…either way, my current job is to make sure that I am standing so close the God that the fires of hell and the snares of demons cannot permanently surround me.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          But that always begs the question of why God DIDN’T spare the guy who was 5 seconds earlier or later than you and DID get hit. I don’t think anybody’s ever come up with an airtight explanation for that.

          • This is going to sound very weak and lame…..but God knew the number of the other guy’s days before he was concieved. We all have our allotment, but only He knows that “magic” number, whether we die before we breathe air, or die at 122 years of age. ( He also knows already when it IS my day for the cancer to return or a speeding truck to aim at ME.)

            Now….that is the best I can do with totally beyond my pea-brained issue.

            I do, however, have a totally unsupported, personal view, derived from life and being hospice nurse and not a single fact or revelatiion…..I think that the more messed up a life is, far from God and His grace, the longer a person lives, ad God keeps giving her/him more opportunities to find Him. Others know the Lord and finish their assigned job on earth when they are young (sometimes very young).

          • I like Pattie’s weak and lame response. Here’s my weak and lame:

            It is by God’s grace that we are here living on this earth in the first place. That God DOESN’T spare the guy who gets hit 5 seconds before or after Pattie isn’t the issue. The issue is that the guy was able to spend so many years living in the first place: that is God’s grace.

            Again, that was the epiphany I had, based upon this woman’s response to having cancer return after 12 years of being cancer-free. “God gave me twelve years when I didn’t have any recurrence of cancer. Praise Him!”

            We focus too much on the negatives and say, “God didn’t…” Instead, let’s focus on the positives and say, “By God’s grace…”

  2. How about this?

    Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat

    46 And Mary said,

    “My soul magnifies the Lord,
    47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
    48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
    49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
    50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
    51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
    52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
    53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
    54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
    55 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

  3. I grew up during that prophecy mania in the 70s and 80s, and it was a real stumblinge block to my coming to faith for many years. Every great “Christian nation” that has met its historical end (I’m particularly thinking of the Roman Empires, West and East) has thought their passing marked the End of the Age. So on the one hand, I have my doubts about calling our present troubles the beginning of the end.

    On the other hand… I see a whole series of crises coming together. Financial (unsustainable debts public and private), demographic (the aging of the industrialized world and the unravelling of the ability to sustain the social safety net), the straining of our natural resources (food and fuel in particular), and the growing effects of climate change. Ours is a global civilization, and it’s end could have… well, apocalyptic implications.

    I’m not going to paint my car with Bible verses; I’m not going to buy a cabin in the woods and start hoarding guns and rations. But lately, Luke 21:25-26 and Rev 11:18 have been echoing in my brain. And I worry.

    • This is exactly what I was thinking. You said it better than me, nice job.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I grew up during that prophecy mania in the 70s and 80s, and it was a real stumblinge block to my coming to faith for many years.

      And it still is. There’s always some remnant of those years lingering on deep in your hindbrain.

      • So, headless unicorn guy, tell me your world view. I have not viewed the comments on Internet Monk posts for a while but I’m curious as to what you are thinking. Your comments on this post seem a bit mean spirited.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Just I got seriously burned by the Gospel According to Hal Lindsay back in the Seventies. Plus hopping through a couple church environments where you had to seriously stifle yourself to fit in with the other worship bots.

        • Tom, HUG does not need help in explaining himself, but if I may add in, he is one of finest questioners and writers, and his use of sarcasm is to edify, or to point out many a naked emperor! HUG asks hard questions and rejects pablum as an answer, but mean-spirited?? Nope, not his style at all.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I turned 57 weekend before last. As I age, I have developed Zero Tolerance for stupidity. Especially arrogant stupidity. One of the side effects of “wisdom” is noticing how all around you “The dog returns to his vomit, The sow returns to her mire, And the burnt fool’s bandaged finger wobbles right back into the fire.” After a while, “the urge to choke the stupid out of people” can just get overwhelming.

          • “….Zero Tolerance for stupidity.” Is it because I’m stupid that your above comment sounds so incredibly smug and arrogant to me, the very epitome of self-righteous posturing that you accuse others of? Can you help me understand how such an attitude is remotely Christian? Why is it that you feel free to call your brothers fools? Am I wrong, or did Jesus warn against this?

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            Don’t think he called you stupid, Robert F. You applied that label to yourself.

            However, HUG, same as me, loves sarcasm. It’s an effective way of letting people know that you can see the errors of their logic, while also protecting yourself from getting so emotionally invested in being right that you lose yourself in the conversation. Nothing wrong with calling someone out on their wrongness or boneheadedness if that person is wrong and boneheaded…

            …and now, we’re going to wait to see how long it takes for you to take that statement personally…

          • Marcus,
            Habitual sarcasm is indeed a way of hiding, Marcus. It is a protective device for those who are unable or unwilling to engage in real dialogue with those who have different views than theirs. But what it actually protects one from is the possibility that in the process of dialogue one’s opinion might change. When used habitually, as HUG uses it, it is a form of passive aggression. And it has no edifying value whatsoever, because it doesn’t treat the target as worthy of actual engagement. Unlike the brilliant and edifying Christian irony (not sarcasm) of, say, Kierkegaard.
            And I ask my questions again: didn’t Jesus warn against calling your brother a fool? How is such an attitude of contempt remotely Christian?
            And now I’m (is that the royal WE you’re using, Marcus?) going to see how long it takes HUG or you or anyone else in his missile defense system to answer my serious questions.

          • Robert, et al. I prefer not to have these kinds of discussions where we’re talking about others in the comments. If you want to exchange emails I will gladly get contact information for whoever is interested (with proper permission of course).

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Note Robert’s Passive-Aggressive Blame Shift…

  4. > If not, what does a text like this say to us today?

    Mostly, I think it illustrates the end of an age. There have been many apocalypses; an apocalypse defines the end of an age – the transition of history into a new section. This was about the end of the historic nation of Israel as the epicenter of a significant thread of history. And that end would resound down through the next several thousand years. If Israel has somehow survived 70AD how different the world today would be.

    >If apocalyptic is not the best language to use to prepare us for the days to come, what is?

    Different but not all that different. Many threats loom over us – almost all of our own making. Threats made of our short sightedness, selfishness, vindictiveness, and inability to act coherently. There is no shortage of the need for repentance – both personally and corporately (the later being something I don’t know if the Evangelicals believe in). We need to heed the cries of the poor and the oppressed, speak for *all* those without a voice (not just for easy groups like the unborn – but the the tattered as well), examine our own lives, and urge those around us to respond with both charity and diligence against the real looming threats [which will swell the ranks of the poor, oppressed, tattered, and voiceless]. Most notably we can just get rid of the fear part. There needs to be more preaching calling people to rise [with humility and wisdom and magnanimous heart] and not to cower [with fear and dread]. God is great, not small, not petty, God has a magnanimous heart, and we should live as though we were made in his image.

    • “Mostly, I think it illustrates the end of an age. There have been many apocalypses; an apocalypse defines the end of an age – the transition of history into a new section.”

      You know what does a good job of illustrating this concept, at least from a fictional sense? Lord of the Rings. The way Tolkien developed his world, created its histories, and then showed how the various passing of the ages came about…well, it’s fascinating. And the whole end of the age of elves and magic, the passing of the baton, so to speak, to men…well, it could be viewed as an apocalypse to those races, but a new dawn for another.

      I agree with a lot of what you say here, Adam.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        So does the ending scenes of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. When the chase finally reaches the Yucatan coast and stops dead with the first Conquistadors coming ashore, all I could think of was the words of prophecy spoken by the girl with smallpox in that eariler scene:

        “He will lead you to those who will End Your World.”

  5. I think Wright (and the orthodox/’partial’ Preterist) view of eschatology in general is right on the money.

    However, I think the world is in for some rough times ahead. Not due to any specific prophecy, but as a result of the greedy and irresponsible behavior of the civilized world – namely related to the explosive combination of changing demographics and out-of-control debt. Unlike dispensational eschatology, however, there’s no predicting how it’ll all turn out.

    • “I think the world is in for some rough times ahead. Not due to any specific prophecy, but as a result of the greedy and irresponsible behavior of the civilized world – namely related to the explosive combination of changing demographics and out-of-control debt. Unlike dispensational eschatology, however, there’s no predicting how it’ll all turn out.”

      I totally agree.

    • +1

  6. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Advent is about the Lord’s coming. Many of the Biblical texts we hear in Advent sound ominous.

    Especially when you’ve been prepped by Hal Lindsay (Late Great Planet Earth) and Jack Chick (This Was Your Life, The Beast).

  7. I suspect the West is slipping into permanent decline and believe we will see the ascendancy of Islam in terms of cultural dominance in years to come, which could well usher in a new dark age. China will become the economic center of the world. We have been a profligate people and squandered the material blessings produced by blood, sweat and slave labor over the past 200 years.

    I do pray that the U.S. will remain a haven for God’s people and I have the audacity to believe that we will still provide care and sustenance to much of the world’s destitute and, thus, remain useful in God’s eyes. On history’s vast timeline, we have been no more than a flash in the pan. If the Lord were to return soon, I wouldn’t feel shortchanged. In fact, I’m rooting for it. We enter the dark before the dawn, and that is reason for optimism. There will be al ight at the end. The road, however, is about to get rough.

    This op-ed from the Wall Street Journal should be required reading: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323353204578127374039087636.html

    I don’t plan on stocking up on ammunition, however. The road to real power is in double-A batteries. :)

    • I’ve heard people saying the things you’re saying ever since I can remember. The US probably will decline in power overall, but we’re also sitting on huge swaths of resource-rich land. China would like to become more powerful on the world stage, but it has its own problems. It’s population is aging quickly, and there are less and less young people to take care of the old.

      One thing I do know, is that I have learned to be very skeptical of anyone making predictions about the future. Most of them are wrong.

    • Interesting that you mention both Islam and China. I was discussing China with someone just a couple days ago, and during that discussion we both concluded that Islam will meet its match not against America or even Christians, but against China. I won’t go into all that we discussed, but it just struck us that Islam’s main opponent won’t be a religion, but a culture, and that the Chinese culture runs kinda counter to Islam. If and when China’s economy becomes the global power, that’s when some sort of clash will occur. Could be interesting, if Christianity ends up not being the great confronter of Islam, but China does, and we Christians become observes of the clash.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I’m sure if it comes to a showdown, China will have a solution for Islam.

        A Final Solution.

        Though most scenarios I’ve seen involve “Using one set of gwai lo to fight another”, with America and Islam fighting it out while China “sits upon the mountain watching the tigers fight”, then comes down off the mountain to pick up the pieces after the tigers kill each other.

  8. Famous and not so famous death tolls:

    1330’s-Bubonic Plague-deaths estimated at 25 MILLION people in five years in Europe

    1918-Spanish Flu-deaths estimated at 50-100 MILLION in a single year

    WWII-1939 to 1945-65 MILLION

    1206-1207-Genghis Khan-40 MILLION

    1949-19-Mao Zedong, China-40 MILLION

    1769, 1876, 1896, 1943-Colonial famine in India-27 MILLION

    1635-62-Fall of Ming Dynasty-25 MILLION

    1370-1405-Tamerlane,Central Asia-17 MILLION

    This list goes on and on. Most of the deaths are events occurring far away from the U.S. and that many here have no idea of.

    Point being, manking has always suffered terrible losses due to disease, famine, war and strife. This is nothing new and I find no “trend” showing that it is worsening.

    And the world’s population has doubled in the last century or so…more people would mean more death, IF a trend was present.
    1/3rd of Europe died due to the Black Plague in the 1300’s…if that were to occur today with an estimated European population of 857 million, the Plague in Europe would have to kill off 285 MILLION people!!!

    What is happening, in this great age of technological advancement, is that you and I here about events moments rather than years, if at all, after things happen.

    The world is a safer place now that it was 50 years ago and much safer that it was 2,000 years ago.

    Apocalyptic hype is just that…hype! Sells lots of books, though…

    And IF I was going to “stock up” on anything for a forthcoming apocalypse, it would be: alcohol, cigarettes, ammunition and toilet paper, aka the currency of the future, IMHO! :)

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      Maybe if you were in prison, those items would be useful, but I’m from Michigan, where smoking is no longer allowed in most public areas. Scratch the cigarettes; get yourself some dry goods and batteries.

  9. We need to distinguish questions related to interpreting biblical apocalypticism (which is by no means limited to eschatology) from questions related to the human future. The first are best approached through biblical scholarship, and the second, through recognized natural and social sciences. Neither are likely to yield definitive answers, though many popular notions may be safely dismissed. Key to biblical apocalypticism is the visionary element, e.g. in the form of ecstatic celestial journeys which take on dreamlike imagery (though they may also reference ancient cosmologies). Apocalypse should be turned to not for “predictions” of the end, but for constant archetypes. To identify, for example, the Antichrist with Nero, or President Obama, is too reductive by half (though the first comes closer to illuminating the text of Revelation). Far better is John of the epistles, who writes that there are many antichrists, and he who hates his brother is an antichrist. In any case, the main point of the Book of Revelation is Christ’s triumph over all persecution, not the end of the world. It is a message of hope, not despair.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      It’s a Story, not a Checklist.

      A Story using fantastic imagery.

      P.S. Antichrist is a rotating position, with “This Is It!” Antichrists switching off on a regular basis — usually whoever offends the End Time Prophecy type at the moment.

      “Too many Christians are more interested in who the Antichrist will be than who Christ is.” — J Vernon Magee

  10. The apocalyptic fervor and even just talking about the Lord’s coming, generally misses a key point: “It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work…”

    It is the work that he leaves his servant to do that is the point of the parable of the talents and the accounting when he returns.

    We rejoice in Advent but how good are we with sharing the story with those around us who do not know or understand? http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/improbable-advent-prepare-ye-the-way/

  11. Rather than apocolypse, I think kairos (appointed, fullness of time, rather than chronological time) better describes the Christian perspective and significance of time, the present moment, and how we live in the present moment, knowing that time is moving toward its appointment before the throne of the Lamb of God.

  12. Marcus Johnson says:

    I see conspiracy theorists on here, ranting about the oncoming apocalypse, and the slow march to the eventual persecutions of Christ-followers. Of course, anyone could easily interpret these end-times passages of Scripture as justification for building bomb shelters and stocking up on ammunition and dry goods (it could be much simpler to determine that this was Jesus’ way of saying, “All this leads to the time in which the earth will be made new; don’t focus on the tribulation, focus on the triumph,” but who has time for that?).

    However, I think all this fake concern about Muslims and atheists is misplaced; we need to focus on the real enemy…

    ZOMBIES!!!

    Half-dead creatures who never sleep, never rest, and will never stop trying to eat the living. They have no soul, their teeth are razor sharp, and if they don’t kill you with their bite, they will turn you into one of them (a permanent conversion, much worse than anything a Muslim or atheist can do to you). Stop trying to identify people or nations who reject the body of Christ; fear those who will eat the body of…well…you.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I can only repeat what I read on here a long long time ago:

      “ZOMBIE BEST MONSTER. JESUS SAY ‘EAT MY FLESH’. ZOMBIE FOLLOW JESUS.”

  13. Wow, I’ve never heard a Christian say “these are definitely not the end times” before. None of us know the day or hour . . .
    I was definitely influenced by growing up in the conservative Christian culture of the 70’s and 80’s too. I still remember being so concerned about my hamster dying when no one was there to feed him when we were all raptured back in 1985 ha ha. And the movies with the NWO UN white vans with the guillotines for Christians. “Wish we’d all been ready . . .”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Special face-palm when you realize that Thief in the Night et al is actually one of the better-done high points of Christian Apocalyptic cinema. Giant rubber scorpion stingers and all.

      And after a steady diet of Hal Lindsay, Left Behind, and “THIS IS IT!!!!!”, you need someone to say “these are definitely NOT the End Times” just to balance things out.