Friday, November 14, 2008

Those Who Have Hope

Click the "play button" for Left Behind promo...

1 Thessalonians 4

A few years back (1995), the first book in the series, Left Behind, was published. They sold about a gazillion books. I don't remember how many there were (14?), but I read two or three to see what all of the stir was about. The books focused on "the rapture." All the Christians in the world were beamed up to heaven in a flash, leaving a bunch of poor saps wandering around on earth with the Antichrist. I enjoyed the first book as titillating, if not well-written, fiction. At the end of the 2nd one I started to feel sick. I fizzled out somewhere in the third book, I think. What bugged me was that the characters were all narcissists.

You really can't blame God for leaving them behind.

Beyond that, I began to realize that I was getting sucked into the shallow theology. "Could this stuff be right?? Hmmm." It is a theology that looks joyfully forward to the evil decay of our world. Even though the books are written as fiction, they invite the reader to start viewing the world from a fatalistic place - but with a great, gleeful, "I know a secret that you don't know" perspective. As if the best way to view our world is, "Wars? Global warming? Terrorism? Hunger & hate? GREAT! Bring it on! Then Jesus will come! Niener, Neiner!" It's all very exciting and sells books.

It also teaches people bad theology.

Think I'm exaggerating? Check out the video at the top of this post, from a recent promo site for the book - (or click here - there's a second "episode" too).
The authors are also writing a new slew of books as well. I think they could accurately be labeled, "fictoprohecy."

Is this the best we Christians can do with the world in it's current shape? More importantly, is that what our Bible teaches us? Hardly. What happened to "salt & light?" Yet this very letter we are studying this week, 1 Thessalonians (4:13-5:11), is one that rapturists point to and say, "Look here - see??!"

I think we miss the point of most passages that talk about Jesus' return (and where did we ever get the phrase "2nd Coming" - he already came back a few times after the resurrection - so we have to be looking at at least his 7th coming by now). Jesus and Paul both seem to focus on how to live now, not when Christ will return or how we should be freaking out with glee when things get bad. And the Bible speaks of Jesus' return, not mainly in terms of destruction, but as a grand re-creation and restoration. Yes, evil will be wiped out at last. Justice will be done. There will be a judgment. And all things will be made right. Finally. But when it comes and what it looks like -who knows?

The words of all the OT prophets, of Jesus, Paul and John all point in one direction: Turn to God now while there is time; live justly; be ready; forgive; remember God is in control; share the Gospel; love God and one another.
We are to be a people who live with hope in a physical resurrection. - Curtis