Friday, November 20, 2009

This Will Not Change

 It's not just California... it's the whole world!
- John Cusack's character in 2012, the movie 

No, I haven't seen the movie yet.  Short on story, long on special effects I suspect.   But Hollywood knows we love a good end-of-the-world thriller every few years.  It taps into our social anxiety that things are just getting worse and worse. What's next - how about The END?!  I had a wonderful lunch with someone today  and we were talking about the state of things in the world.  They asked the Big Question: "Where's all this going to end up?"  Nobody really knows in the short term, of course.  My prediction: Things could get a lot worse.  Or they might get a lot better.  I'm pretty sure I'm right.

This week I'm preaching on Revelation 1.  Is this the start of a 26 week sermon series on Revelation, complete with charts and timelines and clear explanations of the "mark of the beast" and identities of four horsemen?  Hardly.  When I first became a Christian roughly 30 years ago, I dove deep into that stuff.  Hal Lindsay's The Late Great Planet Earth scared the crud out of me - and I loved it.  Maybe it was the mental rush of thinking I knew some kind of secret about God's timing or plans for the world.  Who wouldn't like to have a world-changing secret stashed away?  Automatically you're brilliant and everyone else is just a poor, ignorant fool.  There's an appeal to that.

In his book (published in 1979), Lindsay wrote that about 70% of the prophecies in the bible had already taken place, and that most of the rest seemed to be on the verge of fulfillment.  He then writes:

What generation [would experience the end times predicted in] Matthew 24:34? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs -- chief among them the rebirth of Israel.  A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place. (Late, Great pg. 54)

Lindsay was careful to never predict the "day or the hour" but he seemed to support the idea that it would take place in the next decade or so (the 80's or 90's).  And there were many so-called scholars who believed that 1988 would be the most likely year for the rapture and Christ's return.

1988 came and went, and it hasn't happened yet.  Which isn't to say that the hope of Christ's return is untrue.  It is, in fact, at the very core of our hope in a resurrected Jesus.  The Bible is clear that things won't be made completely right - they can't - until Christ returns and transforms everything.  Paul puts it this way,

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Romans 8:20-22 (NLT)

But does that mean we should get giddy when things get bad?  "Finally!  Wars! Pestilence! Hunger! Cataclysm - YES!  Jesus must be about to come back!"    No, that's not the attitude that would serve God or our world well.  Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, lovers of enemies, blessers of the poor - in other words do the work of recreation in the power of the Spirit until he returns and finishes the job.  But I've gotten way ahead of myself.  

The message this week won't go that for, most likely.  Instead we'll focus on  John, who sat rotting on the island of Patmos - and penned the book of Revelation.  He has a bead on how we can not only make it through, but perhaps even thrive as God's people in these "in-between times" - no matter how hard they get or what happens along the way. 
- Curtis