Originally I wanted to name this post: “The implications of eschatological pessimism and escapism” but then I imagined the average response of my target audience would be: “boooring.” Then I wanted to label it “why we should not be stockpiling an underground bunker full of freeze dried food and weapons as we wait for a seven year battle with the antichrist” but it was too long. Too bad, I liked that one. So instead I titled it as short and controversial as I can, hoping all the rapture-obsessed folks could climb out of their bunkers and come here to take a look.
The Gospel of Jesus the End Times
I remember being young and hearing prophets, who were said to be channeling God (in a “Thus saith the Lord” way), speak of the impending end times. Their words drove fear into my bones. As I lay on my bed I would imagine a dystopian future, and ponder whether I would have the ability of sacrificing my life to be saved. (For some reason I was convinced I wouldn’t make it in the rapture and would be left behind). My only option in most fantasies and day dreams was to run away and hide. I would imagine exotic places where we could be safe. Yet we Pentecostals were hardly alone in having an end time centered theology and missiology; many Christian groups were and still are just as strongly focused on the rapture, which (last I checked) is a few months away. Those that grew up without the ecstatic prophecies, grew up in a world dominated by something even more frightening: rapture films.
Who can forget the dread from seeing the arm-patch-wearing soldiers abducting and forcing people to be killed by that chrome guillotine in “Thief in the night.” This movie did for the rapture what Star Wars did for science fiction. For an 8 year old, it was scarier than ‘Friday the 13th’ and Lady Gaga. Every time my parents disappeared without telling me, I was convinced the Day of the Lord was upon us. I even appointed a few persons as my rapture barometers. They were so good that I knew that I if they were still around, the rapture hadn’t happened. I was so antsy, a neighbor practicing his trumped could startle me into thinking the trumpet call of the Lord was upon us. We cared about this stuff, alot. Every barcode was eyed suspiciously. The government, even more suspiciously. Some preached about the antichrist with such vigor that I often felt he would burst into the room at any second. The end times were a big deal and many of us just wanted to run and hide.
The consequences of “rapture-ready”
Because of the size and influence of this rapture preaching machine that continually spits out books, films, and conferences, it is no wonder many dispensationalists (those that hold to the “Left Behind” rapture view) are fascinated and driven by the end times. It often takes one of the most pivotal roles in their theology. Without question some of my good friends are strongly convinced that it is only a few years away, of course they said the same thing a few years ago as well. When it comes to those who are captivated by the rapture and the end times, not all is bad. Some tend to be fervent in conducting evangelism (good) because they believe this is the last harvest. Though some might do this by telling people they have only a few years before Armageddon (not so good, because if someone repents to be saved from the imminent end times, but lives many years without seeing this, they may doubt their faith) While some try to “prepare the final harvest” many others take a pessimistic escapist approach. I once had a very distant uncle who left his family in the states and went to Saudi Arabia to prepare a place for them. He was robbed and came back empty-handed. Fortunately, a good 15 years later he has not needed his Arabian getaway. I know of others who moved to rural areas of South America to avoid the microchips. I last heard a rumor that they were dealing with disease and poverty, being unable to move back to the states. Still others are preparing basements full of pickled cucumbers and Kent Hovind dvd’s. As Mars Hill Everett is moving into a new building, which was previously an armory, there has already been one person who has approached the church, having the wrong idea about the word “Armory” and the church’s missiology, asking when he can bring the ammunition and start building the underground bunker. So many people, from so many nations and denominations are ready to hunker down and hide out, as if “Hurricane Antichrist” is bearing down and needs to be weathered.
For many people to be “rapture ready” means to lock the doors, pack your bags, and wait for the rapture taxi. There is no mission, no neighbors to love, no life goals, only the fear of a world ready to explode and the plans of a secret escape in the middle of the night.
Why I’m not getting ready for the rapture
1. I am not ready to escape here, there is way too much to be done.
I have not done enough, not nearly enough to show even one tiny smidgeon of gratitude for what Jesus has done for me. The only hope I have is that I can show it in heaven. I don’t want to leave this world after only doing so little. Why would I waste the short few years I have on this planet only to convince everyone there is no time left? Why should I tell people “to the bunkers! to the desert!” instead of telling them “to Jesus!” What is the point of that? Being safe without Jesus is not safe at all, while being in danger with Jesus is the safest place to be.
2. Christ’s mission tells us to plant our roots, not pack our bags.
The whole point of Christ’s great commission is to encourage and equip us to make others into disciples. This includes going out into the world, loving people, showing kindness, making friendships, and seeing God’s transformative power working out in people. Scripture doesn’t teach us to build underground bunkers or hide from the mission. Even if, and that’s a huge if, the antichrist and all his cronies show up tomorrow with matching 666 tee-shirts, what then? Abandon ship? Abandon the mission? Throughout history the church has often been persecuted, yet has never though it a reason to abandon ship. So because yet another antichrist shows up and he has gadgets, everything changes?
3. Every generation before us has already “been there & done that”
Let’s be honest, how many people from every single generation have already lived whole lives, convinced of an imminent rapture, and yet died before ever seeing the culmination of their beliefs? It has been a wasted endeavor, it has wasted peoples time and wasted (think nuclear warhead laying waste to a city, that kind of wasted) people’s faith. Everyone who said “it’s over just the horizon, just watch” but been wrong. Let me repeat that again, so far everyone has been wrong. So what makes you think you’re different? Look at that, your answer in the same exact answer that all the others folks who have been wrong have previously given. On that note, while you are busy screaming about the end of the world and prophecies, you might die, not having done much else except prepare your bunker. Perhaps it can be your grave?
4. There are other (even better) eschatological views than Pre-Trib Dispensationalism
Often those growing up in certain streams of the church were raised on only one type of eschatology (study of the end times). Usually this involves a dude named Nicolae Carpathia (Left Behind fans will get this) and microchips. Yet there are other, robust, theological views of the end times, that don’t teach us to hide, and that, in my opinion, answer some of these questions in an even better way. You can check out a very basic primer here. What you (and I) read about in Left Behind or watched on the “tey-vee” is not necessarily God’s gospel truth.