Strange how strange topics seem to converge in any given week. a couple of weeks ago I had a rash of questions about the issue of the GLBTQ community and the church/bible. I got invited to participate in a Pride Worship service and was told that I was going to hell because I accept and affirm the GLBTQ folk.
This week it has been end times stuff. The local Seventh Day Adventist Church has really been pounding the prosyletizing pavement with the end of the world pitch which has caused some questions, doubts and fears among some. Another local congregation has been hyping up the end-time preaching (because of tornados I guess) and that has caused a stir scaring some kids I know. Growing up in a fundamentalist environment I was subjected to "The Late Great Planet Earth' movie craze of the late seventies/early eighties. Rapture was a regular topic of sermons as was the Tribulation. It was absolutely traumatic for me. Here are some basics when debunking the end-times rhetoric.
1. Rapture isn't even in Revelation (John the author reports being taken up to the heavenly realms for a vision, but this is a regular theme in the prophetic genre. there is certainly NO reference to Christians flying toward heaven. AND when 1 Thess. is quoted 'we will go to meet (Jesus) in the air, that doesn't mean we'll fly away. It was a regular social norm for cities to go out and greet victorious leaders back from battle outside the city gates to ESCORT THEM BACK!!! So Paul isn't trying to tell us we're leaving, he's trying to tell us that Jesus has returned to stay.
2. Read the end of Revelation, say 20-21. The point of all that comes before is that God is coming back to be with humanity and make earth the Eden God intended it to be. this isn't supposed to be scary and God isn't destructive. This is re-Creating going on.
3. God is a God of both justice and mercy. This end-times rhetoric only present one vision of God, the angry wrathful vision. Read Revelation with the entire Bible in mind. God is merciful, God is forgiving, God is creative. Those who preach end-times are not presenting a full picture of God.
4. Apocalyptic Literature (which Revelation is one example of) is symbolic and it is politically subversive. The writer didn't literally expect the end of the space-time continuum. Jewish thought regarding the return of God or the advent of a Messiah, as diverse as it was, never included the expectation of the destruction of the world. It did, in some cases expect the vengeance of God on injust oppressors (Seleucids or Romans for instance) but not the wholesale kind of violence that Tim Lahaye has turned Revelation into with his fiction, I REPEAT, FICTION books, Left Behind. Revelation isn't about the end of the world, its about the beginning of Gods actual presence which heals the world and makes it whole.
5. This interpretation of Revelation (Now is the End-Times) is incredibly America-centeric (not to mention ego-centric. 'Look at how bad things are' they will say, with 9/11 and rising gas prices and increasing numbers of tornados. They are only looking at the world through American eyes. We only see a fraction of the suffering that goes on in the world, but because things have gotten a challenging in the US as of late, NOW Jesus is coming back. What about the African dying of AIDS throught the 1990's or Stalins reign of terror in the 40-50's, or the treatment of Natives by the American Government in the 1700-1800's or the plagues? I'm not saying that there aren't some frightening things happening around us right now, but no more frightening than some of the trauma's experienced down through history and certainly less than some have experience in other parts of the world. Why would God let those things happen and not intervene, but then send out the heavenly troops when the USA has a few extra tropical storms and an economic down-turn?
That is my Revelation rant I guess.
I'm going to start a Bible study for curious folk.
Revelation is challenging to Christians and frightening, but not because of the wrath of God or the tribulation. It challenges us to make the Kingdom the first priority in our lives and it shows us the way we sell out sometimes as Christians and that scares me.