Saturday, July 3, 2010

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"88 reasons Why The Rapture Will Be in 1988" (Eschatology is Hard)

I recently joined an online discussion about eschatology, or the study of the "end times". I began my thoughts with reference to a modern "classic" (er, sort of):
Actually JB, the book that comes to my memory is "88 reasons Why The Rapture Will Be in 1988". Apparently we missed it! :)

The truth that strikes me about date-setting specifically (and predictions more generally) is that, despite the fact that Jesus' first coming was, at the time, the most prophesied event in human history, nearly everyone got it wrong ... including (indeed, especially) the most humanly "prepared"--the Jewish clergy. Their problem was not a lack of information, it was the hardness of their hearts compounded by the inability to imagine God's actual plan beyond their narrow, self-referential interpretation of Scripture.

What this tells me is that the purpose of the prophecies about His second coming is not prediction, but preparation.

If pressed, I will confess to amillenialist leanings, which is to say that I tend to think the "last days" began in the 1st Century (Heb 1:2) and that the "thousand years" of Revelation 20 is a figurative reference to Christ's present reign over His church (this interpretation requires a non-chronological reading of Revelation). I generally admit to that tentatively, because I find the topic to be more divisive than it ought to be; because I think Jesus' first coming demonstrates that interpreting prophecy is much harder than we tend to think it is; and because it is far from being a central point of the Faith.

Moreover, my understanding of church history is that eschatology can be very trendy ... in other words, the popular view of this subject often changes with the times, with the ebb and flow of world events. This is an understandable phenomenon, but should caution us that our interpretations are easily influenced by the specific places and times in which we live.

My guess is that, when He does return, the circumstances will be unlike anything most of us has quite imagined, yet all of us will afterwards conclude that we should have known (and, more importantly, should have been prepared), as the prophecies will have clearly foretold precisely the way it actually happened. In other words, it'll be kinda like the first time, if only in that sense ... :) 
Back to my point about "not prediction, but preparation", I rather like the way Keith Green put it (*Update -- the old Keith Green YouTube video was taken down, so I've replaced it with another version of the same song):

6 comments:

  1. Raymond:

    I haven't had the chance to reply to you on the discussion group yet (likely Monday), but I want to thank you for your very well-written and tender reply.

    Actually, I have a good bit in common with amillenialist ways of interpreting scriptures (even though I'm premillenialist in my beliefs). Also, the movement of which I've been a part for all of my Christian life (churches of Christ) are traditionally amillenialists.

    BTW, I’m a HUGE Keith Green fan. I’m a Christian songwriter, and no one has influenced me more than Keith. And this song is one of my absolute favorites.

    Thank you, my brother.

    JB Bryant

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  2. 1988? Gosh, we've all been left behind! LOL

    "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Matt 24:36

    "What this tells me is that the purpose of the prophecies about His second coming is not prediction, but preparation." AMEN!!

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  3. Acts 1:6 So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

    7He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

    9After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

    10They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

    ------------------------------------------------

    The Disciples asked Jesus when He would return. He told them "None of your business." [my interpretation] Then He told them what their business was, being His witnesses to all the earth. Then He ascends. What do they do? Stare at the clouds. That's what we do too often, focus upon what is NOT our business and forget about what IS our business.

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  4. I had been thinking similar thoughts about when Jesus will come, ie it being too difficult to tell from the scriptures. As a generality I have no idea whether to be pre/post or amillenial, and I don't think God is really that bothered. When it happens we will know.

    Until then as suggested let's assume it might be today and live to that level, but still planning for tomorrow. I know a pastor in America who decided to opt out of social security as Jesus would come back before she had any need of it. She now thinks that was not a great decision!

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  5. We should always believe in teaching of the Bible about the "imminent return of Christ."

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  6. Thanks for the link. I soo remember this book and that the calculations would only work in 1988 or 2012... but in 1987 there were communists in Russia and we had "no way"of surviving until 2012.

    I may just try to cash in (tongue in cheek) on the end of the Mayan calendar. :)

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