Eschatology: Just a Religious Diversion?

I love the insight so often shared in blog comments. I think that, as shown in my previous post on Detachment, much can be learned from responses to blog posts.. perhaps comments to this post will be insightful? With that in mind I offer you this pithy response to Don's post titled Are We Doomed?
Because current Pop Eschatology (cue Late Great Planet Earth and Left Behind (Volumes 1-22)) is nothing more than Ultimate Escape Fantasy followed by Ultimate Revenge Fantasy. Delivered with lip-smacking glee.

Christians have become a death cult. An end-of-the-world death cult. Chronicles of Riddick Necromongers without the baroque nightmare-fuel sense of fashion and decor.

And they have signed over the future to Darby, Lindsay, LaHaye, and The Antichrist without a fight. Now they have no future, only waiting to get beamed up to Fluffy Cloud Heaven. And no life, only keeping their noses squeeky-clean so they can pass God's Litmus Test and get beamed up.

And when you have no future, the future tends to happen on its own. Without you. Without your input or influence. And when the future happens, you wake up one morning and find yourselves Left Behind.

Headless Unicorn Guy
Once upon a time (back in the 80s) I embraced the idea that I would not see death but be raptured by Christ sometime in my life. Many back then embraced this idea.. the book shown above was wildly discussed and popular back then.. of course it was discredited in 1989 :)

I haven't thought much about eschatology (the theology of the end of days) for a long time. So I enjoyed reading the post and the Headless Unicorn Guy's (HUG) comment. Here is how I commented (previous to HUG's comment):
I once really enjoyed studying Revelation and eschatology.. I think that it was a way to divert my attention from things needing my attention.. also a bit of religious ego involved too :)
What do you think? Why are so many folks preoccupied with future events? Why do people read all of those Left Behind books? Is the study of end time events a simple religious diversion from reality? Let me know what you think!


  1. Bob, for me at this time, it's a diversion - actually more of an irritation since we now know the earth is going to flip over in 3 years. ;)

    However, must say, it was that particular series you mentioned that got both my husband and I to start really looking into the Bible in 1999. I read verociously through the first several books, but the last couple seemed so out of touch with the Bible I'd come to know, I read them begrudgingly simply to complete the series. By then, I'd been saved. :)

  2. I'd love to see a comparison of Left Behind readers to Lottery players.

    I bought into Hal Lindsey big in the late 70's. I gave the subject my heart and soul, because that's the only way to do existential terror. Eventually Hal and his minions were proven wrong (the last gasp for me was in '82, I think) and I had to rebuild my whole life-plan and theology. That was when I finally began looking around and realized how ignorant I was.

    Dispy pre-mill theology was the worst kind of diversion for me.

    Oddly, though, I don't think eschatology is just a diversion. I do believe it's the stuff of our generation. James Orr noted in his Progress of Dogma that the church's history has tracked the sequence of the ordinary systematic theology, and it's either ecclesiology or eschatology that should come next.

    I made the jump to amill, and it's pushed me to become more educated and more involved in everything about this generation. As much as dispensationalism pushed me to disengage, amillenialism pushes me to engage.

  3. I remember our Bible study group going over all this craziness. We had no date, but we knew a lot of the details. I have friends who think it's going to happen soon because of Obama. I have other friends who are just waiting for Jews to resume sacrafices on the temple mount and then they'll be ready.

    It's amazing the certainty we had about something we had no direct knowledge of.

  4. @Missy - great point about the world flippin in 3 years.. the 2012 movie is a diversion for some.. some probably just like the SciFi and the special effects :)

    @Kevin - I like what you say about an amill view causing you to be more engaged with reality.

    @Mike - I have read those emails too.. interesting that a friend told me in 1980 that Reagan was the Antichrist because his first, middle and last name all had 6 digits.

  5. Actually, it is actually modern science that has provided the means for the end of civilization.

    Many of us remember the policy of MAD and the threats of nuclear war; is it any wonder that people had the end of the world on their minds?

    And just because we don't really talk about nuclear war like it was in the 50's and 60's does not mean it could not still happen.

    In fact, in a number of ways, it is more possible than ever.

  6. In my mind, there is absolutely no difference between the rapture and getting hit by a bus, by the end of the world or dying in my sleep.

    There will be a day when I get a new body and I have no idea when it will be. Until then I will live life to the fullest, and work every day to follow the Lord's example a little bit better.

    Is it just a coincidence that this followed your detachment post, Bob?

  7. I'm going to write a book. "2012 Reasons the World Will End in 2012." :) I used to buy into the whole pre-trib eschatology, could even quote the proof-texts. I was turned off before the 1988 predictions failed to come to pass.

    I think a person's eschatology has a lot to do with their view of the Gospel. If the Gospel is simply about getting saved and having a home in heaven, and avoiding the things of this world, then you will be loking for Jesus to come and take you out before he carries out vengeance on those who are unbelievers.

    If you believe the Gospel is about the Kingdom of God and the reign of the King of Kings here and now, and the coming of the King to finally restore all things, then you will be focused on living as a citizen of that Kingdom and bringing God's rule to bear as much as you possibly can.

    I don't believe we can bring the Kingdom to earth by our own human efforts, but we are invited to join Jesus as he works in this world.

  8. I forgot to mention that my eschatology now boils down to "Jesus is coming again."

  9. I think we tent to get caught up in end time thoughts because we get so caught up in ourselves. When we read any part of the word with this attitude, we usually get a distorted picture of the reality intended.

    I don't think you should read Revelation (or any of the other parts of Scripture that relate to end times)as a mystery novel. I don't think it is intended for us to solve. I think it is there to reveal more to us about God and his character. I think the perspective we take in reading it will determine a lot of what we end up getting out of it.

  10. Great comments so far..

    @Andrew - so true about nuclear war.. don't hear too many talking about it much these days.

    @Ed - hadn't thought about the link between the eschatology and detachment.. might have something there :)

    @Heir - spot on analysis and comparison of rapture and kingdom thinking and living.

    @Spherical - God revealed in Revelation.. hmmm.. good insight.. that is the way that the book is introduced.. the revelation of Jesus Christ.

  11. Yeah, I agree with co_heir. We know Jesus is returning but we don't know the day or the hour so just live our lives how we know God wants us to according to His Word. God brings people across our paths. We don't have to go looking for them or bash them over the head with our bibles. And they want what we have when they see how we handle circumstances in our lives. I'm interested in the G20 summit and stuff like that but I don't obscess or concern myself about it.

  12. Also I think praying for people God brings across our paths is really important because the harvest is white.

  13. Hi Bob! Great post and comments! You've got some great readers over here with a lot to say. I don't have much to add but wanted to say hey.

  14. because (I suppose) of differences in the denominational mix, the majority of Aussie christians aren't much into eschatology. Growing up Anglican, I was taught that Jesus would come back and that would be the end of the world. And that was it. I never knew what the different positions were until i studied Revelation as a special elective in my theology degree. I'd always thought Left Behind was just weirdo stuff, i had no idea how many people believe that! (With apologies to anyone who does). i can now stick labels on myself (more likely post-it notes) and call myself a-mill, and probably closeset to partial preterist. I did meet someone once who told me that her Baptist Sunday school had brought her up memorising charts of the end times. The Anglican Sunday school I grew up in taught me bible stories and memory verses. Much more useful

    But the bottom line surely is what jesus Himself said. When He returns, will he find faithful servants going about their Master's business? As the favourite song line I've ever come across on the subject of the second coming says, "Some say here, some say there.Only a few will say prepare."

  15. Left Behind is a wonderful piece of fiction... not such great theology.

    While I don't think we should avoid reading Revelation (we should take in the whole counsel of God). I do think we spend too much time in debating eschatology.

    The main thing is that He's coming back, are you ready? I like what Martin Luther said that "there are only two days that matter... today and 'that day.'"


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