Giving Up The Apocalypse

May 21st has come and gone, and we are all still here.

At this point, I am more of a “prophet” than Harold Camping in terms of prediction/fulfillment accuracy.

But he is not giving up on sharing his wellspring of prophecy (after all, the third time is a charm). After a “really tough weekend” and after some more “research,” Camping has determined that the end of the world will actually be October 21st.

Oops!

However, he wasn’t entirely wrong about May 21st. According to Harold, this past Saturday we all endured “a ‘spiritual’ Judgment Day, which places the entire world under Christ’s judgment.” (I thought I felt a little more guilt recently…) I guess to find out what this “spiritual Judgment Day” is all about, we will have to tune in to Family Radio.

But I think I’m going to pass.

I’m just not that interested in the apocalypse or eschatology or some figment of our creation, such as the “rapture.”

Did you know that this idea of the “rapture” was created in the 1800’s by a preacher, John Nelson Darby, who thought that it was too cruel to subject good Christian folk to the fate foretold in Revelation? It isn’t there in the book.

Further, the book of Revelation isn’t really a book about something more to come, but something that has passed. John of Patmos, in his acid-like-trip of a vision, wrote of an epic story in which the early Christian communities resisted the oppressive imperial forces that sought to keep the community under control, if not get rid of them. The hope revealed in this vision is that God will come to reign in the wrongs and injustices and liberate the oppressed and reconcile enemies and all of creation. The hope is that all nations will be living under God (not just printing it on our money) in the New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven and is made known and made real to everyone. It’s a good question to ask why people would want to go up to Heaven when Heaven is going to come down to earth, but that’s for another time.

So while the book of Revelation is an epic of encouragement and hope for the communities of that time and while it reveals this extraordinary trust in God – that God will not give up and give in to the injustice, hatred, and violence that is done on this earth – it is not likely a good “research tool” to discern when this reign will occur. The images and characters were fixed in that particular context and are not up for re-alignment with the U.N., President Obama, or the prevalence of Google. So please, no more “Rapture Index;” no more Harold Camping; no more John Hagee; no more Left Behind (by the way, isn’t it a little ironic that the co-author of the Left Behind series is critiquing Harold Camping?)

Let’s not focus on the end.

Not only because the texts and traditions that we embrace as Christians speak more of restoration than termination; not only because it can do some damage to those who are seeking a “way out” and place their hope in the end; but because it can become a distraction from what God seeks of us right here, today.

I’m recalling all sorts of texts and professors informing the class that eschatology is important in our systematic theology and all, but I’m not sure that it is. It might be nice to have a conclusion in your theological treatise, but I don’t know that an eschatology or belief in the apocalypse is necessary to follow the way of Christ.

I cannot recall Jesus ever saying,

‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
‘Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.*

* ‘All of this is so only if you believe that I will come down from heaven in a fury of judgment after the four horsemen process to announce my incredibly awesome entrance at some point in time to later be determined – possibly 2,000 years or so…’

I cannot recall Paul writing,

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not believe in the rapture, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not believe in the apocalypse, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not believe in the end, I am nothing.

I don’t think it’s necessary.

I can still continue to hope that compassion, grace, and justice will spread throughout the world. I can still trust in the radical Love of God that has the power to reconcile, restore, and even resurrect. I can still follow the way, because the discovery of wholeness and “New Life” throughout the journey is enough.

The grace that abounds, the Love that flows in and out, and the courage to work for justice and to work for peace are all good and beautiful things that come from walking along this path – they give life to me and, hopefully, to others.

Maybe that is the difference here – between those that discover the presence of Christ and the Love of God on the journey and those that believe they will discover the presence of Christ and the Love of God at a later date – currently, they just have their “ticket.”

So is God working here and now? Is God saving everything up for one gigantic moment (tba)?

I believe the former.

So goodbye October 21st. Goodbye 2012. Goodbye rapture index and Left Behind. Goodbye poor interpretations of the book of Revelation and every other apocalyptic text.

The hope that Love provides – that it is not going anywhere; that it is not going to give up; that it will ultimately win – that is all that I need to know how everything will turn out.

Today, it’s again time to follow the way of Christ – the way of compassion, Love, and justice.

Peace.

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