This is something I just wrote on my blog. I may be preaching to the choir here, but I am in the learning stages. Cut me some slack. I would like to hear feedback on this, whether it be misguided or right on. This is how I am beginning to understand scripture.
I always grew up believing that the world was going to end one day. Jesus is going to come back and lay utter waste to this world and everything in it. I have been challenged to examine why i believe that, and what that means for us as followers of Christ. Let’s look at some of the scripture i am wrestling with.
Romans 8: 19-21
“The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage of decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
When God liberates, like in the exodus, he doesn’t do it by destroying them. He does it by asking them to be the people God intended them to be. He restores them back. Is God liberating the world so it can be what God intended it to be? It doesn’t sound like it’s awaiting it’s destruction. It’s sounds… hopeful.
I have been trying to take a look at Revelation and I am suddenly hopeful, not afraid. I see the final judgement on Babylon and the bringing down of the nations so God can rule them with an “iron sceptor”. The beast is defeated, Satan is vanquished and the dead are judged. There are some theologians who believe that this has already happened. I haven’t made that leap yet. I understand that though and have not ruled it out. Look how this all ends.
But THEN I saw “a new heaven and a new earth”(ch. 21), for the first heaven and the first earth passed away. The Holy city of the new Jerusalem came down and a loud voice from the throne said… now check this out. this is amazing. “Look! God’s dwelling place is among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”
Read Isaiah 65: 17-25
How does it “end”? With Eden restored(ch.22)! The beginning of God’s narrative starts with the fall and judgement in and on Eden. It ends with the restoration of it. It gives me hope, that God too, is restoring us. His people. We are being restored and made into God’s image, so we can live with Him in His holy city for eternity.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
This is a list of sermons from Trinity Mennonite Church in Arizona. Shane Hipps, pastor, gives sermons on the book of Revelation and challenges the traditional critique of death, judgement, and horrifying destruction. He emerges with a reading of Revelation that runs along the same line as what you are getting at, i.e., that God will come to rule among us and that all sin will pass away because the only power is God. Hence, the kingdom of heaven, or the city of God.
The Bible NEVER talks about the destruction of the earth as a planet. Interestingly enough, even Genesis 1 isn’t a “new” creation ex nihilo, but is a re-shaping of the earth, which is covered in water– we know this because the waters and the earth already existed before day 1. So Isaiah 66 and Rev. 21, which mention a “new” heavens and earth are simply speaking of a re-creation of what is already here. A world without evil, a world without suffering, a world without war. A world whose structures are completely just, completely in agreement with God– God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
The idea of the world we live on being destroyed is simply a misunderstanding of the semetic concept of “new”– which does not mean “brand new”, never before existing, ex nihilo, but rather a re-creation of what already exists.
It was such a revelation (pun intended) to realize it didn’t matter if or how I thought the world would end. I grew up with a Left-Behind-esque eschatology, but I was vaguely uncomfortable with this by the time I was 21. When it hit me that it didn’t matter, that I couldn’t possibly impact it either way, and chances are I wouldn’t be around for it anyway, I felt good.
I don’t immediately wonder if “The Rapture” happened and left me here if I’m expecting to see people and no one’s there. It just seems so extraneous now. I’m not halfway to a panic attack questioning if I’m “really saved” to make sure I get zapped with all the rest of the “true believers.” That’s not what Jesus was about–yes, we should do things God’s way, and we should be ready for a “thief in the night,” but not to the point of ignoring the rest of our lives as Christians.
It’s oh-so annoying to hear people talk about oppression in the world as irrelevant because “Well, Jesus is going to come back soon, and we can’t fix all that by then anyway. Let’s not even try.”
Dearest Brother in the Lord,
You said, “It doesn’t sound like it’s awaiting it’s destruction. It’s sounds… hopeful.” The scriptures say, “Tit 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” (Titus 2:3) and “1Th 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,” (I Thess. 5:9) Though those who refuse to turn in humble repentance to Christ will be utterly desroyed, in the midst of all that chaos, the Lord says he hasn’t appointed us to wrath. Just as God didn,t take his people (Israel,) away from Egypt during the dispensing of his plagues, but kept them through it, the body of Christ will be kept from his wrath.
Some insist this is by a pretribulation rapture, but God is able by his grace to sustain the body during the tribulation. We know from the testimony of scripture he is going to pull his people out prior to the pouring out of his undiluted wrath. (See Rev. 14:14-16 compared with I Cor. 15:51,52 and I Thess. 4:14-18) I would like to point the hopefulness of the last passage I mentioned.
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
I Thess. 4:17,18
Though this will be a wonderful event, the events leading up to it will be, well uh, rough to say the least. But I feel this will be our time to have and show that patients and grace the forefathers of the faith exhibited. They weren’t superhuman, no, just regular flesh and blood with a real God.
Our Americana has stripped us of the purity and reality of a vibrant faith. A modern (pop) theology that has us zipping out in a secret rapture appeals to our comfort zone. When China Inland mission went in they told the Chinese of this teaching and that believers would be spared of any persecution. Along came the Boxer Rebellion, the Japanese in WWII, and then the Communists under Mao. Reaping havoc on the believers, the church was devastated. The assemblies were scattered. What was left? A pure remnant bride…she was beautiful.
“That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph. 5:27)
The Bridegroom held out his nail peirced hand and she placed hers in his and they gazed into each others eyes with the utter intamacy of newlyweds. The Chinese church fled underground from persecution and arose from the ashes of shallow theology to glory of God.
Perhaps God, in his great love, will use the end times for such a thing as this. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could come out the other side saying,
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” (Psalm 51:7,8)
Bro. Ben (a pilgrim)