Apocalypse Now? Apocalypse No!
NOTE: This is part one of a two-part teaching this month and next.
apocalypse – noun: a cataclysmic event, especially the end of the world
You’ll probably find this hard to believe, but I’ve made mistakes in the past, I’ll probably make a few today, and I’m quite sure I’ll make some in the future. Some of the mistakes I’ve made have been about what the Bible teaches. One prevailing theme found in the Bible is called biblical eschatology or the study of “end-times.” I’ve made some mistakes in that subject through the years. But all I can do is share what the Bible teaches, based on my present level of understanding and current state of awareness.
In The Traveler this month and next month I’m going to share with you my present, current understanding about “end time,” apocalyptic events. My present views are controversial. I already know what you read will anger some of you. Others will be puzzled. A few of you will send me nasty e-mails. Some of you will angrily ask us to remove your e-mail address from our database. But . . . possibly some of you will be encouraged and perhaps even breathe a sigh of relief that I’m writing what you may have secretly been believing but were afraid to tell other people.
Here we go . . . .
The world is not going to end soon. Or ever. There is no coming antichrist who will be a tool of the devil to attempt to rule the world. Russia is not going to invade Israel. An army of 200,000,000 is not going to march into the Middle East. There isn’t going to be a “Great Tribulation.” Believers in Jesus aren’t going to be “raptured” away from the earth to a “safe” location in the universe so they won’t suffer during a “Great Tribulation.” There will not be a revived Roman Empire in Europe. People won’t have “the mark of the beast” tattooed on their foreheads or inserted under their skin as a microchip.
Are those enough controversial statements? I could write more, but I won’t. Instead of those controversial statements (and similar ones) what do I feel is going to happen in the future?
And . . . the only “signs of the times” yet to occur are those found in Matthew 24: 14 in the Bible. I’ll let you look that up and ponder Jesus’ words for yourself. If I attempted to explain what Jesus said, that would be even more controversial. Why in the world am I writing like this? Why be controversial? What am I trying to prove?
First, for many thousands of people there’s a certain obsessive, perverse attraction to end-of-the-world events. Look at the tabloids in our supermarkets, for example. Next, I often grow weary—even fed up!—with various Bible-believing followers of Jesus who continually see nothing but gloom and doom in their futures. In short, they feel the world is “going to hell in a handbasket”—and they spread that negative, stinkin’ thinkin’ to others.
Also, some obsessive “end-timers” almost take a perverse delight in believing they’ll be saved, whereas pre-believers will be doomed to the lake of fire. The believing end-timers are almost gleeful that pre-believers will be “getting what they deserve” for rejecting Jesus in this life. There’s another side to that same end-time “coin,” too. Some who believe in cataclysmic end-time events suffer undue stress and anxiety wondering whether or not they’ll be one of those who “make it” through the Great Tribulation or wondering whether or not they’ll be “left behind” at the rapture. Some often wonder: “What if there’s unconfessed sin in my life at the moment the rapture occurs; does that mean I’ll be left behind?”
So . . . there are two sides to the coin for those who wonder about and fear cataclysmic end-time events. I try to think “outside the box,” especially about the Bible and related matters. I will be doing that in this issue of The Traveler. And next month. I am convinced such gloom and doom, apocalyptic thinking is untrue. I am convinced the best is yet to be. I do not see the world going to hell in a handbasket.
Unfortunately, many conservative, evangelical, Jesus believers have a finely honed sense of impending disaster they “feed” on. I hope you’re not one of them! Some mistakenly feel there has been a great cosmic battle between God and Satan from time immemorial, with the outcome still not certain. They feel even if God wins, He will end up with only a small fraction of humanity on the winning side, whereas Satan will end up with the vast majority of people burning in hell forever. How utterly naïve to believe God is that weak and Satan that strong . . . or that human “free will” can thwart God’s will!
I Am A Futurist
I feel every Jesus believer on planet earth should be a futurist. What is a futurist? A futurist is someone who sees the “upside,” not the “downside,” of the future. God is a futurist. He sees nothing but ultimate good for the future of all humankind. Why does God see our future as good? Because He is altogether good and absolutely everything He does is good (Psalm 119: 68). That is a basic, bedrock belief of mine that underlies all I think and write. I choose to be optimistic rather than pessimistic. I choose to believe that the next event on God’s timetable for earth and humanity is for King Jesus to return to earth to inaugurate his wonder-full Kingdom!
Have you heard of the International World Future Society (IWFS)? It is not a Bible-based Society by any stretch of the imagination. Interestingly, however, many Bible believers belong to the Society. The Society’s members are people from around the world who choose to be optimistic about the future, rather than pessimistic. They try to seek out and find factual information about the future of the world from a positive viewpoint, rather than from a negative viewpoint.
Why Be Optimistic?
Why do I choose to be optimistic rather than pessimistic about the future? First, optimism is a belief that the future will turn out well. I honestly believe that’s what the Bible (taken together as a whole!) teaches about the future of earth and humanity. I’m well aware that anyone can take certain biblical references as “proof texts” to “prove” various events might occur in the future. But—again—we must determine what the Bible teaches—as a whole!—about future events. Second, optimism is something one does, not something one feels. Optimism is simply to choose having a more positive way of looking at life in general.
Among other things, optimism actually promotes better cardiovascular health, and serves to enhance one’s immune system. In short, optimism is simply better for us in terms of our overall health and wellbeing. For example, a recent study showed that optimists are 9 percent less likely to develop heart disease than pessimists. They are only 77 percent as likely to be rehospitalized after some types of major surgery. Optimists on average have blood pressure 5 points lower than pessimists. Finally, fact-based optimists live an average of 9.5 years longer than negative, fear-based pessimists. An authentic, fact-based optimist is far more a realist than is a pessimist.
And a Bible-based optimist is even more of a true realist, seeing reality through God’s eyes—having an unlimited KingdomView rather than a mere limited human worldview, no matter how expansive. I try to encourage people to adopt a secure, safe Kingdom Dream, rather than a mere elusive, transitory American Dream (or any other national dream). Is the world really going to hell in a handbasket? Are things really getting worse and worse—to end in some sort of worldwide “great tribulation” and fiery conflagration?
God is not going to destroy the earth and everything and everyone on it. There will not be a brand-new “replacement” earth inhabited by only a relatively few Jesus believers, dancing on golden streets, strumming on harps in some sort of boring, eternal church service. No. No. No! God is going to freshly restore earth and everything and everyone on it to a far greater condition than it ever was.
For a fuller teaching on the subject of restoration in the Bible, I invite you to read our teaching entitled “Restoration” on thisweb site: www.leservices.org
Let’s look at some factual, alternative views in contrast to the gloom and doom views that everything is just going to get worse and worse.
Some Alternative Views
For example, there are some people who feel the Church of Jesus worldwide is barely surviving the relentless onslaughts of Satan and various “false” religions. Here’s an interesting thought in response to that mistaken view. At the end of the first century, 1 in 35 people on earth claimed to believe in Jesus as their Savior. In 2012, 1 in 7 people on earth claim to believe in Jesus as their Savior. Does that look like the Church is losing ground, overall? It doesn’t to me.
I’m in no position to decide who is and who isn’t an authentic believer in Jesus.
100 years ago, in 1912, 15% of the world’s population lived under some measure of freedom or some form of democracy. Now, in 2012, 65% of the people on this planet live under some sort of freedom or democracy. Don’t misunderstand me: many, many people still live under some sort of authoritarian government or even in slavery. But—overall!—those figures are true.
We must always—always!—look at the overall figures . . . at the “big picture,” not at specific, isolated situations and scenarios to prove how “bad” things are getting. Just as we must always study as a whole what the Bible teaches—not take isolated references as “proof texts.” In general, are we better off now than we were, say, 60 years ago? The average human now earns nearly 3 times as much as then (corrected for inflation), and can expect to live one third longer. Actually, it’s hard to find any place on the planet that’s worse off now than it was then, even though earth’s population has doubled in that amount of time.
You understand, don’t you, that I’m generalizing about such matters? If you choose to, you can find fault with any of these alternative views I’m presenting. While it is true that the rich are getting richer, the percentage of the world’s people living in abject poverty was reduced more in the past 60 years than in the previous 500 years! In 2012, the essential things most people need (not want) for daily living is markedly cheaper than it was 50 years ago or a century ago. Food, clothing, and shelter have grown markedly cheaper, overall. Another example: in just USAmerica today, rivers, lakes, and air are getting cleaner every year. Here’s an interesting fact: a car today emits less pollution traveling than a parked car did from leaks in the 1960’s.
Continued next month
“Then I saw a freshly restored universe and earth, different than the present universe and earth as we now know them; and there was no more sea. Then I, John, the writer of this revelation, saw the holy city, the freshly restored Jerusalem, coming down to earth out of heaven, as a bride prepared and adorned for her husband. Now God who sits on his throne will say: ‘Pay attention! I have freshly restored my entire creation.’” –From Revelation 21, paraphrased
To think about this month:
“The world can’t end today because it’s already tomorrow on the other side of the world.” —Adapted from Charles Schulz
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Revised and Updated December 2020