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Embarrassing Eschatology


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Several people have commented to us lately that they are embarrassed or disturbed by our emphasis on endtime prophecy, both on our web site and in the book that we are distributing at the moment ('Survivors'). Well, the honest truth is that we get a bit embarrassed by it occasionally ourselves.

On the other hand, any theory anyone has ever come up with about where the world came from and/or where it is heading has always sounded a bit far-fetched and unbelievable. But it is only in the last hundred years or so that it has become fashionable not to talk (or even think) about the subject at all. And I would suggest that the reason for this is linked to some rather false assumptions about evolutionary theory.

It seems that the real appeal of evolutionary theory is that it allows people to think that they have resolved the question of (at least) where the world came from (if not where it is going). Having assumed this, it is then quite easy to set the whole issue of ultimate reality aside and get on with the job of living in the present. Never mind that evolutionary theory has never been anything more than a theory (and quite a fantastic one at that). The point is that it has become fashionable and sophisticated, and thus enables those who are not willing to look at it critically to look down their collective noses at anyone who thinks the subject of creation and/or life after death is worthy of consideration at all.

The most primitive religions on earth have never come up with anything quite so unbelievable as the suggestion that a "big bang" created the universe, and yet all of these lesser(?) religious theories are ridiculed by implication when someone clings dogmatically and exclusively to the theory of evolution.

No doubt we will get a rush of letters from evolutionists trying to convince us that the theory is eminently provable, after they read this article, but the real point I am trying to make here is not so much to oppose evolution as to make a fair comparison that kind of sets evolution up there right alongside the various other theories about ultimate realities, so that we can see that they can all be laughed at if one so chooses. What I mean is that we all need to get over our embarrassment about discussing eternal issues, and if some bloated opinion of evolution is what is hindering us, then let us stick a pin in it and come back down to earth.

Some of our embarrassment in connection with our present emphasis on eschatology also comes from the fact that we do NOT consider it to be our main message. We are far from experts on the subject, and we much prefer to discuss the teachings of Jesus, which is our real strong point.

But then, anyone who has read what we have written in 'Survivors' should realise that. The argument that people who talk about the end of the world become quite useless in the present world simply does not hold water when looked at from the perspective that we have chosen. And we have been grateful that many of the people who have been turned off by what we say in regard to Bible prophecy still praise us for other aspects of what we teach. This inconsistency (if, indeed, there is an inconsistency) should cause us both to examine the issues more closely to find an explanation.

It is precisely because of our belief in the sort of practical things that Jesus said (e.g. about not chasing after money and about using our time to help others instead) that we have found Bible prophecy to be so interesting and inspiring. It's kind of a nod from somewhere Beyond, to reassure us that we are on the right track.

If you look up the word eschatology, the definition rarely says anything about the end of the world. In fact, it doesn't even say anything about Bible prophecy. It represents an interest in "the end of all things", or "death, and what lies beyond". So anyone who talks about heaven, eternal life, the resurrection, etc. is really talking about eschatology, with or without Bible prophecy. And by implication, talk about God, Creation, and eternity in general is also destined to lead one to the general subject of eschatology.

But then I realise that even subjects like God and life after death bother a lot of people these days. On the other hand, I don't think that we should feel obliged to keep stepping backwards away from everything that makes people nervous, without ever considering whether their nervousness is really justified. I have suggested that blind faith in evolutionary theory has led some to think that there is no further need for explanations about our existence. But there is also a far more understandable reaction to abuses in connection with some of these topics.

Just as many of us have seen the topic of Bible prophecy turned into justification for selfishness in this life, so we have seen the same thing done with talk about life after death, and about God in general. Not that I can really see any connection between selfishness and faith in God, etc. since, for me, the whole idea of a final judgment and eternal rewards and punishments brings us back to talk about getting even more serious about helping others here in this life. Is my approach impractical? Too heavenly to be any earthly good? I think not.

The real problem of abuse starts back with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus gave us all of the practical stuff, and so the hypocrites (and there are a lot of them around) had to come up with something to steer people away from the teachings of Jesus. So they made up a lot of lies and false teachings about how Jesus really wants you to... well... do anything except obey him. And then they quickly switched the topic to heaven and hell and the end of the world in order to drum up a lot of emotions without anyone taking the time to question where the various "plans of salvation" were coming from to begin with.

Now WE come along, teaching people to listen to Jesus, to love people, and do all we can to make the world a better place. We just naturally add that the greatest reason for doing this is because there is a dimension far above and beyond the dimensions of time and space that we now live in. And we say that in this other dimension we will be rewarded for all of the injustices that we experience in this life, in our efforts to make a better world. And that is when people start screwing their faces up and saying, "Oooh! Uggh! Not eschatology! How disgusting! I hate that subject!"

But this only really happens because they are carrying all of that extra baggage about what the phonies have done with Bible prophecy and the end time, and they have tied it all together into one big distasteful package... a package which embarrasses us too. But we cannot throw it all out, when some of it is quite valid.

So we ask people to not judge us on the basis of their prejudices against Bible prophecy. Instead, take a look at how it fits together with the rest of what we say and do. And see if it doesn't make perfect sense to believe in life after death, in unity with the Creator of the Universe, for those who do what they can to follow his instructions about how to make this world (the testing ground) a better place.

 

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