This is a bit of a follow up to the post on ‘pure speculation’. Not a post full of answers – go elsewhere for that – to people who are smarter than I am… and maybe to some who are not as smart as I am, though they know much more than I do. A few headlines first why I do not consider the Bible lays out ‘the future’.
- Understanding ‘predictions’ are not easy. We generally say that the Jews of Jesus time did not expect a Messiah who looked like Jesus. If they ‘missed it’ we are probably likely to also have expectations that will prove to have been wrongly shaped when we read and project forward.
- Predictions in the Old Testament did not always come to pass, and that ‘not come to pass’ is not limited to ‘they repented’ (Nineveh) and so God relented.
- Predictions and promise are not in the same category. Promise allows for ‘predictions’ to fall away, be expanded, to be incorporated in a new way.
- The reading of the predictions that we have (‘not one stone will remain upon another’; ‘man of lawlessness’ etc.) can be seen to be fulfilled in the AD66-70 era of the Jewish Wars / the year of the four emperors (AD69). For this reason I see no need (indeed, I am compelled not to) project into our future scenarios that we pick up from such predictions in Scripture.
- There has always been a ‘love God… live in line with the narrative (Scripture)…’ and work it out as you go aspect that was planted in our faith from the beginning. Witness the instructions concerning the kingdom of God that Jesus gave post-resurrection to the disciples. Clearly there were whole aspects that he did not cover, the big one being the inclusion of the Gentiles. They had to work it out when they faced that scenario, and did not have a notebook filled with a set of Jesus’instructed points as to what to do.
- The history of interpretation that sees the world (as perceived) and then reads Scripture and sees that world being described there does not have a good history! I suggest that the same method is employed by those who read Nostradamus as a foretelling prophet. Even in the short period of time since ‘The Late Great Planet Earth’ (1970) to ‘Countdown to Armageddon’ (1980) to… How it all changes. Here is a summary of Countdown to Armageddon:
The premise of this book is based upon Hal Lindsey’s prophecies that the anti-Christ is already here on earth and will come forth during the 1980s. In a nutshell, the author predicts that Russia will attack Iran in order to gain control of the world’s oil resources. Then China is going to jump into the fray and spread the war around the world, during which every major city is levelled and more than 1/2 of the world’s population dies. This scenario concludes with the re-emergence of the Roman Empire, consisting of a 10-nation confederacy. At that juncture, a world political leader (an uber-persuasive brain-child who resolves of all of the world’s problems, such as hunger and oil for everyone), will rise to power within this new world government. No one can resist this guy, who ultimately reveals that he is the Anti-Christ and, along with Satan, leads humanity to utter destruction.
Makes for good reading (though not sure about that) but does not make for a good guide to the future!
Anyway my point is that this method of interpretation does not have a good history – not in recent decades, nor in the previous centuries.
- The imagery of Revelation is imagery. Apocalyptic imagery that made sense in the first Century. I might try some:
I saw a huge crowd that no-one could number waving white flags with crosses on it; they came as an irrepressible army, never diverting to the left nor the right; they came singing but in the day of battle the heavens closed in, the earth shook and in disarray they left the battlefield weeping.
(OK pretty weak there but Italy won the Euros – well done Italy, just a better team all round!)
Someone coming to my little weak attempt in the far distant future seeking to interpret the ‘vision’ in their context would be likely to be so far off the mark that we would be shocked by what they might come up with.
- The hope of Revelation is alive today (after all it is the hope of Scripture) that the day will come, even as a thief in the night, and that which has raised its tower to the heavens will be exposed as both empty and oppressive, will collapse. The kingdoms of this world, the kingdoms that are gathered under Babylon’s directive, will give way and another kingdom will be revealed.
- The hope is of the parousia, the appearance, the (literal) presence / arrival of Jesus. Given point (1) above what will that look like? He will come in the same way as he went… is that a literal descent from heaven that is being referred to, or is there something deeper being referred to?
I probably could go on. I am actually quite ‘conservative’ about my hope of the parousia (minus some elements that some might consider ‘conservative’) but my points above are simply to say that my last post might be a little speculative, but a) provided we live within the narrative of Scripture and b) that we are sowing now for the future we hope for and believe in; if we adhere to that I suggest our speculation might be healthier than being guided by some of the books we can read that have it all sown up!
Preparing to go to heaven and leaving behind a planet destined to be destroyed certainly seems to me far less biblical than living now in a way that will create a better possibility for heaven to come to earth (our prayer?) and for it to be a place where the arrival / presence of Jesus might be a good fit seems to me to be the better option. Certainly seems that this was the driving mission of Paul as he criss-crossed the oikomene that was the home to the one world government of his day, the very thing that Jesus refused to inherit. He was not interested in a ‘one world Christian-government’. Hence our ideas of your ‘kingdom’ coming cannot be shaped by that which we know of ‘kingdom’ where ‘every knee bowed’ and acknowledged that ‘Caesar was lord’.
Shaped by what we know. Or shaped by experiencing the devastating love of the Triune God. I am not sure if we should say ‘S/he has a plan for this world’ (which I believe is true), or ‘S/he has a great burning passion for this world’ and that together (humanity and God together) ‘We have plans together for this world’. Come let us work for a future…. might be an appropriate new Scripture!!?? (it might be a new text but I think is not too far from being a summary of Scripture as a whole.) The future is open (real or perceived) – now what vision do we carry? That vision will involve speculation, we might not get it right, but we will travel together, sometimes with strange travelling companions, we will make a path as we go… why create a path toward multiple ‘armageddons’ as if that is inevitable, when there are wonderful alternatives.
Change is constant, but change does not take place a constant rate. At a time of accelerated change (renaissance – reformation – enlightenment, for example… and the end of the 1990s through the first decades of the 21st Century, our context) input into the time of accelerated change has more effect on the future than at other times. There are very real historic before and afters. So I do not intend to make the path to ‘armageddon’ but to…