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Showing posts with label #EndTimes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #EndTimes. Show all posts

27 July 2017

Jesus is returning. Sooner than you think.

If not for everyone, at least for you personally.

Immediacy /ɪ'mi.di.ə.si/ n. Bringing one into direct, instant involvement with something. (Usually including a sense of urgency or excitement.)
2. Christian doctrine that Christ Jesus is returning at any time.
[Immediacist /ɪ'mi.di.ə.sɪst/ adj.]

I don’t know when Jesus will return.

Neither do you. Neither does anyone. Neither did Jesus, Mk 13.32 although some Christians are mighty sure he found out after he ascended to heaven. And occasionally some nutjob will claim the Father told them when it’s gonna happen, and use the occasion to whip gullible Christians into a frenzy, and get ’em to join their death cult or something. All of them have been, and will be, lying. Because Jesus said that info is none of our business. Ac 1.7

But we do know Jesus is coming back. It’s part of orthodox Christianity, y’know. Like the Apostles Creed has it, “He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.” Technically any Christian who thinks Jesus isn’t returning is a heretic. Doesn’t mean they’re going to hell; just means they’ve gone wrong.

A big part of knowing Jesus is coming back, is knowing he can return at any time. And if we’re not watching for it, he’ll return at a time we don’t expect him at all. That’s why he warned us to stay awake and watch for it. Mk 13.37 Don’t let him take you by surprise!

Luke 12.35-48 KWL
35 “Be people whose toolbelts are on, whose lamps are burning.
36 You should be like people waiting for their own master when he returns from weddings:
He arrives, knocks, and they can quickly unlock the door for him.
37 These slaves are awesome. The returning master will find them alert.
Amen, I promise you the master will put on a towel and have them recline to eat,
and he’ll come in to serve them.
38 Even at the second hour after sunrise, even at the third, he can come and find them ready.
These slaves are awesome.
39 You should know: If the homeowner knew what time the burglar came,
he’d never permit him to break into his house.
40 You be ready: The Son of Man comes at the time you don’t expect.”
41 Simon Peter said, “Master, are you saying this parable for us or for everyone?”
42 Master Jesus said, It’s to whoever’s a faithful, wise butler.
The master puts the butler over his waiters, giving them their trays at the right times.
43 This slave is awesome when the master, coming to the butler, will find them doing this job.
44 I tell you the truth: The master will put the butler in charge of everything.
45 But when this slave says in their mind, ‘My master delays in coming,’
and might start beating the boys and girls, or eating, drinking, and getting drunk,
46 that slave’s master will come on a day they don’t expect, at a time they don’t know,
and will cut them down to size, and assign them a position with the unreliable slaves.
47 That slave who knew their master’s will, and didn’t prepare, nor do his will: They’ll get skinned.
48 The one who didn’t know, who did what deserved a smack: They’ll get skinned a little.
To everyone who’s given much, much is sought from them.
To those with much set before them, more will be asked back.”

Much of the reason Jesus hasn’t returned yet, is because he’s giving the world a chance to repent before he returns. 2Pe 3.9 Take advantage of this time: Get right with God. Because once Jesus does return, time’s up. 2Pe 3.10

13 June 2017

God’s will in heaven and on earth.

Praying God’s will be done in heaven.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us to pray,

Matthew 6.10 KWL
“Make your kingdom come. Make your will happen both in heaven and on earth.”

Often this gets translated “On earth as it is in heaven,” following the Book of Common Prayer; the KJV has “in earth, as [it is] in heaven.” Christians tend to interpret this concept, “As in heaven, so on earth,” because we assume heaven already follows God’s will, and so we’re praying earth would do likewise. (That is, unless we’re Calvinist and assume God sovereignly makes his earth already follow his plan… evil notwithstanding.)

Thing is, we’re reading a whole lot into that word os/“as.” Hence we never bother to ask the fairly obvious, hidden-in-plain-sight question: Does God absolutely, sovereignly rule over heaven?

“Of course he does,” is the knee-jerk reaction. If God gets his way anywhere, certainly it’s in heaven. Because God’s the absolute ruler of heaven. Either it’s where his throne is, Ps 11.4, Rv 4.2 or heaven itself is his throne, Is 66.1, Mt 5.34 with all the armies of heaven ready to carry out God’s commands. 1Ki 22.19 We imagine God’s kingdom already exists there. The issue for us Christians is bringing this kingdom to earth. That’s why we pray, “As in heaven, so on earth.”

Thing is, if heaven’s where God absolutely, sovereignly always gets his way, why’d a war break out there?

Revelation 12.7-9 KWL
7 War came to the heavens: Michael and its angels battling the dragon;
the dragon and its angels battling back 8 and failing.
No place was found for them anymore in the heavens.
9 The great dragon was thrown out, the primeval serpent which is called devil and Satan.
The deceiver of all civilization was thrown to earth,
and its angels were thrown out with it.

We assume God always gets his way in heaven, but at some point in heavenly history he clearly didn’t. ’Cause Satan defied him. Just as Adam and Eve disobeyed him on earth, Satan challenged God’s will in heaven. Just as Adam and Eve had to be banned from paradise, Michael had to chuck the devil, and a whole lot of its confederate angels, out of heaven.

Y’see, since God is love, 1Jn 4.8 he wants to love his creation, and wants his creation to love him back. If it lacks free will, it can’t do that. Involuntary love isn’t love; it’s just programming. So God had to take the massive risk of imbuing all his creatures with free will. That’s not just his creatures here on earth. It includes all his creatures in heaven.

Satan’s very existence indicates not just earth has a sin problem. Heaven has one too. And heaven needs to be fixed same as earth.

01 June 2017

When pagans die.

Have they no hope? Well, let’s not rule that out.

Yeah, this is gonna be a bummer of an article. Sorry. It needs saying.

When Christians die, it’s sad. ’Cause we’re never gonna see those people again in this lifetime. We often say, “We’ll see ’em in heaven,” and that’s true—though not quite as pop-culture Christianity imagines it. We’ll see them in the kingdom of heaven. Once Jesus returns to establish that kingdom, we Christians are all getting resurrected, and they’ll be back, better than before. As will we. That’s our hope.

But it’s not pagans’ hope.

The Latin word paganus meant someone from the country, and therefore not from the city. Christians adopted it to refer to people who don’t live in the city of God, or civilians who aren’t in the Lord’s army. By definition a pagan isn’t in the kingdom. Not going to heaven. They’re outside—and outside isn’t good.

So when pagans die, it’s a profound loss. Not only are we not seeing them again, we’re likely not seeing them in the age to come. Because they resisted a relationship with Christ Jesus, they don’t inherit his kingdom. They don’t come back with us Christians. They don’t get resurrected till Judgment Day, Rv 20.5, 12-13 and things don’t turn out so well for them: They go into the fire. Rv 20.15

I know; it’s awful. I don’t wish it on anyone. But it’s the path they chose.

Pagans are fond of denouncing us Christians for “concocting” this story, as if we invented it as some sick ’n twisted revenge fantasy. Which stands to reason: If you don’t believe in Jesus, of course you’re gonna think Christians invented this scenario. And it’d say all sorts of things about our lack of compassion, graciousness, and love—especially as your typical pagan believes in universalism, where everybody goes to heaven, whether they want to or not. So how dare we deny them a pleasant afterlife.

But this is no mere story. And we Christians didn’t concoct it. If pop culture ideas about hell are any indication, our ideas would be way worse. Popular depictions of hell don’t involve dark fire; they involve torture. Devils with pitchforks, jabbing people as if being burnt weren’t torment enough. Or ironic psychological horrors. Stuff that increases the suffering. Sick stuff.

True, some of those warped ideas were invented by Christians who wish all manner of hateful, painful stuff on pagans. And these people have serious problems with unforgiveness, and need to repent. We’re supposed to love our enemies, Lk 6.27 not devise brave punishments for them.

But again: The fire wasn’t our idea. And no, it’s not God’s idea either. He wants everybody to be saved! 1Ti 2.4

Then why’s it there? Because if people don’t wanna be anywhere where God is—if they wanna get so far away from him, nothing he created will be around to remind them of his very existence—there’d be nothing left but chaos. Darkness. Fire. Plus all the other people who likewise wanna be apart from God, so they’ll be serious downers. Hence all the weeping and gnashing. It’ll be awful.

It’s why Jesus described it as fire, and warns us away from that. Nobody has to go there! Don’t go there! Save yourselves. Ac 2.40 Turn to God.

19 April 2017

“The gates of hell”: Just how won’t they prevail?

Lots of weird pop culture interpretations of this one. Typically they’re wrong.

Matthew 16.18

Jesus once asked his students who they thought he was. Simon Peter, his best student, correctly identified Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. Mt 16.16

(Since we Christians recognize Jesus is the Father’s only-begotten son, Jn 1.18 we tend to read that into it, rather than recognize “Son of God” as one of Messiah’s titles. In historical context it’s not what Peter meant. But I digress.)

In response Jesus pointed out how awesome this was (KJV “blessed”) because Peter hadn't just deduced it; this was a case of supernatural discernment, or special revelation. The Father had personally revealed this to Peter. Mt 16.17 Which is kinda awesome.

Then Jesus said this:

Matthew 16.18 KJV
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

The words Jesus used were pýlai ádu/“hades’s gates.” Latin turned this into portae inferi/“inferno’s gates.”—inferno being their word for the underworld, but in the day’s popular culture, this’d be hell. So that’s how Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, the Geneva Bible, and the King James interpreted it; and the ESV, ISV, Message, and NLT follow their lead.

But as I explained in my article on the four hells, that’s not what hades means. Hades is the grave. The afterlife. The place of the dead. That’s why other translations went with “the powers of death” (Expanded Bible, J.B. Phillips, NCV, RSV) —although that interpretation also has its problems.

15 March 2017

The four hells.

By which I mean the various words translated “hell,” and how only one of ’em is really hell.

C.S. Lewis famously wrote a book called The Four Loves. Not that there are four loves; actually there are more like eight. But there are five words in ancient Greek which tend to be translated “love.” (Two of ’em in the New Testament: Agápi and fílos. The others are found in the Septuagint: Éros in its verb-form eráo, and the nouns storgí and xénios.) Lewis wanted to highlight four of ’em and talk about how people love in these four different ways.

People read, or hear of, The Four Loves and assume, “Wow, Greek is so precise and exact. It’s got four different words for love!” No; it’s the fact translators aren’t precise and exact. Those words can just as easily be translated affection (storgí), friendship (filós), romance (éros), and charity (agápi). Check out any thesaurus and you’ll find we have way more than four words for “love.” English can be just as precise as Greek when English-speakers wanna be.

Today I’m pointing out there are three words in ancient Greek which tend to be translated “hell.” The problem, same as with love, is translators didn’t bother to distinguish between ’em. Some bibles do, and good on them. But whether bible translations do or don’t, it’s important Christians know there’s a difference, lest we continue to misinform people about what hell is, and who goes there.

I said three words, right? Why’d I title this piece “The four hells”? Well first of all there’s a fourth word; a Hebrew word which is equivalent to one of the Greek words. Four words, but still three hells. What’s the fourth hell? Popular culture’s idea of hell.

09 February 2017

The second coming of Christ Jesus.

Yes, he’s coming back.

Acts 1.1-11 KWL
1 Theófilos: In the first work I made about everything Jesus began to do and teach,
2 giving commands to his chosen apostles through the Holy Spirit, till the day he was raptured.
3 Jesus also stood before them, alive, after his suffering,
appearing to them 40 days, speaking about God’s kingdom.
4 While together with them, Jesus ordered them not to leave Jerusalem,
but “wait for the Father’s promise which you heard from me:
5 John baptized with water, and after not too many days,
you’ll all be baptized in the Holy Spirit.”
6 So when they came together, the apostles questioned Jesus:
“Master, is it at this time you’re restoring the Kingdom of Israel?”
7 Jesus told them, “It’s not for you to know times or timing.
That, the Father sets by his own free will.
8 But you’ll all get power: The Holy Spirit is coming upon you.
You’ll be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the world.”
9 Saying this as they watched him, Jesus was raptured. A cloud concealed him from their eyes.
10 While they were watching him go up into the sky, look!—two men in white clothing stood by them.
11 The men said, “Galileans, why’d you stand looking at the sky?
This Jesus, raptured from you into the sky like this, will come back like you saw him go into the sky.”

Hence we Christians expect, once God decides the time is right, Jesus will return to the earth. In person. As the head of an invading army of angels and at least 2 billion newly-resurrected Christians. At that time, it’s to take possession of the earth he created, set up God’s kingdom on earth, and rule it himself as king.

We call this the second coming, or second advent, of Christ. The first, of course, being when he was born, and shared the good news of the kingdom with first-century Israel. (We don’t count any of the other times he visits people on earth, like he did with Paul, Ac 9.3-5 as formal “comings”—formal as they might feel to those people whose lives are hugely changed by seeing him.)

The men in white described Jesus’s return as something like Jesus’s rapture. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy apparently got an update on the details from Jesus, and described it to the Thessalonians as a little bit grander:

1 Thessalonians 4.15-18 KWL
15 We tell you this message from the Master.
We who are still alive at the Master’s second coming don’t go ahead of those who’ve died.
16 With a commanding shout, with the head angel’s voice, with God’s trumpet,
the Master himself will come down from heaven.
The Christian dead will be resurrected first.
17 Then, we who are left, who are still alive,
will be raptured together with them into the clouds,
to meet the Master in the air.
Thus, we’ll be with the Master—always.
18 So encourage one another with these words!

22 December 2016

The fear of phony peace.

When “blessed are the peacemakers” gets ditched in favor of popular End Times theories.

So as I said yesterday, we Christians aren’t necessarily known for being peaceful. ’Cause we lack peace. ’Cause we’ve adopted one of the typical incorrect notions as to how to attain it, and haven’t correctly chosen to follow God and pursue his kingdom. Mt 6.25-34

And sometimes it’s ’cause we don’t trust peace. Especially societal and political forms of peace. When our secretary of state brokers a treaty between warring nations, or between the United States and some other nation we’re not really getting along with. Definitely when the United Nations tries to do likewise. We don’t believe any of that stuff is real peace—we suspect there’s something underhanded and devilish behind it.

Why’s that? Well, in Revelation there’s this vision John had of a Beast who’s gonna take over the world. Rv 13 And according to one of the more popular End Times theories, the Beast is gonna gain its power by pretending to be a good guy. Pretending to care about the little guy; pretending to care about our values and safety; pretending to know how to fix the economy and fight terrorism. No I’m not talking about Donald Trump, much as his opponents will scream the shoe fits. But that’s what certain Christians fear most: Someone portraying a prince of peace, who’s absolutely not.

Basically they figure the Beast is gonna be Bizarro Jesus: Anything Jesus does, the Beast’ll do the opposite. Jesus says love your neighbor; the Beast’ll try to make you hate ’em. Jesus says heal the sick; the Beast’ll try to make you poison the sick. Jesus says preach the gospel; the Beast’ll try to shut you up. Black is white, up is down.

So since Jesus says blessed are the peacemakers, the Beast’ll say blessed are the warmongers. But, before it can weasel its way into real power, it’ll make like a peacemaker. By stealthily, evilly getting nations to stop fighting and love one another. That’s just how crafty it is, using goodness and kindness to lull us into a sense of security. Then bam: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. Bizarro!

Here’s the problem: What if we’ve got an actual peacemaker on our hands? Someone who actually wants nations to stop fighting and love one another? (Or at least benignly stop bombing one another?) Someone who’s trying to be a child of God like Jesus wants? Mt 5.9

…Nah, can’t risk it.

And this is how the devil regularly tricks paranoid Christians into fighting, of all things, peace.

01 December 2016

Apocalypses: Those freaky visions in the bible.

Short answer: No.

Apocalypse /ə'pɑk.ə.lɪps/ n. Vision meant to reveal heavenly secrets through representative or parabolic images.
2. Any supernatural revelation.
3. [uppercase] Destruction or damage on a tremendous scale, particularly the end of the world.
[apocalyptic /ə.pɑk.ə'lɪp.tɪk/ adj.]

When people talk about “the apocalypse,” they typically mean the end of the world. “It’s the apocalypse!” means “It’s the End”—and we’re f---ed.

Not even close to the original meaning of the Greek apokalýpto/“to uncover.” It’s just our last book of the New Testament, Apokálypsis Yisú Hristú—or Apokálypsis for short, Apocalypse in Latin and many other languages, Revelation in English—is about the End. So people have come to mix up apocalypse and the End. Stands to reason.

Our word Revelation defines it best. It has to do with revealing. Uncovering. Telling us what’s gonna happen in future. Except… well… not literally.

See, an apocalypse is a type of prophetic vision. Y’know how Jesus tells parables, and explains his kingdom with weird things which represent the kingdom, but aren’t literally the kingdom? Like mustard seeds which grew into huge trees? Lk 13.19 Like yeast which infuses flour? Mt 13.33 Like seed which grows on its own? Mk 4.26-29 Now imagine actually seeing these parables. Not just as a mental picture, like we do when we picture Jesus’s parables. You look in front of you… and there’s one of those images, clear as day.

Zechariah 1.7-11 KWL
7 On 24 Šebát of Darius’s second year [15 February 519 BC]
God’s word came to the prophet Zechariah ben Barukhyahu ben Iddo, to make him say,
8 “I saw this at night. Look, a man preparing to ride a red horse!
He stood between the myrtles in the valley. Behind him, red, speckled, and white horses.
9 I said, ‘My master, what are these horses?’
Giving me the word, the messenger said, ‘I’m letting you see what these horses are.’
10 The man standing between the myrtles answered, ‘These are the horses
which the LORD sent to walk round the land.’
11 The horses answered the LORD’s messenger standing between the myrtles:
The horses said, ‘We walked round the land. Look, all the land sits, and is quiet.’”

The horses answered? Sure. Most translations simply go with “they answered,” and leave it to us to deduce who “they” are. They don’t wanna look dumb by making the very simple logical leap. Ain’t no other group of people there to answer.

Talking horses, man. But that’s the sort of thing we see in apocalyptic visions: All manner of weirdness. Deliberately weird, ’cause God’s trying to grab our attention. You know how you’ll have some freaky dream, and the images in your dream bug you for a good long time after you’ve awakened? (Happened in the bible a bunch of times too.) It’s for the same reason God shows his prophets bizarre apocalyptic visions: He wants this imagery to stay with us, and burrow into our minds. Mere words, even God’s words, won’t stick with us like these visions do.

That’s why so many Christians are fascinated, even obsessed, with Revelation’s imagery. Weird chimeric creatures with multiple heads. Women with strange names. Angels and bowls and trumpets and declarations. Prophets being obligated to eat books which, while tasty, upset their stomachs.

Now. Jesus says the reason he uses parables is to inform those who are really listening, and go over the heads of those who really aren’t. Mk 4.11-12 This is just as true of apocalypses. Those who are truly seeking God will recognize their meaning and importance: What God wants to reveal through them—and just as importantly, what he doesn’t want to reveal through them. Not yet.

In contrast, there’s those who truly aren’t seeking God. Really, they figure knowledge is power, and covet some degree of control over an uncertain future. But their interpretations of these apocalypses don’t produce good fruit. Oh, they sell books, and definitely help Jim Bakker sell loads of overpriced supplies for your End Times bunker. But they don’t spread love, peace, gentleness, patience, and hope. Just more panic and worry, and God knows there’s far too much of that in the world already.

09 September 2016

My favorite End Times novel.

And no, you’re never gonna find it on

Years ago, I was complaining about one of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’s Left Behind novels. Don‘t remember which one, but I do remember my complaint—for once—wasn’t about the terrible Darbyist theology, but about the poorly-developed characters. Caricatures of characters, really.

The fellow I was ranting to was a bit of a Left Behind fan, so he didn’t appreciate my critique… although he admitted the writing “felt rushed.” There, I don’t agree. My beef wasn’t with how fast the Left Behind novels were cranked out. Some authors only need a month, start to finish, to produce a book. But they produce three-dimensional characters, whereas the Left Behind books produced melodramatic heroes and villains.

“Well fine,” he said, “what’s your favorite End Times book?”

“Easy,” I said, The Stand.”

Yep, this book.

When I realized I meant the Stephen King novel, he was outraged. Which I get. After all, King uses swears in his novels. And some Christians have never forgiven King for his depictions of manic dark Christians in his previous novels Carrie and The Dead Zone. (His Christian characters are way better in The Stand and The Green Mile. But I digress.)

Yes, I have read other End Times novels, books, and so forth. I may as well tell you about a few of ’em, so you’ll know why I picked The Stand over the others.

20 July 2016

Are we living in the last days?


When people ask, “Are we living in the last days?” what they nearly always mean by it is, “These awful things happening in the present day: Are they signs Jesus is returning soon? Like in the next few years? Is it the time-before-the-End-Times?”

Why they’re asking is ’cause they already suspect the answer is yes.

Because awful things are happening in the present day. Cops shooting innocent citizens; citizens shooting innocent cops. Wars and terrorists, rumors of wars and terrorists, people who could shoot up a room with no advance warning, drones which could smite you from the heavens above like Zeus himself. Scary new diseases. Unfamiliar “social norms” which were neither “normal” nor “moral” just a decade ago; who expected marijuana to be legalized? Unfamiliar technology which, given its power, may very well be dangerous. Racism coming out of the closet. Immoral people running for president, and so-called Christians not just holding their noses and voting for the lesser evil, but endorsing them, and praying for their victory instead of their salvation.

So yeah, when things get bad like this, people understandably want it to be the last days. We don’t want it any worse. We really want Jesus to return, to stop the madness. In this, I don’t blame ’em whatsoever. The sooner Jesus invades, the better. Maranatha.

But does a sinful world indicate Jesus is returning soon? Nah. A sinful world is the status quo. The world’s always been sinful.

“But it’s worse than it’s ever been!” Again, nah. I once taught history. Still read history books for fun. Without a doubt, there’ve been many, many, many times throughout human history where things were worse. Far worse. Unimaginably worse; it’s why Game of Thrones still shocks people, even though worse atrocities have been committed in real life. If you’ve read your bible, you’ve even read some of them. If you haven’t, check out the early chapters of Exodus, or most of Judges, or the decline and fall of Israel after the kingdom split in two. Jesus lived under the Roman occupation of Israel; that was worse. It got even worse than that, as you’ll see when you read Flavius Josephus’s Jewish War.

Why do Americans insist things are worse than they’ve ever been? Mostly because of the popular myth, spread by political conservatives, that America used to be better. People used to be more noble, more Christian, kept their word, followed the Law, respected their elders; this used to be a Christian nation. And even though these very same people know their American history—the atrocities of African slavery, the genocidal wars against the Indians, the Civil War and racism and sexism and imperialism, the many things Americans had to overcome—somehow they divorce these effects from the causes, and forget we Americans were the causes. Total depravity, y’know. A truly moral people wouldn’t have suffered them, nor struggled so long to be rid of them, nor still need to deal with ’em.

If “things used to be better,” and currently they sure aren’t, it must follow we’re getting worse. And doesn’t worse mean Jesus is returning soon?

29 June 2016

Isn’t God gonna save everybody?

God definitely wants to. Therefore some Christians insist in the end, he will.

UNIVERSALIST /ju.nə'vər.səl.əst/ adj. Believing all humanity will (eventually) be saved.

I’ve mentioned before how pagans believe good people go to heaven, and bad people to hell. I should mention there’s a minority among them who believe there is no hell. Nope, not even for genocidal maniacs. Everybody goes to the same afterlife, and if you’re a westerner that’d be heaven. There might be some karmic consequences; you might find yourself in the suckier part of heaven. But considering it’s heaven, it’s not bad.

Y’see, these folks figure God is love. Don’t we Christians teach that? Why yes we do. 1Jn 4.8 And God loves everyone—“for God so loved the world” Jn 3.16 and all that. So why would a loving God throw people in hell? Especially for something as minor as not believing in him?—which most of the time is really an honest mistake. Doesn’t sound very loving of God to toss someone into hell just because they were born in some part of the world where they were never taught God properly—be it North Korea, Nepal, Mali, or Mississippi.

Now I agree God’s unlikely to smite people for honest mistakes. I just seriously doubt the bulk of humanity’s mistakes are honest ones. Lots of us embrace our God-beliefs purely out of convenience, pragmatism, or selfishness. That Iranian who’s never gonna hear the gospel: He already wouldn’t listen to it if offered. If he honestly wanted to hear the gospel, it doesn’t matter what filters his nation puts on the internet; he’d track down Christians and ask questions. Maybe Jesus would personally appear to him, just as he has throughout Christian history, beginning with Paul. (No, that wasn’t just a one-time deal.) Or that American whose parents raised her as a militant atheist: No matter how skeptical and free-thinking she claims to be, she honestly doesn’t wanna challenge her parents’ claims, and see whether there’s anything to this God stuff. If she did, the first miracle she experienced would shatter her atheism like a cinderblock through safety glass.

Honest mistakes are like Calvinism: People try to defend God’s sovereignty, go overboard, and wind up teaching God’s secretly evil. But they are still pursuing God in the meanwhile. And the Holy Spirit’s still producing love and patience and kindness in them, and still letting ’em into his kingdom. (Unless they’re only pursuing clever arguments, producing no fruit, and wind up some of those poor souls who’re mighty shocked Jesus doesn’t recognize ’em. Mt 7.23) The whole “honest mistakes” cop-out is a convenient excuse to ignore God, avoid obeying him, and dodge religion, church, and Christians.

It’s a risky little game they’re playing, for Christ Jesus said not everyone’s getting saved.

Matthew 7.21-24 KWL
21 “Not everyone who calls me, ‘Master, master!’ will enter the heavenly kingdom.
Just the one who does my heavenly Father’s will.
22 At that time, many will tell me, ‘Master, master! Didn’t we prophesy in your name?
Didn’t we throw out demons in your name? Didn’t we do many powerful things in your name?’
23 And I’ll explain to them, ‘I never knew you.
Get away from me, all you Law-breakers.’”

That’s the people who really thought they were Christian. How much chance does the “honestly mistaken” nontheist have? Well, God is gracious, so we’ll see.

Though God absolutely does wants everyone saved, 1Ti 2.4 he knows full well many people want nothing to do with him, nor his kingdom. They don’t want saving. Since God did create ’em with free will, he permits them to tell him no. He won’t force ’em into his kingdom. They don’t have to enter.

They’re really gonna hate the alternative, though.

28 February 2016

The rapture. Yes, there is one.

Happens when Jesus returns. And not before.

Rapture /ˈræp.tʃər/ n. At Christ’s return, when his living and resurrected followers are taken up, and meet him in the air.
2. v. To be taken up to meet Christ in the air.

There are a number of Christians who don’t believe in the rapture. In part because the End Times scenario they hold to, doesn’t include any rapture. The End of Days idea, fr’instance: The world ends, or we otherwise die, and we go straight to heaven. Or not. No uncomfortable, material resurrection or millennium; just bliss and ease and comfort. It’s sort of a rapture: When we die, hallelujah by and by, we “fly away”—to heaven. That’s how we meet Jesus in the air.

And there are a number of Christians who do believe in the rapture. Myself included. Nope, we don’t all agree about what it’ll look like. In fact a segment of Christendom, who call themselves “premillennial dispensationalists” (and I call Darbyists), imagine it’ll be secret: Nobody sees Jesus come and get us. One day as you’re doing your thing, whoosh and all the Christians are gone. Vanished into thin air. Them, plus any children who were too young to make decisions for Christ, whom Jesus will preemptively take ’cause Jesus loves the little children; all the children of the world. Oh, and they also figure he’ll also take all the unborn babies, straight out of their mothers’ wombs. Oy, will that creep out a lot of pregnant pagans.

Most Christians consider the Darbyist belief to be the looney-bin version of the End, and wanna distance themselves from it. (I sure do.) In response a lot of ’em will claim they don’t believe in the rapture—but what they mean is they don’t believe in the Darbyists’ version of the rapture. They don’t believe in any secret rapture, any rapture which is separate from Jesus’s second coming.

Lastly we have the ignorant category. ’Bout a decade ago I ran into some guy who ranted there can’t be any rapture, ’cause the word “rapture” isn’t in the bible. Following his reasoning, there can’t be the trinity either, ’cause that word isn’t in the bible either. But whether “rapture” is in the bible, entirely depends on how you translate arpaghisómetha. Me, I translate it “will be raptured,” like yea:

1 Thessalonians 4.15-18 KWL
15 We tell you this message from the Master.
We who are still alive at the Master’s second coming don’t go ahead of those who’ve died.
16 With a commanding shout, with the head angel’s voice, with God’s trumpet,
the Master himself will come down from heaven.
The Christian dead will be resurrected first.
17 Then, we who are left, who are still alive,
will be raptured together with them into the clouds,
to meet the Master in the air.
Thus, we’ll be with the Master—always.
18 So encourage one another with these words!

Other bibles go with “shall be caught up,” (KJV) or “will be gathered up.” (GNB) It’s got the sense of a thief swiping a purse: We’ll be ripped from the earth like a waxer rips the hair off a pair of furry legs. Then we’re joining our king’s invading army before he even touches down. We’re part of his procession, as he takes possession of the world he conquered centuries ago.

16 December 2015

The four main End Times theories.

Covering what 99 percent of Christians believe about the End Times.

At some future point, Jesus is gonna return. Mt 24.42, Ac 1.11, 1Th 4.16-17, 2Th 2.1, Rv 22.20 Not maybe, not we hope he will: Gonna. It’s in the creeds; it’s orthodox Christianity. Any so-called “Christian” who says Jesus isn’t returning, or who thinks his return isn’t literal but a metaphor (or is “spiritual,” by which they mean imaginary) would fall under the category of heretic. Sorry, heretics. He’s coming again.

But even though Christians are unanimous in our belief that “from [heaven] he will come to judge the living and the dead,” we’re not universal as to how that’ll happen. Because Jesus didn’t give us specifics. He gave us apocalypses, images which represent what God’s up to, but aren’t meant to be taken literally. (Not that some Christians, out of sheer frustration, don’t interpret ’em literally regardless.) His Olivet Discourse—the bit in the synoptic gospels where he teaches his students about the End—is full of these apocalypses. His revelations to John in Revelation: All apocalypses. Jesus told us what the End is like, but not what the future is. We have to trust him to be in charge of it, and let it unfold as he chooses.

Since we aren’t agreed on how the End will come, most Christians agree to disagree. Most. Some of us are absolutely certain it’ll happen the way we say it will, and have declared war on any Christian who teaches otherwise. In fact, they’ll go so far as to say differing Christians are heretics. I know I’ve certainly been called one. Sure glad those folks aren’t in charge of what’s orthodox and what isn’t; ain’t nobody getting into heaven if they’re in charge.

But as far as End Times interpretations are concerned, there are four major camps we Christians fall into. So I thought I’d introduce you to them. And admit, since I have a particular preference for one of them, why I lean that way—but again, you’re not heretic if you go for one of the other views. Wrong, probably. But not heretic.

23 October 2015

TXAB’s 2016 Presidential Antichrist Watch.

Just in case you were worried about the current crop of candidates.

Every presidential election year in the United States, we get doomsayers claiming this or that candidate is probably the Antichrist. Or wannabe prophets claiming one of the candidates is Jesus’s personal choice; if he held American citizenship (and I’m surprised one of the political parties in Congress hasn’t voted him an honorary one by now) he’d totally pick that guy.

Of course, none of these folks have any insight, supernatural or not. They’re proclaiming their own personal politics. Some of ’em do it every election. In the process, any such “prophets” are unwittingly exposing themselves as false ones, even when their favored candidates win. Because God’s will is for Jesus to reign, not some party, nor some politician. Lucky for them, we no longer stone false prophets to death. Man, would that be satisfying.

However, I will point out it’s totally possible to determine which of these contenders might actually be the Beast of Revelation 13, or as he’s more popularly called, the Antichrist. Seriously. Because at the end of that chapter, St. John the Revelator stated the Beast’s number is that of a human, and it’s 666. Rv 13.18 Meaning if we know what John meant by “its number”—and we do—we can calculate it.

Ready to find out which of these folks are devil-spawn? Wait, lemme rephrase that: Ready to find out which of these folks are the ultimate devil-spawn? Well then you’re ready for The Christ Almighty Blog’s 2016 Presidential Antichrist Watch.

02 October 2015

The comic book End Times. (Part 5.)

Finally we reach the end of the End.

Wrapping up the Christian comic book There’s a New World Coming, by Hal Lindsey and Al Hartley.
Other parts: 1234

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not an End Times expert. ’Cause there is no such thing. There are only people who know how to grammatically and historically exegete the bible, and people who think there are no such rules and the bible means whatever makes ’em feel warmest and fuzziest. End Times “prophecy scholars,” who are neither prophets nor scholars, are only experts on all the semi-historical factoids they’ve collected to interpret their individual End Times Timelines. They don’t know, any more than any Christian knows, the specifics of the End. And since they’re expecting a straight-to-heaven rapture, instead of a joining-Jesus’s-invasion rapture, they’re gonna be mighty confused when things immediately take a 180-degree turn away from their expectations.

Folks, learn the lesson of Isaiah 53. That’s Isaiah’s vision of God’s suffering slave, who gets horribly killed for our transgressions. In Jesus’s day, many Pharisees rightly recognized this was a Messianic prophecy. Yet not one of them figured out how to reconcile it with the prophecies that Messiah would be a victorious, reigning king. Some of ’em actually taught there were two Messiahs—the suffering one and the kingly one. More of ’em chose to ignore the suffering Messiah entirely. He’s such a downer.

As a result, Jesus’s students, no matter how many times he warned them he was gonna die, totally didn’t know what to think when their Master got killed. “You’re not thinking,” he had to explain to two of them, “and your hearts are slow to trust everything the Prophets spoke. Wasn’t suffering necessary for Messiah to enter into his glory?” Lk 24.25-26 And even then they couldn’t fathom it was Messiah himself telling them this. ’Cause the End Times “experts” of their day were too busy predicting a Roman-vanquishing Messiah. So they missed the sin-vanquishing one.

Shoulda read the bible for themselves. And that’s what I tell you too. Don’t trust them. Don’t trust me either: Read Revelation for yourself. Yeah, it’ll confuse you; it does everybody. But it’ll bless you, Rv 22.7 in a way you can’t get by only reading the End Times “experts.”

Okay, now it’s time to wrap up this comic book and get to the Mega-Happy Ending. Jesus wins, y’know.

01 October 2015

The comic book End Times. (Part 4.)

Trumpets, helicopters, Armageddon, Babylon. Just another day in the End Times.

More on the fearful future within the Christian comic book There’s a New World Coming, by Hal Lindsey and Al Hartley.
Other parts: 1235

There are two ways people respond to my critique of John Nelson Darby’s beliefs about premillennial dispensationalism and the End Times. And it depends on whether they’ve utterly swallowed Darbyism. Some folks have just casually accepted Darby’s beliefs—“Hmm, that sounds reasonable; guess I’ll believe that till I hear a better explanation.” Sometimes they think my explanation is that better explanation, and sometimes they don’t. It’s okay; End Times views aren’t make-or-break doctrines. We’re free to disagree. (Just please, if you’re gonna quote bible at me, quote it in context.)

Then there’s the other camp. They’ve not only embraced Darby: His teachings are foundational to the way they live their lives. They’ve invested a lot of time in their Scofield bibles. They’ve put a lot of money into Darbyist commentaries, Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye books, “prophecy conferences,” expensive classes, and full college educations at credited or unaccredited schools. They believe America should isolate itself, so as not to get us sucked into the 10-kingdom nation of Antichrist. They believe the state of Israel’s enemies (more accurately, the Likkud Party’s enemies) are their enemies. They’re against any Middle Eastern peace initiative, for fear it’s fake peace. And any identification technology, for fear it’s the Beast’s mark. And any multi-denominational movement, for fear it’ll lead to the one-world religion. And any other End Times view than Darbyism isn’t just dismissed as “your opinion, and up for debate”: It’s heresy. You’re not just going to hell for it: Jesus will leave you behind in the rapture. (Somehow that’s worse.)

Much as I consider Darbyism to be problematic, and fruit of a poisonous tree, you’re not going to hell if you believe it. God’s grace is greater than any bad idea. I’m only trying to warn people away from the bad idea. It’s like when a friend asked me whether it’s okay for Christians to smoke. It’s not okay for humans to smoke, no matter what you’re smoking: Awful for your lungs and heart, not wise, can’t recommend it. But is it apostasy? Heresy? Do all smokers go to hell? Of course not. Your eternal life’s not at stake. Smoking’s just a really bad idea, with awful earthly consequences, so maybe we can avoid a lot of heartbreak with a little corrective thinking. Same deal with Darbyism.

Okay. Glad we cleared that up.

30 September 2015

The comic book End Times. (Part 3.)

If you’ve ever wondered why European Christians are so antisemitic, but American Christians love Jews so much, read on.

More on the fearful future within the Christian comic book There’s a New World Coming, by Hal Lindsey and Al Hartley.
Other parts: 1245

As I’ve said previously about those who believe John Nelson Darby’s beliefs about dispensationalism and the End Times, not all Darbyists think alike. Hal Lindsey’s beliefs in There’s a New World Coming (illustrated by Al Hartley) don’t precisely line up with those of Tim LaHaye, John Hagee, or any of the other folks who claim Jesus’s second coming comes in two parts—a secret rapture, Jesus’s actual return seven years later, and in between those events we suffer tribulation: Death, evil, natural disasters, war, mayhem, dogs and cats living together.

Y’see, a small but significant subgroup of Darbyists claim the secret rapture doesn’t take place before tribulation starts, like Hal Lindsey or Tim LaHaye or the makers of numerous Christian movies do. Christians get to experience three years, six months, of the seven-year suffering, same as the pagans. But at halftime Jesus takes us out of the game, and the final 42 months consists of great tribulation. As opposed to the bad-but-not-as-bad, first-half tribulation. “Mid-tribs,” they tend to be called.

What little there is of the fifth seal in the comic book. TNWC 13

Why do they believe this? You may recall in my previous article where, in the middle of the Lamb opening the big seven-sealed scroll of history (which Darbyists insist is the scroll of just the tribulation), the fifth seal reveals a bunch of martyred Christians asking God to avenge them. Rv 6.9-10 Mid-tribs agree this proves the rapture hadn’t happened by this point of the scroll-opening procedure. But like the rest of the Darbyists, they still buy the secret rapture idea, still insist the scroll only represents End Times history, and therefore figure the rapture happens after the next seal gets opened.

And y’know what? Mid-tribs are actually mid-right. I’ll get to that today. Promise.

29 September 2015

The comic book End Times. (Part 2.)

More about Hal Lindsey’s violent supernatural funhouse of revenge fantasies.

We continue my commentary on the messed-up Christian comic book There’s a New World Coming, by Hal Lindsey and Al Hartley.
Other parts: 1345

Because I don’t accept the premillennial dispensationalist view of the End Times (which here I call Darbyism, after the guy who invented it), people occasionally accuse me of not believing Jesus will return at all. Or that I’m a universalist, who thinks Jesus is gonna save everybody and no one goes to hell. Basically they embrace the usual fallacy: “If you don’t believe as I do, you must be heretic”—and then I get accused of every heresy, ’cause all heresies are alike.

I believe as the creed teaches: From heaven, Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead. Judge means he’s sorting us out, sheep-and-goats style, Mt 25.31-46 and like the old Cake song goes, “Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell.”

But I’m not a dispensationalist: I don’t believe God saves us in different ways in different eras. He’s always saved people by grace, through faith. Ep 2.8 I don’t believe in this dispensation, God does grace, but in that dispensation, he stops. There’s wrath for the unrepentant, the stubborn, the obstinate, those who want nothing to do with him, and only want to exploit or destroy the weak. But God’s kingdom runs on grace. Always has. And when a lot of pagans finally see his kingdom for what it is—instead of the way we Christians have imperfectly mangled his message and portrayed him—they’re gonna respond, “This is who Christ is? If you’d only told me, I’d have followed him in a heartbeat!” They’re not gonna be the ones tearing their hair out at his coming. To them, he’ll be the best surprise ever.

Messiah taking his kingdom, throughout the scriptures, is a happy occasion. Good news. Not good for those who love and embrace evil. But from my own experiences I don’t see a lot of people who’d prefer evil to Jesus. (To Christians maybe, but that’s hardly the same thing.)

And sadly, at the same time, a lot of Christians-in-name-only who flinch in outrage, “Why’s he doing that?” They’ll be the ones gnashing their teeth at the End. Darbyism is more their speed.

28 September 2015

The comic book End Times. (Part 1.)

Presenting a popular, but wack, version of the End. With illustrations!

A particular childhood trauma of mine.
Other parts: 2345

Like most Christians, when I was a kid I had questions about the End Times. My mom didn’t know the answers, but she found me a comic book which claimed to. And now I’m gonna inflict share this book with you: There’s a New World Coming, by Hal Lindsey and Al Hartley.

Y’see, all of us know human history will come to an end. Either we’ll kill ourselves with pollution or war… or we’ll sort all our problems out, like they did on Star Trek, but in a few billion years the sun will expand and fry the planet anyway. But Christians, based on stuff Christ Jesus said in the gospels, figure the end is coming much sooner. He’s gonna take over the world, y’see. Eventually he’ll put us on a better one.

The final book of the New Testament is called Apokálypsis, better known by its English name Revelations, or as educated Christians call it, Revelation, singular. It consists of messages and freakish visions given by Jesus to his apostle, St. John the Divine. (Whether this is the same John who first followed Jesus, who wrote the gospel and letters, is debatable. I think it is.) Just like his parables, Jesus’s revelations only represent various events. They aren’t literally those events. That’s on purpose. You know how people are: Give us enough details, and we’ll either try to force these events to happen prematurely, or fight to prevent them. Jesus wisely stuck to imagery which only hints the future. And the past, and the then-present.

But not every Christian understands this, nor believes it. They think the Revelation visions must be taken literally: The End Times are gonna be crazy. Or they believe Jesus means for us to decode his visions, so they have—and wrote a book series about it. Wanna buy it?

The noisiest bunch of End Times prognosticators follow a system, invented in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby, which they call premillennial dispensationalism. I just call this bunch Darbyists. (Much shorter.) I grew up in Darbyist churches; I brought ’em up in one of my rants. One of my church’s deacons taught a Revelation class, and explained Darbyism top-to-bottom. Today I’m passing that info forward.