Eschatology and the Book of Revelation…

I have been dipping my clumsy toe back into some murky theological water…

I have written before of my encounters with End Times theology- those folk who believe that the world is about to come to an end.

Otherwise known as eschatology.

For some of you this will conjure up a rather ridiculous picture of some bloke with a sandwich board…

But religious ideas have the power to shape the world, for good and for ill.

The dominance of a particular interpretation of the apocalyptic writing contained in the Bible on American politics is difficult to understand from this side of the Atlantic. It is part of a package of belief that has become part of a middle American world view.

One of the individuals who first put apocalypticism on the bestseller lists in the United States was a charismatic preacher named Hal Lindsey. His book, The Late Great Planet Earth, was published in 1970 and has sold over 35 million copies to date. Ronald Reagan was so influenced by Lindsey’s book, that he wanted his military leaders to fully understand its significance. With Reagan’s blessing, Lindsey was invited to brief the Pentagon on the “divine implications” of their hostilities with the Soviet Union.

Since then, Tim la Haye’s ‘Left behind’ series of novels from 1998 have also had enormous influence, popularising and sensationalising the basic ideas. A 2002 Time/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the Book of Revelation are going to come true. Nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the 9/11 attacks.

This from here

Tune in to any of America’s 2,000 Christian radio stations or 250 Christian TV stations and you’re likely to get a heady dose of dispensationalism, an End-Time doctrine invented in the 19th century by the Irish-Anglo theologian John Nelson Darby. Dispensationalists espouse a “literal” interpretation of the Bible that offers a detailed chronology of the impending end of the world. (Many mainstream theologians dispute that literality, arguing that Darby misinterprets and distorts biblical passages.) Believers link that chronology to current events — four hurricanes hitting Florida, gay marriages in San Francisco, the 9/11 attacks — as proof that the world is spinning out of control and that we are what dispensationalist writer Hal Lindsey calls “the terminal generation.” The social and environmental crises of our times, dispensationalists say, are portents of the Rapture, when born-again Christians, living and dead, will be taken up into heaven.

The most powerful nation on earth has at it’s core an idea that the world is coming to an end soon. Does that worry you?

It is a view that makes looking after our environment pointless. It will all be gone soon.

It is a view that tends to go hand in hand with Christian Zionism– and so to justify military and economic support to Israel, and to encourage crusading interventions in the middle east, with a view to somehow hasten the second coming. Check out articles like this one on Rapture watch.

It may seem mad to you- but for many in the USA, this way of understanding our future is accepted as an unassailable tenet of their faith.

I grew up in an Evangelical Christian world where people had their own version of this belief, more or less. But at the risk of stating the obvious, this is simply not the only way to understand what the Bible says.

If you are interested, some of the main arguments are rehearsed quite well in this video-

Vodpod videos no longer available.