APOCALYPTICISM, OR THE BELIEF THAT THERE WILL BE AN APOCALYPSE, IS THE BASIS FOR THE TIME-HONORED THEOLOGICAL FIELD OF ESCHATOLOGY.
Ah, armchair pop theology at its finest. “Tribulation,” “Rapture,” “Millennialism,” “Antichrist”…three out of four ain’t bad. As best as I can tell, most of these apocalyptic, revelational or eschatological terms (with the distinct exception of “Rapture,” which seems to have been quite embellished by every proponent I’ve heard) are derived from the prophetic books of Daniel in the Hebrew Scriptures (sometimes called the “Hebrew Bible,” referred to by Christians as the Old Testament), Jesus in the Gospels (which you would think any sincere Christian would instinctively give pride of place [!]) and Revelation in the Christian Scriptures or New Testament.
Of all the things people seem to pretend to know more than they do, the “Rapture” takes home the golden idol. The assumption within most Baptist and other sort of Puritanical groups (who emphatically claim the Bible is their only guide yet in practice lean too heavily for my taste on their gurus’ [pastors’ and televangelists’] views) is that the “Rapture” will take all the good eggs into heaven, leaving the faithless/unrepentant/chain-smokers to suffer some unspeakably nasty catastrophes. This novel and seemingly unbiblical understanding of the (allegedly immanent) end-times does not seem to account for Jesus’ words when He says “It will be like in the days of Noah.” Anyone who knows the Bible’s account of Salvation History knows that in the days of Noah those who were taken from the earth were the wicked. So if Jesus is to be trusted on the subject, to be blunt, most Evangelical pastors probably aren’t.
I think we all want the world to end because we lack mysticism, contemplation. Radically reformed “Christians” reject formal (i.e. scripted) prayer–even the prayer Jesus taught us–but they replace them with really contrived, cliquish prayers. G. K. Chesterton, renowned atheist-turned-Catholic, observed that the only replacement for good ceremony is bad ceremony, and history certainly seems to bear him out on that one!
People who are ignorant/indifferent toward history tend to latch onto prophecy (or rather Pastor X’s commentary thereupon); they simply cannot bear their obscurity. It seems largely symptomatic of what the Ancient Church calls vainglory. We cannot conceive of a world without us. That is why we ignore history and obsess about the world ending in our lifetimes. So we’re not above editing Scripture’s testimony to suit our self-importance rather than, say, taking the Word at its word and letting it inform our lives: “Thy will be done.”
Relinquishing our will is the essence of Orthodox religion’s divine relationship and spirituality. In fact, the words religion and relinquish share a common ancestor. What we tend to see in Calvinism and most modern heresies is a spirit of presumption. The Bible becomes not a living covenant but a legal contract. The prophets would call this spirit “hard-heartedness” and “stiff-neckedness.” But it is surely the prevailing spirit of American Protestantism in all of my experience thereof. When the Bible is viewed purely legalistically, when God is more Architect than Judge than Father (which is the essence of Jesus’ teaching), hearts are relegated to Pharisaism, to trying to get God over a barrel. This saved concept where you’re once saved, always saved makes salvation more of an external, one-time, individual act than a work of the heart over a lifetime and in community, or Church.
This cheerless, Bible-thumping spirit of “Christian” minimalism, championed by such bloodthirsty tyrants as Oliver Cromwell, seems to have its most ardent heirs in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were founded by a Baptist, celebrate no holidays, constantly predict the world’s end and deny Jesus’ divinity.
I was brought up Catholic, and we had our own version of this via Marian apparitions, i.e. appearances of the Mother of Our Lord which (particularly at the documentedly miraculous Fatima phenomenon) made dyer predictions pertaining to Russia and the whole world. We even have our own version of Tim LaHaye (author of the Left Behind Series) in one Bud Macfarlane, Jr. (author of Pierced by a Sword, Conceived without Sin and House of Gold, who was once a member of the now-disgraced Jesuitical cult known as the Legion of Christ and has, since writing his novels, seemingly broken down, abandoning his wife and children). His father, Bud Macfarlane, Sr., whom the Mary Foundation touts as perhaps the top expert on (Roman Catholic) Marian apparitions. The Roman Catholic Magisterium/Pope rejects most novel Protestant theories and usually discourages the initiation of End Times topics by clergy.
Here is an Orthodox Christian perspective, which has got to be the most weighty and reliable, objectively speaking: http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/the_new_year_and_the_end_of_the_age
On Apocalypticism in general: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocalypticism
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