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Are We Too Enraptured with the Rapture?

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I believe that Jesus is coming back. I look forward to that glorious day.

I am not completely convinced it will be in the next years, or even decades. I am even less confident that a rapture will take place. (This probably comes from years of hearing from the “experts” that Jesus was coming back before this year or that, and that the entire mystery of The Revelation had been revealed to these experts, only to see them fail time after time. It gets tiring and I am a little jaded. A rapture might happen, but if it doesn’t, I’m OK with that.)

But I am absolutely convinced of His Second Coming. I think The Revelation is clear about that at least.

Now for argument’s sake, let’s say He will return shortly and that there will be a rapture and that there will be seven years of not-so-fun times to follow. Here is a problem I see in today’s American Church.

They are too excited about it.

Now I’m not saying that the Lord’s return is nothing to get excited about. It is - absolutely. I just have problems with the attitude that seems to say, “See you, suckas! We are out of here!!! Where’s my new body?!”

The problem I have is that I think we should have a heart that is torn between being taken away to be with Him and one that wants to stay and help. For the last 30+ years I get this feeling that most American Christians have their eyes totally focused on diving into the lifeboats before that ship goes down, forgetting there are people about to go through hell as the ship sinks.

I wonder how many of us would be conflicted if we found out He was coming back tomorrow. Would we have bags all packed and at the door (figuratively) or would we dare to say to Him, “Lord, if it is your will, can I stay and help? Can you use me to further your kingdom during these awful times by having me stay behind? Because I am willing.”

Because I think He might be greatly pleased with the heart that volunteers to stay - and suffer - to save those who are lost. Like He did with us.

Something to think about.

Old Earthers Thrown Under the Bus - Again

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It happened again. In one five-minute answer to a question from the audience about the age of the earth, a speaker managed to throw under the bus all of science and all of us who believe the universe is more than several thousand years old.

A lecturer I was listening to last night told a group of people that the Bible clearly teaches that the earth and universe are thousands of years old, not "millions." (I believe it's billions of years old, for the record.)

It doesn't matter that I and many I know are followers of Jesus Christ, or that we believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis One. It doesn't matter either that we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. None of that apparently matters at all to some young earth creationists. After 20 years of this, it just never seems to matter.

What matters is that they believe a Genesis "day" means a 24-hour day, darn it, nothing more, nothing less! And that a handful of "scientists" - actually less than a handful - support their interpretation. Any other opinions need not apply. Any other interpretation - and all of science - is wrong.

In fact, any other opinion is not just wrong but means being in bed with those "Darwinistic evolutionists." To these young earth creationists life is that simple. Either believe as we do (read: the absolute truth) or backslide into the camp of the enemy. There is no in-between. It is black or white, no shades of gray.

How about this, young earth friend: Another alternative to your God-breathed opinion is that the Hebrew for "day" can be interpreted to be "a long time." Moreover, that interpretation fits the facts. No need to change the Bible. No Hebrew words were harmed in our interpretation. No compromise.

And, he added last night, why can't God create things instantly in mere days? Why can't He create Adam and Eve and the Garden in an instant with the appearance of age. And why can't He create the entire universe in the beat of a heart and make it look like it's been here for "millions" of years?!

How about this, young earth friend: 1) It is never a question of power or an ability to do it in a flash, just a question of how He really accomplished it all. 2) A God who waves a magic wand and poofs everything into existence with the appearance of age is a deceptive God, one not found in the Bible I read. Unless I interpreted that wrong, as well.

Here's a suggestion that my apparently-deceived old earth friends and I follow when we are asked about the age of the earth. 1) Start off by admitting the age of the universe is not a salvation issue (it really isn't), 2) State the fact that there are other views besides yours of how God did it (there are more than five). 3) Then proceed to give your point of view. (key phrase: point of view) 4) Finish by repeating steps 1 and 2.

One more thing: You are free to believe what you want about the age of the universe, but please do not say there is good science to support it or "brilliant, brilliant scientists" who can prove it. That is an exaggeration of the highest order, beyond reasonable comprehension.

Like the belief that a thousands-of-years-old universe appears to be billions of years old.

The Ups and Downs of Heaven and Hell

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One of the silly arguments some people use against Christianity goes something like this, “So if heaven is up there somewhere and hell is below us, how come we can’t find heaven somewhere up there, and we know that everything below us is molten rock, not some place with demons and sinners? Huh, Christian boy?!”

Let me briefly speculate why that might be.

The Bible use phrases like “ascending into heaven” and “descending” into hell. And believers have used phrases like that for thousands of years. I cannot wiggle out of that.

But, I would also agree with my nontheistic friends: Heaven is not literally above us in this universe, nor is hell below us. Not that the Lord couldn’t put them there if He wanted to, but He says pretty much that this entire universe will pass away. Therefore, it would follow that if they really are here with us, just above and below, they would be done away with, as well. They, too, will see an end. Which kind of flies in the face of an “everlasting” life, doesn’t it? Heaven and hell must then be “elsewhere.”

So why does the Bible refer to our afterlife as “above” or “below.” Put on your thinking caps!

I believe it is because it is the only way that He can get across the concept of extra-dimensions to us poor, dim humans. Extra what?

We live in three dimensions of space - up/down, right/left, forward/back. Heaven and hell are in other dimensions of space (and time) - not in this universe at all. They are in the truest sense of the phrase “beyond us” and cannot even be described in human terms. How can He convey other dimensions - the heavenly realm - to our limited minds without making our brains explode?

Well, our existence here is almost entirely limited to the face of planet Earth. With the exception of 12 men who travelled to the Moon, all humans who have ever lived, have lived on what is essentially a two-dimensional planetary surface, north/south and east/west. We are confined here; this is all we know. For all intents and purposes, there is no up and down for us, none that we can actually experience anyway.

For Jesus to say He is ascending to heaven is like saying He is going where we may not go (yet), outside of our existence, to another place entirely beyond us. He doesn’t have to get into a high-level astrophysics dissertation on the extra-dimensions of time and space. For all us simpletons, “ascending” and “descending” means going into a dimension where we may not go, a place beyond us.

Another point: All we know, all our volumes of real experiences here, are from the two-dimensional surface of this giant sphere. But despite that, there actually is an inside to the sphere, there is an outside to it. There are real “places,” above and below us, not figments of our imagination.

To take the analogy one more step: All that we know about them have not been from real experiences but from inferring or speculating or using special tools or trusting the experts. That’s not unlike what we know about heaven and hell, is it?

And - yet one more thing - notice how the Bible and tradition put heaven and hell on opposite sides, the implication, I believe, being obvious.

So, no, heaven is not really above us, hell is not really below us. But they exist. We have faith that they are there, although we cannot truly experience them. And someday we will shuffle off this mortal coil, and those who follow God will “ascend” into the one, those who have chosen rebellion will “descend” into the other.

Going up?
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