I wonder what the appeal of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation is. There is muscle, violence, scripted drama and storylines, rivalries, flashing lights, music, hoopla, more violence, sex, noise; you get the idea. It packages itself to appeal to a culture with an insatiable appetite for entertainment. Gone are the days when men without drugs and steroids and body-building supplements performed on black and white television – most of those men looked normal, in fact I don’t recall anyone who looked like he stepped out of a comic book; times have changed. There is nothing quite like fans obsessed with WWF and its competitors, and whatever you do, don’t suggest it is fake, don’t challenge their view of reality. Even though the promoters of WWF have taken to calling it “entertainment” the fans still don’t get the message that it isn’t real – and of course the powers that be in entertainment wrestling are fine with that – what the promoters say and what they want are two different things.
And so it is with Christian Eschatological Mania; best-selling fiction is perceived as real, and often non-fiction books about prophecy have no more Biblical foundation than the prognostications of a panel on a Sunday-morning news program. Some Eschatological Mania is mainstream, and some tends toward elitism; the former appeals to the masses, the latter appeals to those who are weary of Christian pop culture.
As I’ve probably written previously, if Daniel’s response to understanding the prophecy of Jeremiah concerning the seventy-years captivity was prayer, as opposed to writing a book or going on a speaking tour, maybe that ought to be our response too when we think we’re gaining insight into prophetic trajectory.
I’m reading Daniel right now, and it strikes me that we can read this book and miss its point – the point that God is in control and that because He is in control we can have confidence in our obedience to Him and that our hope is certain and sure. It is possible to obsess with Daniel’s prophecies and miss the point, just as it is possible to obsess with Revelation and miss the central point – the central point being Jesus Christ the Lamb of God.
Revelation was written to encourage a persecuted church; yet we often use Revelation to satisfy the curiosity of a church bound in the velvet prison of personal peace and affluence. Revelation was written to encourage obedience unto death, today we often use Revelation to proclaim escape from suffering and martyrdom – a particularly Anglo – American message. We tend not to see the incongruity.
There isn’t much preaching or teaching about the theology of the Bible’s prophetic passages (see Richard Baucknam’s, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, for a brief example of such teaching) because, I suspect, that would require too much work for both listener and presenter. After all, we’d have to work not only with Revelation and Daniel, but with the other prophets, Jesus, and the other NT writers – and we couldn’t do our research watching CNN, Fox, MSNBC and all the rest of the modern Delphic Oracles.
But the real problem is that Eschatological Mania becomes a substitute for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and it becomes the filter through which the Gospel is read and preached, and we no longer read the Bible as it was written, but rather through a sensational lens – the evening news takes on a Biblical persona – we forget that God is in control and that people need the Lord.
People are all going to die; whether they die of old age, in a war with a bow and arrow, in a war with nuclear weapons, from cancer, from an epidemic, or being hit by a car. While we may have our preferences about our own death and the deaths of our loved ones and neighbors – we will all die (with Biblical exceptions). People all need the Lord. Therefore, I should stop obsessing about the future (Eschatological Mania) and start obsessing on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and people knowing Jesus.
There are countless Christians who know the Left Behind popular myth (remember it’s fiction – don’t get mad!), or a more esoteric brand of E Mania, but who don’t know what it is to share Jesus with others, to pray with others, to serve others, to be a faithful and winsome witness in an increasingly hostile culture.
The revelation of Jesus Christ is something all of His disciples should be looking forward to – for to behold Him and to see death manifestly abolished is our great hope and our certain future – that is worth living for, dying for, and worth preaching and teaching. That will get a man or woman or child through tough times – and then if we must die for our faith or otherwise suffer for it, we will do so embracing our calling to know Him in the fellowship of His suffering.
How we forget that the Cross is our enduring symbol, how we forget that Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow Him. The church throughout the ages has rejoiced that it has been counted worthy to suffer with Jesus – any message that diverts us from the Cross is a message that we need to rethink.