Thursday, May 05, 2011

Some Rapturous Responses

So ... did you know somebody is (once again) actually putting a date on the upcoming end of the world, aka Judgment Day? I ran across a guy on the radio a few days ago as I was scrolling through the AM dial on a road trip. Then I saw a billboard. And then I found the website

It's pretty soon, too. Check it out.

Wow. One thing's for sure: Somebody's going to have egg on their face by the time June rolls around. 

As it happens, I got a request from a former parishioner, a student at an evangelical Christian college, to help out with a class assignment requiring that two pastors be interviewed regarding what they believe and teach about eschatology. I thought it might be interesting to share the questions and my responses.

1 .    Please define for me the following terms and what you or your church believes about each: What they are?  When they occur?  Who is involved?

Rapture – This word is not in the vocabulary of the Anglican tradition. It is not found in Scripture, nor in the historic tradition of the Church.

Millennium – This word is not in our theological vocabulary either. We would tend to interpret the details of the Revelation to St John poetically, while embracing the broad theme that “God wins” in the end, and we find our fulfillment in worshiping him eternally.

Kingdom – The Kingdom of God (aka Kingdom of Heaven) is, quite simply, “wherever God rules.” In theory, this is everywhere, though God may allow rebellion against his rule to prosper for a time. In the end, as mentioned above, God wins.

Heaven – In a sense, Heaven is both “here and now” and “then and there.” It exists wherever God’s reign is recognized and welcomed. In every experience of love, forgiveness, and unity, there is a glimpse of Heaven. Ultimately, God’s reign will be fully and universally acknowledged, and the saints of God will know him even as they are fully known. This is Heaven.

Hell – As with Heaven, Hell is both “here and now” and “then and there.” It is a condition marked by the absence of God, the condition of those who persistently reject God’s grace. One might hope that, in the end, Hell will be unpopulated, but it is at least a logical necessity as long as one upholds the notion of free will.

Great White Throne – A poetic term used in Revelation, traditionally not of any theological significance.

Judgment Seat of Christ – An expression that occurs in the Pauline epistles, and since used from time to time in Christian liturgy, denoting the creedal affirmation that Jesus will return to “judge the living and the dead.”

First Resurrection – Not part of our vocabulary.

Final Resurrection – Ditto. Both the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds affirm the “resurrection of the body.” Beyond that, we don’t put too fine a point on the matter.

2.     Which position best describes your church or individual belief about the return of Christ?

Pre-millennial return of Christ             Post-millennial return of Christ

A-millennial return of Christ                Preterit view of the return of Christ

None of the above. The “millennium” just doesn’t figure. We simply believe that Christ will return in glory, that he will judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

3.     Which view best describes your church or individual belief about the rapture of the church?

Pre-Tribulational Rapture                   Mid-Tribulational rapture

Post-Tribulational Rapture                 Pre-Wrath rapture

Partial Rapture

Again, none of the above, for similar reasons. The historic tradition of biblical interpretation and Christian theology sees both “millennium” and “tribulation” as apocalyptic poetry, not as literal realities.

4.     In your view or the view of your church explain in detail the meaning of the following terms:

Day of the Lord—A rich expression that occurs in both the Old and New Testaments that denotes the “end of history,” time as we know it morphing into eternity, or, as C.S. Lewis describes it, the Author bringing down the curtain on the play.

Second Coming of Christ—Closely related to the above, perhaps thought of as the incipient event in the sequence that could be subsumed under “Day of the Lord.”

Sheep/Goat Judgment—A parable in Matthew 25 that talks about the blessings that will occur to those who welcome Christian missionaries and the misfortune that will befall those who reject them.

Millennial Kingdom—Not an expression of theological significance.

Eternal State—Although I might guess what this means, it is not a term I am familiar with.

5.     Do you believe that a person’s or church’s view of the end times has any practical significance in the life of a believer?  If yes…please explain what?  If no…please explain why?

Yes, but probably in a limited sense. One of the cardinal Christian virtues is Hope. A lively faith that, while the middle of the story may be a complicated mess, the story nonetheless has a happy ending, is a major foundation for Hope. For one at peace with God, contemplation of “the end” is hope-filled.

6.     How significant is eschatology to the teaching ministry of the church which you lead?  How significant is eschatology in your teaching in the home?

It is significant at the time of year when it comes to the foreground in our liturgical calendar—namely early Advent and the two or three Sundays prior (i.e. mid-November through early December). Outside of that time, eschatology operates in the background while other themes take turns in the foreground.


Anonymous said...

I ran into to some similar folks handing out their literature on a street corner in Philadelphia during Holy Week/Spring Break. My 8 year old asked why I said to the fellow - 'friend I believe you and I are reading different bibles'. My son and I got a chance to have a nice chat about Matt 24:36/Mark 13:32. 'No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father'.

-miserable sinner

Sr. Sarah said...

A bishop teaching the faith. What a wonderful concept.

Anonymous said...

I posted this January 3rd when I first heard of Camping's prediction: