Surviving the Not-End of the World

July 13, 2012

Are people obsessed with the end of the world, or what?

The Christians are convinced Jesus is coming back soon.

The conspiracy theorists are convinced the end of civilization is at hand.  Maybe it’s a nuclear holocaust, or a massive economic failure, or we’ll just wreck the environment.

The rest of us are certain we’re on the cusp of a zombie apocalypse.

And there is no shortage of advice on how to prepare for whatever end of the world scenario you are anticipating.  You can build bomb shelters, outfit yourself with weapons, or stock up with a two year supply of food and water.

We’re all certain the world will end, one way or another.  It’s going to be scary.  You have to be prepared.  Google “end of the world.”  You will get over 3 billion results.

You know what I think everyone is secretly more afraid of?

The world not ending.  How do you survive that?

When the World Ends, You’ll Know It

The one thing every conceivable end of the world scenario has in common is that it’s catastrophic.

It happens.  There will be a date and time that the world ends.  And you have to be prepared for that moment.  All hell will break loose.  There will be looting and rioting.  You have to know how to stay alive when the world is upended.

The thing is, the world has “ended” plenty of times.  Rome ruled the world…until it fell apart.  Economies have collapsed.  Governments have failed.  Ice Ages have crushed continents.

And it almost never happens in a quick death blow.  It’s almost never catastrophic.  There’s almost always a long lead-up to some calamity.  Christians since the first century have thought Jesus was coming back soon.  “Soon” has turned out to be quite a while.  Prophets like Glenn Beck have been saying that we are a hair’s breadth from “the edge.”  Looks like “the edge” is pretty wide and rather gently sloping.

 

I don’t think we are predicting the end of the world any more.  We’re fantasizing about it.  We think of “worst case scenarios,” and how we would hypothetically survive them.

We do this because contemplating how to survive the status quo is actually a lot scarier.  In an end of the world fantasy, you know what you’re up against.  It actually starts to sound like fun, maybe like a game.  How would you out-maneuver a nuclear strike?  It’s an escapism that allows us to forget about the now that we’re struggling to survive.  It’s the status quo that we feel woefully ill-equipped to survive, while we stock up on water purification and freeze dried food for the apocalypse that may never happen.

We’re also lusting for some kind of end of the world, because it at least sounds adventurous.  Deep down, some of us just can’t believe that this is all there is to life.  Surviving bills and debt, surviving boredom at work.  Surviving the ruts of marriage.  Surviving church.  Surviving capitalism and corrupt politicians.  Zombies just sound like a lot more fun to think about having to outwit than anything we actually face.

Surviving the the Status Quo

The best thing about the end of the world?

At least it brings the status quo to an end.

The status quo is that thing we live with every day, that thing that we hate.  The thing we face every day, with no end in sight.  The status quo goes indefinitely into the future, and we can only imagine that it will only get worse, and the prospect of the apocalypse at least makes it stop.

The thing is, the status quo always continues.  No matter how many economies or governments fall, or how many wars or diseases break out, life goes on.

Even if you best worst-case scenario came true, life would go on.  Better get equipped to survive today.  Stop fantasizing about how zombies or Jesus’ return might release you from your status quo.

What do you think?  Has the end of the world become a fantasy?  A means of escaping the status quo?  What’s your end of the world scenario?

24 responses to Surviving the Not-End of the World

  1. Great post. I totally agree with the idea that sometimes the idea that we fantasise about the world ending to escape the status quo. If it doesn’t end, then that means we have to keep struggling with what is going on now, all the pleasures and pains of every day living, and trying to be holy in an unholy world. Thanks for the thought provoking post.

  2. Good post. I guess I like my status quo. After all, in the MBTI schedule, I’m an ISTJ and change and me aren’t the best of friends. I guess I fantasize about the world ending because I don’t think hell will be able to hold all the people coming it’s way if the world doesn’t end soon. I know that’s a shocking statement and, of course, and exaggeration, but, none the less, what is happening in the world? Are we drawing nearer to God? When I pray Jesus don’t tarry, I don’t pray for myself. I pray for the world.

  3. Hi Matt,
    Loving here in Florida, every season we get hurricane warnings. My wife and I always prepare–bottled water, non-perishable foods, batteries, mosquito repellant–and every season (so far) the storms pass north or south of us.
    And every season I feel disappointed.
    I got ready and riled up for nothing.
    Storm’s gone; same problems in my life as yesterday.
    Bummer.

  4. I think you nailed it. The end of the world is much more exciting than going to work (if you even have a job), paying the bills (if you can), fixing the clogged drain, pulling weeds….

    Plus, it appeals to our egos. If you “know” how it’s all going to soon end, then that makes you an elite insider. You are suddenly special. All those websites really cater to the “aren’t you smart and aren’t they dumb” mentality… while they clean up on sales of survival essentials.

    We must be thinking along similar lines. I blogged about this too, at http://compost-blog.com/2011/06/07/doomsday/

  5. Great post. My daughter picked up a book at the library written by Tim LaHaye about end times. It has fostered great discussion when she came to me and told me she was scared of what would happen. I explained to her that this is just his interpretation and that there are a lot of interpretations of Revelation and Daniel, all with different ideas about what will happen. God was pretty vague and I believe it was deliberate so that we wouldn’t focus so much on the future that we end up being no earthly good to people now (I read a quote about being so heavenly-minded that we aren’t any earthly good somewhere). And I have told her that if Jesus protects and takes care of us now, won’t he do the same thing at the end of the world? That is my “end of the world” plan and I am sticking to it. However, I have started knitting just in case there is an economic collapse and we won’t be able to buy cheap, crappy clothes anymore that wear out in a month. (hee hee).

    BTW, Jesus is coming soon….to him. A Psalmist and Peter say 1,000 years are like a day to God, so, it has only been two days since Jesus went up into heaven ;-).

  6. Matt, you have so nailed it – yet again. Growing up and into young adulthood, of course I was exposed to the Rapture teachings. I never saw any of the movies that have scared who knows how many into fits, but I well remember the Edgar Whisnant drama of the 80’s (“88 Reasons,” anyone?) and, in my teens, one particularly gruesome scene of a young woman’s parents being horribly tortured in a novel I believe was called simply “Rapture” (that’s the only thing I remember of the book and I wish I had never read it). Of course, with all of the talk about the Rapture, there was also the ongoing fear that I…might miss it. For whatever reason. (A fear that still lingers in my fifties.) It didn’t help that I was at one time exposed to a school of thought apparently taught in a local seminary that if a person did not speak in tongues, they would be left behind. I kid you not. As you might imagine, I started praying (again) for the gift of tongues. Which I did not receive. Why not? What was wrong with me? Was my faith not strong enough? Was I not REALLY “saved”? Could I just not “let myself go” and start babbling? Would I indeed be “left behind”? Thankfully I’m a bit older and wiser now about that sort of heretical nonsense now. A couple of older and wiser Christian mentors helped, as well.

    But. Growing up Southern Baptist as well, I had absorbed the doctrine of eternal security. And then, lo and behold, about my mid-twenties, I began to discover that not everyone else had. In fact, there were some, including the very well-known evangelical pastor of whose church I was a member, who did not adhere to this doctrine. And it was 1988. And “88 Reasons the Rapture Will Occur in 1988” was all the buzz in Christian circles. And I still didn’t speak in tongues. And I wasn’t necessarily convinced any longer that I was eternally secure, although I was ready to argue to the death on the point just the same.

    It’s now 2012. And since all the events described above, my youthful assumptions about the way things will be have been further rocked by the discovery that, guess what! Not all Christians even believe the Rapture will occur!

    Which brings me, at last, to why you “so nailed it” in your post, at least for me. Because even though I’ve had nagging doubts as to whether I’ll be left behind or not, at least I knew there would be an ending. And I hoped that said ending would conveniently occur before I reached old age, so I wouldn’t have to face that alone and quite possibly in some level of poverty (I have never married, nor do I expect to, and I’m too old for kids either way). There would be an END to dead-end jobs. Etc., etc. So the idea of there possibly not being a “rescue” – why, Matt, I felt somewhat cheated!

    For the record, I have not studied both sides of this issue and still essentially believe in the Rapture. But as I get older and it still doesn’t happen…well, let’s just say I’ve been taking a different view of how to prepare for my retirement. :-)

    • I think your sentiment is common – a rapture scenario is wishful thinking for a “rescue.” I hope you come to a place where you don’t feel the need for rescuing.

      • What if the rapture scenario was NOT like Left Behind? What if the body of Christ was resurrected like the body of Christ? Like after it was beaten, flogged and ridiculed and then put to death like the Jews under Hitler?

  7. Has the end of the world become a fantasy?
    Many biblical interpretations are fantasy, partial truth, and misinterpretations. Sort of like Dante’s Inferno – his artistic view. That said, I do think there is an end. What’s unfortunate is that the Greek word for “world” and the Greek word for “age” are both translated “world.”

    Check – http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_Greek_word_for_world

    Check http://www.angelfire.com/ca/DeafPreterist/aion.html

    The word “aion” (anos) means that there is an end of the age. That sort of means a transition. Even the Berlin Wall coming down did not happen in the twinking of an eye.

    A means of escaping the status quo?
    Wishful thinking and everyone wants to put judgement of the their preferred sin.

    What’s your end of the world scenario?
    Well we often hear about the aniti-Christ. My take is that this is not a person, but a cultural age of sinfulness – the one that will come to an end when Jesus comes back. That will happen in an instant, but the transition period could take decades. I do think there will be war in Israel. That’s like asking if Tom Cruise is a jerk – a no brainer. I don’t have any problem envisioning a one world government, 13 kingdoms or a cashless society. I don’t have any problem seeing that culture rejects more and more of God’s principals. The Bible says that true church will be known by their love, not how they debate cultural issues.

  8. You know, I had hoped that with the end of the Life Behind series, we might move on from this end times obsession, but the”2012″ phenomenon kept it in play. You’re exactly right: it IS an escape. Rapture theology can be especially tiresome. History has proven that when we as Christians give over to end times alarmism, we stop discipling the next generation. We have GOT to learn this lesson!

    • Amazing point! What’s the point of discipling when the end is nigh?

      • Jason and Matt, I’m a bit confused over the idea of “failing to disciple when the end is in sight” – I would think Christians would go to the opposite extreme, i.e., evangelize all the more heavily since there is relatively little time to win converts. Must be missing something…well, it wouldn’t be the first time! :-)

        • Lucie,

          You’re right that when people think Jesus is coming back tomorrow they often start trying to make converts with more zeal. The problem is they also stop everything else. That is, they stop building the kingdom of God. They lose all concern for teaching young Christians how to be Godly men and women, or showing the next generations how to be good doctors or preachers or statesmen. After all, if Jesus’ return is immanent, why should they even waste their time on that stuff. It would be like “polishing brass on a sinking ship!”

          The point is, when we obsess about the end being near, we stop thinking long term. And when that happens, the results are always counter-productive.

  9. That is our problem. We fantasize about the end and its conspiracy theories. If we believed the end was near we as the Body of Christ must be out evangelizing instead of figuring out how to survive. If we we truly believe God is in control, then we should not worry about what will happen because as stated earlier, He is in control. Be concerned instead for those who will perish without Christ in their heart, that is worse than the end of the world.

  10. So the first time I was going to practice with the praise team at our church, I was a few minutes late to rehearsal because of work. I walked into the building and saw no one. I went into the sanctuary (where the rehearsal was) and no one was there. All the instruments were set up, but the room was empty. It was rather surreal, so I started wandering through the building. I finally found everyone watching a video of something in the office, but there for a few minutes I was sure I’d been (inexplicably) “left behind!”

    I really have nothing of substance to add to this conversation. I look forward to heaven and try to live without fear of death due to my assumption/assurance that I’ll go there, but for the most part I live today. Not _for_ today, necessarily, just _today_. I try not to live in the past (regrets), I try not to live in the future (fear), I just try to be grateful for today. And do what needs to get done today. And enjoy today.

    It probably helps though that we’ve got a garden, I mostly already cook from scratch, I make a lot of my toiletries myself, we’ve all grown up camping/backpacking (so we can filter water, etc.), and we’ve got solar panels. So if the zombie apocalypse _were_ to come, all we’d need is a firearm and we’d be set.

  11. If I get some actual warning that the world is going to end, then I want to be on the front lines and go down fast. I don’t want to survive the zombie apocalypse. Heaven, ho!

  12. Jesus told us to be ready for his coming, but he also told the parable of the guy building bigger barns. How that guy was foolish because that night he could die. I think that about sums it up for me.

  13. only god knows who know de end of the world the book of 1peter vrs2 read it.the sun of lord he doesnt knw even him the day of end of world pls ppl let nt confuse ppl z othr ppl take serious ths joke am stayng wth the guy next he wrry about it cz he is nt ready for judgement

  14. Wonderful perspective, Matt! You are so right! I don’t really think much about the end of the world though. I am married to Mr. Adventure!

  15. [Found these quotes on the net. Not every evangelical scholar is a rapture ranter!]

    Famous Rapture Watchers – Addendum

    by Dave MacPherson

    (The statements in my “Famous Rapture Watchers” web article appeared in my 1983 book “The Great Rapture Hoax” and quoted only past leaders. I am now honored to include these additional quotes from some other leaders.)

    Oswald J. Smith: “…I am absolutely convinced that there will be no rapture before the Tribulation, but that the Church will undoubtedly be called upon to face the Antichrist…” (Tribulation or Rapture – Which?, p. 2).

    Paul B. Smith: “You are perfectly free to quote me as believing rather emphatically in the post-tribulation teaching of the Bible” (letter dated June 9, 1976).

    S. I. McMillen: “…Christians will suffer in the Great Tribulation” (Discern These Times, p. 55).

    Norman F. Douty: “…all of the evidence of history runs one way – in favor of Post-tribulationism” (Has Christ’s Return Two Stages?, p. 113).

    Leonard Ravenhill: “There is a cowardly Christianity which…still comforts its fainting heart with the hope that there will be a rapture – perhaps today – to catch us away from coming tribulation” (Sodom Had No Bible, p. 94).

    William Hendriksen: “…the one and only second coming of Christ to judgment” (Israel in Prophecy, p. 29).

    Loraine Boettner: “Hence we conclude that nowhere in Scripture does it teach a secret or pre-tribulation Rapture” (The Millennium, p. 168).

    J. Sidlow Baxter: “…believers of the last days (there is only one small part of the total Church on earth at any given moment) will be on earth during the so-called ‘Great Tribulation’ ” (Explore the Book, Vol. 6, p. 345).

    Merrill C. Tenney: “There is no convincing reason why the seer’s being ‘in the Spirit’ and being called into heaven [Revelation 4:1-2] typifies the rapture of the church…” (Interpreting Revelation, p. 141).

    James R. Graham: “…there is not a line of the N.T. that declares a pre-tribulation rapture, so its advocates are compelled to read it into certain indeterminate texts…” (Watchman, What of the Night?, p. 79).

    Ralph Earle: “The teaching of a pre-tribulation rapture seems first to have been emphasized widely about 100 years ago by John Darby of the Plymouth Brethren” (Behold, I Come, p. 74).

    Clarence B. Bass: “…I most strongly believe dispensationalism to be a departure from the historic faith…” (Backgrounds to Dispensationalism, p. 155).

    William C. Thomas: “The return of Jesus Christ, described by parousia, revelation, and epiphany, is one single, glorious, triumphant event for which we all wait with great eagerness!” (The Blessed Hope in the Thessalonian Epistles of Paul, p. 42).

    Harold J. Ockenga: “No exegetical justification exists for the arbitrary separation of the ‘coming of Christ’ and the ‘day of the Lord.’ It is one ‘day of the Lord Jesus Christ’ ” (Christian Life, February, 1955).

    Duane Edward Spencer: “Paul makes it very clear that the Church will pass through the Great Tribulation” (“Rapture-Tribulation” cassette).

    J. C. Maris: “Nowhere the Bible teaches that the Church of Jesus Christ is heading for world dominion. On the contrary – there will be no place for her, save in ‘the wilderness,’ where God will take care of her (Rev. 12:13-17)” (I.C.C.C. leaflet “The Danger of the Ecumenical Movement,” p. 2).

    F. F. Bruce: “To meet the Lord [I Thessalonians 4:17]…on the final stage of…[Christ’s] journey…to the earth…” (New Bible Commentary: Revised, p. 1159).

    G. Christian Weiss: “Some people say that this [‘gospel of the kingdom’ in Matthew 24:14] is not the gospel of grace but is a special aspect of the gospel to be preached some time in the future. But there is nothing in the context to indicate this” (“Back to the Bible” broadcast, February 9, 1976).

    Pat Brooks: “Soon we, in the Body of Christ, will be confronted by millions of people disillusioned by such false teaching [Pre-Tribism]” (Hear, O Israel, p. 186).

    Herman Hoeksema: “…the time of Antichrist, when days so terrible are still to arrive for the church…” (Behold, He Cometh!, p. 131).

    Ray Summers: “Because they [Philadelphia] have been faithful, he promises his sustaining grace in the tribulation…” (Worthy Is the Lamb, p. 123).

    George E. Ladd: “[Pretribulationism] may be guilty of the positive danger of leaving the Church unprepared for tribulation when Antichrist appears…” (The Blessed Hope, p. 164).

    Peter Beyerhaus: “The Christian Church on earth [will face] the final, almost superhuman test of being confronted with the apocalyptical temptation by Antichrist” (Christianity Today, April 13, 1973).

    Leon Morris: “The early Christians…looked for the Christ to come as Judge” (Apocalyptic, p. 84).

    Dale Moody: “There is not a passage in the New Testament to support Scofield. The call to John to ‘come up hither’ has reference to mystical ecstasy, not to a pretribulation rapture” (Spirit of the Living God, p. 203).

    John R. W. Stott: “He would not spare them from the suffering [Revelation 3:10]; but He would uphold them in it” (What Christ Thinks of the Church, p. 104).

    G. R. Beasley-Murray: “…the woman, i.e., the Church…flees for refuge into the wilderness [Revelation 12:14]…” (The New Bible Commentary, p. 1184).

    Bernard L. Ramm: “…as the Church moves to meet her Lord at the parousia world history is also moving to meet its Judge at the same parousia” (Leo Eddleman’s Last Things, p. 41).

    J. Barton Payne: “…the twentieth century has indeed witnessed a progressively rising revolt against pre-tribulationism” (The Imminent Appearing of Christ, p. 38).

    Robert H. Gundry: “Divine wrath does not blanket the entire seventieth week…but concentrates at the close” (The Church and the Tribulation, p. 63).

    C. S. Lovett: “Frankly I favor a post-trib rapture…I no longer teach Christians that they will NOT have to go through the tribulation” (PC, January, 1974).

    Walter R. Martin: “Walter Martin finally said…’Yes, I’m a post-trib’ ” (Lovett’s PC, December, 1976).

    Jay Adams: “Today’s trend is…from pre- to posttribulationism” (The Time Is at Hand, p. 2).

    Jim McKeever: “Nowhere do the Scriptures say that the Rapture will precede the Tribulation” (Christians Will Go Through the Tribulation, p. 55).

    Arthur Katz: “I think it fair to tell you that I do not subscribe to the happy and convenient theology which says that God’s people are going to be raptured and lifted up when a time of tribulation and trial comes” (Reality, p. 8).

    Billy Graham: “Perhaps the Holy Spirit is getting His Church ready for a trial and tribulation such as the world has never known” (Sam Shoemaker’s Under New Management, p. 72).

    W. J. Grier: “The Scofield Bible makes a rather desperate effort…it tries to get in the ‘rapture’ of the saints before the appearing of Antichrist” (The Momentous Event, p. 58).

    Pat Robertson: “Jesus Christ is going to come back to earth again to deliver Israel and at the same time to rapture His Church; it’s going to be one moment, but it’s going to be a glorious time” (“700 Club” telecast, May 14, 1975).

    Ben Kinchlow: “Any wrath [during the Tribulation] that comes upon us – any difficulty – will not be induced by God, but it’ll be like the people are saying, ‘The cause of our problems are those Christians in our midst; we need to get rid of them’ ” (“700 Club” telecast, August 28, 1979).

    Daniel P. Fuller: “It is thus concluded that Dispensationalism fails to pass the test of an adequate system of Biblical Interpretation” (The Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism, p. 369).

    Corrie ten Boom: “The Bible prophesies that the time will come when we cannot buy or sell, unless we bear the sign of the Antichrist…” (Tramp for the Lord, p. 187).

    Francis Nigel Lee (church historian etc., 9 earned doctorates!): “Dave MacPherson, in his various books, has made a major contribution toward vindicating Historic Christian Eschatology. The 1830 innovations of the disturbed Margaret Macdonald documented by MacPherson – in part or in whole – immediately spread to Edward Irving and his followers, then to J. N. Darby and Plymouth Brethrenism, and were later popularized by the dispensationalistic Scofield Reference Bible, by Classic Pentecostalism, and by latter-day pretribulationists like J. F. Walvoord and Hal Lindsey.”