And what about the End Times?
I might be speaking to the church-y crowd with this title. Everyone who goes to church seems to have an opinion on what the end of life as we know it will look like, regardless of their position’s biblical basis. A clergy friend of mine brought this to my attention when he told of his experience of asking a group of people at his church…
Who has read The Revelation of John? (only a few hands went up)
Who knows what The Revelation of John is about? (almost all of the hands went up)
Now how can that be? How can anyone know something that they haven’t actually studied?
The same is true for people not engaged with church. They might think that they know what the Bible says on any number of topics, but without engaging the Holy Scriptures in the context of faith passed on from generation to generation (aka- tradition), such conclusion is built on a false premise.
With this in mind, I take up the common belief that Jesus’ return will be violent and destructive. The poetic imagery of The Revelation of John defies any literal interpretation. I particularly like Brian McLaren’s words in his book Everything Must Change: When the World’s Biggest Problems and Jesus’ Good News Collide.
“In light of the literary conventions of both literature of the oppressed in general and Jewish apocalyptic in particular, and assuming that Jesus’ coming as told in the Gospels was not a fake-me-out coming, but actually was the climactic revelation of God as the New Testament seems to affirm (Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-4), Jesus’ ‘striking down the nations’ with a sword ‘coming out of his mouth’ has a very different meaning. Jesus’ word—the unarmed truth of the gospel of the kingdom—is the force that overcomes the ‘kingdom of this world,’ the dominant system, the suicide machine. It conquers not with physical weapons but with a message of justice (Revelation 19:11), and the blood on Jesus’ robe is not the blood of his enemies, but his own blood (12:11, cf. 5:6).
Read in this way, we don’t have a violent ‘Second Coming’ Jesus who finishes what the gentle ‘First Coming’ Jesus failed to do, but we have a poetic description of the way the gentle First Coming Jesus powerfully overcomes through his nonviolent ‘weakness’ (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25), a prince of peace whose word of reconciliation is truly mightier than Caesar’s sword.” (p145)
By following Jesus, we can learn how to be reconcilers in our own day. By following Jesus we can learn how to act in a way that makes fullness of life possible for all. Isn’t this what we’re called to do? Anything else will be our certain destruction.