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Rapture of the Church illustration by Pat Marvenko Smith

Bondage, Beheadings and Brimstone: revisiting my apocalyptic ghosts

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By Eric Blauer

When the morning news tells me ‘sex is about bondage, abuse and other people watching it and faith is about beheading other people of faith’, I know difficult days are here, but I also know, we were born for ‘such a time as this’ (Esther 4:14).

I’m not been a big fan of the ‘Doom and Gloom’ preaching of my faith roots, but lately those ghosts are revisiting me. I was raised in the Seventh-day Adventist church and then when I became born again and a follower of Jesus, I ended up in Evangelical, Pentecostal and Charismatic circles. All these branches of the Christian family tree have limbs that are overflowing with apocalyptic-focused teachers and preachers. As a general rule, I have leaned pretty far off those branches straining for the fruit of other limbs and have benefitted in my faith from that intentionality. But the longer I live, the more those old voices echo as more true than I originally believed.

Reading the news today makes it’s easy to believe we are living in the days the apostle warned Timothy about in his pastoral letters.

2 Timothy 3:1-17
“And know this: in the last days, times will be hard. You see, the world will be filled with narcissistic, money-grubbing, pretentious, arrogant, and abusive people. They will rebel against their parents and will be ungrateful, unholy, uncaring, coldhearted, accusing, without restraint, savage, and haters of anything good. Expect them to be treacherous, reckless, swollen with self-importance, and given to loving pleasure more than they love God” (1-4).

I don’t think it takes a theology, psychology or sociology degree to see that these human traits are increasing and have become socially acceptable. But it’s easy to point ‘out there’ in the ‘world’ of lost and confused people but Paul, turns that examination inward to the Christian community in his prophetic and provocative letter.

“Even though they may look or act like godly people, they’re not. They deny His power. I tell you: Stay away from the likes of these.They’re snakes slithering into the houses of vulnerable women, women gaudy with sin, to seduce them. These reptiles can capture them because these women are weak and easily swayed by their desires. They seem always to be learning, but they never seem to gain the full measure of the truth. And, just as Jannes and Jambres rose up against Moses, these ungodly people defy the truth. Their minds are corrupt, and their faith is absolutely worthless. But they won’t get too far because their stupidity will be noticed by everyone, just as it was with Jannes and Jambres” (5-9).

There’s so much trouble packed into those verses, I am almost afraid to spend too much time unpacking the devastating critique of leaders, teaching and compromise that is laid out so clearly. It’s hard to accept that the real problems with the world most often have their roots in the problems of the church. We have strayed from the way, the truth and the life of Jesus and the results are seen in the world all around us. We have become conditioned and deceived to the point that we call ‘good, bad’ and ‘bad, good.’ We have embraced lies and spread them as truth and then shame those who don’t accept our reinvention of Christian reality. Pulpits have become safe places for polite conversations instead of epicenters for a gospel that turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6).

“You have been a good student. You have closely observed how I have lived. You’ve followed my instructions, my habits, my purpose, my faith, my patience. You’ve watched how I love and have seen how I endure” (10a).

These words seem like cold water thrown in our face, because the very concept of ‘love’ has been twisted into a moldable, accommodating opinion that is perfectly at home and at peace with all other ‘mere’ opinions.

“You have been with me through persecutions and sufferings — remember what they did to me in Antioch? In Iconium and Lystra? I endured all of it, and the Lord rescued me from it all! Anyone wishing to live a godly life in Jesus the Anointed will be hunted down and persecuted. But as for the wicked and the impostors, they will keep leading and following each other further and further away from the truth” (10b-13).

This persecution Paul speaks of is far more than the war on Christmas, taking prayer out of schools or the host of other tremors of cultural shift that we are seeing in America. By themselves they appear trite to the progressive mind but when you include the growing shocks of ugly barbarism and oppression mounting in the world, we see they are all part of the seismic, dare I say, apocalyptic movement towards the return of Christ. We know this because the Bible clearly lays out the signs of the times and they are given to warn and guide us towards living lives prepared for the future and hearts and minds ready to meet Christ face to face.

“So surely you ought to stick to what you know is certain. All you have learned comes from people you know and trust because since childhood you have known the holy Scriptures, which enable you to be wise and lead to salvation through faith in Jesus the Anointed. All of Scripture is God-breathed; in its inspired voice, we hear useful teaching, rebuke, correction, instruction, and training for a life that is right so that God’s people may be up to the task ahead and have all they need to accomplish every good work” (14-17).

Yes, I know it’s so yesterday to believe in the Bible in our postmodern, enlightened  world of today, but to me, it’s more evidence that Jesus’s words are true and the glorious return of Jesus is approaching which is a family reunion for some and a day of judgment for others.

“On that day — when the clouds draw back displaying His powerful heavenly messengers in a fiery blaze, Jesus the Lord will appear from heaven dealing out perfect justice to anyone who doesn’t know God and anyone who disobeys the good news of our Lord Jesus. And what’s to become of them? They’ll pay for what they’ve done; their punishment will be eternal destruction. And what’s worse? They’ll be banished from the Lord’s presence and glorious power. On that day when He comes, all the saints in heaven and on earth will celebrate the glory of His power, and all who believe will stand and be amazed—this includes you because you believed us when we testified on His behalf. All this is why we are constantly praying for you, so God will make you worthy of the great calling you have received from Him and will give you the power to accomplish every good intention and work of faith. Then the great name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified through your lives, and you will be glorified in Him according” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-12).

I pray we are all prepared and awaiting that return and doing all we can to share the truth of his coming with those who have yet to surrender their lives to King Jesus. Now I know that sound’s soooooo old school “fire and brimstone” but in my book, it’s the only test that gets the passing grade.

“Are YOU Readyuhhhhhhh”? [insert breathy punctuation, fist pound on the wooden pulpit and a wave of the hanky here].

About Eric Blauer

I am Frederick Christian Blauer IV, but I go by Eric, it sounds less like a megalomaniac but still hints at my Scandinavian destiny of coastal conquest and ultimate rule. I have accumulated a fair number of titles: son, brother, husband, father, pastor, writer, artist and a few other more colorful titles by my fanged fans. I am a lover of story be it heard, read or watched in all beauty, gory or glory. I write and speak as an exorcist or poltergeist, splashing holy water, spilling wine and breaking bread between the apocalypse and a sleeping baby. I am possessed by too many words and they get driven out like wild pigs and into the waters of my blog at www.fcb4.tumblr.com. I work as a pastor at Jacob's Well Church (www.jacobswellspokane.com) across the tracks on 'that' side of town. I follow Christ in East Central Spokane among saints, sinners, angels, demons, crime, condoms, chaos, beauty, goodness and powerful weakness. I have more questions than answers, grey hairs than brown, fat than muscle, fire than fireplace and experience more love from my wife, family and friends than a man should be blessed with in one lifetime.

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6 comments

  1. SUCH a good article, Eric. A complete Christian experience has to include some apocalyptic preaching in my book, too. We’re all headed that direction, so it’s a much better alternative than handing out rose-colored glasses for everyone’s journey to judgment day.

    • Thank you Matt, I know it’s far more evangelical than most around here probably want but I believe it and felt it needs to be added to the debate.

      • I think “profoundly Christian” is how I would describe it 🙂 The willingness to preach on the Four Last Things (death, judgment, heaven, hell) takes a lot of courage, but being exposed to those — as a parishioner — is so essential to living an authentically Christian life.

  2. Sooooo… Am I going to heck?

    • Neal, I think that’s a good conversation to have with your pastor. I’d be glad to follow up with you personally but your under her care.

      Ultimately I am not the final judge of anyone’s eternal destination of life or death, only God the Father is judge.

      But there’s plenty of clarity in the Bible that points to the clear path of eternal life found in the life and teaching of Jesus, the Messiah.

      Jesus himself said this:
      “I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.” (John 12:47-50)

      Jesus’s apostles laid it out simply like this:
      Rom 10:9-13
      “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

      I’d point you to Jesus, encourage you to read his words, examine his life, death, resurrection and ascension and seriously contemplate the meaning of his coming. I believe the full purpose of our lives and the eternal destination of our soul can be found in the truth of his teaching and the work accomplished on the cross and empty tomb.

  3. You write: “I know it’s so yesterday to believe in the Bible in our postmodern, enlightened world of today.”

    I think what’s very “today” is to acknowledge that everyone sees the Bible differently, and that absolute truth in it is an illusion. I loved this article: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/5-things-i-wish-christians-would-admit-about-bible

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