Pt. 3 of Rob Bell, end times, and how Jesus got “left behind”

Radosh goes on to quote the lyrics of the old Larry Norman song, Wish We’d All Been Ready, the film’s theme song, full of anguish for those who would not be ready for Christ’s return:

Children died, the days grew cold,

A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold.

I wish we’d all been ready…

A man and wife asleep in bed,

She hears a noise and turns her head, he’s gone.

I wish we’d all been ready…

There’s no time to change your mind,

The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.

But while these lyrics “provided a title for LaHaye and Jenkins, the rest of the song would seem out of place; there is no sense in the Left Behind books that the authors actually wish we’d all been ready. They’re far more invested in having someone around to get their a—- kicked.” Quoting another journalist, Radosh concludes that this is part of a larger trend in American evangelicalism:

The progression (or regression) is the move from rural towns to the halls of power. It’s the expansion of the evangelical sphere of concern from the very local (my friends, my church) to the national and global (My president, my international policy). It’s a move from a complex view of the individual to an oversimplification that identifies everyone as either good-believer or bad-heatehn. It’s also a change in sentiment towards the unbeliever from sadness, caring and invitation to triumph, judgment and dismissal. It’s a chilling mutation, and has entrenched evangelical Christianity in an antagonism to secular America that borders, at times, on cruelty.

It is that change in sentiment that underwrites most everything that has had my spirit uneasy since 2008, when the tone of political conversations within the broader Church caused me to believe that we weren’t in Kansas anymore. The necessity of the Church’s kingdom mission increasingly feels secondary to “beating the bad guys.” As the Church sizes up her “enemies,” there is often a sense that the opposition is in some way a sign of the end of days. Yet even in the case of actual resistance, I never find myself perplexed at the world for being the world. Conversely, I wonder if the most apocalyptic sign I see around me (negatively speaking) is not any of what I see in the world, but what I see and hear in the Church.

Want to talk about deception in latter times? Interestingly, the New Testament does not limit the idea of an “antichrist” to one global personality, but rather speaks of many antichrists. Thus we have I John 2.18, “Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour.” John also says “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist!” As so much of our current “prophetic” media focuses on speculation of a single antichrist figure somewhere in the sphere of global politics, we are prone to forget that in the days leading to Jesus’ return, there will be many alternatives to the lordship of Jesus that will come bearing His name and claiming His approval. According to Scripture this is a “spirit,” a spiritual force that alters the disposition of actual persons in a way that is contrary to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Could it be that in looking out for “the antichrist” that we have allowed room for other antichrists/the spirit of the antichrist (not speaking of prophecy teachers per se, but rather alternative gospels or a different spirit/disposition that opposes the character and witness of Christ Himself)? That in our desire to “defeat a monster that we have become a monster”?

I would raise the question—if the Church no longer shares the posture of the God who loved the world so much as to give His only begotten Son in sacrifice and humility…if the Church that bears the name of Jesus really believes they can only conquer evil through the world’s swords or the world’s political power…If the Church sees the cross only as the means of salvation and not also the cross they must carry in obedience to Jesus, offering their lives up for the nations…if the Church sees its enemies as people to protest against/condemn/or even defeat rather than wayward sons and daughters we are called to bless and pray for…who needs an antichrist?

You don’t have to have Henry Kissinger, Michael Jackson, Mikhail Gorbachev or Barack Obama bearing the devil’s mark to subvert the mission of God’s people in the world if we’ve already decided the direct teaching and example of Jesus is no longer relevant to His Church. You don’t need a microchip under your hand or forehead to give your life to the beast if you are using the devil’s tools to try and build God’s kingdom. The image of the teenagers left behind from A Thief in the Night I have held since the second grade always struck me as deeply sad. But perhaps not as sad as a technologically savvy Church that has developed more sophisticated strategies than that of its founder. What could possibly be sadder than watching the Church continue to move forward with its work and witness while Jesus gets left behind?

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