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Curtain Call

Hamlet Cast17231The picture you see here is of a curtain call. The curtain call is the moment at the end of a play when all the actors come out from behind the curtain to take a final bow. I chose this particular curtain call as an object lesson, because this curtain call is from the play Hamlet. Why is that significant?

Because just a moment ago, nearly all of these people were dead.

For those familiar with William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, the story ends with a climatic duel that ends up causing the deaths of just about every single character. The very last scene see Hamlet’s friend bursting on the scene to find a castle hall full of the dead. The story ends, everyone dies.

But lo! The curtain call! Everyone is alive again! It turns out this play was just a work of imagination, just a brief lesson in miniature, and everyone is actually OK. Death was not the end for these people.

But real life does not work that way. Or does it? What does the bard say?

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII and Macbeth Act V, Scene V

Even the bard agrees, life is a play. The only thing I would disagree with is that last bit. The tale we are a part of is significant.

The Creator God is our Playwright. He gives us all a part to play and a job to do. A man, as the Bard says, might play many parts in his life. Everyone has entrances and exits onto the stage. The entrance is birth. The exit is death.

And yet, death is not the end. There is the Curtain Call. We call it the Resurrection.

It will be a day when all who belong to Christ who have mourned the dead and felt the sting of its loss will awake to find it was all just a play and that the deaths they suffered did not last. Everyone who was dead is alive once again!

The beloved elder cut down in Act I holds hands with the young man who died in the battle of Act V. Abraham, Paul, William Wilberforce, and Billy Graham will all take a bow and toss their crowns at the feet of the Great Playwright upon the glassy sea.

Then there will be the Cast Party called the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, and nothing waiting but endless paradise.

Play your part well. The curtain soon falls.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Soteriology

 

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Eschatology Part Two: No One Is Right

Debate2This post is part two of a series, see part one here.

Rule number one of Eschatology was: It’s none of your business.

Rule number two: No one has it right.
No one really understands how the End will come except God the Father. Even Jesus, God the Son, does not know the hour when it will happen. How then can mortals expect to understand it? Indeed, it is truly a conceited person that believes he has the end-times figured out completely, or believes his theory is without fault. Each of the major Eschatological theories have some major flaws and places where they appear to contradict Scripture. This is because the mystery of the End is so beyond us that even it appears to contradict itself at points (though this apparent contradiction is entirely due to the inability of Man to comprehend it.)

So I will freely admit here and now that my own theory on the End may not be totally right, or even partly so. I do believe that some  of my interpretations are very close to correct, and that others might be partly correct, but I also think that a few are completely speculatory at best. Examine my claims, and you will find that there are discrepancies and apparent contradictions, and even passages which appear to directly contest what I am suggesting.

But here’s the thing, that will be true for any human interpretation of the Scriptures concerning the end-times. Ultimately, the total Truth of the End escapes us all, and this is precisely how God wants it. He has said several times that the End is not to be our focus and the details are not for us to know. Therefore, we cannot expect to understand it fully. Nevertheless, God has given us information concerning the End, and even tells us in Revelation that we shall be blessed by studying it. We shall not know the full truth of it until it happens, and I guarantee that all of us who have dared study Eschatology will look on in awe at all the things we missed or got wrong.

Consider for a moment the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. In Luke 24:13-27 these men encounter Jesus, but do not know it is Him because they were kept from recognizing Him by God. Jesus talks to them about what just happened in Jerusalem. They confess their disappointment and sorrow that the man they had hoped would be the Messiah was recently put to death. Jesus rebukes them for their ignorance, because the suffering and death of the Messiah and his Resurrection were all foretold by the prophets. Yet these men, learned in the Bible, did not see it until Jesus personally taught them and supernaturally revealed it to them. They had reasoned in their human thinking that the Messiah would be a totally different kind of person, conquering with armies and power, not with suffering and death on a cross. I think it is similar with the end-times. All the prophecies are clearly laid out before us, but we cannot see them until God wants us to see them, just like the ones about the Messiah were essentially hidden from man until God revealed them at the proper time. Until then, we bumble through them using human logic to puzzle it out, forgetting that it is written, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ says the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8

The study of Eschatology is in fact so nebulous that the group of Christians I started with years ago did not even bother to study it at all. The Church of Christ takes no official stance on the matter, and in fact leaves the entire book of Revelation (after the letters) to gather dust on the proverbial shelf. It’s a can of worms that they believe only causes division and profits nothing in practical Christian living. I do not know if they are entirely correct in those assumptions, but neither do I believe they are entirely wrong. The end-times is a can of worms that does often cause division and contention within the Church, and while it may profit us to study it, that profit is not worth the price if we cannot learn to agree to disagree. I absolutely refuse to discuss the end-times with anyone I believe will make it into a point of contention, or are so closed to the idea they might not be right they cannot accept a different point of view.

“I’m fully prepared to change my Eschatology mid-air.”
Douglas Wilson*

I heard that comment from a round-table discussion of pastors once, and it stuck with me. I take those words now as my own. I will not die on the hill of my own end-times beliefs. I freely admit that any of the major interpretations could be right, and I wrong. If it comes to pass that nothing I assumed about the End was correct, I shall accept it with joy. For when the End comes, I shall hardly care how right or wrong I was, and care only that my Lord has come for me to take me home with Him. It matters not to me how He accomplishes it.

Nevertheless, one cannot study the Bible or what it says about the End and not form a belief about it. In my next post, I will discuss what I believe to be the proper way to approach the study of Eschatology and the erroneous ways people approach it. I truly believe if you approach the Scriptures with an open mind and with a clear understanding of the how and why certain things were written they way they were, you can reach reasonable conclusions about the end-times.

*(A thanks to John Gardner for helping me find the author of this quote.)

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2012 in Eschatology

 

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Eschatology Part One: An Introduction

christs-returnEschatology: the study of “end-times”, or how the Bible says the end of the world will go.

I won’t label my beliefs concerning Eschatology. I’m sure some would label it one thing or another, but I despise labels. I especially despise the label theologians typically give my view of the end-times, because the label implies I disagree with the Scriptures, which is far from the truth.

First, I will tell you that the only thing I believe a Christian needs to understand and believe about the end-times is that Jesus Christ will return, that this return could be at any time, and that when He returns He will gather His children and judge the world. As for the rest, I will quote my Lord who said “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7) In other words Jesus told his disciples, “It’s none of your business when I come back.”

So we must study Eschatology in light of the fact that our Lord and Savior told us it was not for us to know the specific details. The whole mystery surrounding the end-times is there on purpose. God does not want us to know what is happening until it happens.

In John 13:19 Jesus said, “I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.” And this, ultimately, is the purpose of prophecy. It is not so we can see things coming and perhaps react differently, but so that when it comes, we will know that it was from the Lord. The Jews spent about 400 years trying to figure out how and when the Messiah would come, and nothing turned out the way they expected. Even the disciples of Jesus, who believed in Him, were still expecting the conqueror Messiah up until the Crucifixion. I believe most people today are as confused about the end-times prophecies as the Jews were about the Messianic ones 2,500 years ago.

So then, the prophecies about the end-times are not really for us, unless we are the generation that sees it come to pass. Of course, almost every generation of Christians throughout all of the last 2,000 years has believed it was that generation. People today see signs and try to match headlines with passages from Scripture, shouting that it proves we are near the end, but each generation has read the papers (or heard the town crier) and believed the same things. Jesus tells us this is foolish.

 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23  And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.
Luke 17:22-25

Jesus tells his disciples there will come a time when Christians will be desperate for the end to come, and will desire to see it, but will not see it. And people will come trying to delude you into believing it, but to resist them. He says that He will come as quickly and as unexpectedly as a lightning bolt.

My point in this introduction is that to argue or contend about issues of Eschatology is fruitless and sinful. Christ has basically told us that we cannot know when it is coming, that we can be led astray by trying to find out, and that the purpose of the prophecies are for those who are experiencing it, that they will believe and draw strength from it.

I hope, as we explore the prophecies of the Day of the Lord, you will keep an open mind and separate yourself from any preconceptions.

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Eschatology

 

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