Volume 11, Issue 1: Eschaton
A Better Generation
Jack Van Deventer
Remember back in the 1970's when just about every Christian you knew was eagerly anticipating the end times? The Late, Great Planet Earth set the stage for an enthusiastic expectancy of the "any moment" rapture. This event was supposed to whisk us away from all our hurts and heartaches. It was a time when the Jesus Movement was catching on, the charis-matics were flourishing, hippies were turning to Jesus, Bob Dylan had supposedly converted to Christ, and Norman Greenbaum (who never sinned) had "a friend in Jesus" and a top hit with "Spirit in the Sky."
It was a favorite pastime of Christians to speculate as to who the Antichrist would be and what method might be used for implanting the "mark of the beast" on an unsuspecting society. If you were single back then,
you might have been a member of the "bachelors to the rapture" club. After all, if Christ was coming back so soon there were more urgent things to worry about than wives, kids, and such. And if you and a friend said good-bye, it was not uncommon to hear, "I'll see ya later... here, there, or in the air!"
Say what you will about the 70s, the only thing that got raptured out of this world was sound biblical theology. When Christian thought is not rooted in the Scriptures, there's no telling where it will end up.
The 1970s reinforced the notion that Satan, not God, was in control. A cigar-smoking George Burns, playing "God" in the Oh, God! movies explained how "in the beginning" he merely wound up the world like a toy and let it go on its merry way. Afterwards, bad things began to happen. That fit well with the widely held dispensational viewpoint that God was an absentee landlord and Satan now ruled the roost.
If God was no longer in the business of intervention in human affairs, as the thinking went, then we really had no other choice but to take matters into our own hands. Hence, the 1980's saw an explosion in seminaries with counseling or psychology departments. There was a corresponding decline in an emphasis on the study of theology.
Taking a cue from George Burns, it was as if church leaders were saying, "We'll make a token appeal to God for help, but since He's really not in the business anymore, we'll do what we can for one another." Seeing a counselor and having a "codependency" problem became badges of honor in some circles. It was a high-growth industry and highly profitable, too. Being a poverty-stricken pastor was no longer an occupational hazard. Just call yourself a Christian counselor, whether or not you were.
In the 1980's, while Christendom was sitting around waiting for the rapture, a few noble folks recognized that the world around them was going to hell in a hand basket. Political involvement was the answer, so the Moral Majority rose up quickly. It made Christians aware of key moral issues in the political arena. It tried to whip activist enthusiasm into the moribund church. And then it went "poof" before the decade was over.
In the 1990's, the Christian Coalition became the reincarnation of the Moral Majority. Various other movements have come and gone. Promise Keepers rose quickly, but now appears to be fading. Eventually one is forced to consider that all the Christian "movements" and parachurch organizations have failed to deliver on their promises. They were the last dying hopes of a teaching founded on despair.
If we are to understand the present properly, we must realize how profoundly the past decades have influenced modern thinking about the future. In reviewing the recent past, we observe that the broad evangelical Church is theologically bankrupt. As the Church has departed from sound biblical theology, the Christian mindset has shifted from an expectancy of divinely appointed victory to one of sure and swift defeat. The modern Christian worldview is characterized by a quitter mentality, a pervasive pessimism, and a certainty that God is impotent and Satan is not. The press, liberal organizations, homosexuals, and feminists can mock Christianity with impunity, knowing that the Church is too mired in ecclesiastical muck to respond to such criticisms.
The so-called "Christian" teaching of the past thirty years taught us hopelessness. Long-term planning was laughable. You didn't have that long, because Christ was supposedly coming back at "any moment." But
Christ didn't come back in the 1970's. And the rapture didn't happen in the 1980's. And it won't happen according to the modern prophets of doom, because their teaching is not rooted in the Scriptures. Until the Church refuses to tolerate such fraudulent prophetic teaching, we can expect to continue down the same path.
The alternative is to place one's faith in the God of the Bible. He is the God who sovereignly orchestrates history from beginning to end. He is the God who blesses righteousness and curses disobedience. And He is the God who predestined the Church, which is becoming His beautiful and spotless bride, to victory.
If you want your children to live in a better world than the one you grew up in, teach them truths which generate a solid foundation of hope in God. Show them the teachings of the Puritans and reformers who believed that God would transform society according to His purpose and plan. God promised to build His Church, not tear it down. He alone has authority in heaven and earth and has declared that the nations will be His disciples. His kingdom will grow and grow and fill the whole earth.