Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Laying out plans for the future, or even daydreaming out loud, is an activity most humans engage in daily. Our own lives are fascinating to us and we can’t help but take a vested interest in what may or may not happen. However, if you’ve ever spent any considerable amount of time speaking with Apostolics on this topic, you may have noticed something of a unique verbal hiccup thrown in at the end of a future-tense statement.
Example: “Someday, once I get a little money put back, I’d really love to take a trip. You know, somewhere exotic like Branson, Missouri or maybe even Israel.” This sentence is followed immediately by, “That is, if the Lord tarries.”
With obvious exceptions Pentecostalism is generally understood to be a millennial movement. Apostolics believe that God is in fact returning in the very near future and they’d better be ready for it. Pentecostals certainly aren’t alone in this belief, nearly every religion or theory (see Marxism) has its own eschatology, but where Apostolics truly shine are the fantastically idiosyncratic ways they cope with God’s return on a daily basis. A God who is in any other circumstance loving and consistent becomes, when the topic of His impending return arises, petulant and unsteady. “If the Lord tarries,” is often delivered with a quick, guilty air, as if this simple phrase will single-handedly stave off God’s fury over their impertinence.
You just know that somewhere in Heaven God is pulling a Joseph McCarthy and listening intently to every conversation, waiting to hear some poor individual screw it up by not apologizing for the eventuality of His return.
God: Hah! Did you hear that, Michael? Susan C. in Ontario just mentioned getting married to her sweetheart, Bill S., within the next two years--but without taking into account whether I might come back before then! That does it! Gabriel, get down to Development and Planning and tell them to kick it into high gear, we’re working straight through Christmas and moving the Apocalypse up on the schedule. I can’t tarry any longer!
Of course, this scenario puts the Apostolic in a precarious situation. How far in advance can we plan without tempting God’s wrath? One year? Six months? The time it takes to get through this post? Your decision may be of eternal importance.
That said, there are other Pentecostals who very much want the Lord to return, yesterday if possible. The world is a wreck and they’re ready to get gone. Every negative headline they find in the news is only justification for their earnest desire for departure. Making too many earthly plans is a pointless exercise, it actually might tempt God to wait a little longer and that would be downright horrible. Sure the Bible talks about God’s Wisdom, He knows what He’s doing and His will in our lives is always best—blah, blah, blah, whatever. These Apos are willing to accept God’s control in their lives, but He hasn’t lived on earth for a long time, what does He know about when to come back? It’s best Help him out by reminding Him how much everything stinks here on earth, during intercessory group prayer when He’s really listening is the your best shot.
So how does the Pentecostal decide where they fit in the spectrum? Are they hoping God waits a little longer or begging Him to give the call now or maybe somewhere in between? Is it a matter of age—as in you’re young and have plans or you’re old and have already done what you wanted to do?
While you’re deliberating, you may glean some help from a publication on the topic. Sure Revelations, Daniel, and the rest of the prophetic texts in the Bible give plenty of information on Jesus’ return, but you also have to remember that Matthew 24:36 and 25:13 indicate that only God knows the precise time of His return. Tantalizing, right? Just like a kid who has to do something once his/her parents tell them not to, Apostolics just can’t help themselves, they HAVE to know.
Luckily, there are alternatives to the Word that can give the end times curious Apostolic all of the information they can handle. One publication in particular has had the Apocalypse completely covered for quite some time now. The writers work overtime to comb the latest AP dispatches for prophetic meaning and pass it on to you the reader at a reasonable price. Now, you might argue that after numerous volumes, no Armageddon, and countless incorrect predictions the writers and their readers might consider spending their time more productively, perhaps spreading the Salvation message to the lost world, rather than waiting to get the heck out of Dodge. You would be mistaken in doing so. In I Thessalonians 5 Paul advises the church to stay awake and live without fear and keep working till Jesus returns—the publishers are merely obeying Scripture. They’ll keep churning their prophecies out and we’ll keep reading them until God finally does return and they’re finally right.
Waiting and wishing for the Apocalypse isn’t all fun, though. It can actually put the Apostolic in something of a prayer-bind. Most agree that in order for all of the cosmic tumblers to come into place, Israel’s geopolitical and spiritual position has to take a turn for the worse—but how are Pentecostals supposed to hope for the Revelation if at the same time they’re praying for Israel’s continued protection and success in the Middle East? A quandary to be certain and once again we have no answer; you’ll have to decide how to walk this intercessional tight-rope on your own.
Admission: Pentecostalism is a diverse movement, like any other, and not all of them hold the same eschatological views. Apologies if you don’t feel represented in the above post.