Please check me if I’m wrong, but here’s the scenario that many “rapturists” see unfolding, as of May 21.
- The “rapture” comes and the genuinely Christian people are snatched away suddenly. By “genuinely Christian” I mean people who “redeem the time” and don’t waste it by reading superfluous blogs like this.
- Seven years of the “Great Tribulation” take place among those who are “left behind.” This is not to be confused with “so-so tribulations” like the stuff you and I gripe about - bad vacations, visits from the in-laws, two-year-olds, etc.
- Then there is the “Millennium,” the 1,000 years of peace that earth-dwellers enjoy while the beast is locked up. Somehow the prospect of peace just doesn't jibe with humanity, though, because when this time is over, the Beast seems to have an easy time recruiting new soldiers for his futile battle against God.
- Then the beast is released, the “Battle of Armageddon” takes place, the beast and his minions are utterly defeated, and the earth is destroyed, to make way for a “new heaven and new earth.”
- Or, something like that.
**************** We pause this incredibly insightful thought for a story ***********************
Two physicians died and went to heaven. When they walked through the pearly gates, St. Peter said, "Hey Jesus, look! A pair o' docs!" (Pair o' docs. Paradox. Get it? Eh, never mind.)
******************* Now, back to our incredibly insightful thought **************************
The vision of a “new heaven and new earth” is something of a puzzle. Some ‘rapturists’ seem to think – and worse, seem to live – as if our earth, the earth where we live now, the only earth we have ever truly known, is doomed. Therefore, any attempt to preserve the earth – like not exploiting the heck out of it – is classified as a tree-hugging, Mother-earth-worshipping, pagan ritual of god-hatred. Ann Coulter once put it this way (get the yak bucket ready): “God said so: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet — it's yours. That's our job: drilling, mining and stripping. Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars — that's the Biblical view.”*
Thank goodness the historic church saw the “new heaven and new earth” differently. They saw this phrase as a promise of renewal. Much like the view they held of the resurrected body, where it would be a renewed body – still us, but in a new, imperishable form. In other words, the 'new heaven and new earth' metaphor is a paradox - they will be the same / and / they will be different from the heaven and earth that we know. The paradox is the creative tension that comes from holding both the sameness and the difference together. To say that it is just one or the other is to lose the power of the paradox.
Anyone who thinks our existing earth is simply toast because God wants it that way, is missing the point. Anyone who thinks we have no obligations to conserve and preserve the earth might as well make self-mutilation a religious practice as well. But anyone who comprehends the way a paradox works, can – once again – live in awe of God’s promises, even as we live in obedience to God’s commands.
* "Oil Good; Democrats bad", Townhall, 2000-10-12