Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Understanding God: why "the end" is not near

Regular readers know that I am constantly trying to "detox" people from Apocalyptic, dispensationalist and "rapture" obsession and misunderstandings. I hope I am not being too optimistic but I do think I see people cooling off on their wild and erroneous beliefs and worse, "hoping for the end of times." So it's time for another detox and educational session!

After giving this much thought I've noticed that one reason there is such willful misunderstanding on these subjects and also well meaning misunderstanding of scripture is that some people have not been discerning enough in understanding the difference between what the Apostles discussed with Jesus Christ and what God's ultimate knowledge and will is regarding "his plan" for humanity.

Now, here is how to regain some of this nuance and discernment. Jesus came as Messiah and Savior with two natures, divine and human. So while Jesus brought God to humankind to behold and understand, Jesus constantly reminded people that he was bringing the Father to them, that when they look at him they see the Father, that he is doing the Father's work, but that he is not the Father standing there in totality to be worshipped and to be all knowing. For example, Jesus constantly prayed to God the Father, including for guidance. Jesus would use concepts to explain that God "reveals" something to him. So God is clearly the all knowing and all powerful who is still in charge, even as Jesus brings a face of God to humanity. Another example is one directly relevant to the concerns of those I am addressing now, which is that Jesus said that he himself did not know when the end of times would come, and that only God knows.

Thus, faith and reasoning skills both help you to see that Jesus had one mission, one ministry (salvation and the New Covenant), but God continues to have the fullness of his "mission," or to put it more accurately, the full knowledge of his "greater plan" for not only humanity but also the universe, etc. Thus the focus of Jesus was on humanity and their salvation, and indeed, Jesus himself was focused on converting the Jews during the time of his mission, while the Apostles are the ones to approach the Gentiles (who also sought out Jesus directly) with the Gospel. So Jesus was here to show the face of God in a way that humans could understand, but not to explain all of God's will and plans.

Now, this does not mean that God is "keeping secrets." He is not, for through his long relationship with the Chosen People, the Jews, through sending his Son, Jesus for salvation, and also through his prophet to the other people of Abraham, the Muslims, God has made his message loud, clear, repeatable and consistent for thousands of years. So God is not keeping a "secret." But simply because God is clear and repetitive to humans over and over, this does not mean that humans can begin to understand his sense of time frames, the dimensions of his mercy, and how God perceives humans. This is where there is a disconnect with some, especially in this modern society, where people have become even more distorted in their assumptions and even hubris about "understanding God." So here is the gist of my point.

Many moderns think that the "end game" is what is important. In other words, they view religions as being "right" or "wrong," "winners" or "losers," and they forget what Jesus himself came to do, which is save each soul in each generation. So people who are hoping for and "rooting" for the end of times are actually in direct contradiction of God's priorities. God wants many, many generations of humans to live well, joyously, come to know him and be saved. It's not a final scoreboard mentality that so many of you have. For example, look at Iraq. There were generations of Christians there who lived, worshipped and died over the past centuries. Those are "wins" in God's eyes. So it is easy to think that the number of Christians in Iraq now, which has been reduced by half because of the war, somehow is "the status" of "salvation" in a country. God does not care about the "stats" and human entities such as "numbers of the faithful per country." God cares about each soul, wanting them to have a good life, and then wanting them to be saved due to their grace and their charitable living. So you cannot look at Iraq and think in terms of "how many Christians now" and so forth. Now, I am not saying the persecutions are OK, because they are far from OK. What I am saying is that Christianity comes and goes in cycles and each generation is a "success" in God's eyes because God is always biased toward wanting more to be born, more to live, more to love and serve him, and more to be saved.

Thus, people who actually "want" the end of times to come soon are being un-Christian and selfish. They don't want hundreds more years of babies being born, souls being saved, and humanity being served. But that is what God wants. God wants "the end of times" to be far, far, far in the future. God wants the monotheistic faiths, the children of Abraham, to demonstrate generation after generation that the Kingdom of God IS at hand, by living, not by hoping for some big Armageddon for one's own personal "expected" reward and gratification, and thus erasing the possibility of many more generations being born and enjoying life and coming to know God.

So Jesus was very careful to not speak for God on this subject. This is why Jesus truthfully said that he didn't know when the end of times would occur, and that only God knows. By truthfully I mean obviously Jesus always told the truth, but he wasn't hiding some knowledge. God really IS the only one who knows when the end of times will occur, but God is not pushing for it to happen soon. Unfortunately, it is humans who are hoping for it soon (and many of those who hope and agitate would find they would not get a thank you note from God for their efforts). Jesus taught to live your life as if you were always ready, and that is obvious because anyone can see throughout history that both individual and community human life is unpredictable. This is especially true as human technology outstrips their wisdom and compassion.

Here's another way to understand God on this point. When God appeared to Moses God had "two priorities." One was to guide the Israelites out of slavery and into their new land in Canaan, and the other was to teach them the Law. So God will "focus" on objectives at the time when humans need to have them. This does not mean he doesn't care about the future. But it's not like God would tell Moses "someday people will fly in airplanes" or "someday people will speak Russian" because God has a relationship with humans that is meaningful to humans in the context of the times they are in AND is consistent with God's greater plan. So Jesus would constantly tell the faithful how to live their lives and how to be ready should the time come because that is what God wants humans to focus on. Humans are not supposed to have a depressive and Gotterdammerung mindset that hopes to see chaos and Apocalypse and thus cheats future generations of their chances to be born and live. This is, by the way, one of the horrible symptoms of the culture of death and abortion mentality. Humans have self induced a "rapture" where the innocent are booted right out of earth and to heaven before they even are naturally born in full term from the womb.

I hope that you understand what I am saying. The end of times is not something that should be viewed as the last move in a game or a "spiritual war" or a competition. Nothing would make God "happier" (to use a human term) than many, many, MANY generations of humans being born, welcomed into life, living decent, loving and God fearing lives, full of the goodness of what life offers, and the courage to handle the hardships that comes with a life that is not limitless, and then coming to know and love God, being received into eternal bliss.

Those who "root" for the end of times are like mean adults who want to end a fun and pleasant game or activity that children are enjoying before the children can win, or before new children can join in. Why would anyone in their right mind "hope" for the end of times to "happen soon," so that children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and generations in the future would not even be born? As long as I've lived among humans this is one thing I really do not understand. I find that mindset to be shocking and scandalous.

I mean, would any of you sit there and say, "Oh, I hope the end of times happens before my neighbor grows up, marries, has children, and those children grow up and have children of their own, and their children have great lives and know God and have children of their own" and so on and so on? Well, admit it. Is that not what those who "hope for" and "agitate" for the Apocalypse are actually saying? If you were honest, would you not be saying out loud, "Hey, I hope you and your children never have a chance to have offspring who love and serve God, and I hope that things only get worse instead of better?" That is what God hears when he hears and knows the thoughts of those who agitate and hope for "the rapture," "the Apocalypse," or the "end of times." God hears thus, that people are hoping for the end to come before billions of future people have a chance to live and love, to love both being alive and each other, and also to love God. Who in their right mind thinks that way? I was shocked to find that far too many do. But I will wrap up this comment with repeating that I am hopeful that I'm seeing some balance and sanity return and less fondness for this negative, disturbing and vindictive, selfish mindset.

I hope that you find this helpful. Stop thinking like robbers who want to steal the chance to live, love and know God from future generations. Praise God that the Catholic Church maintains its stability away from such erroneous thoughts (despite efforts to undermine and infiltrate it with such) and also Islam, which does not presume to "accelerate" God's will.