We live in a Christian culture permeated with an eschatological theology strongly influenced by the “Left Behind” book series (and those terrible movies based on the books). I think this is problematic.
First, because I think the theology and scriptural interpretation found in the Left Behind series is almost completely wrong — not to mention immorally violent.
Second, the Left Behind theology often distracts us from what is actually taught in the Gospels.
In Matthew 24:36, Jesus says the following: “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
However, if we take Left Behind seriously, we will view the bible as some type of cryptic algorithm, where if we could only interpret it correctly, then we will be able to discern when the “end times” are upon us. And of course, many pastors and pop-theologians want to say that we are in the first tremors of the apocalyptic period. So Jesus is coming back within the next few decades, right?
But according to the Gospel’s teachings, we have no idea when the Second Coming will occur. And if we continue to act like Jesus will appear soon to fix all of our problems, then we run the risk of being concerned with social issues like climate change, environmental devastation, poverty, racism, human trafficking, and violence. (Sharing the Gospel is, of course, the most important task, but I see our other obligations being neglected far more than evangelism).
I’m not claiming all Christians who follow Left Behind’s theology neglect all moral obligations of the Kingdom of God. However, from what I’ve often observed, Christians may lack concern for issues like protecting the environment if he or she believes the world is only 6,000 years old and there’s strong chance Jesus will show up around the year 2030.
But of course, if we sit back and relax, we might very well end up like the unprepared bridesmaids in Jesus’ parable.
“Ten bridesmaids[a] took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.[b] 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those bridesmaids[c] got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids[d] came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:1-13 NRSV).
If we think we can determine the approximate time of Jesus’ return by interpreting Revelation correctly, we run the risk of becoming the foolish bridesmaids. Being members of the Kingdom of God means there is work to do, not that we get to sit around and be lazy. If Christians continue to ignore key issues like the environment, racism, poverty, and violence, we will be in for a rude awakening.