When Hope Sinks

When Hope Sinks

“Don’t get your hopes up.”

That’s what we say to each other as a warning against inflationary expectation. The higher our hopes climb, the harder they fall. It’s dangerous to risk a fall of Humpty Dumpty proportions. Few people specialize in putting shattered hope back together again.

Have you ever heard someone predict the second coming of Jesus? Have you ever read a book that connected the dots between world events and the biblical text of the Revelation of Jesus to John? I suggest that people who interpret the Book of the Revelation as a time line of the end are manipulating our hopes. They tell us:

  • the Antichrist is here
  • the blocks of the new Temple are already cut
  • Armageddon is just around the corner
  • the mark of the beast is a computer chip installed under our skin

They speak of these things as warnings to the unprepared and good news to the ready-to-be-raptured. Yet, for the life of me, these predictions don’t get my hopes up anymore. I guess I’m old enough now to know some history. I know about the failed predictions of the end-of-the-world in the years 999, 1843, 1988, and 2012.

Hope is like a rubber balloon. It will inflate and deflate only so many times before losing its elasticity. And I think most of us have just about reached the limit with end-time scenarios. That’s why people tell me they don’t read the Revelation anymore. It’s confusing. It’s scary. It’s depressing. They’ve been inflated and deflated too many times. Not knowing beats knowing and being wrong again. Chicken Little has lost his ability to convince us that the sky is falling.

Yet Chicken Little keeps citing the Revelation every time he wants to instill fear in us. His bizarre claims—such as Barney the Dinosaur’s being the Antichrist— divert us from a solid hope. To manipulate believers by instilling dread and fear is less than loving. When this happens, hope meets a fate of titanic proportions.

Why are we so gullible? Why did people buy it in 999, 1843, 1988, and 2012, and why do we take the hook today? What does this speculative hunger say about us?

I suspect our gullibility is at least partly due to a desire for control. As citizens of the information age, we have knowledge at our fingertips. In this cybersea of facts, we think we can know everything—and that once we know it, we can control it. We can manage the raw data to our benefit and make our lives turn out the way we want. So when someone promises to tell us what we don’t know, like the expiration date of the world or the identity of the Antichrist, we listen. We are driven to gullibility by the essence of sin—the desire to be in control of our own lives.

When I survey the current theories, novels, movies, and TV evangelists, I see a frightening pattern. Bad news is the best seller: the planet is going up in flames or down in a nuclear accident or to pieces when the asteroids hit or whatever scheme the scriptwriters of the latest box office action film cook up. We seem to be primed to believe the worst. And in most of the popular scenarios, God is the one blowing the creation to bits.

Yet when I read the Revelation, I don’t find God “the exterminator.” Humans are the ones who threaten to destroy the planet with bombs, chemicals, and ecological violence. It strikes me that we ought not to make God responsible for the evil we ourselves are doing. When we blame Him for calamity, hope sinks, along with trust.

So what are we to do with the Revelation of Jesus to John? If it isn’t a chronological timetable of the end-time or a code to be cracked with a calculator or a rap sheet on the Antichrist or a description of the mark of the beast, what is it?

Can I tell you what I think?

I think it is a story—several stories, in fact, about God. The Revelation of Jesus to John is the story of the God:

  • who is making everything new
  • who will not quit until He finishes what He started
  • who is intent on bringing us to completion
  • who outlasts and undoes anything evil can do
  • who stands in our past, present, and future as hope personified

And I believe that reading this story will get your hopes up.

Today’s post is an excerpt from my book, Answers for Chicken Little: A No-Nonsense Look at the Book of Revelation.

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