By Curtis K. Shelburne
I enjoyed a good laugh recently when a dear friend and fellow pastor asked another mutual friend and highly-respected preacher, “What’s your sermon title for Sunday?” The good gentleman replied with mirth and mischief, “Why Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins Have Left Me Behind.” He was kidding. But just about the title.
LaHaye and Jenkins have left me behind, too, most notably in book sales. What follows is likely just jealousy.
I’m glad the “Left Behind” series has people thinking about what it means to follow Christ, to live ready for his coming. I know scads of folks who’ve enjoyed the books, and that’s good. I just can’t turn off my theology long enough for my own reading in them to be much fun. (No surprise. Preachers can’t even go to Star Wars movies without getting lost mulling over the theology of “The Force.”)
With Christians across the centuries, I joyfully affirm my deep belief that Christ “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”
But, if I’m not mistaken, the end times theories of the “Left Behind” guys, ideas shared by many, and very popular in the last few generations, are pretty “Johnny Come Lately” as far as serious theological thought is concerned. They’re largely based on views of Matthew 24-25 and Revelation that not many in the larger stream of Christianity down through the ages have bought.
And, yes, I readily admit that the religious tradition from which I hail has had plenty of its own proprietary theological notions that seem strange, even cultish, to many in the larger stream of Christendom. So don’t think I’m making fun of anyone!
I don’t know when Christ is coming back—Jesus said that no human knows—but I firmly believe that he is. The sooner the better. I don’t care how. I don’t care whose “end times” chart is right. I fit in best with folks who don’t make end-times charts, but I’m planning to spend eternity in heaven with many folks whose end-times theories I think are nuts. Maybe we’ll have a good laugh about it.
What’s not funny is when Christians get so serious about side issues that they fight and divide and cause unbelievers to mock Christ’s name as his followers fuss. Then it doesn’t matter who is “right.” No one is.
What’s also sad is that “end times craziness” and endless argument cause even Christians to be slow to open Revelation and drink in its beauty and joy, excitement and hope. Anyone who says he understands it all is sadly deluded and arrogant.
But be assured that the point of the book is clear: Victory comes through Christ! Those who are in Christ will ultimately be victorious no matter what happens here. Because our faith is in “the Lamb who was slain,” our hope is in his victory over Satan, over death, over all the evil of this world.
Our hope in the Lamb is well-founded indeed as we lift our voices and join in the mighty angelic song: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb / be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Amen!