Our mental views of God shape our attitudes toward God. Misbeliefs about God hinder engaging with God to pursue spirituality. If you think there may be a God, I am convinced you will not regret pursuing more of a connection with your Creator than regretting having a closer relationship with your partner, children, or friends. In this series of Posts the Bible is referenced because that is from where views of God are often formed. What if you discovered all this crazy talk about the world ending isn’t in the Bible?
- I care about this issue, though all the different beliefs are understandable, because all this talk about Jesus coming and predictions failing makes God-folks seem slightly loony. Too, certain end-time views can lead to passive living and not taking care of the world for the next generation. God surely prefers focusing on making a difference than escaping. I say somewhat in jest because I am scared of heights, but I am not all that excited about being lifted up in the sky (i.e. rapture) unless in a plane.
- There is a view of the end-times worth mentioning though since there are so many opinions. I would suggest since we can’t know for sure that we ought to live lives as if it mattered if there is life after death. The biblical writers and readers expected the “end times” spoken of to happen within their generation. Jesus said to his audience when asked about the last days: “watch out that no one deceives you….you will hear of wars and rumors of war (Mt. 24:4-6). Jesus warns such end-times would impact His audience. How is that possible if the world hasn’t ended yet? The disciples did not think of Jesus’ coming as supposedly a rapture-removing, visible, world-ending coming as they asked: “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age” (Mt. 24:3). Only a non-visible, spiritual coming of Jesus could possibly be missed.
- The end-times were not an earth ending event. As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Mt. 24:3) There was the end of an age in the first century when Jesus lived. History suggests Jesus’ prediction of coming in the “last days” has taken place. In the first century the great tribulation was fulfilled. The temple and Jerusalem was destroyed and millions of lives were lost. Biblical Judaism ceased to exist. This was the end of the age that Jesus spoke of. God no longer dwells in temples but people’s hearts. Jesus, as the ultimate and final sacrifice, was God’s desire to show love and to persuade us to run from evil and love others as we wish to be loved.
- What does the Bible say about life after death? Not as much as you might think. The Bible says nothing about Hell. Gehenna, the Greek word wrongly translated as Hell in the New Testament, was a real valley near Jerusalem. It had an ugly history but was not a place people were kept alive to torture by fire. Hell was invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience.
- Jesus didn’t say much about heaven as one may think. When Jesus spoke about eternal life He spoke of it not in terms of something after death but a quality of life that begins here on earth to avoid future regrets. Enough biblical passages suggest all will face God one day for an accounting of their deeds – good and bad. Why doesn’t the Bible say more about heaven? A solely heavenly focus can lead to passive earthly living, similar to focusing on Jesus’ coming rather than making a difference in the world we live in currently.
Do beliefs on earth matter if the Bible isn’t crystal clear about whether they determine our eventual destiny? Do you really think it doesn’t matter how you treat others here on earth if there isn’t a consequence? Jesus conveyed God’s unimaginable love to inspire us being even a better partner, parent, and friend. God will be just to the guilty and victims. I am a hopeful Universalist. It seems no one in their right mind would refuse living in heaven when meeting their loving Creator. But, God clearly values freedom of choice. There is real hope that we will be reunited with our loved ones unless they are evil to the core.