According to many Evangelicals, some day real, real, real soon the son of the Christian God, Jesus Christ, is going to return to the clouds of earth and rapture away all those who believe in him. Those raptured away have written-in-blood invitations to the marriage supper of the lamb. Revelation 19:6-9:
And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
The Church is the bride who has made herself ready for the groom Jesus. Charles Spurgeon, the great nineteenth century English Baptist preacher, said the following in a sermon about the marriage supper of the lamb:
You noticed that I read parts of two chapters before I came to my text and I did it for this purpose.The false harlot-church is to be judged and then the true Church of Christ is to be acknowledged and honored with what is called a marriage supper. The false must be put away before the true can shine out in all its luster! Oh, that Christ would soon appear to drive falsehood from off the face of the earth! At present it seems to gather strength, and to spread till it darkens the sky and turns the sun into darkness, and the moon into blood. Oh, that the Lord would arise and sweep away the deadly errors which now pollute the very air! We long for the time when the powers of darkness shall be baffled and the pure everlasting light shall triumph over all! We do not know when it shall be —“But, come what may to stand in the way, That day the world shall see,” when the truth of God shall vanquish error and when the true Church shall be revealed in all her purity and beauty as the Bride of Christ—and the apostate church shall be put away once and for all and forever! Time rolls wearily along just now, apparently, and some hearts grow heavy and sad, but let us take courage. The morning comes as well as the night and there are good days, not so far off as we have sometimes fancied—and some of us may yet live to see times which shall make us cry, “Lord, now let Your servants depart in peace, for our eyes have seen Your salvation.” Whether we live till Christ comes again, or whether we fall asleep in Him, many of us know that we shall sit down at the great wedding feast in the end of the days, and we shall partake of the supper of the Lamb in the day of His joy and glory! We are looking across the blackness and darkness of the centuries into that promised millennial age wherein we shall rejoice with our Lord with joy unspeakable and full of glory!
A fair-minded reading of the New Testament suggests that first century Christians believed Jesus would return to earth in their lifetime. Luke 9 states:
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
The New Testament is replete with verses which intimate that the disciples and apostles believed they were living in the “last days.” They believed the end of the world was at hand. Perhaps this is why Paul told Christians it was better if they remain unmarried. The second coming of Jesus was at hand, so there was no need to become encumbered with wives and children. These early followers of Jesus were certain that their name would soon be called by Jesus, the bridegroom, and they would be seated for the marriage supper of the lamb.
It’s 2017, almost two thousand years removed from the days of Jesus and his Jewish followers. Despite their faith and messianic hope, Jesus did not return to earth. These first followers of Christ lived and died without seeing their Lord split the eastern sky. And so has every generation of believers after them. Once it became evident that Jesus was not returning in the first century, Christians began reinterpreting what the Bible says about the last days to mean an unknown (by humans) period of time. According to many Evangelical preachers, the world has been living in the last days for two thousand years. According to them, Jesus is coming soon and it could be today!
I am sixty years old. I have lived through more than a few end-of-the-world/Jesus-is-coming scares. In the 1970s, Jack Van Impe, the walking Bible, predicted Jesus was coming before the decade’s end. In the 1980s, Hal Lindsey predicted Jesus’ return was nigh, and who can forget the end-time scare wrought by Edgar Whisenant’s 88 Reasons the Rapture Will be in 1988. Even though I preached against Whisenant’s nonsense, I vividly remember the buzz his booklets caused. On the Sunday before Jesus’ return, infrequent attendees returned to church only to hear Pastor Bruce tell them that Jesus was NOT returning any time soon. (At the time, I held a post-tribulational, amillennial eschatological viewpoint.) And sure enough, my sermon was spot on. Jesus did not return. Someone still needed to volunteer for nursery duty or to clean the church, and I still had sermons to preach and souls to save.
Since 1988, numerous Evangelical zealots have predicted the end of the world and the return of Jesus, with every prediction failing and becoming yet another example of Christian stupidity. I am sure some Evangelical readers are screaming at their computers or smartphones, JUST YOU WAIT, BRUCE. JESUS IS GOING TO PROVE YOU WRONG! How can he? I ask, Jesus is d-e-a-d. The reason the Christian Lord and Savior has not returned is that dead people don’t come back to life. Jesus remains right where his followers buried him two thousand years ago — in the grave. Dead people don’t resurrect from the dead, neither do they ascend to the heavens so they can spend two millennia building condominiums (John 14).
Imagine me telling you that I wanted to take you out to eat real soon — I mean like tomorrow or early next week. I can’t tell you the exact date for our dinner engagement, but I will give you signs that will help you discern when to expect going out to eat with me. You are excited about the prospect of going to dinner with Bruce Almighty. Next week comes and goes without a call. You happen to run into a mutual friend who tells you, I heard Bruce mention that he was planning to take you out for dinner real soon. I am sure you would think that I would soon be calling to tell you when my limousine would arrive to pick you up. Yet your phone never rings. Our mutual friend keeps telling you, SOON, VERY SOON, BRUCE WILL CALL. Weeks turn into months, and months into years without me ever delivering on my promise. I suspect that you would eventually give up on me ever taking you to dinner.
So it is with the promised return of Jesus Christ. After two thousand years of promises, I think we can safely conclude that the marriage supper of the lamb is not going to happen; that Jesus and his followers are big talkers, promising that which they cannot deliver.
It is possible that we live in the “last days”, but these days are not those supposedly prophesied in the Bible. Reading the political tea leaves has led me to conclude that the United States has a psychopath at its helm. Donald Trump threatens North Korea with nuclear annihilation, failing to consider that once the first missile is fired the world as we know it is no more. Such insanity would certainly be the end of the human race, but the world? It will live on, perhaps devoid of life, save for a few cockroaches and Republicans. And what might make such carnage possible is the fact that millions of Americans believe that some sort of Armageddon with bring about the destruction of the planet and then Jesus will return to make all things new. 2 Peter 3:10-13 states:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
I have no fears about the second coming of Jesus, but I sure as hell fear Evangelicals, armed with materialistic interpretations of the Bible, who believe the end of the world is prophesied within Scripture’s pages. I most certainly fear people who think ridding the world of liberalism, false teachings, communism, evolution, and atheism is their divine calling — that Jesus has chosen them to be front line soldiers at the Battle of Armageddon or some other event divined from the Bible. These pious Bible thumpers can’t wait to be seated at marriage supper of the lamb, but before that happens God must cleanse the earth of all that offends and make all things new. I am not worried one bit about not being invited to dinner, but I sure am concerned about what happens to this planet of ours if Evangelicals get their way.
I realize that Evangelicals hold to a variety of equally insane eschatological beliefs. I am taking a general swipe at Evangelical eschatology, and not attacking any specific system of belief. Regardless of what position one holds, unbelievers are still excoriated from earth and all things are made new so Jesus and his followers can have the resplendent home promised in the book of Revelation.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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