by Zack Hunt
Read between March 19 - April 09, 2019
what Christianity looks like when we stop focusing on trying to escape earth for heaven and start trying to bring heaven to earth.
The foundation laid in Genesis doesn’t crumble at the end of Revelation. It’s restored as the promise of paradise is made real once more.
American Christianity has come to be defined by who and what it’s against, by legalism and dogmatism that draws lines in the sand and turns unbelievers into enemies.
It has the veneer of sophistication—of complex thought and serious inquiry. Dispensationalism gives its disciples the sense that they are intellectual giants.
Jesus can also be considered a prophet, as well as folks like John the Baptist and even the John who wrote the book of Revelation. Biblical prophets weren’t fortune- tellers. They were prophetic because they called on the people of God to repent and demanded justice for the oppressed.
apocalypse is fundamentally about truth-telling, not fortune-telling.
Regardless of their origin, the dispensations are kind of like the contents of Pandora’s box. The box has been opened, and there’s no putting the dispensations back inside—at least not for those who believe they’ve uncovered a great biblical secret.
This is where a healthy faith lives: in a place of critical reflection that pursues the greatest depths of knowledge, accepts the things found there, and keeps diving deeper, but without the delusion of ever thinking we have it all figured out.
We’re called to love people more than we love being right, but being right theologically rather than being in right relationship with our neighbor has become the defining identity of the church.
in the information age, when people quite literally carry around the totality of human knowledge in their pocket, we in the church can’t afford to pretend we know everything. We can no longer claim we have everything figured out all the time.
when Jesus ascended into heaven, leaving his disciples behind with the great commission to go and make disciples of all the nations on earth, some still doubted. But Jesus didn’t excommunicate them. He gave them the same authority as the rest of the disciples to be his agents of grace in the world (Matthew 28:16-20).
The church has inflicted far too much pain on people by not making space for their questions and doubt.
faith is found in doubt. Without doubt, faith wouldn’t be faith. It would simply be knowledge.
When we try to bind the Christian faith to the affirmation of ideology and dogma, we strip it of its life-giving, creation-transforming power. Faith is about transformation, not affirmation. It’s about believing that no matter how flawed we are, how riddled with doubt we might be, how broken and sinful our lives may have become, God loves us anyway.
If any of us struggle to stand up in the chaotic waters of faith and life, the rest of us carry them until they can stand on their own again.
What Paul is describing in 1 Thessalonians is the completely opposite type of encounter. In Paul’s twinkling of an eye, Jesus returns for good. He never turns around and goes back to heaven.
the fundamental problem with the rapture and the end-times theology that goes with it: it creates a way of life that stands in stark juxtaposition to the way of Jesus.
the fundamental problem with the rapture: it calls us to escape, while Jesus calls us to incarnation. The rapture calls us to look only at ourselves, while Jesus calls us to die to self and live our lives for others. For all the rapture’s focus on going off to heaven to live with Jesus forever, the life it calls us to lead in the here and now is, at its very core, antichrist.
the ironic thing about learning. The more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know.
humanity is God-breathed. And yet . . . we’re not perfect. If we were, we would simply be God or, at the very least, a bunch of little gods. But we’re not perfect; we’re God-breathed, not God-incarnated. God-breathed doesn’t mean perfection, because God doesn’t take over our lives and control us like puppets.
Too often we miss the movement and inspiration of the Holy Spirit because we relegate the Spirit to the supernatural and don’t allow for God to work in the mundane. We want God to speak to us through a burning bush, when more often than not God is revealing the truth of Scripture to us through a biblical commentary.
For the people of God in Jesus’ day, the Law and the Prophets were their Scripture, and the very foundation of their faith. So Jesus is saying that if you want to understand what God is trying to teach you through Scripture, that understanding must be grounded in and guided by love for God and neighbor. In other words, the greatest commandment isn’t just a call to be nice to people. It’s a guiding principle for reading and interpreting the Bible.
if we’re using the Bible to cause harm to others, we’re wrong. Period.
Since Jesus is God’s full revelation, interpreting the Bible to find “a meaning worthy of God” means finding a meaning worthy of everything Jesus taught, preached, and stood for.
We’ve always needed a hermeneutic of love for reading the Bible, but as our list of “enemies” seems to grow, perhaps we need it now more than ever.
Augustine and the Jewish tradition regard Genesis as true. How can that be? The answer lies in liberating ourselves from the need for something to be literally or historically true in order for it to convey or contain truth.
Myths have a power to convey truth that literal events don’t always have.
eisegesis: that is, a reading of a text that projects one’s own presuppositions and biases onto it in order to find a meaning one wants to be there but isn’t actually supported by the text itself.
kairos, or an opportunity for grace and conversion,
heaven is not so much a destination as it is a source of hope and inspiration.
The New Jerusalem isn’t a goal as much as it is a way of life that is about to dawn on earth.
It is the job of the church to prepare the way of the coming kingdom: the new heaven here on the new earth.
The apocalyptic life isn’t defined by sitting around and patiently waiting for God to act. It’s defined by living out the promised kingdom of God on earth as it is in the final chapters of Revelation.
Christianity wasn’t all about me and my reward. It couldn’t be that self-centered and that self-serving. If it was, it wouldn’t be worthy of bearing the name of Christ.
Biblical faith is not defined by rules, rituals, or ideas; it’s about faithfulness to a calling from God.
having the same mind as Christ doesn’t mean believing the exact same ideas as everyone in the pew next to us. It means pursuing the same way of life, the same sort of faithfulness to God’s calling that Jesus embodied.
salvation is fundamentally connected to what we do in this life, not just what we believe.
Remember, those epistles of his are real letters to real churches; in them he gives real advice for how people in those churches should live their lives.
heaven isn’t the destination, but a way of life that comes down to earth
If nothing else, the story of the church is the story of people who struggle to remember the love that gave birth to our faith. And in our forgetfulness we replace that love with dogmatism, legalism, and oppression.
Here lies the ultimate problem with end-times theology: it values prophecy more than people.