One of my guilty pleasures is studying strange phenomena, like Bigfoot, aliens and other oddities. My father works as a nighttime security guard. He and I listen to George Noory’s “Coast to Coast” a.m. radio show. It starts at midnight. Dad and I feel connected. He and I are listening tonight.
The end of the world often crops up. Folks interested in yetis and the Loch Ness Monster tend to believe the apocalypse is upon us. Some say Bitcoin is the currency of the beast (much like they did the Euro). Others say lizard people roam among us, disguised as humans. I say humans roam among us disguised as lizard people. That’ neither here-nor-there.
I don’t rule out anything. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet told us, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
This year has been odd and troubling, maybe apocalyptic. We don’t use the term “plague” in contemporary parlance, but COVID comes close.
Back to my guilty pleasures. Conspiracy theories are high on the list. I don’t trust. I’m not sure anyone should trust me. I question power. I doubt promises. I lean right on the political scale, but I’m ready to throw my weight back across in a moment’s notice.
I’m very unsure, never more so than in 2020.
Folks have been predicting the end of the world since the dawn of civilization. The Book of Genesis in the Bible presents an idyllic setting, a Golden Age, one that humanity has recreated and reinterpreted in countless artistic forms. Artists have always known that the Golden Age is an unachievable abstraction, a symbol on the horizon of human existence. Attempts to recreate the Golden Age in political and social forms have met with catastrophic ends.
Christianity teaches us much about the end of the world, but not so much as some claim.
Fundamentalists Christians look directly to the Book of Revelation for end-of-the-world information. I believe the Gospels tell us more.
In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matt. 5, Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is already breaking in. I won’t mix in Einstein’s theory that time is an illusion. I will say that Jesus was telling us that a pie-in-the-sky future is the wrong way to look at heaven.
Christian theologians refer to the study of the end time as eschatology. It’s a combination of Greek words; eschaton mean “ending”; ology means “the study of.”
The Bible contains many eschatological references. In the Old Testament, Isaiah 24–27, Isaiah 56–66, Joel, Zechariah 9–14 as well as the closing chapters of Daniel, and in Ezekiel contain eschatological references. Prime examples in the New Testament include Matthew 24, Mark 13,, and the Parable of "The Sheep and the Goats.”
In theology school I learned a phrase that’s always stuck with me: Eternity is the fullness of time. The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, (d. 1855) drew upon Ecclesiastes 3:11 to proclaim the quote to modern society. Kierkegaard meant that what we do now is, in fact, the fruit of eternity. We become, forever, what we now choose to be.
To think of eternity as simply endless time is a poverty of imagination. That compares apples to oranges. Eternity is an existence that exceeds time. Eternity is the full expression of what we have created in time.
The ticking clock seems common sense to us. Time marches on. Whether or not we believe in Bigfoot, those on the margins of intellectual society encourage us to reexamine our concept of time, to consider, like Einstein, whether we can draw a straight line from birth, to middle age, through sin and forgiveness, to our eternal end.
Christian theology holds a tension between the “right-now,” and the “not-yet.” Bad Christian theologians dismiss the present world and place all value in the future. Worse Christian theologians dismiss the future and believe that people can create heaven on earth. Orthodox (right believing) Christian theologians believe that the tension between now and eternity cannot be easily reconciled. We have the responsibility to work hard to make the Kingdom of God a reality. We must also be humble enough to know that we can’t make it a complete reality upon earth, at this time, and to pray for God’s will to be accomplished in eternity.