Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Reading about end-times studies or Eschatology is one that excites me to no end. I used to read some parts of the book of Revelation when I was a kid (the illustrated Bibles at least) with its descriptions of dragons, horned beasts coming out of the sea, angels, and stuff that captivate kids' imaginations. Nowadays though even adults read through the texts wondering about the clues that lie within its pages. With all the increasing bad news people nowadays tend to worry, ponder, or question what will happen in the future. Taking its cue from this fear of the unknown Hollywood takes a stab at it and gives us a bleak picture via movies like Ghostbusters, Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, Terminator, Deep Impact, Armageddon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Independence Day, Planet of the Apes, Total Recall, The Matrix, The Running Man, etc. etc. Of course there are exceptions like Bicentennial Man, Demolition Man, and Back to the Future trilogy that paints a coming golden age of peace and prosperity. Though these are what may be categorized as "secular" movies all the fear and hopes that are portrayed in them are still very much rooted in the "sacred" (but this is another story).

What's sad nowadays is the fact that more and more people are embracing secularism rather than turning to the one who give them the assurance of a bright and safe future. From both experience and observation, secularism never solved anything much less answer the fears that plague all of man and who could blame them if they're wont to think that God is that angry, judgmental god from the Old Testament surrounded by fire and brimstone ready to hurl lightning bolts on all hapless offenders (well-meaninged servants tend to keep Him out of reach too with their actuations). This is the complete opposite of who God really is and a very unfair portrait according to Tim LaHaye (co-author of the best selling Left Behind series) in his book The Merciful God of Prophecy: His Loving Plan for You in the End Times. God wants nothing less for people to be protected from the coming tribulations. He takes his cue from the Gospels as he explains God as someone as merciful and understanding who never tires of searching:
When Jesus wanted his audience to grasp the passionate love God for them, he told them three short but powerful stories (Luke 15). All of them memorably illustrate the Father's longing to find and bring home all of his lost children.

In the third of these stories, a young man from a wealthy family demands and gets his inheritance long before the death of his father (the time when custom said he ought to receive the money). He leaves home and spends his entire fortune on wild living, eventually winding up broke and friendless and working in a pigpen. One day, surrounded by hogs that eat better than he does, he comes to his senses. He realizes that even his father's servants enjoy a better life than the one he is enduring. So he picks himself up and sets for home, determined to ask his father for work as a hired hand.

Meanwhile, his dad sits patiently on the veranda, scanning the road and praying each day to see his wandering son return home at last. On this day, while the son was still a long way off, the father recognizes the tired silhouette of his boy hobbling down the road. And what does he do? Does he sit there with folded arms and a scowl on his face and say, "Well, let's see if this foolish boy can make it all the way up to the bunkhouse. Then I'll give him a piece of my mind"? Not on your life! The father leaps off the veranda and runs to his son, embraces him, covers his dirty, pigsty face with kisses, and treats him to a homecoming party, complete with the best fresh beef in the county.

As I sat in a Bible class one day, studying this parable, I suddenly realized that the real story is not so much the prodigal, but the father of the prodigal. Jesus was portraying God as the prodigal's father! Our Lord wanted us to realize that his Father, God Almighty, was just like the merciful father in this story.

And for the first time I grasped the gracious, loving nature of God.

At that moment, the lightbulb went off in my head. At once I understood that God isn’t sitting up in heaven, arms crossed, trying to prevent people from entering. Instead, he stands with arms wide open, trying in all conceivable ways to usher in as many people into heaven as possible. -- pp.9-10; God Has Gotten A Bad Rap.

And that far from giving those prophecies as a way to frighten us into submitting, LaHaye explains the purpose of those prophecies announcing the signs of his second coming is for us to avoid them by coming under his protection. God doesn't want to leave us scared and alone in dealing with the unknown future, but rather to let us know that hope still lies ahead. I've been reading this together with John F. Walvoord's Major Bible Prophecies: 37 Crucial Prophecies That Affect You Today and it has a way of giving one an assurance that though the world turns darker than it already is God looks after and preserves his own and will eventually have the last say.

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