Give the brouhaha over Harold Camping and his band of merry doomsayers, I thought it would be fun to revisit some of the interviews I did with various people about their views on End Times. Some of you may have seen these interviews before but feel free to jump into the conversation and share your own stories of being Left Behind.
I had not planned on this particular interview but it came about as so many do, through a friend of a friend. On a thunderous May morning I had driven over to Auburn, Alabama from my hometown in Columbus, Georgia. I was scheduled to speak to a Sunday School class at a Methodist church. Before heading out that morning, I’d called Star Captain and asked him for an interview. At first Star Captain was keen on meeting but he decided if it was after 3 p.m. we could meet at the park.
During lunch I was sharing with a friend about my upcoming meeting with Star Captain when he told me about someone he thought I ought to interview. So he called his buddy, right then and there, and that’s how easy it is to find someone to talk about the End Times. You tell a friend, who makes a phone call, and sure enough, you end up sitting out on the deck, in the shade of an overhead canvas, sweating, drinking tea and talking about whether or not the world is drawing to an end.
The Landscaper was born in Brooklyn but if accent alone placed a man, a stranger might think here was a fellow reared in Wiregrass country. He lives north of it now. Up in the part of Alabama where War Eagle flies proud and loud.
It was a girl who persuaded him Auburn would be the perfect place to obtain a graduate degree in Horticulture. Up until he met her, The Landscaper was figuring, somewhat delusional, on a life as The Doctor, but she convinced him otherwise, and boy is he ever thankful she did. He’d never gotten into Med School, anyway, not with that 2.6 GPA.
As a young man, he’d given his heart to Christ at a Young Life camp, but he’d kept back his life for his own good pleasure. “I was in church every Sunday, hung-over or not,” he says. “I’m sure I confused a lot of people.” Studying never held as much appeal as partying. The Landscaper says he thought college was the place to get drunk and meet girls. “I did both.”
But for all his wonton ways, he wasn’t about to marry the kind of girl that would tolerate all his foolishness. “I knew God wanted me to find a Christian girl to marry.”
That girl he met?
She’s smart as a whip. Pretty, too. She’d earned a degree in History from Alabama. Yes. That’s right. Roll Tide. Graduated with honors, Phi Beta Kappa and all. Thought maybe she’d get herself another degree, commit to a lifetime of lawyering.
Her mama was married to Jeff Beard, the Athletic Director at AU, and that’s how come she ended up getting her graduate degree at Alabama’s rival school. One day she announced to The Landscaper: “I’m going to go to Auburn and get a degree in Horticulture. You should, too.”
“That’s plants, isn’t it?” he asked, not sure he was understanding.
That’s the thing about loving someone – the most discombobulating things seem to make perfect sense. He signed up to share his life with that pretty girl with the conflicting school allegiances.
Wearing his Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, The Landscaper is sandy-haired and tanned, a handsome fella, broad of shoulder and a jaw that’s strong of bone and conviction. His thighs, back and forearms are muscular, from years of yanking roots and hauling potted Myrtles and Dogwoods.
The young couple attended church real regularly, they taught the youth on Sunday mornings, played on the church softball team. They were darling. Everybody said so, but bad habits are hard to break and he hadn’t bothered trying. He continued going out with the guys after the ballgames, drinking without caution. He’d think nothing of skipping dinner so he could drink beer with his buddies instead.
The Landscaper went his way and his wife went hers. Marriage is easy enough, it’s the creating the union – the two as one stuff – that takes a great deal of effort. Three years into it and the pretty girl realized something had to give, surely this wasn’t what God intended. She convinced him of that, and despite his reluctant agreement, signed the two of them up for a Marriage Encounter weekend.
“I was traveling a lot with my job and I drank a lot. It would have been easy for me to stray – I hadn’t – but I knew something was missing from our relationship, from my life,” he says.
It was there at the Marriage Encounter, in a room void of any distraction but each other, that they both got down on their knees and exchanged their selfish desires for those of Christ. That was the weekend, he says, that “Jesus became my Lord and Savior.”
Back home, a neighbor lady offered to host a Bible Study with the newly dedicated couple. They would meet once a week, whenever the Landscaper was home. The book they chose to study? Why Revelation, of course. It was the South, after all.
“That was the first Bible Study we’d participated in.”
The neighbor lady had charts. Poster-sized charts. Big ‘uns, The Landscaper says, spreading his arms open wide. Even so, those charts didn’t help. “Revelation isn’t the best book of the Bible to start with. All those candelabras and beast heads. It didn’t make any sense whatsoever. It was the most confusing book. I could understand why people didn’t read it.”
It was like Star Wars.
The Landscaper came away convinced that, “We has humans can’t in anyway understand heaven at all. John had opportunity to see something and he wrote what he saw as best as he could.
The Landscaper doesn’t give much thought to Revelation any more. He scoffs at all those books that drone on about End Times and Last Days and the Tribulation to come. Dropping his head and shaking it in a disbelieving fashion, the Landscaper says he thinks that popular Apocalyptic literature is just plain wrong. The Landscaper doesn’t fear molten rocks falling or the earth opening up to swallow him whole. When he walks in the house and finds his wife gone, he doesn’t assume that she’s been raptured and he’s been left-behind. The Landscaper doesn’t even anticipate the day that Jesus will come with rip-roaring through a tear in the sky.
He says the Second-Coming has already occurred.
Now I never expected a book about the End Times to be anything less than complicated, did you? I suspect the reason I haven’t yet formed an opinion about the End Time is because I am not well-versed enough in the subject matter. I don’t agree with Stephen Hawking about how the world was formed (I’d say created) but I’m not about to enter a debate with the man. I have made it a habit in my life to steer clear of people who routinely think and talk in words I can’t spell. So I was in no way prepared for what the Landscaper was about to tell me.
He ascribes to Preterist point of view. (Where I come from that sounds like something a fellow could end up in jail over.) Apologizing that he’s not all that well-versed yet, The Landscaper explains that a Preterist believes “That all scripture has been fulfilled in Christ. All prophecy already fulfilled.”
Leaning back in his chair the Landscaper exhales. Explaining things to people can be taxing on a fellow. Not even his wife embraces his way of thinking. “She’s more of a pan-millenist. She says it will all pan out in the end if we just stay solid with the Lord. If we stay true to Christ when he returns we’ll be okay.”
The Landscaper believes in a literal heaven.
“Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for me. I want to go to heaven. But the new heaven and the new earth is already here. God is in us now,” he says.
What about hell?
“That’s a separation from God for all eternity.”
What about all those signs of the End Times approaching?
“The earth is not going to end,” he says.
And the Second Coming of Christ?
Preterists originally broke away from traditional Roman Catholic eschatology and formed one more suited to their own liking. Full-fledged Preterists maintain all the biggie events prophesied have already come and gone. The Landscaper points to Matthew 16: 28 and notes, “Jesus said that some of those standing before him would not die before they saw him in his kingdom. That’s one of the time statements in the Bible that people consistently overlook.”
All those ramblings in Revelation about slain people rising, winged creatures running errands and rivers flowing with blood? Preterists believe that for all practical purposes the world came to an end in 70 A.D. with the Fall of Jerusalem, when the Temple was destroyed. Believers who continue loitering around Main Street waiting for a front seat at the Francis Ford Coppola version of the Apocalypse are just wasting precious time.
Give it up, already.
Quit worrying about the End Times.
It’s already come and gone.
There’s nothing left to fear. When a person dies, their body rots and their spirit goes directly past Go into the presence of God.
“And as far as I know, the earth goes on and on,” The Landscaper says.
What about you? Your thoughts on the Preterist view?