End Times Board Game and Unbiblical Madness

(thanks to Michael Morrell for showing me this via FB *Also note that “madness” is not to suggest the insanity of the good folks who hold to the view being critiqued, but to the “madness” of playing a board game :-) )

I am personally saddened that this is a real commercial by wonderful Christian folks at IHOP-KC.  I like much about this ministry, especially their emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit… but sadly, here is a reason why I keep my distance from the mainstream Pentecostal movement (even though I consider myself a charismatic).  This board game, Omega, is another example of an escapist and unbiblical reading of Revelation, Mark 13 (and parallels), 1 Thessalonians 4, and other relevant texts.  Just when I started to think that the end times madness was coming to an ‘end’ in our churches, this game is a reminder that the flawed theology of Left Behind and The Late Great Planet Earth is alive and well.

For some of you, it may surprise you that a Christian (like myself) would question the common approach to the so-called End Times texts.  I want to assure you that it is not because I think that God couldn’t do things that way, but rather that this system is not what Scripture actually teaches.  Out of a burden to read God’s Word with integrity, I reject the following: a rapture of the church when Christians will be taken to a non-physical bliss for eternity and when pagans will be left behind, a future 7 year tribulation, a future Antichrist, and the future destruction of the planet leading to a new spiritual existence in heavenly bliss.  This system of theology does not take the 1st century biblical context or the literary style in which God inspired the texts with enough seriousness.  All of these passages, when placed in a proper interpretive grid, are about issues the early church faced such as persecution; not about our future.  One of the only passages about our future is found in the final two chapters of Revelation, when God will bring heaven to earth for eternity!

Why does this matter?  Well, it completely determines how we express faith in the present.  Is Christianity about escaping this ‘evil’ world to go to a disembodies place of eternal bliss called heaven, or is it about God using us in the present and accomplishing one day in the future, the bringing of heaven to earth?  Is the way of Jesus a message of coming doom and gloom for earth, or about the hope that Christ will bring his restorative and healing justice to purify the “groaning” creation? If escapism is the answer, then there is really not a guiding framework for why we ought to care about “this-worldly” issues such as poverty, climate change, and disease; because this world will be destroyed eventually anyway.  Not only so, the goal is escape so the only thing we need to do is get people to recite a sinner’s prayer and then we can call it good… they will die and go to heaven so if they suffer on earth, that’s only a millisecond compared to eternity.  If the gospel we preach is about coming gloom and doom, then our message to culture does not include any kind of real hope for our world.

I for one believe in a holistic gospel, one that cares about the eternal salvation of every person while also longing that people who are the victims of injustice, are taken care of.  I believe in the Good News when it actually is embodied as good news.  I believe that the Christian message is also the most hopeful thing our culture could ever hear.  The Bible teaches that when Christ comes back, it will be Good News!  “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’” (Revelation 21.4).  Surely we cannot erase judgment from the picture, but the hope is that those in Christ will be raised to eternal life and everything that is wrong with this world will be made right.  This world renewed is going to be our home for eternity, and we have the opportunity to reflect that future in our present.  The coming new creation begins today!

The problem with the Omega board game, is that it distorts the hopeful message of the return of Jesus into being WWIII and the destruction of the space-time universe.  To this I say, it is time we returned to the Bible for our answers rather than a theological system that was the product of a revivalist culture in the mid 1800’s.  It is time to stop the madness.

If you would like some resources on what I believe to be a more faithful biblical approach, check out the following:

  • Sean Gladding

    i would add one more resource: The Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham, Cambridge University Press.

    • Kurt

      Thanks Sean! I have heard good things about that resource.

      Also, I am hearing some great things about your new book. Based on what i read online, I think it will really resonate with my narrative sympathies when approaching scripture…

      • Sean Gladding

        Kurt,

        i'll be interested to hear what you think about the book – especially chapter 12, which offers a narrative account of those first encountering the Revelation, interwoven with some of Bauckham's insight.

        • Kurt

          Sean… I am looking forward to it. When I get a chance, I will see if my lovely wife will let me order another book from Amazon :-) . After reading your table of contents and some reviews, I already know that I am going to love it… and in the future will be recommending it as a resource. I will be really excited to hear how you deal with Bauckham’s material to a more popular audience!

  • http://mystic444.wordpress.com mystic444

    Thanks for posting this article on the "End Times Board Game", Kurt. In this day of "end times madness", we need to keep seeing more Biblical and reasonable approaches presented from time to time. Because of people like the man who's proclaiming that it's "beyond the shadow of a doubt" that Jesus will return on May 21, 2011, the name of God is "blasphemed among the Gentiles". Do keep up your good work, brother.

    • Juli Litchford

      I hadn't heard of this prediction yet. I remember the booklet that came out when I was in high school: "88 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1988". Heh.

      • http://mystic444.wordpress.com mystic444

        Here's a link to the Yahoo article that came out about these people who are certain that Christ will return on May 21, 2011: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110103/ap_on_re/us_r… .

        I never read the book giving 88 reasons that Jesus would 'return' in 1988, but I sure heard about it. Someone said that when that failed to happen, the author wrote another book, "89 Reasons Why Jesus Will Return in 1989". :lol: I don't know whether he actually did, or the person who said so was being facetious.

        That kind of thing has gone on throughout the centuries of course. Prior to the year 1000 A.D., people worked themselves into a frenzy with the conviction that the end of the world would occur in 1000. Of course, I'm sure you'll recall that a bunch of Christians predicted the same thing for the year 2000. A preacher named Miller made himself and his followers famous (infamous?) in the middle of the 19th century by predicting Jesus' return at that time. It seems that some people just never learn.

        Of course if they understood that the Biblical predictions they harp on had reference to events that occurred in the first century A.D., all of that nonsense would be avoided. But even with a futuristic viewpoint, all that's necessary is to really believe Jesus' statement that only God Himself knows the time of the event (until it occurs – which it did in 70 A.D.) – even the son (Jesus) did not know. Do these people think that they are more knowledgeable and wiser than Jesus? They have more understanding of God and His purposes than the one whom God appointed and anointed as Lord of men and angels? If God had not made known the day and hour of "the end" to His prophets, how can someone now find that day and hour in the prophetic writings?

  • http://www.spoonfulofdreams.co.uk Chris Price

    Its unfortunate that the work of the Holy Spirit in Pentecostalism is so closely tied with end times ministry, Christian Zionism, signs and wonders and health and wealth. In my years as a Christian where I started out bewitched by the Hal Lindsey heresies I have had to learn that not all that glitters is gold and navigate through minefields of twisted theology (sustaining some collateral damage) to find the true treasures of the Holy Spirit, his healing and miracles. Stuff like Omega leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

  • http://jmsmith.org JM

    Sean's right, Bauckham's book is a must (or the fuller version "The Climax of Prophecy"). Thanks for the link to my DVD, Kurt. I'm sharing this on my blog as well as on FB and Twitter!

    And here are my thoughts on "Restoring Revelation to the Church" in case you or your readers are interested: http://jmsmith.org/blog/restoring-revelation-to-t

  • Juli Litchford

    Another great post, Kurt. :)

    • Kurt

      thanks Juli!

  • http://brokentelegraph.com Ian Ebright

    Awesome post, Kurt.

    • Kurt

      Ian, your a frikin stud! thanks brotha…

  • http://www.christmyredeemer.wordpress.com Daniel James Levy

    Hey Kurt,
    just for the sake of IHOP, I figured I ought to comment. As somebody who was a thorough endorser one time of my life into the theology IHOP teaches regarding the end times, I have a decent knowledge of their views.

    Though they do hold to a type of escapist view of eschatology, it isn't in the brand of Left Behind (A la Tim LaHaye). Believe it or not, IHOP actually fully endorses the belief that the church will go through the Tribulation (hence why they are trying to educate people about the end times, have 24/7 prayer, and so on).

    Though I'm not anymore an endorser of IHOP's eschatological views, I think (if I understand correctly) you have misunderstood them.

    Grace and peace in the Lord Jesus,
    Daniel.

    • Kurt

      Daniel… that is a good distinction but honestly it doesnt take away the fact that they hold to a futurist eschatology that will lead to the distruction of the cosmos and the eventual escape to a disembodied heaven. It is still a form of Premillenial Dispensationalism. Post-trib is a minor distinction, but it is to their credit that they are ready to endure the supposed coming persecution. Had they been around to endure the actual "Tribulation" that Jesus prophesied when the temple was destroyed in 70 AD or the other 'tribulation' under Emperor Domitian in the 90's AD that Revelation refers to, then IHOP saints would have been models of dependence on God. That said, their prayer is not in vain, for connecting with God is always good, even if our theological premise might be misguided.

      thanks for giving me a clearer insiders look into this…

      • Zack

        Does post-trib dispensationalism even make sense? Like, is that even a legitimate position?

        • Kurt

          Zack, Not sure how any futurist view makes sense. But, growing up I did hear arguments for pre, mid, and post tribulational views of premillenialism. I myself am a (late date) partial preterist/idealist.

          • Zack

            Certainly, but technically a post-trib Premillennialists is a historical Premillennialist. Pre/Mid-tribbers would be dispensational.

            I'm a partial preterist with idealist leanings as well, but that has to do with my understating if the book of Revelation as a whole, not just 20:1-6. So what's your position on the millennium? Considering you're almost certainly not pre-mil, are you post- or a-?

          • Kurt

            Amill.. :-)

            Sent from my iPhone

    • Zack

      Would you classify them as Historical Premillennialists?

      I think of all the premillennial paradigms, historical is one that I can certainly see being plausible. I am, however, completely ammilennial (or "realised" millennial) in my thinking.

      • Kurt

        I had a teacher in undergrad who held this position. Still, it takes a pretty rigid system of surface level literalism to come up with even this version of premill…

      • http://jmsmith.org JM

        Zak,
        I think the only two really viable eschatologies are Historic Premill and Amill. Both go back to the earliest centuries of the Church, both recognize the non-literal genre of Apocalyptic and both recognize that the Church will never be spared suffering until the Final Judgment and New Creation. I personally lean toward Amill, myself, but there are good arguments for a Premill interpretation that scholars such as Ben Witherington, Walter Kaiser, George Ladd and Robert Mounce make. Thus I can't dismiss that view completely.

        My 2 shekels,
        JM

      • brambonius

        Could you explain the "realised millenial" position for me?

  • http://www.christmyredeemer.wordpress.com Daniel James Levy

    Right, and I agree with you, to an extent. They don't have such an "other-worldly" focus as say, Left Behind does.

    But, in continuation with what somebody else mentioned in the above comments, Bauckham's book is great. Furthermore, I'd like to recommend another book, which my friends, Dr. Robert Waddell and Dr. Peter Althouse edited: "Perspectives in Pentecostal Eschatologies: World Without End". It's gotten a significant amount of praise from leading pentecostal theologians. Check it out :)

    Peace.

    • Kurt

      I will check out that book!

  • Drew

    While my own theology does not necessarily match up completely with Kurt's (although I do agree with some of it :)), I do agree with the absurdity of this board game. It is a shame that people result to this kind of escapist practice coming from bad theology. This is not how Christ intended his church to live out its mission in the world. May we be ambassadors of the gospel for the sake of Christ, his Bride, and our future hope.

  • kimberly quinn

    I agree with everything you have said. Great post. Something is wrong with my computer and I can't get sound on the internet, could you explain this game to me more? Thank you.

  • http://criticalbelief.com/ Marc

    Will Christ physically (or trans-physically) return to restore justice to a renewed Earth and, if so, what is he waiting for?

  • http://www.rogueminister.wordpress.com Justin

    I might be a little biased as an Asbury student, but Ben Witherington's commentary on Revelation is worth checking out as well…

  • http://betweenleafandsky.wordpress.com Tasiyagnunpa

    What about the fact that the people who think that the world will end in killing flame (not a cleansing fire, much like those of us who've let the Holy Spirit work on our flesh in this time) are ENJOYING and having fun blithely pantomining and "Cranium-ing" their way through such supposed horrors? What is WRONG with them. If they believe all this sadness and terror, shouldn't they be falling on the floor weeping?

    No…because they're on the 'right' side. This deception has allowed them to harden their hearts against all other 'sinners.' Shame on all of us!

    May the Lord have mercy. Their smiles and stuff remind me of the uber creepy grin on Loughner's mug shot they released yesterday after the Tucson Tragedy.

    • The Truth

      Well just from your response…or bashing as some might call it I can already tell you are a left-leaning narrow-minded person who is not willing to look at things rationally. Now its fine to disagree in a loving respectful way (As we all should) But to sit there and compare those people to that awful and deeply troubled man is stunning. To turn this into some sort of political blame game is tragic to say the least. So its fine to have your opinion on this commercial and end times…but choose your words more wisely when comparing people. Everyone should be offended by your last comment.

      • http://betweenleafandsky.wordpress.com Tasiyagnunpa

        You make a lot of assumptions for someone who is supposedly trying to educate me on how not to make assumptions.

        People taking delight in this sort of apocalyptic madness is disturbing. I didn't say I think they're as unhinged as that man in Arizona, but that we should be bothered and offended when people can 'play' end of the world and death and mayhem with a smile.

        Also, when I said "right," I was speaking to their belief that they are the only holders of truth in the world. I was not speaking of their political beliefs.

        Perhaps you should also choose your words more carefully.

        Peace.

  • http://ageofhopeministries.blogspot.com Joyce

    Excellent blog – at Christmas, I was quite dismayed to hear my grandson who recently came to faith and is a "baby" Christian be quite focus on Revelation and end-time horrors. He is sure at 17 that we are living in Revelation times. I decided lengthy discussions of theology would probably be too much for him at this time but told him that I thought at 17 I'd never live to be an old woman for the same reasons, as did his grandmother who died last year at 91. She was sure she'd never grow old either. Told him that Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly and to enjoy living – let the end time stuff alone.
    Not sure he listened – sadly there is just too much of this stuff out there.

    • http://jmsmith.org JM

      Joyce,
      Consider getting him this DVD if he's into Revelation:
      http://jmsmith.org/store/revelation

      And perhaps watch it with him.

      Rather than quenching one's desire to understand the book, instead I would encourage you to fan it to flames by giving him better alternatives than the pop-theology that dominates Christian media.

      • http://ageofhopeministries.blogspot.com Joyce

        took a brief look – looks like pretty good stuff. Thanks.
        I am also interested in your use of media. I'm working on a dissertation right now looking at the affect that computer mediated social network has or might have on Christian community for adult Christian learning. Looks like you've used media pretty effectively. Nice job!

  • Pingback: A Biblical Board Game That Isn’t All That Biblical « A Chorus of Echoes

  • LightbyGrace

    Sigh…I wish that commercial was a joke….I sooo agree with you…I am also a charismatic but steer clear of full blown Pentecostalism even though I am so very grateful for the movement and its contribution to evangelical Christianity. The extremes to which it extends sometimes makes me wanna cover my head in embarrassment at being a Spirit loving Christian. We have a HOP here in my city (modeled after the KC I-HOP). I have enjoyed their prayer room with its various areas for art, study and worship but could do without the yelling prayers and the heavy focus on end-times (my views fall in line with yours). I am very much looking forward to my friend Sam Lee’s book “A new Kind of Pentacostalism” that is due out in April. He has his head, heart and mind in a great place and I believe and hope and pray will bring a healthy perspective to the movement.

    http://web.me.com/slwe/ANKP/About_the_Book.html

    Check it!


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