A doom-and-gloom board game trumps the good news of Christ’s return

[Kurt's Note: This is a slightly revised version of blog post I wrote a few years back. I thought of it after hearing that a new Left Behind movie (featuring Nicolas Cage and Chad Michael Murray) will be coming to theaters in 2014. These are some basic reflections (which, if I had started from scratch, might have come out a bit differently on some minor points - we all grow!) on the so-called end times. I point readers to some helpful resources for retraining our theological imagination.]

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When the good folks at IHOP-KC produced this commercial for this board game, I was personally disappointed.  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 bit of 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 doom-and-gloom 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. And although IHOP and others would align more with Historical Pre-millennialism (and a Post-Trib rapture) [I failed to make this distinction in the original version of this post], all “futurist” eschatologies that believe in a coming Tribulation – particularly one that will last 7 years under the rise of the Anti-christ – create a problematic picture of the world’s end. Tribulation doesn’t have to come before Jesus returns: Jesus will simply return!

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.  That system of theology does not handle the 1st century biblical context or the literary style in which God inspired the texts with enough precision.  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 can determine 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.[1]  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’s 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’s time to escape the trappings of the doom-and-gloom Gospel for the good news of Christ’s eventual return.

If you would like some resources on what might be more consistent with the Scriptures in their context, check out the following:

 


[1] This isn’t to say that if someone has a dispensationalist view of eschatology that they automatically neglect such areas (some dispensationalists/futurists are much more just in their lifestyle than I am, that’s for sure!). Rather, I think that this system of thought doesn’t provide a solid theological framework for such justice/ecological based missional actions. In other words, dispensationalism, in its uncritical and worst forms can be used as a theological trump card to dismiss important areas of Christian mission [sadly I've seen it done].

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  • Stu

    To perhaps add some clarity to the discussion. The theology of the Left Behind series and the Late Great Planet earth couldn’t be further from the eschatological views of the IHOP KC staff. Left Behind, etc…rely in the pre-tribulational views introduced in ~1830, while IHOP KC largely holds to the traditional Historical Premillennial view (that’s been around for about 2000 years). I wouldn’t call it gloom and doom…I would says it’s probably the closest thing I’ve heard taught to what I simply understand from reading the bible (which is where I think we should spend most of our time, so we can properly judge these teachings like good Bereans :)). They talk about the good and the bad things happening at the same time…the wheat and the tares mature together, etc. Their view of end times I would say is probably more optimistic even than the way traditional Historical Premillennialism has been taught. Here is their overview of the subject: http://mikebickle.org/resources/resource/3070

  • http://holyspiritactivism.wordpress.com/ Micael Grenholm

    That game indeed is weird. Even if I don’t by pre-millenial tribulationalism the end times still is quite a serious topic, so it feels strange to do a funny and “enjoyable” game out of it… like doing a funny game out of the passion of Christ.

    Furthermore, I find it sad to see that you (at least when the article was written) even as a charismatic distance yourself from Pentecostalism because of this dispensationalist theology. American Pentecostalism is minority Pentecostalism, and I would not say that dispensationalism is a charesterictic of the movement for two reasons – millions of Pentecosts aren’t dispensationalist, and millions of non-Pentecostals are.

    Here’s a good article on the paradox of dispensational Pentecostalism and how the combination is a very unnatural one: http://www.christianzionism.org/Article/RichieT01.pdf

    • Donovan

      It’s basically Bible trivia, I have the game… and it’s as quirky as Settlers of Canaan, the Missionary Journeys of Paul, and Bibleopoly, and all those other Christian games.
      For example, a question might be “Which church did Jesus call the lukewarm church?” and the answer is Laodicea. It’s just a way to engage the scriptures and remember them.

  • Donovan

    This is one of the first quotes and premises for the article:

    “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 doom-and-gloom 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.”

    I have to tell you that it is terribly mis-informed. I have been familiar with IHOP-KC for many years, heard countless sermons by Mike Bickle, and I am currently a third year student at their Bible School… to boot, I own the Omega board game you mention. And IHOP has always preached that dispensationalism (pre-trib rapture, escapist reading of Revelation/ other eschatological passages) has been clearly called a destructive false doctrine (we would probably not go so far as to call it heresy, but definitely deception). We do not like or endorse Left Behind or The Late Great Planet Earth, though we do esteem the authors as Christians who have much to contribute. It was actually a speaker from IHOP who convinced me to abandon my assumed “left behind” theology, while he was reading 1 Thessalonians 5.

    Now our views differ from yours in the sense that we look at the texts in a plain sense way and say, that never happened yet in history, therefore it is still to be fulfilled in the future. If you need to put us in a “camp” it would be that of George Eldon Ladd… Historic, or Classical Premillennialism.

    Here is my view on the subject (already assuming premillennialism based on a straight forward reading of Rev. 20):
    http://www.scribd.com/…/The-Case-for-a-Post-Tribulation…

    And if you want it straight from the source, here is a Mike Bickle sermon on the matter:
    http://mikebickle.org/resources/resource/61

    Her is another quote, “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.” That’s not true either, we stress continuity between this age and the age to come, and Jesus’ return is our blessed hope. The only thing is that the glorious Creator and Sustainer of all things and all people is disregarded, disbelieved, disobeyed, and dishonored amongst all the peoples of the world, and in the age to come, the Lord alone will be exalted and praised in the person of Jesus Christ that is a big transition, and to thing that the transition will be peaceful and without great tribulation for those who resist the change just ignores common sense and the teachings of Jesus Himself.

    I actually believe in an Eschatology that espouses a victorious overcoming church (in the midst of tribulation), but how is it that you explain the seals trumpets, and bowls in the book of Revelation. When did they happen if they haven’t happened, they are going to, which means that for the nations, things are going to get worse before they get better. Those judgements are really like a global scale Exodus story, judgement will come to the wicked who continue to harden their hearts toward God (from Jesus, who is the lamb who looses the judgements, who is the greater Moses), while God’s people are delivered and protected (although the reality of persecution will still be very real and intense).

    Jesus is a Bridegroom, King, and Judge, and He is the only one worthy or capable of bringing the world into full obedience and love. To think that we can Christianize 100% of society without Jesus (physically present as King of the Earth), we are deluded and proud. He is our hope!

    By the way, what do you mean by raptureless? How do you interpret “caught up to meet the Lord in the air”. And to say there is no antichrist??? what about 2 Thess 2, “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”
    How about 1 Jn 2:18, “it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming” How about Revelation 13.

    By the way, I don’t believe in the end of the world (1 Chr. 23:25; Ps. 37:29; 78:69; 104:5; 105:10-11; 125:1-2; 28:8; Isa. 60:21; Ezek. 37:25; Joel 3:20)

    This is why preterism doesn’t work:
    The events of 70 AD do not fulfill most of the details of many Scriptures about the Great Tribulation. For example, Revelation 13 requires a talking image, the mark of the beast, a healed head-wound, mandatory worldwide worship of the Antichrist and a false prophet. Jesus said the Great Tribulation would not happen until after we see the abomination of desolation, standing in the holy place for exactly 1,290 days which would result in the threat of every human being killed (Dan. 12:11). Nothing close to this scenario happened in the first Jewish revolt against Rome (66-73 AD), when Jerusalem and the second temple were destroyed in 70 AD, ending at Masada (73 AD). In the second Jewish revolt against Rome 500,000 Jews were killed, in addition to the destruction of 1,000 villages (132-135 AD). The fifty million babies aborted each year worldwide, overshadow both 70 AD and WWII. Jesus said that it would be the greatest tribulation the earth will ever see (Mt. 24, Mk. 13)… the events of the first century do not match that description.

    Will there be a Great Tribulation immediately preceding Jesus’ return? Yes (Dan. 12:1; Mt. 24:21-22; Mk. 13:19-27). In this time frame, God will release unprecedented judgments on the Antichrist’s kingdom as seen in Revelation 6; 8-9; 16. The Bible tells us repeatedly that it is three and a half years in duration (Dan. 7:25; 12:7; Rev. 11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5)… the angel that visited the prophet Daniel even made an oath on that point!

    By the way, thanks for including a comments/ discussion area… I don’t mean to embarrass you, but you really didn’t do your homework before criticizing… which basically leads to straw man arguments. First represent your opponent’s view in a way that they could agree with, then you can really deconstruct it and change peoples minds instead of just creating communication barriers. This happens way to often in many different streams within the body of Christ.


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