Tag Archives: armageddon

I Want to be Left Behind: Matthew 24 and the Return of Jesus

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I Want to be Left Behind: Matthew 24 from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

The video game taking Christian America by storm, apparently is called‘Left Behind: Eternal Forces’. Controversially it encourages players to kill anyone who resists conversion to Christianity. As Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft battle it out for domination of the electronic game world, the games’ creator anticipates a ready market among those who have already bought 63 million copies of the ‘Left Behind’ novels.

The game is set in New York City, a rather unusual venue for Armageddon you might think since New York doesn’t actually get a mention in the Bible. It is, however, the location of the United Nations headquarters and that is the clue. Never popular in some Christian circles, in Left Behind: Eternal Forces, the bad guys are the Global Community Peacekeepers, who are on a search and destroy mission in Manhattan. Their target is the remnant of newly converted Bible-believers, left behind when Christians were secretly raptured to heaven. These new believers, left on earth, form a Christian army called the Tribulation Force. Under the heading ‘Turn or Burn?’ a review by Focus on the Family asks,

How do peace and prayer go hand in hand with tanks, attack choppers and street battles? … Yes, you’re offered sniper rifles, gun turrets, even tanks and helicopters. And there are points at which a gun battle is necessary to avoid a massacre. It’s easier to convert a group of enemies than it is to shoot them. Still, post-Rapture warfare is integral to the game…books and movies.

In an interview, Tim LaHaye, the author justified the use of violence by Christians as the “self preservation instinct of the much-persecuted saints during the Tribulation.”[1] What a relief. It’s all right then. Christians can kill as long as its “self preservation” killing… in the name of Jesus. A rather more sceptical review by a Jewish website observes that,

The goals of the game are simple: Spread the gospel, and stay alive. But staying alive may sometimes lead to the taking of life — “fighting hellfire with hellfire”.  And that raises a knotty moral conundrum for any game designer who worships Jesus, the Prince of Peace.[2]

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Weird and Wacky Theology 3: Armageddon out of here

John Hagee wrote to me again today. He writes most days. Today he wrote to remind me, “As Christians we have a Biblical obligation to defend Israel and the Jewish people in their time of need. Israel’s time of need is now. There is a new Hitler in the Middle East –President Ahmadinejad of Iran — who has threatened to wipe out Israel and America and is rapidly acquiring the nuclear technology to make good on his threat. Tragically, 2008 has been a year of steady progress for President Ahmadinejad and his nuclear ambitions.”

In case I missed it, John’s email contained not one but two requests for money – in between the paragraphs so I would not miss it, like I’m doing here, except you don’t need to send me any money.

Then John went on to warn me, “As Iran gets steadily closer to obtaining nuclear weapons, we get that much closer to the possibility of a second Holocaust. The risk that Israel and her six million Jews might be “wiped off the map” is too great for us to sit silently by as the world does nothing. As 2008 ends and 2009 begins, we must redouble our efforts to stop Iran. In particular, we must combine fervent prayer with urgent action.”

How John, how?

“In addition to prayer, we must also act to make sure that our fellow citizens and our government recognize the urgency of this threat. Christians United for Israel is determined to focus intensely on the issue of Iran in 2009. We plan to educate Christians across America about the threat of a nuclear Iran. We intend to help our members speak out in their communities and churches to raise awareness on this issue. We plan to communicate the urgency of this issue to our leaders in Washington and demand that they act with greater resolve to stop this threat to America and Israel.”

I knew prayer wouldn’t be enough. If that was all John was asking for I certainly wouldn’t have written this piece, and you wouldn’t be bothering to read it either, but you are and that’s because you know by now that John has other ideas of how to ‘stop Iran’ and being the pastor of an 18,000 member church he doesn’t need to beat around the bush.

At the July 19th, 2006 Washington DC inaugural event for Christians United for Israel, after recorded greeting from George W. Bush, and in the presence of four US Senators as well as the Israeli ambassador to the US, John stated :”The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God’s plan for both Israel and the West… a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ.”

Well that’s everything isn’t it? The whole caboodle as we say in O’l Blighty. Now I don’t want to see anyone ‘wiped off the face of the earth’ least of all my Jewish friends, but bombing Iran back to the stone age won’t win us any friends in the Middle East, John. Trust me, I’ve asked them.

Your friend Ann Coulter suggested something similar after the tragedy of 9/11. She said, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.”

We tried it a thousand years ago. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. John, I’m struggling a bit with your theology. I’ve read the Bible a few times over the years but I just can’t find that verse you must have in mind that says this is our ‘biblical obligation.’ I thought our ‘biblical obligation’ was to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48). Paul said our ‘obligation’ is to tell them about the love of God found in Jesus (Romans 1:14; John 3:16-17). Maybe I’m just reading the wrong translation.

Grace Halsell put her finger on it when she wrote: “Convinced that a nuclear Armageddon is an inevitable event within the divine scheme of things, many evangelical dispensationalists have committed themselves to a course for Israel that, by their own admission, will lead directly to a holocaust indescribably more savage and widespread than any vision of carnage that could have generated in Adolf Hitler’s criminal mind.”

She is right isn’t she? Such a fatalistic view of the future, with its prewritten script, is inherently suspicious and pessimistic about anything international, ecumenical, or involving the European Community or United Nations. Efforts to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East are spurned as counterfeit and a satanic ploy to beguile Israel. Such paranoia might be deemed a sick joke were it not so pervasive and influential, it seems, in shaping US foreign policy with its perpetual war against the ‘Axis of Evil’. Its greatest danger is surely that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Maybe to call it ‘weird and wacky’ is a little understated.

For further examples of wacky theology see:

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I am the Light of the Word: This week’s sermon

“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep…” (Genesis 1:2). That pretty much sums up the news this week doesn’t it? Formless, empty and with lots of darkness. Although we are two weeks away from the end of European Summer Time, it seems the sun went away a long time ago. The nights are drawing in and the days shorter. But its not shorter days that has made this week seem particularly dark. Robert Peston, the BBC’s business analyst summed up the decision of the government on Wednesday to invest a cool £500 billion in the UK banking sector, with the understated heading, “Armageddon Avoided”.

In his words, “there’s been a co-ordinated global attempt to prop up the financial system and save individual economies from a deep dark recession.” It will take a while before we know whether we have avoided a ‘deep dark recession’ or just a short grey one. £500 billion is a lot of money. Considerably more than even the US government has provided for its own banking sector. On Wednesday, the US treasury secretary Henry Paulson warned that some US banks will still fail despite the $700bn government rescue package to shore up the financial system. Talking to some of you who work in the City, it seems there will be a few more sleepless nights ahead. What I find surprising is how few analysts predicted the global impact of the failure of the US sub-prime mortgage crisis. One might say, in the words of Genesis 1:2, “darkness was over the surface of the…” city. But the verse goes on to say, “…and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” (Genesis 1:2-3). It was on a similarly dark day that Jesus stood up in the Temple in Jerusalem and cried out, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12).

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