Tag Archives: Left Behind

Revelation: The Most Misused and Misinterpreted Book in the Bible

The end is near. It’s true. For those of you participating in Daily Bible Conversations with us, we are almost done. Twenty-three days to go. For me it’s been a fabulous journey.

But that’s not what I mean. Today we begin reading the most misused, misunderstood, and misinterpreted book in the Bible: The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Revelation, the last book in the Bible but the first book in the library of those predicting the end of the world.

Predicting the end of the world has always been a popular past-time. But does Revelation actually predict the end of the world or does it have a larger more hopeful message?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Joel 1:1-3:21

Revelation 1:1-20

Psalm 128:1-6

Proverbs 29:18

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At first disturbing glance, Revelation does seem to predict the end of the world. Near the beginning of the book John of Patmos reports that, “the time is near,” though he doesn’t say exactly what time. Then a few verses later, John continues, “Look he [Jesus] is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him . . . .” From there, as Eugene H. Peterson writes in The Message, a “rush of color and sound, image and energy leaves us reeling.”

We read of scrolls and seals, censers and trumpets, angels and devils, dragons, destruction and doom, judgement and, finally, a new Jerusalem. Many have connected these vague symbols and metaphors to current events and in so doing predict the end is near.

Hal Lindsey became famous (or infamous) doing this. He reported there was a three-story computer (this was 1974) that could give a mark to every human on earth, a code, the equivalent of 666. The computer was supposedly nick-named “The Beast.” It turns out the computer was pure fiction. Using this system of turning symbols into literal events, people, or things, Lindsey predicts, “Within forty years or so of 1948 [when Israel became a nation] all these things could take place.” If he was right, we’ve all been “Left Behind.”

But to be fair, Lindsey was not the only one to read Revelation as a literal prediction of the end of the world. Also the symbolic language of Revelation is complex and confusing. It is easy to get lost trying to interpret them and miss the bigger themes of the book.

The most powerful theme is worship. John is in worship when he receives his vision and from then on every person, nation, and creature in the book ends up bowing down, voluntarily or involuntarily, in worship. Praise, adoration, and servitude fill the book. “Holy, holy, holy,” all heaven sings. Maybe many of these symbols are not to be wrestled into literalism but rather are there to show poetically how all of God’s amazing creation will fall before him in worship.

If so, Revelation is not so much a prediction about how and when the world will end but rather a description that when the end comes, God will be triumphant over all. And our response to that great victory will be to rejoice and worship him.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow captured this truth in his Christmas poem written during the seemingly endless pain and evil of the Civil War. John Gorka musically rearranged this hymn/poem as a more modern Christmas song:

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day

Their old familiar carols play,

And wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good will to men.


I thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good will to men.


And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said,

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth good will to men.


Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep:

The wrong shall fail,

The right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men.”


Till ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A Voice, a chime,

A chant sub-lime,

Of peace on earth, good will to men.

It may be by God’s design we are reading this difficult book at Christmas when our hopes our supposed to soar. Because, though the world seems to be spiralling toward a horrible and destructive end, Revelation is a vision not of a fearful end of the world, though there are terrifying visions there, but a picture of the culmination God’s powerful redemption that began on Christmas Day. Revelation envisions a hopeful end of pain, fear, death, sin, Satan, and all that opposes God. But it is not the end of the world. Rather Jesus proclaims from his throne, “I am making everything new.” Let’s celebrate.

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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When is Jesus Coming Again? Or Has He Already?

Wearing my dress whites, I stood at parade rest on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. The sun heated the sky into a skillet gray. Sweat beaded on my face and threatened to soil my uniform. I was one of thousands of sailors enduring a full dress inspection. An Admiral slowly worked his way through our ranks randomly stopping in front one hapless sailor after another nailing each for uniform infractions.

Somehow I knew I would attract his attention and that I would fail inspection. Failing held dire consequences. The ridicule and punishment would be severe. Without moving my head, I gazed off into the cloudless sky and prayed that Jesus would suddenly appear in the sky and yank me (and any of the other Christians  present) out of this tribulation.

I was eighteen, unhappy, a seaman in the Navy, and a believer in something Christians call the Rapture. The Rapture is a belief that somewhere near the beginning of the end of the world (pre-tribulation) Jesus will appear in the sky and remove the Church from the coming wrath of God and tribulation.

As I predicted, I failed my inspection. And on top of that, either I was left behind or Jesus did not come back that day back in the 1970s.

I hope it’s the latter. If that’s the case, when is Jesus coming back?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Jeremiah 23:21-25:38

2 Thessalonians 2:1-17

Psalm 84:1-12

Proverbs 25:15


Psalm 84:1-12: Even sparrows and swallows receive God’s care and attention. What does that mean for humans?

Not so much for many of us modern 21st Century humans, I’m afraid. We live too far away from the natural world of the sparrow and the swallow to really know what these agrarian, outdoorsy allusions in Scripture mean.

I call this the curse of air conditioning. Though modern advancements and technology deliver many blessings, they also tend to separate us from the real world and its all too real Creator. Like a child who believes money comes free and unfettered out of automatic teller machines, we believe our protection comes from our amazing technology and our sustenance from the grocery store.

But the “Lord God is a sun and shield” our source of life just as he is for lowly sparrows.

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When is Jesus coming back? Jesus said no one but the Father knows, not even Jesus knew at that point. I’m still waiting, though not as impatiently as that day on the Kitty Hawk. I no longer believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, however. Not because of that disappointing day on the flight deck but because, I now understand my belief in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture flowed out a deep misunderstanding of God and my misguided desire to escape trouble and difficulty and pain.

I’m not saying that all who believe in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture do so out of a need to escape pain (though it is a question worth asking ourselves). I know there are biblical passages that can be interpreted to support the Rapture. For example, Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:1: “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, . . . .” Many interpret the phrase “gathered to” as a reference to Christians being gathered in the air to Jesus and then taken into heaven.

The myriad biblical interpretive nuances (too myriad to discuss here) aside, one major reason I left my Pre-Tribulation Rapture belief behind is that all through Scripture and history God seldom pulls his people out of tribulation or trouble. Sometimes God even led his people into trouble and always–always–walks his people through tribulation. See Abraham, Israel, Moses, David, the prophets, John, Jesus, Peter, Paul, the Church, and Martin Luther for just a few examples. In the end God also turns that trouble into a new story, a new opportunity to walk with God. This focus on God as a rescuer seems to diminish God’s role as redeemer.

And I don’t think I’m straining at gnats in making this theological distinction. If we expect God to rescue us from the ultimate tribulation, why not daily trouble such as a full dress inspection or real, worse trouble. Then what do we do when God doesn’t rescue us? Do we then miss the truth that, though Jesus will be coming back in bodily form, he is also already here in Spirit walking through trouble with us? What we believe about theological ideas such as the Pre-Tribulation Rapture reveal who we believe God is and shape what we expect life to be like.

When is Jesus coming back? In his time, but probably not just in time to rescue his beloved. While we wait, Paul does not want us to be unsettled or alarmed or to be deceived, however. Rather we are to stand fast in Christ. As I look back on that day on the Kitty Hawk flight deck, I realize I was not only immature but also not left behind. Rather I now see God’s grace has been sufficient for me in all and every situation, joyful and painful.

1. Which passage spoke most to you?

2. What did the four have in common?

2. How do you see God in nature?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com


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The End of The World As We Know It…Or Not

December 21, 2012. The last day on the Mayan calendar. I marked it on my calendar as the end of the world as we know it…


Every few years, a movie or a book is released foretelling the end of the world. Relying on “inside” information, the authors proclaim that the end of the world is upon us. And people can’t get enough of it!

In 1973, Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth, which sold 28 million copies, making it the best-selling book of the 1970s.

Following in their theological footsteps, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins authored the Left Behind series with over 75 million copies sold (the only thing “left behind” about that book were two wealthy authors!).

But they weren’t the only ones making a buck off their prophetic End-Times book sales.

In the mid-1970s, Salem Kirban’s books mesmerized me. It still astonishes me that I was only 10 years old at the time. One book that particularly arrested my attention was his tome I Predict. In it, Kirban offered specific dates about the end of the age. For instance, he predicted that marijuana would be legalized by 1975 and Jesus would return by 1980.

Fifteen years later, another pamphlet rocked the evangelical world: 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Is In 1988 by Edgar C. Whisenant.

Then in 1994, Harold Kamping, predicted Jesus would return on September 6 of that year.

So far, everyone has missed the mark.

Why do we keep predicting dates and why does Jesus keep waiting to return?

Please join me in today’s reading.

For examples of more unfulfilled prophecies, click here.


Exodus 23:14-25:40
Matthew 24:29-51
Psalm 30:1-12
Proverbs 7:24-27


Exodus 23:14-19. We’ll explore these festivals more in-depth later in our reading. But what strikes me is that Israel was commissioned by God to celebrate. Boring, meaningless, ritualistic-driven church is not of God. Christians should be known for having a good time. I’m preaching to myself, here!

Exodus 23:21. The phrase “my Name is in him” means the angel is an extension of God.

Exodus 23:32. The command not to make a covenant (or treaty) with the surrounding nations wasn’t followed by the Israelite leaders and later came back to haunt them. We’ll read more about it in the book of Joshua.

Exodus 24:9-11. Take notice of something important in this passage: Moses and the elders saw God…without dying. This was pretty significant. And extremely rare.

Exodus 24:18. The number 40 shouldn’t be taken literally. Most scholars agree it represents a long period of time.

Matthew 24:34. This verse has always been troublesome to me: “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” The generation passed away, but don’t some of elements in this prophetic passage remain unfulfilled? Not exactly. Many scholars believe this is a reference to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. But I’m not convinced. Donald Hagner speculates, “The fact that…the expression clearly alludes to a sinful generation, one ripe for judgment, fits the fall of Jerusalem (and not merely the end of the age). That sounds more plausible, but I’m not sold 100%.

Psalm 30:5. This verse is like balm in those moments when I fell like I’ve messed up: “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

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When authors begin naming dates concerning the end of the world, do you ever wonder if maybe they’re right…even a little bit? Do you? You know you do! Despite my severe disappointment that Jesus didn’t come back by 1980, I still fight those thoughts.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t think people devour all those prophetic, end-times books because they’re looking forward to going to heaven. They just want to hedge their bets that they won’t be left behind.

Really, any time someone offers a date of when the world will come to an end, we should feel pretty confident that Jesus won’t come back on that date. In today’s reading, he said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).

In spite of this, prophetic teachers arrogantly reply to this verse, “We may not know the day or the hour, but we can know the season!”

Jesus didn’t say anything about knowing the season.

The apostle Paul, though, offers us great advice: “be prepared in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Just be ready. This world isn’t our home, so don’t live as though it is.

Finally, this prophetic, end-times discussion begs the question, “Why does God wait?” Here’s my take: time is an element of grace. God is giving us time to prepare ourselves. Like the bride waiting to marry the bridegroom, he’s giving his church time to get in shape and prepare her heart for eternity together with him.

Thank God he hasn’t sent Jesus back just yet because I’m not ready!


  1. What spoke to your heart in today’s reading?
  2. In Exodus 23:23-33, God clearly tells the Israelites that when they settle in the Promised Land, they must not follow the other nations’ practices nor even let them live in their land. How do we live today in that tension—being in but not of the world?
  3. Why do you think people devour books and movies about the end of the age? Is this healthy? Why or why not?
  4. Have you ever felt duped about the end of the age? What hooked you?
  5. How can we live “ready” for the end of the age?
  6. Why does God wait?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.


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Are You Ready?

In 1969, Larry Norman released his first solo Christian music album, Upon This Rock. The back side of the album–pressed in vinyl!–featured a song that became the rallying cry of the burgeoning hippie-driven Jesus Movement.

I Wish We’d All Been Ready (you can watch it in the video above) foretold the day when the world comes to an end and Jesus escorts his people home. Across the country, hippies raised their index fingers in the air and proclaimed, “There’s only one way, to Jesus,” and “Jesus is coming soon.”

So what happened? Did Jesus return? And what does the Bible say about Jesus’ coming back?

Join me as we explore this subject in today’s reading.

Note: An acquaintance of mine, David Di Sabatino, recently released a documentary on Larry Norman’s life entitled “Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman.” For more information go to http://www.fallenangeldoc.com/


Exodus 21:22-23:13
Matthew 24:1-28
Psalm 29:1-11
Proverbs 7:6-23


Exodus 20:20. I know this goes back to yesterday’s reading, but it really speaks to me: “The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Taking God seriously can keep us from sin.

Exodus 22:2-3. This seems like a precarious law: If a person robs you at night, you can kill the person. But if it happens after sunrise and you kill the person, you’re guilty of bloodshed. What’s the difference? The Bible Background Dictionary explains, “When a burglar enters a house at night and is killed by the homeowner, this is considered a case of self-defense…That changes, however, if the break-in occurs during the day, because the homeowner could more clearly see the degree of threat and could call for help.”

Exodus 22:21-24; 23:6,9-11. Of the litany of laws in today’s reading, the command to be kind to the alien, widow, and orphan speak to me the loudest. Roman Catholic theologians espouse the “preferential option” which means that all things being equal, God sides with the poor. Because of this, we must side with the poor.

Exodus 22:28. The command “Do not…curse the ruler of your people” is selectively obeyed today. Seems to me that most people obey it when their candidate is in office and invalidate it when the candidate they opposed in the last election is in office.

Matthew 23. In the chapter, Jesus gives the religious leaders of his day a whuppin’, which pretty much sealed his fate. His message? Appearance means nothing. Motives mean everything. And what motives is God looking for? Justice, mercy, and faithfulness (sounds reminiscent the comments made from Exodus 22). It’s important to remember that Jesus wasn’t against the Law (see Matthew 5:19). This is a good lesson for churches that get caught in the business of ministry–or stuck  following the rules and then neglect the true intention of our faith: loving God and loving our neighbors.

Matthew 24:15. A great deal of conjecture exists regarding the meaning of the “abomination that causes desolation.” First, it’s a reference to Daniel 11:31 and 12:11. Some historians believe it occurred in 167 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes placed a pagan statue in the Temple. Josephus, the first-century historian believed it was fulfilled when the Jewish temple was destroyed in 66 AD.

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In my childhood, I listened to sermons on Matthew 24 nearly every week for two years (at least that’s how it felt). Line-by-line, we were shown parallels between Matthew 24 and the present: rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, famines and earthquakes, people turning away from the faith, an increase in wickedness.

And I drank the Kool-Aid. In Sunday School I told my friends they needed to repent because Jesus was coming soon. I pored over books about the last days. Surely, I thought, I’ll never get my drivers’ license or get married.

But Jesus never came back—at least not in the way that I expected. In my seminary studies, I discovered that for two thousand years, preachers have pointed to sections of this chapter as evidence that they were living in the last generation. And up to this point, all of them have been wrong.

Nevertheless, people still flock to Bible prophecy conferences and feed on novels like Left Behind.

True confession: sometime, I’d like to attend one of those prophecy conferences and stand up in the middle of one of their general sessions and yell, “If you really believe it, run up your credit cards as high as you can so that after Jesus comes back, you’ll bankrupt the Anti-Christ!”

So how are we to respond to passages like Matthew 24?

We read them closely and take them seriously. Jesus could return any day now. Of course, he could return much differently than any of us expect. We also live as if we’re ready to go: keep our accounts short in our relationships and in our walk with God.

But beyond that, we keep on living.

Isn’t that how Jesus wants us to live anyway?


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Read Exodus 21:23-25 and then Matthew 5:38-40. The first passage instructs people to live by the rule of “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But in the second passage, Jesus directly contradicts it. How do you reconcile the two passages? Should one overrule the other? Why or why not?
  3. What would your life look like if you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow? What prevents you from living that way right now?
  4. What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now? In light of Psalm 29, what do you think God is saying to you in response to it?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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