Eldon: I delivered a Chic publication in the mail today. There’s a guy that sends Chic publications to every business...I think he might be the former mail man on that route...and today he mailed one to the Catholic church.
Sean: What is this publication?
Eldon: Its a cartoon...very fundamentalist...about where we’re going to be in the next 200 years. We’re basically going to burn in hell eternally. And it has these horrific pictures of demons and flames. And different stories and testimonies, often from truckers, trucker’s testamonies, they’ve done Truckers for Jesus who go around kicking ass and saving people for Jesus. And angels. Its very mythical and fear-based. But I was that the way the Thessalonians felt about this fear, I remember feeling that very thing. You’d get a guy coming to your church talking about the Antichrist, talking about millenial, pre-mill, post-mill. We’d think “we’re screwed”. Jesus is going to come and we’re going to miss the boat or not do something right or whatever. That sort of panic. And that’s what I felt Paul was addressing, that feeling of panic. These people are saying something, these people come and bring the maps and it looks really scary.
Paul: And somebody sings: “Life was filled with guns and war. Everyone got trampled on the floor. I wish we’d all been ready. Children died; the days grew cold. A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold. I wish we’d all been ready. There’s no time to change your mind, the Son has come and you’ve been left behind. You’ve been left behind.”
I guess those teachers won the heart and minds of the church, eh?
Cal: For sure. Even when I read this I thought, “Oh shit. Are they right about Barack?” The fundamentalist comes up from the unconscious.
Eldon: Yeah and I read in the paper today about someone talking about Bush’s legacy, don’t know if anyone read that letter to the editor saying that Bush should be remembered with this fantastic legacy and preserving human life and all this stuff. And I was thinking “this same person thinks that Barack Obama is the antichrist.”
Paul: So the issue for [the Thessalonians] was to eliminate that rapture fear. And the way we can connect it is that there are two option that are equally possible for what the actual teaching was. I read this in a couple of books. One of the options is that realized eschatology that we talk about. And the other option was the Secret Rapture theory. The Secret Rapture theory is that the rapture has already taken place or is going to take place very soon. And only those who know about it will be taken, like the song says. So either that Jesus has come, or he will come very shortly and in this mysterious and hidden way, is what the problem would be. And the second approach is what we hear today, that Jesus is going to come, and we’re not going to know it, he’s going to come like a thief in the night. And First Thessalonians is constantly saying “he will not come to you as a thief, because you are Children of the day. And because you are Children of the day you know what has to take place before Christ comes back. Which is the overthrow of the antichrist, the overthrow of evil forces.” And of course that means the overthrow of the patterns of disruption that are in your life. So if you think you’re living in the Kingdom you’ll be wrong until it really is happening. And if it is happening you’ll know it. Because--and this is the reason for the strength of the comments about “he will die from his breath”, in other words the Spirit will kill the antichrist--the new spirit will overcome the world and will bring about the kingdom of righteousness. And so when that happens we’ll all know it. There won’t be anything debatable about this thing.
Cal: It won’t be secret.
Paul: Yes, and its His breath, which is His Spirit, and His Word that are the things that slay.
Lyle: Its truly liberating. Its nothing to fear.
Paul: Yeah, its not something we should be worried about.
Now the issue is that our understanding of salvation is so limited that we think that only a very few people of the whole world will be saved. Because you have to believe an exact set of things. I think, and I hope also, that it is difficult to reject God. I hope that it is hard to ultimately reject God. To turn away from the truth once you know it is difficult to do. To be deceived is another question and I don’t think that’s what [the Thessalonians] are. I think they’ve turned away from truth because they have desired the power that goes along with being the antichrist. And as a result of that they’ve made choices that are indelible. You go to hell, if there is any hell, you go to hell because you chose to go there. You don’t go to hell because you accidentally tripped.
Cal: And you chose it repeatedly over a long period of time, right?
Paul: You know it is a bit scary, though. Because some of us do have a tendency to do that.
Joel: Yeah that what we’ve talked about what hell is. Hell is being the place that you put yourself in after a long series of choices that have led you to be almost completely focused in the sinful way.
Paul: That’s right. And if you can’t see the truth of God after you’ve put yourself in that kind of mindset, it only makes sense. In other words, if you fill your mind so much with garbage, the garbage of egotism, the garbage of whatever, whatever garbage you’re filling your mind with, you can’t blame God for the fact that you’re not seeing the truth of the Gospel. You can only blame yourself for the fact that you’ve done that.
Here is another example that Jesus says. And we always say, “Well Jesus is better”, right? So. “And when He was alone those around with the twelve asked him about the parables. And He said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the Kingdom of God [that’s very similar to the Thessalonians, who were given the Gospel by Paul, right?]. But for those outside everything is in parables [in other words, everything is confusing] so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and indeed may hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.” So they will be in darkness...”lest they should turn and be forgiven”...because of the repeated choice of not listening.
Sean: So its very much a conscious thing.
Paul: But you see we doubt God. We think if He blind people, its because He’s evil. Well what he’s doing is not evil. He’s just adding to their own decision. He’s strengthening their decisions.
Lyle: And kind of hastening the revelation at the end, right?
Paul: Yes. And Lord only knows we don’t have the whole revelation of what God is and what God can be. God only knows how that will be reversed. There is a possibility of restoration, even it is beyond the grave, purgatory or whatever, that a person who finds themselves in that spot will eventually recant of it. And God also works towards doing that.
[The bible] often talks about the holy Spirit condemning the world of sin, showing them where sin is. So its not as if its this cut-and-dried thing where God is callously blinding people from the truth. But its so easy to believe that for some reason, isn’t it? We so easily would like to think of God as the reason why people don’t believe. I don’t know why that is. Its His desire that all people should be saved. It says that in scripture. Its not his desire that anyone should perish, but that all should come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Sean: You mean a belief in God condemning people? And tossing them into hell and that?
Paul: Yeah. That’s not God’s way. God’s way is to liberate people to become like his son.