I’m not a big fan of televangelism. It comes across as flashy or melodramatic at times and lacks a certain grit of authenticity. So when Ricky Gervais published this tweet about faith healers, I don’t know if he was addressing the Hollywood version of people who pray for healing or all people who pray for healing in general.
If you visited Culture Feast since the relaunch, you’ve likely skimmed through the post on how Jacques Ellul challenges my eschatology (i.e. my understanding of how the End Times will unfold). I wouldn’t fault you if you stopped dead in your tracks and bailed after the first paragraph or two. After all, we all know at least one or two people who have used the Book of Revelation at the end of the Bible as a tool to teach people all kinds of weird and completely unprovable ideas.
I get it. Most of us would rather just avoid John’s book of Revelation entirely. I held that view for about 15 years. My reasoning was that if we can’t actually know which interpretation is accurate, we’re wasting our time. And that’s not entirely untrue. We live our lives based on what we believe, and most of the faith is much more solid than the part about the future.
Stay with me for just a little longer.
While we CAN ignore the predictions of Revelation and still follow Jesus like his friends and followers did for decades before Revelation was written, we’ve lost an important part of our identity. Whether you realize it or not, Rapture theology has shaped your great grandparents, your grandparents, your parents, and you. Just as many families carry on traditions after forgetting how they started, seeing the world as irreversibly going to hell in a hand basket has now shaped society for generations. Our historical interpretation of the Rapture and the total destruction of this earth has led to a cataclysmic irresponsibility.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. – Revelation 21: 1
This one statement has led tens of millions of people to live as though nothing they do TO this earth matters. It’s a disposable planet. They’ll just get to reboot and live in a paradise someday, so while they follow an interpretation of Hebrews 11 that says they’re aliens/foreigners on this earth and should therefore only focus on the age to come.
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. – Hebrews 11: 13-16
I’m not surprised that writings like these could convince people that they are indeed foreigners on this earth. With the sense of separation and not belonging that comes from holding completely different values and convictions, the cultural rift is immense. In a very real sense, a person who has been given abundant life IS like an alien on a foreign world.
I get it. I went through that.
But I see that Christendom has failed the individual in connecting the dots between Genesis, the Gospels, and Revelation. God had/has a purpose in mind when He created man and woman. And while there is sin and depravity and suffering now in the picture, do we REALLY believe that His plans and purposes for humanity have completely changed?
God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28
Three ways to look at this original creative mandate for humanity.
- The original mandate stands and is irreversible as it is a decree from God
- The original mandate has been completely replaced by a new mandate because there is now a theme of Fall and Redemption in the Earth
- The original mandate has displaced as the most important mandate, is secondary or tertiary to the Great Commission, but it’s still there in some form
It’s easy to adopt #2 because it’s the mindset you likely absorbed from parents and influential adults when you were a child.
After 20 years of church elders, pastors and teachers talking about evangelism and worship as the only things that really matter, it’s hard not to devalue other vital dimensions of life.
Maybe you’re an evangelist at heart. Or a worship leader. I get it. Our worldviews reflect our talents and place heavy priority on areas that we feel most fulfilled engaged with.
It’s not my intention to replace worship or evangelism with ecological stewardship. But stewardship was the original mandate before worship or evangelism. It’s part of the DNA of human beings to have this awesome and creative responsibility.
So what DOES the rapture have to do with permaculture?
Stay tuned. We’re going to get there.
As a child growing up around Methodists, Baptists, and Charismatics, I soaked up a hodgepodge of End Times theories. The most common End of the World issue was “The Rapture”, and whether it would come before the great tribulation, during the great tribulation, or after.
If you’re not familiar with these age-old religious terms, let’s get that out of the way. The Great Tribulation is the nickname for a predicted period of intense global calamity and suffering yet to come. Just imagine global pandemics, wars, destructive earthquakes, hurricanes, nuclear devastation, and you’ll get the idea. This period of global catastrophe is expected to end with the total destruction of the earth as we know it.
The Rapture is what people call a moment in the Future when Jesus will return from Heaven to gather true believers from Earth and bring them out of pain and suffering to join him in an epic banquet feast. John,author of Revelation, described a vision in which a NEW Heaven and NEW Earth are created which will never be destroyed.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Why the New Earth Concept Is Dangerous
People of faith seem to feel very little responsibility to steward Earth. Despite the fact that God created this habitat for man and woman to thrive and to oversee. Why aren’t Christians the most sustainable, regenerative, and ecologically active people on the face of this planet? Because why spend time on something that’s gonna just burn.
That’s right. Believers tend to see Earth as temporary, so they treat it like it’s disposable. They litter. They waste. They consume. They ignore. And then they have the audacity to go out into the world and try to make littering wasting consuming disciples.
The World I WANT To See
People who accept and believe that Adam and Eve were the first humans, and that the garden was created specifically for them to live in and steward should lead the charge to innovate in regenerative agriculture. That means healing the earth, restoring the soil, replenishing nutrients, and fostering a more beneficial ecosystem than they experienced the day they were born.
It makes total sense to me that, if we could honestly reread Revelation and find a predictive path that excludes global destruction, we would discover a mandate to foster the paradise we wish to inhabit for all Eternity.
There are so many reasons why this interpretation would work. Just take stewardship alone. Why hand a brand new Earth to a bunch of worthless unfaithful stewards? Why would they suddenly take good care of Earth 2? Wouldn’t it rather make better sense to reward good and faithful service with an incorruptible version or enhanced version of the garden they have labored faithfully to establish.
That’s the End Times vision I WANT to see.
But am I pie-in-the-sky dreaming? Jacques Ellul seems to think so. In his book, Apocalypse: The Book of Revelation, Ellul makes a convincing case for the standard Earth-will-be-utterly-destroyed worldview.
He addresses my wishful thinking in this passage:
This description of human rejoicing in a universe of nature is not, as we shall see, a small theological error. This is fundamental. We can discern three essential elements: the New of God, the City, the Warning.
The first evidence is that the new creation, which is absolutely new, comes only through judgment and destruction: first, a radical crisis is necessary, annihilation that falls upon all: nature, humanity, history, and the powers. This death is inevitable in order that something truly new appear; this judgment is indispensable for the separation of the wheat and the tares. There is then no continuity. The city of God is not at the end of human progress, at the end of history by a sort of accumulation of the works of man; at this end there is found only Babylon. Our works then are not a linear and cumulative preparation for the celestial Jerusalem.
In the Apocalypse there is no idea of a fulfillment by historical progress. The old things that are effaced (the first heaven, the first earth, have disappeared) are characterized here only by Death, Suffering, Separation. All the rest that was the grandeur of man has never been exempt. All that which was happiness, good, beauty is transitory and passing. All was under the sign of suffering and separation: which was the sign not of pessimism, but of discernment of the most profound reality.
This statement flies directly in the face of the Bethel Church eschatology espoused briefly by Kris Vallotton and Bill Johnson. They’ve shared over the years that they see a very different End Times than the standard churn-and-burn eschatology. They have chosen to live as though believers have been given the mandate to usher in the Kingdom here on earth, and that what we do may establish the New Heaven and New Earth with the old’s complete destruction or disposal.
That’s a future I WANT to see, but I’m in pursuit of understanding what I should believe. As I’ve mentioned, I see the current mode of interpretation leading to a despicable irresponsibility. This result does not line up with what I know of the Father. He fashioned us carefully to be faithful stewards of this habitat he placed us within. Whether we need a new interpretation of Revelation or simply a more mature response to its current interpretation, I do not know.
I know that I see far more symbolism than realism in Revelation than I used to, so I’ve made it my mission to pursue a deeper understanding.
It’s happening right now. The institutional church is fading. Even while many megachurches are on the rise, the church as an institution is fading.
The power and the presence are not reaching levels we desire. We’re not living up to 1st Century Church. Two thousand years of history to learn from, and we’re still on the cusp of the great transition. The medium is outdated and the world has come to recognize that “talking” about what’s wrong with society is old hat.
I intended to renew my mind each and every day. And by “intended to”, I really mean “purposefully avoided.” It’s not that I don’t want the benefits of a renewed mind. Obviously I do. It’s that I don’t want to put in the work.
Or even more precise, I don’t want to sacrifice the time it takes to renew my mind. That’s precious downtime. More precious than gold, actually.
Bringing a friend to church as a means of evangelism is dead. It may work in something like 10% of cases. In other words, not often enough to rely upon old wineskins.
The most impactful evangelism is America is happening when signs and wonders accompany expressions of love.
People want to love God. The real God. They DON’T want to submit to a God of rules and pressures and guilt and uneventful circumstances. People are drawn to LIFE. Life that oozes the presence and power of God.
The new old evangelism is everyday people like you and me pulling someone aside in the grocery line or at Starbucks and sharing the secrets of their hearts. It’s healing their diseases. It’s getting a word of knowledge for the telemarketer you used to hang up on.
Ministry isn’t something you do every second of the day while living off someone else’s salary and generosity. It’s taking those fleeting moments of opportunity seriously and taking a single risk… over and over and over again.
It’s time for the Church, both individually and corporately, to step up to the plate. A couple years ago, I saw a picture in my imagination of Christians all across the Metroplex working shifts like EMTs, responding to car wrecks and other calamities, to lay hands on the injured and see them recover.
One of the ways we will win our cities for Jesus is to be on call where we are. Like citizens deputized to stand in their neighborhood and refuse the spread of death and harm and instead usher in an atmosphere of health, wellness, prosperity, and connectivity.
Imagine if Christians were more concerned about the emergencies happening in the world they drive by than in the position they have within a single building somewhere down the way…
Why don’t we have believers responding to every accident along with police and firemen? As first responders, how many victims might be healed? As last responders, how many demonstrations of power might we be able to bring into our communities?
As most of you know, we’ve had a vision for the next phase for a while now. It involves a bigger house on some land, and becoming a community hub where families come together to eat, swap recipes and health tips, and like-minded people call on the name of the Lord in worship and prayer.
This is a common discussion I find myself in whenever I meet a radical science proponent who believes faith has nothing to do with science. I just had this dialogue via IM, so I thought I’d share with you as an example.
DD: tell me how you know they’re (scientists) telling the truth. and you won’t be able to.
I was listening today to one of John Paul Jackson‘s Fireside Chats and heard the briefest mention of a prophetic vision George Washington had. Yes, THAT George Washington. As in 1st President of the United States, face on the one dollar bill, and the man who apparently had an angelic encounter wherein he was shown prophetically some amazing things about the United States.
There are dozens of websites carrying the same copy of his vision. So here it is, without any editing on my part.
“This afternoon, as I was sitting at this table engaged in preparing a dispatch, something seemed to disturb me. Looking up, I beheld standing opposite me a singularly beautiful female. So astonished was I, for I had given strict orders not to be disturbed, that it was some moments before I found language to inquire the cause of her presence. A second, a third and even a fourth time did I repeat my question, but received no answer from my mysterious visitor except a slight raising of her eyes.
“By this time I felt strange sensations spreading through me. I would have risen but the riveted gaze of the being before me rendered volition impossible. I assayed once more to address her, but my tongue had become useless, as though it had become paralyzed.
“A new influence, mysterious, potent, irresistible, took possession of me. All I could do was to gaze steadily, vacantly at my unknown visitor. Gradually the surrounding atmosphere seemed as if it had become filled with sensations, and luminous. Everything about me seemed to rarify, the mysterious visitor herself becoming more airy and yet more distinct to my sight than before. I now began to feel as one dying, or rather to experience the sensations which I have sometimes imagined accompany dissolution. I did not think, I did not reason, I did not move; all were alike impossible. I was only conscious of gazing fixedly, vacantly at my Companion.
“Presently I heard a voice saying, ‘Son of the Republic, look and learn,’ while at the same time my visitor extended her arm eastwardly. I now beheld a heavy white vapor at some distance rising fold upon fold. This gradually dissipated, and I looked upon a strange scene. Before me lay spread out in one vast plain all the countries of the world-Europe, Asia, Africa and America. I saw rolling and tossing between Europe and America the billows of the Atlantic, and between Asia and America lay the Pacific.
‘Son of the Republic,’ said the same mysterious voice as before,’look and learn.’ At that moment I beheld a dark, shadowy being, like an angel, standing, or rather floating in midair; between Europe and America. Dipping water out of the ocean in the hollow of each hand, he sprinkled some upon America with his right hand, while with his left hand he cast some on Europe. Immediately a cloud raised from these countries, and joined in mid-ocean. For a while it remained stationary, and then moved slowly westward, until it enveloped America in its murky folds. Sharp flashes of lightning gleamed through it at intervals, and I heard the smothered groans and cries of the American people.
“A second time the angel dipped water from the ocean, and sprinkled it out as before. The dark cloud was then drawn back to the ocean, in whose heaving billows it sank from view. A third time I heard the mysterious voice saying, ‘Son of the Republic, look and learn,’ I cast my eyes upon America and beheld villages and towns and cities springing up one after another until the whole land from the Atlantic to the Pacific was dotted with them.
“Again, I heard the mysterious voice say, ‘Son of the Republic, the end of the century cometh, look and learn.’ At this the dark shadowy angel turned his face southward, and from Africa I saw an ill-omened spectre approach our land. It flitted slowly over every town and city of the latter. The inhabitants presently set themselves in battle array against each other. As I continued looking I saw a bright angel, on whose brow rested a crown of light, on which was traced the word ‘Union,’ bearing the American flag which he placed between the divided nation, and said, ‘Remember ye are brethren.’ Instantly, the inhabitants, casting from them their weapons became friends once more, and united around the National Standard.
“And again I heard the mysterious voice saying, ‘Son of the Republic, look and learn.’ At this the dark, shadowy angel placed a trumpet to his mouth, and blew three distinct blasts; and taking water from the ocean, he sprinkled it upon Europe, Asia and Africa. Then my eyes beheld a fearful scene: from each of these countries arose thick, black clouds that were soon joined into one. Throughout this mass there gleamed a dark red light by which I saw hordes of armed men, who, moving with the cloud, marched by land and sailed by sea to America. Our country was enveloped in this volume of cloud, and 1 saw these vast armies devastate the whole country and burn the villages, towns and cities that I beheld springing up. As my ears listened to the thundering of the cannon, clashing of swords, and the shouts and cries of millions in mortal combat, I heard again the mysterious voice saying, ‘Son of the Republic, look and learn.’ When the voice had ceased, the dark shadowy angel placed his trumpet once more to his mouth, and blew a long and fearful blast.
“Instantly a light as of a thousand suns shone down from above me, and pierced and broke into fragments the dark cloud which enveloped America. At the same moment the angel upon whose head still shone the word ‘Union,’ end who bore our national flag in one hand and a sword in the other, descended from the heavens attended by legions of white spirits. These immediately joined the inhabitants of America, who I perceived were well nigh overcome, but who immediately taking courage again, closed up their broken ranks and renewed the battle.
“Again, amid the fearful noise. of the conflict, I heard the mysterious voice saying, ‘Son of the Republic, look and learn.’ As the voice ceased, the shadowy angel for the last time dipped water from the ocean and sprinkled it upon America. Instantly the dark cloud rolled back, together with the armies it had brought, leaving the inhabitants of the land victorious!
“Then once more I beheld the villages, towns and cities springing up where I had seen them before, while the bright angel, planting the azure standard he had brought in the midst of them, cried with a loud voice:’While the stars remain, and the heavens send down dew upon the earth, so long shall the Union last.’ And taking from his brow the crown on which blazoned the word ‘Union,’ he placed it upon the National Standard while the people, kneeling down, said, ‘Amen.’
“The scene instantly began to fade and dissolve, and I at last saw nothing but the rising, curling vapor I at first beheld. This also disappearing, I found myself once more gazing upon the mysterious visitor, who, in the same voice I had heard before, said, ‘Son of the Republic, what you have seen is thus interpreted: Three great perils will come upon the Republic. The most fearful is the third, but in this greatest conflict the whole world united shall not prevail against her. Let every child of the Republic learn to live for his God, his land and the Union.’ With these words the vision vanished, and I started from my seat and felt that I had seen a vision wherein had been shown to me the birth, progress, and destiny of the United States.”