Signs and Wonders

Recently I saw a video that was supposedly an interpretation of Revelation 17. The speaker covered a variety of topics (After all it was an hour and a half of two guys sitting in a park, talking). The main thrust, however, was this: using the “prophecies” of Revelation one would see that we’re in the last days. In short, Pope Francis is the last pope, and when he dies John Paul II will appear. I mean, clearly John’s seven-headed beast was a reference to the most recent events in the papacy.

While I was watching all I could ask myself was this: why are we Christians so addicted to such teachings about the end of the world?

This video isn’t the first time nor will it be the last that a pope or some other well known figure will be equated with one of the beasts of Revelation or the antichrist. Christians for centuries have been preoccupied with knowing exactly when and how Jesus is going to return. Almost always such misplaced priorities have led us to abandon our primary objective as Christians: namely, proclaim and live the cross of Christ.

I’m currently teaching Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, so Paul’s words were rattling around my head while I was watching this video. At one point in the letter, Paul points out that the Jews of his day always looked for signs while the Gentiles looked for wisdom, but we Christians should be satisfied with the foolishness that is the cross of Christ. In the crucifixion, Christ renders useless all our desires for signs and for wisdom, because, in the cross, Jesus decisively terminated the systems of power, prestige, and prominence. In their place he established humility, sacrifice, and servitude. What Paul calls the foolishness of God, the foolishness that shames the wise.

Yet we Christians still seek signs. Almost every year we see more people seeking out signs or proclaiming that they know when Jesus will return, when the judgment will begin, where the antichrist will be revealed. Even if we don’t follow those who claim to know such specifics, it is not uncommon to hear people talk about the end of the world, the signs of the times. Just the other day at church someone asked me this very question, “We could be in the end times, couldn’t we?”

They clearly were asking the question rhetorically and expected my answer to be “yes”.

“Surely you’ve seen the signs; certainly you’ve heard of the wisdom that has deciphered that biblical code. Obviously you can see the world is falling apart at the seams.”

We keep looking for secret codes, hidden signs, occult truths. Signs and wonders.

I can’t help but ask myself how much the church would change if we began imitating Paul in his emphasis on knowing nothing more than our crucified Lord. Would we be more faithful in imitating Jesus? Would we focus more on self-sacrificial service for those outside the community of faith than on trying to pinpoint the day in which they will slip into the lake of fire?

What is our response? What will our focus be?

Will we continue looking for signs and wonders?

Or will we focus our energy on knowing, imitating, and proclaiming Christ crucified?

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Categories: Theological Reflections | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Signs and Wonders

  1. Candace Faggen

    It is a privilege and a blessing to know and call a friend someone(x2) that is so radically Christlike. If anyone wonders what I’m describing below, just picture the path Blake and Bekah are on… ((I agree–and I recently learned of a different perspective that suggests that this disconnect doesn’t have to happen at all. So here’s a stumble through of where I’ve come to on the subject.)) I think Revelation could be meant to give us the immediacy and the comfort and courage to be Christlike… Something that kept coming up in the 3 or 4 Bible studies I’ve participated in on Revelation is”Will I be strong enough” “Can I handle trials and tribulations” “Will it be like Iraq, or worse?”. I imagine that’s what the soldiers for Christ try to prepare for, I don’t know if they think it is now, but it could be. We could say the only danger a Christian faces in the US is not being labeled the right kind of Christian, which means many different things depending on who the judge is at that moment. There are other ways of thinking of it. Some say Revelation is more a tool for sanity and survival in everyone’s lives any given day. That the end is was and always will be as near as or within each and every person’s lifetime. The end is death. However, God is not restricted by time-a huge disservice we perpetrate toward God and ourselves when we restrict Him to our opinion or worldview. Notice that everything has happened in heaven, then another manifestation of the events begin on the Earth. It seems like humans have trials and tribulations that are not on some schedule of ‘signs and wonders’, and supernatural combat and comfort aren’t either. I can really get behind the idea that Revelation is meant to comfort and steel us for our lives now. We can focus on being that Honorable and Noble Christian that lifts up their brother and sister so that we can all go on for one more day and face that day with the courage and comfort that Christ can give us. Trials and tribulations are all around us even if it’s not us that day or week. We can look no further than out your car window or turn on the news, or your fb feed. We can fight ‘with’ Jesus now to protect our neighbor, our brother and sister who is poor, starving, oppressed, downtrodden, in the midst of any trial. We talk about Paul and other early Christians preaching the end is near and I don’t know if people realize it was and is and always will be. I think some people think it points to an errancy or lack of understanding on their part, but who is misunderstanding? I mean, they had some pretty potent Holy Ghost going on back then. Not to mention Jesus and a direct promise that the Comforter would reveal things to them after He was gone.

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