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The God I Don't Understand: Reflections on Chapter 9

Categories Theology

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Matthew 24:36

"For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night…" 1 Thessalonians 5:2

I sometimes get bored sitting in church listening to the sermon. Since I’m older now, I can just get up and pretend I’m going to the bathroom, maybe get the blood flowing in my head again as I walk around the church. But when I was younger, that wasn’t an option. So I did the next best thing. I read the book of Revelation and thought about the end of the world. It was very exciting (at least compared to the sermon).

Of all the things we talk about in the church, few are as sensational and controversial as the END TIMES. There are, in fact, a few things we do know for sure about the end of the world. Jesus told his disciples that no one really knows when the end of the world (the return of Christ and the final judgment) is going to happen, and that when it does happen, it will be completely unexpected. Still, that hasn’t stopped people from trying to develop elaborate systems and charts and predictions. Since pretty much all of these predictions have been wrong, the church may have lost some credibility over the years. The ragged looking guy with the end of the world sign on the street-corner doesn’t quite inspire the same level of fear and apprehension that he once did. Now, people are turning to the Mayan calendar and waiting for the end of all things in December of 2012. I’m sure someone will find a way to tie this date to the return of Christ, if they haven’t already.

I found Chris Wright’s perspective in chapter nine quite refreshing and balanced. This isn’t an easy topic to tackle—people have some pretty strong opinions about the millennium, the rapture, and the land of Israel. In some circles, giving the "wrong" answer to the question can cost you a job, membership in the church, or worse.

I could take the time in this post to go into greater detail on each topic Chris discussed and give my own opinions about the millennium and the rapture, but I’ll let you read the book. It’s probably more helpful than anything I could say. Instead, I want to focus on something Chris says at the end of the chapter:

"Now you may well disagree with me on any or all of the last three points [the millennium, the rapture, and the land of Israel] and that’s fine…But it is tragic if Christians take their beliefs more from fictional novels and even comics and Hollywood movies than from a careful study of the Bible itself and the solid tradition of the Christian faith through the ages of the church" (170).

Amen. If you think about it, we’re probably never going to come to full agreement on some of these issues. But how do we form our opinions? Are they really being shaped by the Bible? I can respect those I disagree with, if I know they have genuinely wrestled with God’s Word, listened to opposing views with an open mind, and come to an honest conviction about what the Bible teaches.

More than anything else, this chapter was a reminder to me that I need to take the time to study the Bible, to listen to challenges to my own beliefs and not just allow my own personal prejudices or preconceived ideas of what the text should say form my opinions. I realize that isn’t entirely possible—we always bring something to the text--but to the best of my ability I need to listen with a heart that is willing to learn.

As Chris points out, we are already living in the ‘last days’ (162). And I think that’s really the most important thing for us to remember. End-time living isn’t really about charts and predictions, or preparing for the next Y2K—it’s about living the kind of life that honors God, every day. If we truly want to be followers of Chris in these last days, we need to listen to the Word and let our choices be guided by the reality that we could stand before Christ at any moment. Someday, we’ll finally know what the millennium is really all about, and when or if the rapture will happen—but the choices we make today, to live for ourselves or to follow Christ, are the ones that will matter for eternity.

- Ryan Pazdur, Acquisitions Editor, Church Life and Ministry Resources

Every Wednesday, Zondervan editorial and marketing staff discuss chapters from The God I Don't Understand. Please make plans to join us in the conversation. If you would like to use The God I Don't Understand in a book discussion or small group, there is a free Study Guide available, as well as videos of the author discussing each chapter at


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