I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I was pretty excited about this movie as a good evangelical college student in 1999– finally a real blockbuster about the Second Coming that would Rapture good Christians away from the tribulation of God’s judgment!
And even though the movie was actually terrible (especially with its bizarre echoes of Starship Troopers thanks to an oddly assorted cast), my theology wasn’t properly adjusted until a few years later. I can remember the details pretty well: I was at Regent in my first semester, and I was sitting in a small group with a Pentecostal man from Nigeria, a Lutheran guy from Germany, a Presbyterian woman from Korea, and a Canadian Baptist (predictable, right?).
Somehow the conversation turned to eschatology (it was probably the repeated condemnations of the Left Behind series that we heard so often from the faculty), and more specifically to the Rapture. As we went around, I was astounded that no one else in the group had even heard of the idea. There was no standing in fear on a bridge with the mark of the beast on your forehead (as in that “classic” 1972 film, A Thief in the Night); rather, it was just a bunch of blank stares and confused expressions. For a moment, I wondered how these other Christians could be “saved”– surely they were in danger of being left behind!
Well, suffice to say, I eventually got a decent theological education on the matter (due in no small part to a course on the Book of Revelation taught by the renowned biblical scholar– and SPU alum!– Gordon Fee), and I was relieved to discover that thoughtful Christians could get beyond the sensationalized American preoccupation with “the End” (whatever that end may be) in order to engage the more substantive theological issues at the root of how God’s story is constantly moving toward its conclusion in the present.
And while this isn’t the place for an exhaustive look at different eschatological frameworks and their respective pros/cons along with historical, exegetical, and political concerns, what I can say is this: “the end” is always near, but that reality is not a reason to cower in fear, run for the hills, sell your possessions, or make random apocalyptic predictions.
When we are able to subvert the propagandized fallacies of the world’s “Hal Lindseys”, we can see that Jesus’ return is actually a reason for great hope and peace– hope for the final arrival of the fullness of God’s reign in our midst, and peace in the assurance that God is indeed going to redeem and restore God’s creation… what a pleasant surprise after all!