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Reform Magazine | February 26, 2017

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Chapter & Verse: Revelation 21: 1-5

Chapter & Verse: Revelation 21: 1-5

Lawrence Moore decodes the politics of the Apocalypse

What is your theology of nuclear holocaust? By which I mean: do you think God is going to “use” nukes to end human history by destroying the world?

In 1976, I won the school Speech Cup with a speech based on the book, The Late, Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. Lindsey was a US postman, whose theology of the end times (the technical term is “eschatology”) became hugely influential among a certain strand of the Church. Lindsey wrote a detailed account of the coming Soviet invasion of Israel – apparently prophesied in the book of Revelation – which would then usher in the rest of the “prophetic calendar of the end times”. This would culminate in the nuclear destruction of the world in which all but those who had committed their lives to Christ would be engulfed.

I’ve heard that sort of “theology of the end” time and again. It varies in detail, but at its heart are two things: this world will pass its use by date and be destroyed, and a number of us human beings (quite what proportion of the human race varies quite widely and wildly) will find our ultimate destination in heaven.

Lindsey didn’t know what sort of literature he was dealing with. Revelation isn’t prophecy: it’s underground political literature which is wrapped in a “code” known only to the persecuted Church community in which it circulated. Because the members know that 666 is code for the Emperor, they can read and preach Revelation to encourage their members to hang in there under the threat of torture and death, telling them that the Empire is already defeated and the Emperor is a non-God – a pretender to Jesus’ title…

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This is an extract from the March 2016 edition of Reform.

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