By Jake Kircher
With the reboot of Left Behind, the Internet has been abuzz with articles about the end of the world from Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine and others. It quickly brought me back to my own days in high school and college, along with all the debates my friends and I would have about when the rapture would happen, if we were currently in the end times or not; and if so, whether we were currently dealing with scrolls, trumpets or bowls. I was excited to dive into some of these debates again with my current group of students. However, things didn’t quite go as planned…
As we held a movie night to watch the original Left Behind movie with our group last week, I was pretty surprised by my student’s reactions. First, almost none of them had heard about the rapture before and they were both confused and shocked when the movie portrayed that. Second, when I explained in a bit more detail what the rapture was and how it fit into the Left Behind interpretation of Scripture, the majority of the students thought it sounded ridiculous. “People don’t really believe that, do they?” one of my students asked me. And third, as I explained a few other perspectives and beliefs about the End Times, my students just ultimately didn’t care about the specifics.
This was such a far cry from 15-20 years ago when it seemed like all Christians had heard about the rapture, and the bigger question was whether you were pre-trib, mid-trib or post-trib. As I processed our movie night and conversation the couple of days after, it dawned on me the slow shift I have seen over the last decade where students are asking less and less about the specifics of End Times theology. Yet another consequence of the shift to a post-Christian world where students have no context of Revelations and end of the world prophesies.
As I talked with more students throughout the week, and as we dove in the topic of where our world is heading in this past Sunday’s sermon, my optimistic-self landed on the conclusion that I think this shift is actually a good thing.
First, on the Biblical front, my students only really cared about the generalities of what the end of the world would bring. All they wanted to know was that Jesus would be coming back, at a time that no one knew, and that when he did come back he would judge the world based on a relationship with him and then he would make all things new. That’s it. And honestly, isn’t that what is most important in the whole story of Revelations anyways? Jesus is coming back and it could be any moment. Am I living in a way that reflects that I am ready and that helps others to be ready as well?
Second, when it came to specifics, my students cared more about the things happening in the world right now: Ebola, ISIS, world hunger, clean water, sex trafficking, etc., than they cared about any potential tribulation. It was almost this attitude of, why debate about what might happen when we can spend our time debating about what we can do concerning the things happening right now. That for sure was an attitude I wasn’t going to argue with for one second!
When it comes down to it, does it even matter what we all believe about the specifics of what Revelations predicts? The bottom line is that Jesus is going to come back and stuff is going to go down. Our job is simply to be his witnesses here on earth until that point, and that means living in a way that everyday brings Jesus’s kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. I, for one, am excited that my students pushed me in this direction this past week. It gives me pride to be a youth worker and makes me want to do everything I can to get behind this generation to making a dent in the issues they are passionate about solving. And I hope that you feel the same way.