Futurologists and their vision
for the future
Today’s sermon is
focuses on the second coming of Christ and the end of history.
At my adult instruction class, a person asked me, “What
does the Lutheran Church teach about the second coming of Christ?
What does this church teach about the end of the world?”
Another person in
the class chimed in, “There is so much talk today that the world
is coming to an end soon, that the Biblical prophecies about the end
of the world are coming true in the near future. Is that true? What
do you think?”
Today’s sermon is
essentially a response to those questions.
history of the world, there have always been futurologists.
Futurologists are those people who have an uncanny ability to look
into the future of the human race. We have a futurologist in the
Lutheran Church and his name is Dr. Ted Peters who teaches at
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California. Dr.
Peters attends futurology conferences with other futurologists, and
he comes back to report to us in the church. He is a futurologist.
He looks deeply and intensively into the future.
do two things: One. They look at human history; past and present and
therefore they make observations about the future. Secondly, the
futurologists look at human nature, especially the warring quality
of human beings. So futurologists intuitively understand history,
past and present, and also human nature.
Futurologists are not
clairvoyant people. We are not talking about Jeanne Dixon and
those people who predicted the assassination of President Kennedy.
Nor are we talking about those people who do horoscopes and practice
astrology. We are not talking about these people either.
futurologists are usually historians, poets, novelists and
scientists. They are people like Aldus Huxley who wrote a famous
book, BRAVE NEW WORLD. In the BRAVE NEW WORLD, the future was
controlled by science and technology. Babies were bottled in test
tubes. I couldn’t believe that babies were bottled in test tubes
when I first read that book as a fifteen year old. Now today, it
seems that babies are being bottled in test tubes. In that book,
scientists broke the genetic code and could control DNA particles
and soon there would be human beings with no genetic defects. The
book was incredible. Do
you remember from that book that they had invented “chastity
belts?” With chastity belts, women were protected from pregnancy.
The chastity belts were forerunners of “the pill.”
What amazed me most
about this book is that when Mr. Huxley was interviewed twenty years
later, he was utterly surprised that all those things that he had
prophecied for the distant future had already come true. He thought
he was writing about things that would occur a hundred years into
the future, and they had already come to fruition within a mere
Common to the
vision of many futurologists is the awareness of the atomic bomb
that was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Common to many of these
futurologists is the vision of a future nuclear nightmare.
The inevitability of the nuclear nightmare is in our future.
Somewhere, sometime, some place, this green planet, our Mother
Earth, will be incinerated by nuclear fire.
Today, we are
increasingly worried that nuclear material and nuclear bombs may get
into the hands of terrorists who could create unimaginable damage
with nuclear devices hidden in suitcases. We know that soon the film
industry will be producing horror movies about nuclear devises
hidden in suitcases and ready to explode in stadiums that seat
100,000 people. Yes, we can imagine that such horror movies are on
the drawing boards today.
For me, one of the
most interesting films about the future was T.B.X. 1138, 4.E.B. by
George Lucas when he was a student at Stanford University. In that
film, you don’t see any blood, gore and guts like you would in
movies today. The film is not a “scare-you” thriller. In the
film, what you see are thousands upon thousands of miles of tunnel.
The human beings are now living like ants, living in tunnels
underneath the earth. One person comes up from the tunnel, out from
the ground, peeking through a metal lid. He peeks his head out into
the air, and the Geiger counter on his helmet goes “tick, tick,
tick, tick, tick.” The crust of the earth has been incinerated by
nuclear fire and is radioactive. With the crust of the earth being
radioactive, the human race has gone underground and is now living
in tunnels, like ants. George Lucas was/is a brilliant futurologist.
Another example of
this is a film you may have seen years ago. Some of you who are
older may have read the book and then seen the film called ON THE
BEACH. This story is also about a nuclear holocaust that has just
happened. The only human life left on the planet is in Australia. In
Australia, there is one sailor who wants to return to the United
States. The survivors put him on a submarine, and he goes under the
ocean and then comes up in San Francisco Bay. He pushes up the
periscope and he looks around. There is nothing. Totally silent.
Nothing moving. An eerie emptiness.
In the last scene of the movie, the young man gets out an
inflatable rubber raft, a fishing pole, and sits there in San
Francisco Bay with his fishing pole as he is absorbs radioactivity
into his body. The future has come. The earth is finally silenced.
Human history is over. That is the end of the movie.
explorations of the planet, Mars, reveals that at one time, there
was life and water on Mars. Now, Mars is silent, totally silent. It
is now a dead planet. In the minds of our futurologists, this is
vision of the future for planet Earth. The Earth will become another
Mars. Mother Nature
silenced the planet Mars and human nature will silence the
In spite of their
pessimistic conclusions, these are good films. These are powerful
films. Common to many futurologists is the fear and the expectation
of a nuclear holocaust. It
was Albert Einstein, perhaps one of the most brilliant genius’ to
live in American, who said, “”The unleashed power of the atomic
bomb has changed everything, except our way of thinking.
Because human beings have not changed, “this earth drifts
towards unparalleled catastrophe.”
are those people who have this uncanny ability to understand both human
history and human nature.
Understanding both human history and human nature,
they are able to look deeply into the future.
The Bible also has
futurologists. They are called seers, spelled S E E R S. These seers
are quite different from the prophets. The prophets were those who
foretold the coming of the Messiah. The prophets also foretold the
coming destruction of the nation of Israel. But in the Old
Testament, we have another group of people called, the seers,
spelled S E E R S. The seers were people like Ezekiel, Daniel and
the Revelation of St. John in the New Testament. These three seers
looked very deeply into human history to the very end.
The gospel text for
today also focuses on the end of human history, and I would like to
summarize for you some of the visions of the future as understood in
the New Testament, especially in Mark 13 and its gospel parallels.
Mark 13 is called “the little apocalypse.” The Book of
Revelation is the “big apocalypse.” Apo=off. Calyse = cover. Off
with the cover. Off with the cover on the pan and you look into the
contents of the pan. Off with the cover and you see the contents of
First, a consistent
theme in these Biblical futurologists is the awareness that the
future is not going to be happy for the human race.
The future seems to be a foretaste of awful suffering. Much
of the imagery of these futurologists are symbols of massive
suffering, massive starvation, massive wars, and massive
earthquakes. They also envision a time of “eat, drink and be
merry, for tomorrow you will be incinerated.”
During this time, there will be an intensification of evil.
If you have seen wars in the past, you have seen nothing as
awful as the future wars. If you have seen starvation in the past,
you have seen nothing compared to future famines and future
starvation. These futurologists see an intensification of evil in
the future and the Bible says, “Pity the poor people who are alive
in those days.”
futurologists would say that the curve of our population trends will
continue to expand upward until these trends burst …
like a bubble. If and when the planet Earth has ten or twenty
billion people, this population explosion will finally burst like a
bubble in the air. The starvation and the wars will be so enormously
catastrophic, we cannot imagine how awful the suffering will be.
The Bible often
uses symbolic language at this point. It is called “apocalyptic
language.” There will be earthquakes, falling stars, the moon will
turn red in color, the color of blood. This apocalyptic language is
not to be taken literally but artistically.
So, the Biblical
visions of the future suffering are consistent with the contemporary
futurologists who wrote T.H. X. 11438 B and ON THE BEACH.
There is a similarity between Biblical futurologists and
contemporary futurologists. Both groups see the inevitability of
cataclysmic suffering. Both groups see the end of human history as
we know it. Both groups see a similar future.
Why? Because human nature has not changed. If you are forever
optimistic about our future history and think that the future is
going to get better and better and better and better, you do not
understand what the futurologists in both the Bible and contemporary
civilization are saying. Both
groups agree with Einstein who said, “Since human nature has not
changed and we now have the atom bomb, civilization drifts towards
The second point
that we learn from these Biblical seers is that no one knows when
the end of human history is going to occur. No one. Not even Jesus.
One of the most radical statements in the Bible is Matthew and
Mark’s account of the gospel for today.
Both Matthew and Mark say, “Of that day and hour, no one
knows. Not even the angels. Not the Son of God. But only the
Father.” Not even Jesus knew when the end of human history will
come, but only the Father.
Then, there is that
little interesting phrase in Luke 21:32, in which the Bible says,
“The present generation will not pass away before all these things
take place.” I couldn’t believe it when I was a teenager and
read those words, “The present generation will not pass away
before all these things take place.”
The author of the gospel of Mark actually believed that he
was living in the last generation on earth.
As did Matthew. As
did Luke. Matthew was wrong. Mark was wrong. Luke was wrong. The
Apostle Paul was wrong. All these Biblical authors thought that they
were living in the last generation on earth, and they were all
wrong. But Jesus was right. Jesus was right when he said, “Nobody
knows the hour. Nobody knows when the end of the world is going to
come. Nobody knows. Not the angels. Not even me the Son. Only God
knows. We will all be
caught by surprise, like a thief in the night, like a trap that
suddenly and unexpectedly snaps shut.”
contemporary example of being led astray by false prophets and false
teachers were the teachings of Hal Lindsey in the early 1970s. In
the early 1970s, Hal Lindsey was the most popular “fanatic” on
the globe. Lindsey was a tugboat captain from New Orleans who
attended Dallas Theological Seminary. He wrote the book, THE LATE
GREAT PLANET EARTH in 1971. It was THE rage of that era, as I
distinctly recall. That
book sold over 28 million copies and was made into a movie
narrated by Orson Welles. THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH interpreted
the Book of Revelation as pre-written history from twenty centuries
ago, that the Book of Revelation and the Bible specifically
prophecied about Lindsey’s time in history. The beginning of the
End began on May 14, 1948, when the land of Israel was officially
established. By reading closely and carefully the Book of Revelation
and other similar prophecies in the Bible such as in Mark 13,
Lindsey and similar “fanatics” thought that the End was coming
soon, that there would be a final battle of Armegeddon fought in the
Middle East between Russia and Western Europe, that Russia was
“Gog and Magog,” that the ten horns in the Book of Revelation
represented the ten nations of the common market of Western Europe,
etc. He also thought the swarms of 30 million Chinese soldiers
swarming the Middle East was prophecied in the Book of Revelation.
The book, THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH, was the rage in the
1970s, and people actually thought the contents of that book
were true, that it was an accurate interpretation of the Book of
Revelation and other similar prophecies. The popularity of the book,
THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH, was so great that you could not say a
word against it, without offending the enormous horde of true
believers who believed Lindsey’s interpretation of the End Times.
Hal Lindsay, so I
am told, is a fine person, a good human being; but it is his ideas
about the end of the world that are all messed up.
For me, Hal Lindsay represents the current wave of American
fundamentalism which says that the end of the world is near, that it
began in 1948 with the establishment of the nation of Israel. … By
the way, when 1988 was passed, we didn’t’ hear much about this
book. The conclusions of the book were not declared erroneous but
they simply needed adjusting.
People like Hal
Lindsay are found in every generation of human history. During the
time of Martin Luther, there was a man (Melchior Hoffman) who was
convinced the end of the world was occur in his lifetime, and he
wanted to be in jail when the end came. He spent the rest of his
life in jail, waiting for the end of human history to come. Every
generation has people who think like that.
In today’s world
it is the erroneous thinking of Tim LeHaye and his LEFT BEHIND
SERIES. LeHaye’s novels are “good reads” and have sold 17
million copies since their inception in 1995. Timothy LeHaye
replaces Hal Lindsay from twenty years ago when his LATE GREAT
PLANET EARTH sold 28 million copies. There is a huge market out
there in America for people who believe Linday’s and LeHaye’s
interpretation of the End Times in the New Testament. 28 million
books sold. 17 million books sold. I think these books sell to the
same people. There is a whole bunch of people out there in America
who think like they do. The End of the World started in 1948 with
the creation of the state of Israel and “things are falling into
place” in our lifetime.
If Jesus didn’t
know when the end of the world was coming. If Matthew, Mark, Luke,
John, and Paul didn’t know when the end of the world was coming,
why would Hal Lindsay know? Why
would Tim LeHaye know? In every generation, there are “scare
books,” that want to scare people into believing or they will be
left behind. (Such people commit the heresy of chiliasm.)
The first point of
the sermon was that both groups of futurologists see an increase of
cataclysmic suffering at the end of human history. The second point
is that no one knows when this will occur, but many people guess
wrong. The third point is that Jesus will come at the end of
history. Christ will
come to be the final judge. Christ will separate the wise from the
foolish, the doers from the talkers, the righteous from the evil.
Christ knows the hearts and actions of all people on earth, and it
is Christ’s role to be the final judge. To be the judge is not our
role as human beings.
This is also
another say of saying that time and history are in God’s hands.
Human history has a goal; human history will have an end; and that
God will be present and ruling at the end of human history, just as
God was at the beginning of human history. God is the Alpha and the
Omega, the beginning and end of time.
the Biblical references to angels and angel’s choirs and angels
blowing their trumpets are saying the same thing: God will be in
control at the end of human history, just as God was in control at
the beginning of human history. God is the Alpha and Omega, the
beginning and end of human history.
You see, God who
created the heavens and the earth in the first place, who created
the evolutionary cycles and processes over billions of years, will
be the same God who is working at the end of history. By analogy,
the artist who began painting his landscape will finish his painting
his landscape. The musical genius who began composing his symphony
will finish composing his symphony. The sculptor who began working
with the marble rock will finish working with artistic composition
in marble rock. Likewise with God. God, who began human history, who
began the painting, who began the composition, who began the
sculpture will finish his work of art. That is what the Bible says.
When the Bible says that Jesus will come back on the final day, the
Bible is saying that God will finish time and history, because time
and history belong to God. As the spiritual says, “The whole
world’s in his hands.” Time is in his hands. History is in his
hands. God is alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. God is at
both ends of time and history before there was time and history.
So the important
question is this: how are we to live today? We are to live our lives
as if Jesus Christ were coming back tomorrow. We are to live today
as if the end of history was tomorrow morning. We are to live today
as if we were going to meet God face to face tomorrow morning at
8:30 and have breakfast together. If you believe that; if you
believe that human history is going to end tomorrow and you are
going to meet God face to face and have breakfast together, it will
affect the way you live today. You won’t have this attitude that
is so prevalent nowadays, “Today is the first day of the rest of
my life. Wind is at my back. My sails are full. I am sailing fast
into my future of this planet.”
In such an attitude, there is no thought of God but only to
live fully every day. It is pure secularity. Nor would your attitude
be, “Eat, drink and be merry, because my time will soon be
over.” That attitude
doesn’t work if you are going to meet God first thing tomorrow
morning for a cup of coffee, tea, or cocoa. Nor would your attitude
be, “I have only one time around. That’s all there is for me,
one time around.” What a cynical attitude. One time around; it is over and into
the grave. I won’t be meeting God tomorrow morning.
Now, if it is true
that you and I may have breakfast with God first thing tomorrow
morning, what will you do today? Wouldn’t it be a time of loving?
Wouldn’t you gather your loved ones around you? If you had a
conflict with your mother and father, wouldn’t you be on the
telephone today trying to patch up that old quarrel? If you knew for
sure that you were having breakfast with God face to face tomorrow
morning, I am sure that there would be much prayer today. It would
be a prayer of thanksgiving for knowing you were having breakfast
with God tomorrow morning. What confidence in the future.
I bet not too many people would watch the Seahawks on
television or go Christmas shopping.
Besides, the way
that life happens so quickly and unexpectedly, I just may have
breakfast with God tomorrow morning.
And so may you. Amen.