During the summer of 2017 I preached on Revelation. You might find this previous blog post insightful for this week’s sermon topic. Back then, I summarized the different viewpoints Christians have adopted over the years, as well as shared my own personal theology on Revelation.
“This world is going to hell in a hand basket.”
You may have heard this phrase before. It arguably originated in the 1600s, and later had a grim application to talk about guillotines and capital punishment in latter centuries.
People will point to instances of war, shootings, violence, and general unrest as evidence that our world is “going to hell in a hand basket.” It is a pessimistic, hopeless sort of view, yet many of us struggle with believing it. We presume that the “sinfulness level” of the world is ever-increasing and that there is simply no hope to be found.
Works of fiction in recent decades like the Left Behind series and The Late, Great Planet Earth have unfortunately fueled this dark, twisted ideology. Personally, I believe that stories like these have tragically shaped contemporary Christian theology more than the bible itself! As I noted yesterday, predictions about the future make a lot of money and capture attention well. Apocalyptic works paint a dismal picture, where God is so angry with the world that we are utterly helpless. One words to describe this view is escapism–the belief that we need to flee from the world and only focus on our destination in heaven.
The same doomsday-themes are common throughout our broader culture. Many bestselling movies focus on the supposed end of the world, with wars and natural disasters resulting in mass death and destruction. Even something as random as the popularity of zombie movies and shows is also connected to our general anxiety about worldly uncertainty. We tend to fantasize about a possible world with no morals or consequences for our actions towards other people and creation as a whole, all while our enemies suffer greatly–but that’s another blog post for another time!
Indeed, we always seem to think the world today is somehow different than previous times. You might be able to notice this subtle belief in the media we consume, from popular movies to nightly news reports. Usually when you hear someone say that our world is going to hell, they have a deep nostalgia of some idealized past, whether it be a personal childhood, a certain decade, or era of human history.
The problem with this pessimism is that it doesn’t exactly square away with the bible. Our world has always been sinful. People have always murdered one another. We have always used creative ways to harm our neighbors, with words, actions, or inactivity. So it’s worth toning down our anxiety about the future. In the gospels, the topic Jesus discussed most wasn’t the future or even the end of the world. Rather, it was about the nature of God’s kingdom. Jesus was busy sharing the heart of God with other people, rather than trying to scare or shame people at every corner.
The same is also arguably true even for the supposedly “scary” bible passages in books like Revelation. The broader point of these books is that we must still have hope. Instead of God throwing the world into hell and utterly destroying creation, in Revelation 21 we read about how God comes down to earth, as a bride prepared for her husband. In other words, God mends all the brokenness in the cosmos. The world doesn’t end up as a decrepit wasteland filled with suffering. In fact, God brings heaven to earth.
When we think about the future, Christians are called to reject all the pessimism we see in our world.
The world is not going to hell in a hand basket. Instead, as Revelation 21:5 reminds us, God gives us a message of hope:
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
When thinking about the future, you might be tempted to go along with wild predictions and fear mongering. Resist that temptation, and instead remember God’s hope.