Thursday, August 23, 2007

Jesus is NOT coming soon--Part 2

Civilization has existed on this planet for around 6,000 years. The industrial and modern technological civilization has been going on for about the last 250 years, and we've been a spacefaring civilization for barely 50 years. Only twelve men from Earth have visited another heavenly body, and just a handful of robotic spacecraft have gone out to explore the outer solar system: Pioneer, Voyager, Galileo, Cassini, and New Horizons.

Conservative estimates place the number of galaxies in the universe at over 125 billion. The average number of stars in a galaxy is a hundred or so billion. Extra-solar planets are now being regularly discovered (217 at the time of this posting), with the ability to detect rocky, terrestrial-like planets orbiting around other stars just a few years away.

All the matter that we can "see" via visible light, IR, ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays, radio and everything in-between in the universe makes up only 4% of the universe's mass. The remainder is made up of 23% Cold Dark Matter and 73% Dark Energy. We know the dark stuff is out there because we can see its gravitational effect on galactic rotation and via gravitational lensing.

Amongst the stuff we can see are galaxies colliding and tearing each other apart, monster black holes sitting at the hearts of galaxies, and a pulsating star careening through space leaving a trail of star- and planet-forming debris in its wake.

The universe has been cooking along for 13.7 billion years, constantly expanding with bits of it crashing into each other, and exploding, and collapsing, and producing just massively wonderful and puzzling things no matter which way you look in the sky. Almost everything you see in a Hubble deep-field image is a galaxy. There is so much out there that we're only now getting the tools and technology to see and begin to understand.

So there's all this wonder, this huge, colossal, UNIVERSE of wonder and mystery to see and explore, and we're only fifty years into stepping out into space, and so after waiting over 13 BILLION years to get here, God is going to say "That's it! I'm done, time for the Rapture, close it all down."

Excuse me?

If that's the case, then what was the frickin' point of putting hundreds of billions of galaxies out there? Am I hearing that 6000 years of mostly subsistence-level civilization and 12 men on the moon is a fitting way to cap off 13.7 billion years of history? Why the grandeur? Why the dark matter and dark energy? Why make us curious? Why let us just start to seriously look and explore and understand and then shut everything down?

It doesn't make any sense.

So the universe, the whole, entire universe is now going to be terminated because everything God wanted to accomplish with His creation has now culminated with events on planet Earth?

Physically speaking, the earth and its civilization are irrelevant to the universe. We're on a chunk of rock orbiting a yellow dwarf star on the outer edge of a medium-sized galaxy that's part of a Local Group of galaxies that collects together a few of those hundred or so billion. Out beyond about a hundred light years from the Sun there is no evidence of our human existence in this universe (and what evidence there is is only the faint and fading electromagnetic signals of radio and television, the latter of which has only traveled about 70 light years).

If the earth was destroyed or depopulated tomorrow, via nuclear holocaust, or genetically engineered plague, or 500 mile wide asteroid crashing into the planet, the universe wouldn't notice. At all.

If humanity had never come into existence, the universe wouldn't have noticed. At all.

So how can it possibly be suggested that it's nearly time for the entire universe to come to an end because of events that are occurring somewhere that are totally irrelevant to it? Events that have never had any effect on it?

Again, it doesn't make sense.

Millenia from now, when humanity has escaped our planet and our solar system, our descendants will discover, and explore, and begin to really understand things like the singularity at the heart of a black hole and the dark energy that is driving the galaxies apart. They'll populate nearby star systems, then spread into the galaxy, then other galaxies. Tens, hundreds, or thousands of millenia from now humanity will have had its effect on the galaxy, and we will have made a difference, for good and for ill, in the universe. And only then, maybe, would it be time to start thinking about the end of history.

22 comments:

Dan said...

I am in complete disagreement with you and I have no time or energy to argue about it. Time will tell.

Dan said...

A quick thought. The rapture is not closing everything down. The rapture occurs at roughly the beginning of the 1,000 year millenial reighn of Jesus Christ. Think about 1,000 years of space travel with Jesus as the King on planet earth. The entire length of all of the Star Trek espisodes does not exceed 1,000 years. Exceeding the speed of light may not be possible in the physical bodies we live in right now. I look forward the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords to return, to set things right, to break the curses of the enemy. The possibilities are limitless. I look forward to it, and each day that I live I love.

Marc said...

That you look forward to the return of Jesus and what He will do is all fine, but that's not the point of the posting.

I simply find there to be some very compelling reasons for Jesus putting off His return for quite a long time, which I know is a virtually unheard-of position amongst today's Christians.

And even adding another thousand years is still just a molecule in the drop in a bucket next to the history and extent of the universe.

Dan said...

The reason it is virtually unheard of is there are roughly only two prophecies left to be fulfilled prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ.

1. Jesus Christ returning within a generation of Israel becoming a nation. This was 1948. It leaves us with how long is a generation. I list that as roughly between 20 and 120 years. 120 years is the limit God placed on human longevity after Moses died. For the most part, this is still true today. So, the range we are looking at is 1968 to 2068. We are well-along into this range. It could happen before I die.

2. The rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.

That's it according the the experts I have been reading from.

To me this puts the population of the galaxy after the second coming of Jesus Christ. This is entirely plausible to me. When the Master and Creator is put in charge of planet Earth, I anticipate amazing beautiful change and developments. It's going to be very interesting.

Jesus in his resurrected body was operating in at least 7 dimensions -- to be able to walk through walls. Imagine what kind of travel is possible in 7 dimensions. I'm guessing that breaking the speed of light is not a problem in a 7 dimensional body.

Marc said...

If there are now only two prophecies left to be fulfilled, then what were those who've predicted Christ's imminent return for the last 1900 years basing their predictions on? Obviously they'd concluded that all required prophecies had been fulfilled, and so it was time for Christ's return. They weren't predicting a date far out in the early 21st century, they were predicting 156, 365, 380, 500, 806, 848, 995, 1000, 1033, 1260, 1290, 1378, ..., and eventually did get into the early 21st century: 7/19/02, 4/22/03, 4/24/05, 10/4/05.

How is it that you, or the experts you trust that have done this research, know that they're finally right this time, when the End Times predictions of godly men have been wrong for centuries?

I'm just tossing it out here that maybe it's not as clear-cut and unambiguous as believers think it is, based on the track record. Maybe End Times prediction is just intractable, and while we should be prepared if it happens next Tuesday, we should also be fully prepared and expecting to fulfill the responsibilities incumbent upon us for the stewardship of the earth and our fellow human for centuries or millenia to come.

As for populating the galaxy after the Second Coming, well, 2 Peter 3:7 kinda puts the kibosh on that: "By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men".

Jesus in 7 dimensions? Never heard that one. What's your source? (A fourth geometric dimension would be sufficient to walk through walls.)

Dan said...

7 dimensional Jesus source. Dr. Hugh Ross.

Bryan said...

While I agree with the point that a rapture eschatology is less than compelling in terms of its scriptural clarity, I don't know where this idea comes from that the rapture results in the obliteration of the entire universe. It seems to me that it has no better foundation in scripture than the eschatological framework you're criticizing in the first place.

The argument would sit a mite better if a specific teaching from a imminent return advocate had been used as an example.

Marc said...

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." Matt 24:35.

The whole context of Matthew 24 is the End Times.

Among others:

"But God has commanded the present heavens and earth to remain until the day of judgment. Then they will be set on fire, and ungodly people will be destroyed." 2 Peter 3.7

"I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and the first earth had disappeared, and so had the sea." Rev 21.1

And, an interpretation of these passages from the American Bible Society:

"The author of 2 Peter states that the Lord’s return is linked to a day of judgment when the ungodly people will be destroyed and the present universe melted, and replaced with a new heaven and earth (2 Pet 3:7-13; see also Rev 20:11—21:4)."

Bryan said...

The first passage does not seem to prophetically teach that heaven and earth will pass away, but rather emphasizes the reliability of Jesus' words.

The passage from 2 Peter is better, albeit fraught with ambiguity. What does "destroyed" mean? The same passages talk about men being destroyed. Will they disappear entirely, or do we toss the idea of resurrection? Or will the new heavens be akin to a resurrection?

The ABS is as much as paraphrasing the passage from 2 Peter, by the way. I think you'd have problems finding a sect that taught that the whole universe will be blinked out an remade completely differently--not that it would be tough for an omnipotent being. I think most commentators in the rapture camp would regard the passages as too ambiguous to support the idea unequivocally.

But then again I heard about a Missionary Alliance teacher who insisted that Elijah was picked up by a UFO, so you never know. :)

jw4CHRIST said...

Well regaurdless of wether he comes 5 minutes from now or in 100 years. The fact that you are in need of a savior has not changed nor will it change. Disputing over when he will come back is irrelevant. Also you base your opinion off of your limited assumptions of how the universe works. Most of the theories in astronomy are simply that **theories. Most of the theories have no concrete evedience. just like the evolution theory. All i can say is this. Accept Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior. Leave the rest up to him

Marc said...

Disputing is not irrelevant.

A great deal of time, energy, and money is being wasted on books, movies, seminars, publishing, and blogging about an imminent (less than 10 years out) End Times.

These resources would be far better spent on doing God's work in the here and now, rather than towards something that won't happen for hundreds or thousands of years.

Marc said...

"Leave the rest up to him" is a cop-out.

"Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given" Luke 12:48.

Mankind has been given much: "What is a man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour." Psalm 8:4-5

God expects much of humanity, and your woeful ignorance of what something as clearcut as a "theory" is, along with your proclamation of "Leave the rest up to [Jesus]" demonstrates your abdication of the responsibility that God has charged you with.

Bryan said...

Marc, I was a bit surprised by your response to jw4. To me, he seemed to be saying that the dispute over the time of Christ's return is just as big a waste of time as teaching that Christ would come back imminently.

I thought you'd be able to find a substantial area of agreement with jw4.

From where I sit, you seem to have defended the position that it is valuable to spend one's time denying that Christ will come back soon but worthless to spend one's time teaching the reverse.

You must be very sure of yourself. ;)

Marc said...

Well, there's one of me spending time doing the analysis and making this argument, where I'd like to convince thousands to spend their time and money (literally) doing good works rather than on studying dire and (I believe) distant events. So I think it a fair tradeoff :-)

While jw4 may find this disagreement a waste of his time, if what I study and argue for results in bringing others around, or at least getting them to seriously consider the possibility, then maybe some better things can get done in this world.

Like here's a current example of the resources being wasted arising out of an obsession with an imminent End Times.

"you seem to have defended the position that it is valuable to spend one's time denying that Christ will come back soon but worthless to spend one's time teaching the reverse."

If by "one's time" you mean "Marc's time", and by "denying" you mean "rationally contesting", then you have correctly summarized my position :-)

In contrast, it would not be worth my time opposing the notion that Christ's return has already happened, which it surprised me to learn that some do believe, because the numbers are small and the wasted resources are far outstripped by imminent End Timers.

"You must be very sure of yourself. ;)"

I fully expect to retire, spend my 401/K and other investments, and pass the remainder on when I myself pass on :-)

Bryan said...

Like here's a current example of the resources being wasted arising out of an obsession with an imminent End Times.

Which resource is being wasted? Time? I guess you're right. Programmers should produce games like Grand Theft Auto instead. More popular, too. How many kids will spend their hours playing "Left Behind"?

My final two cents on this one (unless thou drawest me in with something unexpected):
I think you've got some common ground with jw4.
I think it's fair to suppose that his point is that if you (Marc) live your life to strike a balance between the possibility that Jesus comes back tomorrow versus the possibility that it will take another 10,000 years then you're wasting the least amount of time on it (while simultaneously sending the most effective message).

Luke said...

According to Revelation, Jesus' coming does not alter the existence of the universe nor the continuing existence of people within it. Thereby, your argument is worthless.

Marc said...

Luke, your premise:

"According to Revelation, Jesus' coming does not alter the existence of the universe nor the continuing existence of people within it" [Emphasis added]

is false.

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea." Rev 21.1

In addition, 2 Peter 3:7 says, "But God has commanded the present heavens and earth to remain until the day of judgment. Then they will be set on fire, and ungodly people will be destroyed."

And here the American Bible Society elaborates on these passages:

"The author of 2 Peter states that the Lord’s return is linked to a day of judgment when the ungodly people will be destroyed and the present universe melted, and replaced with a new heaven and earth (2 Pet 3:7-13; see also Rev 20:11—21:4)."

Therefore your conclusion, "your argument is worthless" is unsupported.

Jabbott said...

I have been fascinated reading the views and opinions in this thread, and am pleased to witness such healthy debate.

Forgive me for saying so, but being atheist I struggle with the whole concept of End Times/Rapture.

I have yet to see a convincing piece of evidence that there is any God/Christ or any other religious deity for that matter. A millennia-old religious text (of which there are several) is not sufficient proof for me and many others that there is. I am not saying that this is false or a lie, and am not passing any judgement on others beliefs, but I believe in what I have experienced. I believe in the stars because I can see them, other people as I can hear them etc.

I may be cynical, but I simply cannot put any serious thought into anything I can't see to be real. By all means, if I experience some sort of epiphany that I know happened, my entire viewpoint may change, but until then I am unconvinced.

I also struggle with the readiness to quote passages from the Bible as if to justify your opinions. This book coined the phrases 'Turn the other cheek' as well as 'An eye for an eye' which I see as total contradictions. I have read parts of the Bible and found it interesting and rewarding, as I agree with the general theology and underlying principles of Christianity. I have also read about a powerful and vengeful Lord, which I can't see to be productive or helpful.

I will end here, as I am tired. I look forward to reading your posts and sharing thoughts.

Bryan said...

Jabbott wrote:
I may be cynical, but I simply cannot put any serious thought into anything I can't see to be real. By all means, if I experience some sort of epiphany that I know happened, my entire viewpoint may change, but until then I am unconvinced.

Though I haven't quoted the comment, allow me to start by saying that I have no problem understanding an atheist's skepticism of a debate based on the Bible text. All debate, if based on reason, relies on shared assumptions of some type. For those who share certain views of the Bible the debate makes perfect sense. For others it won't make sense.

As for Jabbott's claim that he can't put serious thought into something that he cannot see to be real, I would ask on what basis he respects the rights of human beings. What makes property rights, or any other moral precept "real" for an atheist like Jabbott? Particularly since it's difficult to establish that any person other than himself is a conscious entity in the first place?

Marc said...

Jabbot,

I touched on some of your points in another post, A Christian Realist's (Brief) Perspective on General and Special Revelation, so you might want to give that a read.

At the very least, it could be a springboard for discussion pertaining more directly to the issues you raised. (Rather than having the comments here go haring off from the original point of this post :-)

ZendigoXXX said...

Excuse me, but I think that both the Christian Fundamentalist’s and the common Atheist's point of view is theoretically flawed by one of those classic logical fallacies: one which is often referred to as the 'strawman fallacy'. You both paint a sordid picture of one another’s viewpoint, and then base a complete argument off of this bit of thematically inept sophistry. I hate to be a Hegelian in this regard (because I generally don't agree with the overall tenor of his philosophy) but I think the truth lies somewhere in between both of your antiquated views on things. In other words, who knows what strange faculties and abilities a more evolved offspring of our species might have? What if some sort of Messiah (or futuristic genius) does come along to alter and resolve the morally problematic state that our society has arrived at, though I do not believe that ‘Conventional Christianity’ holds the clues to explaining this intricate quandary, and I do not believe that our universe is just going to up and go out like a broken Christmas light-bulb any time soon either. This is an unreasonable point to argue, and the sole basis by which these silly scientists who spend their whole life in a lab (and thereby not learning common sense through genuine life experience) as well as those fretful logical positivists continue to appear ultra-intelligent despite the fact that there philosophical standpoint is antiquated and phenomenologically unreasonable.

Mikal said...

Just dropping a names, in passing, to see if you're familiar:

Gerald Schroeder Physicist and his research on creation?

How about ATS and Mark and Melissa Allin? Any dabblings there with their numerous conspiracy theories?

And then there's the Rambam and the Guide for the Perplexed?

The list goes on, but I will spare you.

In closing, God has not ever been enough for man, for the majority of men would be gods unto themselves.