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Survivalist Eschatology

I have some anxiety about what’s happening in the financial world right now. After decades of a defined benefit retirement plan, the Church switched the younger of us over to a defined contribution plan. So now most of my retirement is in that erratic stock market, and the rest in my unsalable house.

I’m just glad retirement is a few years away.

Lately, I’ve been receiving forwarded e-mails from concerned Adventists referencing these events. Here’s a typical one:

“While praying and studying our Bibles as a family yesterday, we all became very convicted that we need to warn you about very sober information we have been receiving. This information has come from multiple directions and even though we cannot verify all of it, all of the information we have been receiving is in harmony with each other.”

Here is what they purport to know:

  • “US financial collapse predicted from September onward.
  • “US is printing $2 billion/day to pay for wars and security.
  • “Multiple banks are failing.
  • “Any monetary assets in the banks will be lost.
  • “Military leaders already have their orders for the next crisis.
  • “Military families have been given direction to have their cars packed and leave the cities in less than 2 hours following any major event—and go to the mountains.
  • “A major event could include a financial collapse and/or a terrorist attack.

    When that happens the cities will be sealed off. Terrible scenes will follow.“

My eye caught something here, something we who edit others’ materials notice: most items are in the passive mode. Writers frown upon the passive mode, for it tends to pop up when one wants to avoid assigning a causative subject. Terrible things will happen, and we are very afraid—but we’re not sure who is doing them. Who predicts a financial collapse in September? Who gave military families these orders? Who is planning to seal off the cities?

It is mysterious. But undoubtedly true.

Practical advice follows:

Get out of the cities. Put a wood-burning stove in your recreational vehicle, and go to the home of some country friend who (the e-mail is very specific about this) owns his property free and clear. Store a three-month supply of food and water, such as beans and rice in large quantities, and sprinkle the bags with diatomaceous earth to keep the bugs away. Remove all your money from the market and banks. Pull your children out of school, because when the crisis happens your children will be abducted to undisclosed locations.

Things get more frightening:

Avoid traveling in September 2008 as barriers and check points will be erected. Those who do not have their papers or are on their roundup list will be imprisoned, exiled, enslaved, or decapitated. Yes, they do have such a list as we have read from several sources about this list. Interestingly, we know that some of these sources do not know about the other sources, making what they say more credible. They have a red list (those to be executed immediately) and a blue list (those to be put in concentration camps for “re-education.”) These people will probably not survive either. Those most likely to be on the roundup list are those deemed the most likely to be leaders in protests against martial law and Christian leaders.

The ones doing all of this are operating out of the highest places in the Federal Government. They’re cooperating with spirit guides and mediums and using astrology and numerology. The spirit guides are telling them what to do, and the entire thing is being orchestrated at the highest spiritual levels. Every base has been covered. They’ve thought of everything. They often do things on the 13th of the month.

Again, sources are a sketchy, but the author mentions in passing Adventist speakers Jan Marcussen and David Gates. The author also relies upon carefully cropped passages from our chief eschatologist: “Transgression has almost reached its limit. Confusion fills the world, and a great terror is soon to come upon human beings. The end is very near. We who know the truth should be preparing for what is soon to break upon the world as an overwhelming surprise” (Ellen White, Testimonies, 8: 28).

In spite of the imminent collapse of all financial institutions, the writer of the e-mail is unselfishly willing to sell you books and other items in exchange for that soon-to-be-worthless American money.

I’m not intending to mock those who have passed this along to me (though merely repeating it makes it sound that way). They may be sincere. And, for all I know, they may be right this time. Jesus did warn us that history has an end.

But Jesus said that this is precisely the way we should not prepare for it. “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed” (Matt. 24:6). No one, after all, can predict his coming, even by noting alarming events. “Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.” Jesus himself doesn’t know when he’s going to return! “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (v. 36)—so how can we?

That’s why Jesus’ recommended a conservative, long-term approach, rather than a crisis mentality, toward the events of the end-time. “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matt. 24: 44). How do we get ready? Not by physical preparation (”Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house” [vs. 17]), but spiritual preparation. The parable of the virgins (Matt. 25:1–13) isn’t about hoarding fuel oil in a mountain hideout for the Time of Trouble, but filling yourself spiritually to be ready for the bridegroom’s return.

In my next column, I’ll explore the thinking behind this particular kind of eschatology.

Loren Seibold is senior pastor of the Worthington, Ohio, Seventh-day Adventist Church. He also edits a newsletter for North American Division pastors called Best Practices for Adventist Ministry.

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