Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What Is The End Game?

It's a game, this life on earth and the battle between good and evil. It's a game with stakes so high we can't  imagine it. Our lives - this one now and the one to come - are at stake. The danger is very great. But what is so surprising about that? Life on earth has always been a dodgy proposition. We have many more comforts than our ancestors, but suffering and loss are always with us.

All the really important and worthy deeds of history involved great risk. Jesus risked all, and gave all. So have millions of Christians since. They well knew what they were doing. The greater the risk the greater the reward. God has an unimaginably wonderful Paradise prepared for us. The Old Testament story of Job spells it all out, how God and Satan are warring. Any good interpretation of this book makes great viewing:

Our world is a battleground, an arena for the conflict between good and evil; and we are players in that game whether we recognize it or not. If we become aware of the game and our role in it we gain enormous strength, and can influence its outcome. But we can help God only if we do His will, not our own, most of the time. If we voluntarily become pawns in God's hand our reward will be unutterably rich and wonderful. But many people are too proud to allow this, and they reject the subservient role, volunteering to work for the other side. They often announce that they're Satan worshipers, or Wiccans, performing what they think is good magic. Most have no clue what they're really doing. Some do, however.

The great poet John Milton wrote about this in his book Paradise Lost. Satan says to God early on, "I would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven!" And Lucifer falls.

Are you ready to serve heaven? Or do you insist on ruling in hell?

To say life on earth is a game does not trivialize it, but merely helps us to understand. Chess, too, is a game, but there are people who devote their whole lives to it and make a very good living. Many an epic chess game has been lost because a winning player couldn't visualize what's known as the "end game", the final combination of moves that seals their victory with a checkmate. In these cases the weaker player will win or draw.

Consider NFL Football. It's a multi-billion-dollar industry, and we fans know it's much more than a trivial game. It is lives and careers; a passion for us who love it. Love is the key, isn't it? That which we love we take very seriously.

We who are faithful know what the end game is. It's spelled out clearly in the last chapters of the New Testament. The Book of Revelation is very specific. There will be global conflict sparked in the Middle East, and everyone will be forced to choose sides. They will gleefully do so. But right up to the last day there will be deniers who won't face up to what's really happening. Persecutions, martyrdom, and great violence - natural and man-made - mark this time. But the message is clear. The world will not be destroyed. It will be remade.

All people of faith should celebrate the Apocalypse and even Armageddon. It's the evil ones who work against God, and life, and goodness, and joy, who are going to be destroyed.

Just for the sake of argument, let's say this is all a delusion, and nothing like this is happening or will happen. Consider your own life, and your last day on earth. For you, that's Judgment Day whether you acknowledge it or not. Are your life's joys, sufferings, successes, and agonizing losses meaningless? Does it all come to nothing? People of faith know that life has great meaning. It's the other side that tells you you are a worthless

Fact is, we've already lived through a century of extraordinary catastrophe and degradation. A time traveler from 1895 would be shocked and horrified beyond words at the cynicism, cruelty, hopelessness, cold heartedness, and anti-theism of the modern world.  The likelihood is we've already seen the Apocalypse (which means "unveiling"), and much of Armageddon. Don't forget, whole cities and nations have been laid waste, even vaporized in the last century. The spiritual and psychological damage is immeasurable.

Armageddon means the final battle between good and evil. This is exceedingly important to understand. Being an active player for God in this battle is inconceivably greater than being in the greatest Super Bowl ever played. You are a star, a key player of unimaginable privilege and significance. You cannot lose! Even if you die. The end game is already decided. It won't look easy or safe or pleasant, but the victory will be more thrilling and joyous than anything you've ever dreamed of.
Be there. Be awake. Play your best game! Billions are watching!  

"The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man."
  -  G.K. Chesterton 

Here is his more detailed assessment of the Book of Job: