Dr. Strangelove was a 1964 satire movie about the Cold War. The plot line involves a US general who loses his mind and orders a first strike nuke attack on the USSR and sends a B-52 bomber to deliver an atomic payload to Moscow. The president and the Joint Chiefs of Staff work furiously to try and bring it back. While the B-52 is Russia-bound, the President notifies their Prime Minister quickly in an effort to help them defend themselves against this rogue bomber. But, the Russian PM tells the President that they have a secret “doomsday device” that is irreversible if Russia is attacked by nuclear weapons. This device is a chain of buried nuclear bombs around the world, and if it is ever set off, it would basically encircle the globe in mushroom clouds and fallout within 60 days and kill everything and everyone. Dr. Strangelove is the president's scientific advisor, and a former Nazi. In one of the best lines in the movie he screams at the Russian president, “The whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost if you keep it a secret. Why didn't you tell the world?”
The movie is funny, but it was one of those elitist message movies. It was meant to make “doves” during the Cold War feel smarter than everyone else. The criticism was, of course, that peaceniks didn’t realize they really were at war.
Christians, do we know that we are already at war? Megachurches and pastors in skinny jeans may get all the rave reviews in our Christian pop culture. They don't know we're in a war. Word of Faith and Prosperity preachers are flying around in private Lear Jets and telling jokes and how to have your best life. They don't know we're in a war. Baptists of all varieties believe they're in a war, but for them it is cultural and political. Even though they may use the right language at times, they don't really know we're in a spiritual war. Pentecostals and Charismatics believe they're in a spiritual war but they believe they can sing and dance their way out of it. They don't know we're in a war that kills the unequipped; they are mostly uninterested in getting equipped because that’s such a buzzkill.
While Dr. Strangelove rightly asked how would a doomsday device deter a war if no one knows it's there, we have a more basic question to answer. How do you fight a spiritual war if you don't know you're in the middle of it?
The first internal reaction to that is, “Well, all this 'war' talk is scaremongering. This is not the way of faith.” It IS easy to slip into scaring people about the times, and some think that if they can get people to fear the times then they can spook them into faith in Jesus. That is NOT the way of faith. It is not the New Testament way to work people into a fear frenzy and then offer them a way out of that fear.
The movie, Dr. Strangelove, had an alternate title: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb. I’m thinking now about “God's Strange Love – How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Be Excited About The Time Of The End.”
Our basic setting for life is sin, death and depravity. Look at these phrases Paul sprinkled throughout Romans 5. Verse 12: “…sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”. Verse 17: “…because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man…”. Verse 18; “…one trespass led to condemnation for all men ...”. Verse 19: “…by the one man's disobedience, the many were made sinners…”. Verse 21: “…sin reigned in death”.
Adam's sin effected everything, not just humans. In Genesis 1:26-28, the first humans were made to be like God. The world they were given to exercise dominion over was good and fruitful. When you read God’s severe instructions to them when He removed them from the garden, you get the idea that work in the paradise garden was not exactly toil and trouble. Yet, what would the world be like when they had sinned and could no longer as fully be like God? Corrupt and troublesome. Even the ground was cursed when Adam and Eve were evicted. Genesis 2:17-19. From God's perspective, sinful humans over whom death reigns obviously cannot be proper “dominioners” over a good, cooperative, pleasant, temperate, Earth?
We are born hostiles to God. Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:10. Colossians 3:5, 6 and Ephesians 5:1-6 set this stage. Because of our immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed, God's wrath comes on the sons of disobedience. Us.
That hostility has not ended globally. The world is still hostile to us. People are still hostile to God. And, He is hostile to those who do not believe and obey. We launched a B-52 at God's commandment, and He has a doomsday device.
2 Peter 3:10 “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?”
Unlike Dr. Strangelove’s complaint, God has told someone about it. Who did He tell? Lost people? No. The church! “Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?”
Did He tell the church this so we would dread our way to victory? No. This warning is given to us to launch us into obedience born in love for Him.
Read the next few verses after 2 Peter 3:10. How are we to think of this? With hope, not dread. “[L]ooking for and hastening the coming of the day of God….”. (v. 12.) And, what about verse 13 which says, “according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
So, if we know there is a “doomsday device” through which God is going to judge the world severely, the New Testament witness is that we are not to curl up in fear or crawl away or cry out about how the world is so wretched and how things are just going to be bad for us. What are we to do? Look for that day. Hope it hurries up and arrives so we can enjoy the new heavens and new earth where none of this awful stuff will be, where righteousness dwells. Where God dwells with us. Right? Revelation 22:3 says “no longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city [of God], and His servants will serve Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
To the lost people, this is foolishness and judgment to hell, but to us it is hope. Not just a future hope, but a present path to a future hope.
Let’s look quickly at Romans 8:19-22. Paul gives a synopsis.
“19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
Creation is not waiting in dread that it will be burned up (though, as it stands today it will). It eagerly longs for the day of the Lord. The original language of “eager longing” in verse 19 includes a reasoned judgment of what will be. The whole creation eagerly longs for this.
In fact, creation was subjected to futility in the very “hope … that it will be set free from this bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (This phrasing reminds me of another in John 12:27-36 who said that He was brought to a certain hour that looked to the natural eye like a certain and destructive end, but from the perspective of the One subjected to it way more was happening.)
This hope is not mere wishful thinking or a positive attitude that everything will probably be okay. It means to anticipate with pleasure and with a certainty that the promise will come to be. Romans 5:5 calls it the hope that does not disappoint. It requires the Holy Spirit to enable any believer to look at 2 Peter 3:10-13 and Romans 8:19-22 as “hopeful” in this way. But, that’s the Word of God to us.
Now, I don’t know exactly how freedom from bondage to corruption and burning up elements in fire work together – new heavens, new earth, new Jerusalem and all of that await -- but the end of it is “obtain[ing] the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” It is not all-is-lost; it is all-is-gained. For the believer. So we hope expectantly.
Focus for a moment on Romans 8:22: “creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now”. Birth pains signal somebody’s arrival. Folks, someone is coming. As parents prepare to receive their newborn baby, believers need to be ready to receive the revelation of glory when Jesus comes. Read 1 Corinthians 15 and you’ll see in detail there that this revelation of glory means a change of glory from mortal and corruption to immortal and no corruption.
This is why we gather together all the more as we see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:19-25. “ Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
So, do we dread the Day of the Lord? No. Should we dread the difficult days leading up to it? No. What is our overall attitude to be between now and the day of the Lord? Hope, stirring one another, meeting with one another. Do we run from the reality of the difficulties? No way. Do we deny that the days of difficulty are here? Certainly not. What do we do? We draw near to Him, to each other, hold fast our confession of our hope, stir each other to love and good works, and encourage one another.
I pray God puts people around me to provoke me to a good work. Let’s put ourselves around each other to do it. The Day approaches. Hope is ours.