If you read material written by secular thinkers, you will read about what they call “reality.” In their view, the things science measures and weighs constitute reality. If science cannot see, hear, touch, taste, smell, weigh or measure something, then it does not exist. Such a worldview means that the existence of secular thinkers is bounded by time and space.
In God’s eyes, secular thinkers are confining themselves to an apparent reality that has a very limited form of existence, the reality of time and space. God’s worldview is set in the realm of eternity and infinity. That worldview is the real reality. It is evident throughout the Bible, but nowhere is it so graphically displayed as in the book of Revelation.
Many is the Bible student who has tried to make Revelation a timeline for the end of time. The story-telling devices used in order to help us wrap our finite minds around an infinite universe lend themselves to the notion that they describe a schedule of events, a project plan in which God wraps up the old creation and brings out Creation 2.0. To interpret Revelation that way is to miss its most important message. The important “revelation” in this book is not a timeline; it is a presence. The book of Revelation confirms for time and eternity that Christ is always with us, just as he promised when he said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Revelation also confirms what Jesus meant when he said, “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19) Finally, Revelation reinforces what Jesus meant when he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) Revelation shows us what is really going on, the real reality, behind the apparent reality of our daily lives. Revelation graphically portrays the truth about the battle between good and evil that permeates the world of time and space, and it makes very clear what we will be required to conquer if we are actually dragging our crosses with us every day.
Secular thinkers deliberately close both their physical and their spiritual eyes to the truth. When God breathed into man and made him a living soul, he didn’t make a secular being. God made a human being to be a spiritual creature. Secular thinkers can deny it, but they cannot escape it. The book of Revelation talks about them when it says “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.’” (Revelation 6:15-16) They know God, despite their protestations to the contrary, but they reject him, and they would rather die in a rockslide than face him.
Revelation shows with brilliant, explosive, even flamboyant language, that there are two realities – the apparent reality of time and space, and the real reality of eternity and infinity. Human beings live at the intersection of those two realities. Christians acknowledge and celebrate it; secular thinkers deny and suppress their perception of it. Secular thinkers deny the image of God within them, but there is a part of them that misses the relationship with God that human beings are born to enjoy. If you doubt it, visit The Houston Oasis or the North Texas Church of Freethought or any other atheist “church.” Atheist “churches” are springing up all over the country, because atheists think Christians have something they want. Unfortunately, atheists, or secular thinkers, think that the form of congregational gatherings is what Christians have that they don’t have. They mimic the form by gathering on Sunday morning, singing, listening to inspirational words, and so forth. They use these churches for rituals associated with weddings, funerals, and other momentous occasions. What they do not do is worship God or submit to any power greater than themselves. It seems safe to predict that these “churches” will either fade away when the novelty wears off or morph into something more like a social club or an educational association. The ritual, the form only, of “church” becomes dry and uninviting even to Christians if God is not the center of it.
Secular thinkers persist in their delusions for two reasons: 1) they are seriously committed to the idea that there is no God, and 2) Christians have not done a good job of following Christ’s instruction to live faithful, committed, self-denying lives every day in every place. The book of Revelation reassures Christians in one way – it makes it clear that there are some people who simply will not let go of themselves and receive Christ. There really are people who cannot receive that truth, and it will be so till the end of time. However, the book of Revelation should also inspire and motivate Christians to be more faithful in living the faith and sharing the faith, because the consequences of unbelief are staggering. Those consequences should drive Christians to pray fervently for secular thinkers and live lives of love and integrity as testimony to Christ every day. Christians know the truth: not only will life in the apparent reality of time and space be empty without Christ, but also, life without Christ in the real reality of eternity and infinity will be unspeakably horrific and desperately unending. A lot of people, including a lot of Christians, refuse to think about the destiny ordained for Satan and those who choose him. A lot of people think they have not made a choice in life, but Revelation makes it clear that those who do not choose Christ have chosen Satan.
Christians must be aware of the worldview of secular thinkers, because that worldview is rising in prominence, acceptance, and power. An amazingly large proportion of Christians actually believe that they can separate sacred and secular in their own lives, a deceptive mindset that results in their willing participation in practices and even laws that do not acknowledge the right of Christians to live their faith outside church buildings. Secular thinking permeates government at all levels, and is shaping policy, legislation, regulations and administration in ways that restrict the exercise of Christian faith and suppress the testimony to Christian faith in public life. The book of Revelation depicts the consequences of rejecting God so graphically, that Christians must not let themselves be duped into thinking that there is some secular space on earth where God doesn’t belong. Christians must resist the development of such ideas by living faithful lives and by exercising the civic responsibility of every citizen to participate in the public dialogue around issues and by voting in every election. Most important, the knowledge that this worldview is gaining power should powerfully motivate Christians to obediently be about the business of making disciples.
It is important to remember that civic responsibility only has power in the apparent reality of time and space. Christians cannot rely on being more skillful at political action than secular thinkers. To do so is to rely on the dynamics of time and space. Even as Christians act in the political world for the good outcomes that honor Christ and make the nation a better place to live, they must never succumb to the temptation to believe that political strategy will win the day. Secular thinkers and everyone else who believes there is a strictly secular space on earth must count on strategy to accomplish their objectives. The only power they acknowledge is the power that operates in time and space. Reliance on that power leads to deal-making, compromise, and even dark undercover operations in order to achieve the political goal. Christians live in time and space, but they are not limited to that life or that power. The light they shine into the world of political strategy and social action comes from the real reality of eternity and infinity.
The book of Revelation describes a moment when the great dragon, an image for Satan, is so angry at the way things are going that he lashes out with his tail and knocks a third of the stars out of the sky. In that image Christians recognize the time/space reality that good doesn’t win every skirmish, but the totality of the story makes it clear that Christians simply must persist in their faithful testimony. If they do that, the ultimate outcome of their work will be good. Secular thinkers who lose a skirmish must despair, because they don’t know if there will ever be another chance to succeed. Their worldview is limited to the apparent reality of time and space. Christians can rejoice in all things and need never despair, because they live in the real reality of God’s worldview, the view from eternity and infinity.