Summary: Paul, Pt. 24


In the 90s, a cult from Taiwan relocated to San Dimas, California, and registered itself as God’s Salvation Church. In 1997, the Chen Tao cult, also known as the Flying Saucer cult, led by Hon-Ming Chen, headed to Garland (mistaken for “God Land”), Texas, where they expect Christ to come down in a flying saucer to pick them up. 140 followers of the church - dressed in white, wearing sunglasses and white cowboy hats - left for Texas for the expected March 31 date with their Maker.

Chen was born in 1955 and was a former Taiwanese sociology teacher. He claimed to be the father of Jesus Christ and that God will assume an identical body to his own at 10 a.m. on March 31. Members purchased more than 20 homes in an upper-middle class south Garland neighborhood. At the time the group had roughly 160 members, 40 of which were children. According to neighbors, as reported in The Dallas Morning News, “they dressed in white, wore cowboy hats and drove luxury cars. They reportedly believed that two young boys in their group were the reincarnations of Jesus and Buddha. They told reporters they had come to Garland to watch God come to Earth and take human form at 10 a.m. on March 31, 1998, at the home of Mr. Chen.”

God’s alleged TV appearance on Channel 18, as Chen predicted, failed to materialize. Immediately after the failed prediction some of the members had to return to Taiwan due to visa problems. In total, roughly two-thirds abandoned the group and an estimated 30 members moved to Lockport, New York. The group entered a sharp decline after the failed prophecies and virtually nothing was heard of them after 2001 and the current whereabouts of Hon-Ming Chen are unknown.

Predicting the coming of Christ is hopeless and unbiblical. Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matt 24:36, Mark 13:32). When 911 occurred my sister-in-law thought the world was coming to an end. The same thought struck me when gas hit $2.50 a gallon. War, earthquakes and famines often capture peoples’ doomsday imagination. Many people are concerned with the signs of His coming rather than the significance of His coming.

How does His future coming affect our present behavior? The answer is not relocation to the wilderness, retreat from the world and resignation from the workplace.

Rejoicing in Hope is Prescribed

13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. (1 Thess 4:13)

Someone conjectured: When the end of the world arrives how will the media report it?

(Reader-friendly) USA Today: We’re dead

(Financially sensitive) The Wall Street Journal: Dow Jones plummets as world ends

(The sensational) National Enquirer: O.J. and Nicole, together again

Playboy: Girls of the apocalypse

Microsoft Systems Journal: Apple loses market share

Victoria’s Secret Catalog: Our final sale

Sports Illustrated: Game over!

Wired: The last new thing!

Rolling Stone: The Grateful Dead reunion tour

Readers Digest: ‘Bye!

Discover Magazine: How will the extinction of all life as we know it affect the way we view the cosmos?

TV Guide: Death and damnation: Nielson Ratings soar!

Lady’s Home Journal: Lose 10 lbs by judgment day with our new “Armageddon” Diet!

America Online: System temporarily down. Try calling back in 15 minutes.

Inc. Magazine: Ten ways you can profit from the apocalypse!

First of all, Christ’s coming puts in perspective the grief we experienced. “Ignorant” (a-gnoeo) is basically agnostic in Greek – unawareness; not knowledgeable due lack of information, insight or intelligence. Ignorance of the future results in grieving in the present, like unbelieving and godless men who have no hope. Paul is not against grieving with tears or grieving like others, but against grieving like people without hope.

“Grieve” (lupeo) means sorrowful, sad, as Jesus felt in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:37) and Peter felt when he failed Jesus (John 21:17). Grieving is natural and normal, inborn and instinctive, human and healthy, just as the disciples, too, were saddened and sorrowful (Matt 26:22, 26:37, Mark 14:19, John 21:17). The difference lies in grieving with hope versus grieving without hope. The hurting grieves because of feelings but the hopeless grieves because of fate. The former feels parting is painful but the latter fears parting is permanent. The hopeless expects a gloomy future, but the hopeful a glorious tomorrow. Without Christ one wakes to dread, doom and despair, but in Christ it is waking to deliverance, distinction and delight.

1 Corinthians 13:13 say faith, “hope” and love remain. Faith is present, hope is tomorrow, and love is forever. Our hope is based in the Trinity, our Triune God.

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