The Challenge of the Book of Revelation
When we begin reading the book of Revelation, we are first confused and then disappointed. We are confused by an author who talks of angels and dragons, men eating books and giant insects eating men, bottomless pits and mysterious numbers, fantastic beasts and golden cities. The language confuses us. And then we are disappointed because we don’t find what we are looking for.
We want to know what is going to happen in the future, but we find neither dates nor names. We are fearful of what may happen to the world in the next twelve months, but we don’t find anything said that helps us understand the coming days.
We have some hopes for our lives and for our families, but we find nothing that is said about our prospects. We go back to reading the political analysts and working the horoscope in the paper, escaping occasionally with a science fiction novel and making do as best we can.
Cultivating Responsibility Towards the Future
Ironically, the best way to develop an attitude of responsibility toward the future is to cultivate a sense of responsibility toward the past. … We are born into a world that we didn’t make, and it is only fair that we should be grateful to those who did make it.
Such gratitude carries with it the imperative that we preserve and at least slightly improve the world that has been given us before passing it on to subsequent generations.
We stand in the midst of many generations. If we are indifferent to those who went before us and actually existed, how can we expect to be concerned for the well-being of those who come after us and only potentially exist?
David R. Carlin, Jr., Christian History, no. 25.
Dreaming of a Better Future
Honoré de Balzac would eventually become a celebrated writer in post-Napoleonic France. He was renowned for his complex characters and realistic writing style. Like most young artists, de Balzac lived the stereotypical “starving artist” lifestyle in Paris in the 19th century. As a different illustration demonstrated, his extremely dire living conditions in an unfinished attic led him to lose a significant amount for his first commissioned novel.
Nevertheless, de Balzac had aspirations of better living. To help him conjure up this preferred future, he decided to write on the wall what his future residence would look like. On one wall he wrote “Rosewood paneling with commode”; another said “Gobelin tapestry with Venetian mirror”; and above the hearth, the pièce de résistance, “Picture by Raphael.”
Stuart Strachan, Source Material from Clifton Fadiman, Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes.
The End is Nearish
PRESS RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 1, 1993
We didn’t make a mistake when we wrote in our previous releases that New York would be destroyed on September 4 and October 14, 1993. We didn’t make a mistake, not even a teeny eeny one!
PRESS RELEASE DATE: APRIL 4, 1994 All the dates we have given in our past releases are correct dates given by God as contained in Holy Scriptures. Not one of these dates was wrong . . . Ezekiel gives a total of 430 days for the siege of the city . . . [which] brings us exactly to May 2, 1994. By now, all the people have been forewarned. We have done our job . . . We are the only ones in the entire world guiding the people to their safety, security, and salvation! We have a 100 percent track record!
Press releases from Neal Chase, representing the religious group Baha’is Under the Provisions of the Covenant, in “The End Is Nearish,” Harper’s, February 1995, 22, 24.
The Future Orientation of the Beatitudes
In his thoughtful book, Our Good Crisis: Overcoming Moral Chaos with the Beatitudes, Jonathan K. Dodson describes one of the keys to understanding the beatitudes: live faithfully now, experience Gods blessings in the future:
Another way to read the Beatitudes is as a promise of future blessings for the present. Live poor in spirit now, and you’ll benefit immediately—get a foot in the kingdom, so to speak. Hunger and thirst for righteousness now, and you will get a taste of eternal satisfaction.
This certainly fits with the “future logic” of the New Testament, in which there are frequent exhortations to do something in the present based on future realities: “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable. . . . Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:53, 58).
Taken from Our Good Crisis: Overcoming Moral Chaos with the Beatitudes by Jonathan K. Dodson Copyright (c) 2020 by Jonathan K. Dodson. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
A Lot Can Happen a Year from Now
A man sentenced to death obtained a reprieve by assuring the king he would teach his majesty’s horse to fly within the year–on the condition that if he didn’t succeed, he would be put to death at the end of the year. “Within a year,” the man explained later, “the king may die, or I may die, or the horse may die. Furthermore, in a year, who knows? Maybe the horse will learn to fly.”
Bernard M. Baruch taken from Neil S. Davies, God Moves: The End of a Journey and the Start of a Pilgrimage.
Neither an Optimist Nor a Pessimist
Towards the end of his life, the great missionary, theologian, cultural critic (and even bishop!) Lesslie Newbigin gave an interview. His interviewer asked him an interesting question, made even more poignant by the fact that Newbigin had returned home from the mission field to find his home country (England) had become increasingly secularized, showing scant interest in the Christian faith.
Newbigin’s reply was quite powerful: “I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!” Unlike many Christians, Newbigin was able to keep that which is most important at the center of his faith and life: the tomb is empty, and even when circumstances seem challenging, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead! We know the ending, and it is an exceedingly good one.
Stuart Strachan Jr.
Wrong About the Future
“Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” “Popular Mechanics,” forecasting the relentless march of
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
“I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year.” The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957
“But what is it good for?” Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.
“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital
Equipment Corp., 1977
“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” Western Union internal memo, 1876.
“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.” A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.
“I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper.” Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in “Gone With The Wind.”
“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies.
“We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.” Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.
“If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this.”
Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M “Post-It” Notepads.
“So we went to Atari and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ‘Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.'” Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal
“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You’re crazy.” Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.
“The bomb will never go off. I speak as an expert in explosives.” Admiral William Leahy, US Atomic Bomb Project.
“This fellow Charles Lindbergh will never make it. He’s doomed.” Harry Guggenheim, millionaire aviation enthusiast.
“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.
“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole
Superieure de Guerre.
“Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific
advances.” Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the vacuum tube and father of television.
“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.
Still Looking for inspiration?
Consider checking out our quotes page on the Future. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!