My partner in raptureready.com, Todd Strandberg, and I were exiting a restaurant in Atlanta some years ago with some family-close friends. A man tried to grab my daughter, who protested and moved away from him. It was a few seconds before I, being blind, realized what was going on. The man–about 40-50 years old—wanted to help her in the taxi so he could then panhandle us for money. He was quite persistent, and so were we. No “gold” would be sifting from us to him this night, especially after having, uninvited, grabbed the girl we dearly love.
Some will no doubt e-mail to say we were unfeeling or even un-Christian in our refusal to hand over the money. He was hungry and we didn’t feed him. Didn’t Jesus prophesy something about that somewhere? He will tell those who fail to feed the hungry to depart into everlasting darkness?
I assure that if he were hungry, we would have taken him back into the restaurant and bought him a meal. He wasn’t hungry, but wanted the “gold” that he could manipulate from us through his quite disturbing technique of panhandling.
This incident set in motion much cogitation. When my memory of the unpleasantry at last co-mingled with another of my pet peeves, the thought congealed. Both of these–which are among my least favorite things, are wrapped up in one and the same term, though one is physical and the other cerebral/spiritual.
The term I want to look at is “panning”.
The word “panhandling” means asking strangers for money. It comes from a time when prospectors handled pans in the process of “panning” for gold. They would sift the water and gravel, until only the gold was left glimmering in the pan. Gold, of course, was a means of exchange in the mining towns of the day when the gold rush was taking place in California and other places. “Panhandling” has come to mean, in more modern times, begging for money rather than working for a living. It is quite annoying to experience panhandlers.
And, this is where the two pet peeves conjoin for yours truly. The term “panning” is at the heart of the irritation. Time and time again I hear the same thing from those of the theologically wishy-washy sort. Whether doing interviews on radio or television, or whether in group or individual discussions, when the subject of Bible prophecy is discussed, a common declaration inevitably spews forth from someone. It is issued with a smile or chuckle, and is supposed to end conversation on the topic; you can tell by the finality of tone as the chuckle comes with the words: “I’m a pan-millennialist. I believe it will just all pan out in the end,” is the declaration that the one speaking it obviously believes to be both brilliant and original.
I’ve heard it a hundred times, easily. And, I’m not exaggerating. “It will just all pan out in the end…”
This, to my mind, is spiritual panhandling. It is taking the easy way out. It is being too lazy to study God’s Word on the matters of eschatology, endtime things. The activity implied by the declaration “it will just all pan out in the end” surrounds the individual with the slovenly attitude: “I just don’t want to think about it, because it isn’t important.”
Oh? Is it not? Let’s look for a moment at what is said about prophecy yet future, relative to what should be the Christian’s attitude.
Jesus gave a broad overview and even some specifics during His Olivet discourse. This teaching on what would happen from the time of the temple’s destruction and Jerusalem’s devastation until He returns in the second coming was recorded in Matthew, chapter 24, Mark, chapter 13, and Luke, chapter 21. The prophecies were given without hesitation, with parables being used only sparingly, for effect–i.e., they were meant to be taken literally, and they were powerful in their future ramifications for those who would endure them.
Jesus said, after laying out what would happen from then to the end of the tribulation:
“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matt. 24:42). “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.” And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mk. 13:35-37).
The Gospel of Luke then captures the most profound words Jesus spoke in this regard, in my view. The Lord was speaking directly to our time, I’m convinced:
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Lk. 21:28).
Jesus asked a quite disturbing question. It gets right to the heart of the feel-good, do-good gospel we are hearing today from the panhandlers of God’s Word, who smilingly predict a growing movement toward some great revival they “feel” is coming. This, while every indicator states that Christians are looking more and more like the fallen world around them.
These same purveyors of the pablum that the Church is making the world better and better says that Jesus didn’t want His people to worry or think about prophecy–which incidentally is at least 27% of the Bible.
These false teachers must be cocooned within Jesus’ troubling question: “…when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Lk. 18:8b).
Those who hold to the “it will all just all pan out in the end” mindset are dangerously close to the attitude Jesus said would mark the Laodicean church –the church for which the Lord reserved His greatest condemnation:
“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Rev. 3:13-19).
Panhandling in the Bible prophecy sense is lukewarmness, which makes God sick. It does me, too.