Pokemon GO and Eschatology

Posted By New City Network on July 20, 2016

I love that Christian brothers and sisters have been capitalizing on the evangelistic opportunity Pokemon GO has presented. I find it disappointing so many people, particularly men, are making fun of kids for playing Pokemon GO; especially given these same men will be glued to their phones for Fantasy Football this Fall. There has been plenty of social commentary on the phenomenon that is Pokemon GO, but I want to share an experience I recently had walking through the mall: Pokemon GO is a shadow of an eschatological reality.

My wife and I are walking down the large central quad in the mall lined with every store-front imaginable. We round a corner to go to a different wing of the mall, and I see a young teen, probably 14 years old, leaned against a store window staring into his phone. We get closer and I lean over to my wife and say (as he aims his camera at something in the doorway), “My boy is playing Pokemon GO.” Here’s the funny part: the store he is leaning against is a women’s bikini store, and young women are walking in and out of the store in arm’s length of the young teen.

Macey and I finish looking around, and as we retrace our steps to get to our car, we pass the same bikini store. The kid is no longer there, and I say to my wife in jest, “Isn’t it crazy that a Pokemon was just RIGHT THERE, and we couldn’t see it?” Then it hit me: that’s Christian eschatology! Christ is RIGHT THERE, clear to see in so many things, and we just don’t see it! Here are 5 ways Pokemon GO can remind us of significant eschatological realities:

We hope in a Savior we don’t see physically–but He is not far from each of us. As Paul reasons with the intellectual elite on the Areopagus, he uses the example of setting boundaries of nations and seasons of years to reveal the limitations of man. He did this to force them to realize their need, and reach for the God greater than their abilities. As this statement rattles around the minds of the Areopagites, Paul quickly follows with, “Of course, He is never far from any of us. For we live, move, and exist because of Him” (Acts 17:26-28, ISV). As we live life in Christ, we have this promise: Christ is not distant; He is with us always, even to the end of the age!

We are filled with the Spirit of Yahweh Himself–but this world still sinks its claws into us. No surgeon can open you up and pull out the organ containing the Holy Spirit. This surgeon couldn’t pull out your sin-organ, either. However, both of these realities are strongly apparent in the Christian life. The Christian is now and forever in-dwelt with the Spirit of Yahweh. This is the truth that we declare, knowing we only understand that in-part for now, but one day we will have this relationship fully realized. A reality much more apparent is the human battle with sin. Sin is so disorienting. It causes us to think good is bad, and bad is good. Sin is not some nebulous attribute only apparent in non-Christians. I would argue it is an equally apparent (but twice as ugly) reality for Christians. The difference for us is this: we have an eschatological hope–that is, a present reality that is not yet fully consumated–that Christ will return and make all things new.

We have inherited an eternal weight of glory–but will not receive it in full until we die. We typically think of people receiving an inheritance when someone elsedies, and decides to leave a portion of their earnings/possessions to another. The Christian inherits the entire Kingdom of God, purchased for them at the Cross of Calvary, the moment a person places faith in Jesus. Yet, and this is an obvious point, no one sees Christians walking around with crowns so big their head is toppling over. Our inheritance awaits us in a Kingdom that is to come, yet we are possessors of this Kingdom here and now. Speaking of God’s Kingdom:

We live as citizens of an other-worldly Kingdom we can’t see–but soon will. In this election season, it is a good reminder that our first and only true allegiance as Christians is to the Kingdom of God. Neither the Republican or Democratic Party have the answers to heal America the way they promise us they do. We will always be disappointed by the government’s ability to mitigate the human condition. Russell Moore sums this point up well in his chapter for A Theology for the Church, “[Jesus] affirms through stories that the kingdom, though invisible in the present age, will one day stand majestically over every rival (Matt. 13:1-52; Mark 4:21-33). Those with eyes to see, therefore, will seek this kingdom–not its temporal counterfeits (Luke 12:13-21,31). In short, put your hope in the Kingdom to come, promised to us and purchased for us by Christ.

Lastly, We celebrate the Lord’s Supper in part–but soon we will partake in full. Next time your church partakes in the Lord’s Supper, remember that it is more than the grape juice and cracker. Dwell on the promise that the elements represent. Every time you are hungry, every time you are thirsty, every time you are lonely, remember this promise represented in the Lord’s Supper: Jesus will return again and vanquish hunger, eliminate thirst, and put an end to loneliness, for we will dine with Him.

Pokemon GO is one of the coolest cultural shadows that unveils the light of Christ. Players of the game can not see what the creators of the game promises is there–unless they use the proper avenues (namely, turn on the app. and let the cellphone serve as your eyes). Similarly, we can’t see the most incredible Spiritual realities God has promised us through the Bible that are “not far from each of us”–until we put on Christ, and let Him serve as our eyes. Jesus has promised us how the story ends. We are never without hope in this life. Even death is not our defeater; Jesus has conquered the grave.