Before you get too far into the article you need to know my theological positions so you don’t make any unintended implications or silly accusations (the latter will probably be unavoidable unfortunately). I am a dispensational pre-millennialist who also believes in a pre-tribulational rapture. While I firmly hold these views, I do recognize a glaring error with many who are in my “theological camp.” This error is called escapism. Escapism is not a new view by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I believe we can see a picture of it in the Palm Sunday account.
Matthew 21:1-11 Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. “And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.’ ” So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”
You can almost imagine yourself in the midst of the incredible frenzy as Jesus comes into Jerusalem fulfilling the prophecy in Zechariah 9 — “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.— The crowd starts to gather and the commotion starts to ramp up as people are laying their coats on the road and children start dropping palm branches before the path of Jesus! Someone next to you starts shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!” Soon you join in, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!” But perhaps you would be wondering, “what does Hosanna mean?” That is a very important question to understand both the error of escapism and how the chants changed so quickly from “Hosanna” to “Crucify Him!” In such a short order. Hosanna means – save now.
Save now may sound like a strange thing for crowd to shout, but it was actually biblically based taken from Psalms 118 — Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We have blessed you from the house of the LORD. God is the LORD, And He has given us light; Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. — While the source was biblically based the motive was not rooted with godly intent. They wanted to be saved now, but they neither wanted a King nor did they realize what they needed to be saved from.
The crowd wanted to be saved immediately from the oppressive Roman government. While it is not a bad thing that they wanted to be free from Rome, they didn’t want a King to follow they merely wanted a liberator from their poor circumstances. This is made clear when cries of “Hosanna” turned into cries of “Free Barabbas!” Barabbas was murdering insurrectionist (a real one) who was not fit to be a king. The crowd had no intention of following Christ’s teachings they simply wanted more favorable circumstances. They wanted to weaponize the Bible to avoid the responsibility that God had given them.
The responsibility that they were attempting to escape was repentance and actual obedience to God’s moral law. Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees helps us to understand this, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” It was not an allegiance to God and His standard that is where they were failing, it was a lack of allegiance to God’s standard. Christ was calling them to repent and obey Him, but they merely wanted liberation from Rome so they could continue in their lawlessness under more favorable circumstances. They failed to realize that Rome was over them because of their sin— their circumstances were self-inflicted through an allegiance to sin.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday the crowds gathered and shouted hosanna! As a cry of escape from their present circumstances. They took a biblically based concept — the quotation of Psalm 118 and Zechariah’s prophecy — and attempted to twist it to make their lives easier. They weren’t concerned about God’s plan and they had no intention of submitting to Christ. This is why, when it became clear that Christ was not intending on starting an insurrection, they turned on Him. Their goal and intent were to escape their circumstances, it was not to submit to Christ. Ultimately this is what is in the heart of every escapist.
Escapism has less to do with particular eschatological than it does with heart condition and a lack of allegiance to God. There are many who say that all who believe in a pre-tribulational rapture, or a rapture at all, are escapists; this simply isn’t true. An escapist is someone who is attempting to escape hardships on this earth and they generally do this by leaving their responsibility before God undone. They are like the crowd on Palm Sunday who wanted a liberator from the consequences of their sin. Ultimately, the escapist’s true allegiance is to their comfort and not to Christ.
Before I point out what the new cry of Hosanna is, I want to present that even those who do not believe in a rapture can — and if deserving should — be classified as an escapist. As noted above an escapist is actually trying to escape their responsibility before God. There are plenty of men and women who ascribe to post-millennialism or amillennialism who trade their God given duty for the comforts of this world — they too are escapists. Their escape is not through a rapture but through a long drawn out millennium or period of time while they wait for their utopia to come to this earth. There are those who hold this view who because they have read the “back of the book” they know they win so they don’t have to work. This is escapism through patience as opposed to escapism through immediacy; both of these views are wrong.
If Hosanna was the cry of the escapists on Palm Sunday, then Maranatha is what they are crying today. Maranatha means, “Our Lord come” and is a biblical phrase found in 1Corinthians 16:22. The phrase — just like Hosanna — is a great phrase if the motive behind it is proper. The motive must be in submission to God and His agenda. It must not be a cry of escape from the responsibility God has given us. Today most Christians want to escape their responsibility to serve God in the midst of crooked and perverse generation instead of wanting to be near the side of their Savior. Don’t get me wrong, most of them will give you the right answer, but if you look at their life you will soon find that they are nothing more than a foul-mouthed liar. Oh, they will say, “Maranatha, our Lord Come! I want to be near the side of my Savior.” All while they miss church for their children’s sporting events or because they had a hangnail and just didn’t feel quite up to it. If your hearts cry is truly to be next to the side of your Savior, I am confident in saying you wouldn’t let such temporal things keep you from His body— save me your fake cries of Maranatha you escapist!
Escapism, through immediacy or patience, is wrong and it always leads to cries of Barabbas and eventually Crucify Him! When you want to escape your God given responsibility you will always cry out for a different Savior and while doing so you will cry out to freshly crucify Christ again. This Easter season, no matter what side of the millennial debate you’re on, I want to encourage you to remember why the cries of Hosanna were wrong and avoid escapism by serving the Lord with all of your might!