Exponential :: By Jeffrey Ady


Image: Kingdom Economics

The View Ahead Is Different from The View Backward.

WARNING: Multiple Metaphor Alert!

Pastor J.D. Farag’s December 20 “The End of The World” Bible Prophecy Update featured the term ‘exponential’ in discussing the rapidly-intensifying pace of events leading up to the Rapture of the Church.  As Pastor Farag noted, we are closer to that great gathering to the Lord in the air—our Blessed Hope—than any of us can even imagine.

I think two simple metaphorical meditations on the concept and nature of exponential curves can explain why it’s difficult to imagine how close our “gathering together to the Lord” of 2 Thessalonians 2 truly is, and also why the going seems so rough as we live in these last days.

(Metaphor #1: Technological Development and Rate of Change)

Let’s start with the image above the tagline in this article. Human technology took almost 6,000 years to evolve past the use of horses and oxen as primary movers. But in less than a century, we went from the automobile to putting someone on the Moon.

In similar fashion, humanity spent the better part of 5,000 years recording ideas and events in scratches on stone or metal, and then with ink and parchment. Then the Gutenberg press changed everything.  After that, we sped from movable type to computer-based word processing in less than 600 years. Improving communication technology from the telegraph (1830s), to wireless telegraphy and radio communication (late 1880s), and then to modern mobile telephones (the first-generation iPhone debuted in 2007) was a mere 175-year process. The pace of the rate of change has quickened over time; hence its exponential nature.

So, whenever you put yourself on the curve of technological development over time, “progress” may have seemed very slow—however easy—in hindsight. If you’re looking forward in time, though, progress is labor-intensive. First-mover advantage is bought at great price, usually involving more money than all prior development combined.

While hindsight may be clear, looking forward is for the adventurous. History may be within humanity’s understanding, but prophecy is exclusively divine.

(Metaphor #2: Geography and Mountaineering)

Growing up in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, I learned at an early age that the view uphill from below can be deceptively monolithic: It seems like you’re facing a wall—insurmountable, if you’ll pardon the pun. “It’s all uphill from here” can be discouraging if not heard in the right context.

In general, the Sierra Nevada mountains are like that, at least viewed in cross-section from west-to-east: A more or less level area slowly rises in elevation, but grade increases with distance in exponential fashion.  A more or less flat valley births grassy foothills. Those gentle hills give way to precipitous rises; giant granite plutons, deep canyons, seasoned with grasses, chapparal, by oak and conifers, make narrow, switchbacked-roads upward essential. Glacier-sculpted near-vertical and vertical rock faces mark the Great Western Divide at 12-14,000-foot heights.

Regardless of where you are, the view forward (uphill) looks like you’re facing a wall. It’s all vertical.

The view back (downhill), though, reveals a marvelous vista—assuming clear skies, it might look like you can see forever, across hundreds of miles, if not thousands of years. How very far we’ve come, one might think, even if you hadn’t taken all of those steps (lived all of those years) yourself. It’s magnificent.  You might feel expansive, privileged, even blessed. Excitement or glorious might be words that would occur to you as you describe what you see and feel looking downslope. I can’t believe I actually made it this far.

Looking forward (uphill) is entirely different. Canyons and passes notwithstanding, the Sierra Nevada massif, composed of billions of tons of granite and folded marble, is the longest mountain range in the continental United States not crossed by a single roadway. In other words, a literal wall stands in front of you.

Yet the same way you got where (or when) you are now is the same way you’ll get to the Rapture of the Church of Christ: One step (week, day, hour or moment) at a time, believing in the God of the Word every single step (week, day, hour or moment). Was the mercy of God new yesterday morning? Yes. Is it new this morning? Yes. Will His mercy be new tomorrow morning—even five minutes from now? I absolutely need it to be.

We need that belief and dependence to stand our ground at present and to take our very next step, and so on.

Exponentiality comes into the picture as one moves from west to east, uphill—or forward—in time. This side of eternity, time flows in only one direction: Forward. And—this side of the Rapture—the grade steepens with time. The “degree of difficulty” increases with every month, week, or day, even. I certainly experience life that way. I suspect that you do as well.

Facing uphill can be daunting, even discouraging, particularly when the stresses of the present crowd out the victories of faith in one’s (recent) past. 2020, and certainly the COVID and associated traumas of this year, can appear…insurmountable.

The irony of exponentiality is that it’s very difficult, if not dangerous, to walk backwards uphill. At some point you must face the wall and keep walking. Every step forward from this point is an act of faith, faith that He Who called you is faithful. Each stride must be taken onward in the conviction that the God Who saved you will faithfully empower you, and will soon call you home.

But be sure to count the cost of this path. You are defying gravity and thermodynamics. You are walking against the sin and unbelief of this kosmos. You must not be distracted by the chaos and lawlessness that, like rock-strewn cliffs that fall away on all sides except for your path upward, scream for your attention.

Faith in Christ is precious for this very reason: The price of every step forward increases; the strength and power required to walk rises with each stride. Our reward – especially given that we are closer to finally reaching the end of our time in this age – is nearer than when we first believed (Romans 13:11); it’s even closer than we dare imagine at present and is worth much, much more than we can now comprehend.

Keep walking. Face the apparent wall of the rest of today and each of your remaining tomorrows, knowing that the Spirit of God Who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in everyone who believes.  God will make a way for you. He will strengthen your stride. Keep breathing in His grace and faithfulness. The air may be thin up here, but it’s fresh, invigorating, and clean.

And—before you know it—you’ll have reached the Divide, and you’ll never, ever have to look back.  Beulah-land is just ahead.

“But the path of the just (righteous) is like the light of dawn,
That shines brighter and brighter until [it reaches its full strength and glory in] the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18, Amp.).

Jeffrey C. Ady, Ph.D.

December 22, 2020