The World Will Be Watching

23 February, 2010

Futebol, Patacas, Brasil, 1996.

Futebol. Patacas, Brasil. 1996.

As I begin to write this post there are a mere 107 days, 14 hours, and 32 minutes until the start of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa (I owe the exact timing to the ESPN FIFA World Cup iPhone app). The actual number of eyes to view this sports event is widely debated. Some say half to three-quarters of a billion and others say tens of billions (It has been stated that the total viewership for the 2002 World Cup was 28.8 billion. There were 64 games at the World Cup giving an average of 450 million viewers per match). There is really no way to determine how many will be watching.

This year when the whistle blows on the pitch at Soccer City Stadium in Jo’burg to start the first match it will usher in a transformation in the way people view television in the home. (1) The 95,000 people in the stadium may not have the best seats; that may be reserved for the home viewers equipped to watch the game in 3D, yes 3D!

ESPN announced it will use the starting game between South Africa and Mexico to unveil a dedicated 3D network. Home viewers will now be able to view the event à la Avatar. Granted, this immersive experience will be limited to a wealthy few who can afford the HDTV equipment to take advantage of this new technology.

Yet as in years before, most of the world will watch this event crowded around shared, communal TV sets, peering through the snowy reception just as I did while visiting Brasil in 2006; the last occurrence of the World Cup. As I watched, there were about 30 green, yellow, and blue painted faces crowded into a school room in Patacas, a small Brasillian town on the north-east coast of Brasil. The spotty reception did nothing to dull the joyous exuberance each time the Brasillian national team scored.

When it comes to the number of viewers of such global events and estimates of the percentages of the human populace engaged in such a singular purpose, I don’t compare it to other sports or cultural events. I think rather of one of the last great spectacles of humanity, the ministry of the “Two Witnesses” described in Revelation 11. No other spectacle can compare to the vast numbers of viewers of that event.

I suppose ESPN will have the bugs worked out of their 3D experience by then, but it won’t matter. Much of the 1,260 day ministry of the “Two Witnesses” will be all too 3D for the hapless inhabitants of the earth as the rain ceases and waters turn to blood. As plagues of every sort strike the earth, people will not need technology to feel immersed in the event.

It is when these two witnesses are killed in a beastly manner and lie in the streets of Jerusalem that the number of world-wide viewers peaks. The celebrations over the murder of these emissaries of God will far surpass the celebrations of sporting victories, carnivale, Mardi Gras, or other human celebrations . This will be the celebration of the “world’s team” defeating God’s. Or, so they think. You see, there will be a quick severance of the celebrations when these witnesses arise after three and a half days. It will literally shake man’s shoddy foundations.

Granted, there are readers of this blog who may differ in their view of the message of the book of Revelation. The exegesis of scripture is outside the scope of this blog, but the point can be well taken regardless of your view of Revelation: A time of accounting and judgment is promised and God keeps promises.

Don’t take this particular post as an attack on the World Cup, soccer (futebol in Brasil), or other like events. It is not. I enjoyed the three games I saw while in Brasil in 2006. Even more so because we used these games as a gathering point for the youth in the community and a time for ministry and fellowship. The games were secondary to the goal of ministry. We used these games for a greater purpose and it made an eternal difference.


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