To be Clear: I, the FoX, believe in Bible prophecy, and that we are living through prophetic times. Times of enormous Change and Challenge. You might even say, if you cast your eye toward Syria or the Ukraine, that I believe parts of our Planet are experiencing the Tribulation. Oh yes, I believe there are anti-Christs in the World, too. I would say there is a Satanic plot to enslave and deceive mankind. Perhaps I'm a conspiracy theorist! Or the left-wing alternative to a right wing religious nut. Because I believe, in fact, a lot of the things about the "Apocalypse" which are routinely laughed off by secular media, and sometimes even by mainline Christians, whenever one of the End-of-the-World type of Christians gets particularly vocal and causes a stir. I am watching signs in the Heavens along with them, and I have a sometimes uneasy, sometimes excited feeling that things are changing all around us.
HoWeVer, in saying all of this, I am not saying (and I do not believe) that we are arriving at "The End of the World." The Bible does not teach the End of the World, rather, it teaches the "world without end" (Isaiah 45:17, Ephesians 3:21... click here for a fuller explanation). I believe that Bible prophecy should be very carefully evaluated, and that its historical setting should be taken into account. I believe that a responsible interpretation of Scripture would arrive at very different conclusions than what the Right Wing Christian talking heads arrive at when they talk about "the end of the World.," And yet, I would still agree with them in the assumption that the Scriptures of prophecy can be applied to our own times.
Before I explain further I will also say that I do not believe that the Rapture of the Church is necessarily imminent. I haven't ruled out a Rapture (of some sort), but I highly doubt that it is coming in the way that the Right Wing Church imagines. God is not coming only for the Christians, for example. And He does not have a time limit where patience or grace will run out. I believe that the grace and patience of God are infinite, that the Lord looks on the Hearts of humans with a sensitive and inclusive eye. I believe that the Family of God cuts across religious and denominational lines. Furthermore, I think that even if we were to enter the End of the World, it would be highly uncharacteristic of God for Him to remove His People, and His Spirit, entirely from the Earth. If the World were experiencing its death throes (which it isn't), then it stands to reason that God would send ever more ambassadors of Love and Light to see Her through. Not recall them, to -- in essence -- damn the rest.
So what does the Bible teach?
To answer this question we must first realize that every generation of Christians has believed itself to be the last. Even Christ's own apostles were fairly certain they would see the end... not of the World, but of the kingdoms of fallen man. Christ, in fact, predicted that some of them would still be living when they saw the Son of Man coming in his kingdom (Matthew 16:28). Jesus was not wrong when he said this, and neither is there an Apostle, unbeknownst to us, miraculously still alive somewhere until the Apocalypse begins. But in point of fact, the prophecies of Scripture can be applied at any time in history to the current realities. There is always a moment when the kingdom comes into our midst, is born in our circumstances. Every generation beholds a drama of worldly powers and eternal forces unfolding before their eyes. The Scriptural passages which televangelists are so quick to throw at Rapture theology are in fact universal to all generations of believers.
To prove this, we shall look at specific prophets. Consider Isaiah. Although he is oft-quoted as a herald of the Incarnation of Christ because of such passages as Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 53, and oft-referenced as a support for the idea of the Millennium at the End of the Age because of chapters like Isaiah 2 and Isaiah 49 and Isaiah 54, the fact is that Isaiah was a man firmly rooted in his own time. And his predictions had far more immediate fulfillments for his audience of ancient Israel than we are giving them credit for now in most churches. Even the virgin who shall conceive and bring forth Emmanuel was actually not Mary, initially, but was the prophet's own wife, who did in fact have a son named, not Jesus, but Emmanuel. Then the various oracles throughout the book of Isaiah which detail the destruction or defeat of Israel's enemies, like Assyria and Babylon, were actually fulfilled by the destruction of Assyria and Babylon, and do not necessarily require further fulfillment in a global judgment day. The multitude of passages which are purported by right-wing scholars to apply to the future Millennial reign of Christ can with even greater ease be applied to the time that the Israelites returned to statehood from Babylonian captivity during the time of Cyrus the Persian.
Also consider the Olivet discourse, Matthew 24. Although the verses in this chapter are frequently applied to coming events, the disciples likely understood them to have been fulfilled when Jerusalem was invaded in A.D. 70, and the Temple destroyed.
The entire book of Revelation can be convincingly explained from the theological standpoint known as "preterism," as applying to events in the early days of the Roman empire.
But with all of that said, I am not a preterist. I think that to wholly explain Bible prophecy as having been fulfilled by historical events is to deprive the prophecies of their life and their relevance. Why would something be inspired Scripture, valid for all time, and yet be an expired prediction?
What I actually think happens is that Bible prophecies find multiple, even repeated, fulfillment in world history. I think the events described in Bible prophecy are archetypal. The names and the faces may change, but assuredly, Adolph Hitler was an anti-Christ. And so was Nero. And so is Bashar al-Assad.
'Tribulation' is an ongoing thing. It is a generational, recurring crisis in which witnesses stand up. Plagues and disasters are indeed the Earth's way of groaning under our harsh mastery as humans. Angels are indeed involved in the struggle, as well as devils. Witnesses do indeed rise up, speak their truth, and are then murdered in the street. We may apply prophecy in poetic ways to the realities around us, and we do not have to conclude that this is the last time we will face these same spiritual entities as the human race. "There is nothing new under the Sun" said the Preacher in Ecclesiastes. I argue for the language of Apocalypse applied to each new and exciting time. In reality all people in history had their own battles to fight and had to be true to themselves and to their faith in God in order for us to get where we are today. To the degree that they were successful, they have left us a better Planet. To the degree that they were unsuccessful, we still have work to do as the Salt and the Light. And the Kingdom, still, is coming...
Lunar eclipses, when the "moon turns into blood," are indeed signal events that typically mean War or Revolution or some other form of bloodshed. John Hagee has recently alerted his flock to the blood moon tetrad that stretches from April 2014 to September 2015, but in fact there was a blood moon as well on the Winter Solstice, 2010. It signaled the start of the Arab Uprising, as I have mentioned on this blog many times. The heavens are complicit in our struggle, as humans. And events like a lunar eclipse which conjuncts with a solstice have something to tell us. Genesis 1 does teach that God put the sun, the moon, and the stars in the sky to be signals for us, and so there is something akin to astrology which has merit and spiritual value. Lest we forget, the wise men employed a method of astrology in finding the baby Jesus.
When we apply prophetic Scripture to our times, we must always be quick to examine the Spirit in which we are doing so, however. John Hagee has applied Scripture to his political understanding of world events, and has created a vision of God which is that of an ethnic cleanser. This does not honor God. The Lord is not a respecter of persons. And yes, although He has indeed entered into a covenant with the Jewish people, for many reasons this cannot be assumed to apply to the modern apartheid state of Israel: nor is God's covenant with Israel an exclusion of the rest of the Earth. Isaiah 19 reminds us that not only is Israel God's inheritance, but so is Egypt His People, and Assyria is the work of His hands. Throughout the Torah Jews are reminded to be kind to the strangers who live among them, and yet today the Israeli state dehumanizes its Palestinians, bullies them, steals from them, and tries to keep them out of sight.
The Apocalypse, my friends, is not a pro-Jewish and anti-Arab conspiracy to finish up history with the world at Israel's feet. It is however, a continual teaching that God will save the poor and needy, the oppressed of every part of the Earth, with flair! God always promises succor and deliverance in His Time. And He always calls His Church to bear witness, and to endure affliction. These truths will be true whether the year is A.D. 70 or A.D. 7070.
If there is a prophetic narrative for our time to be drawn from the Bible, it is indeed a narrative about the love of many waxing cold, it is everyone being right in their own eyes, and it is the cause of the poor and the cries of Creation being ignored by the unjust. The prostitution of faith is a part of it, as well, just as it was in the days that Jesus cleansed the Temple. And God's commitment to renew His People is also still a part of it. In a way, the most prophetic thing that can be said is that the Future, though in God's hands, is not entirely written, and that we all have a part to play in bringing about the Kingdom on Earth. Our part is not to condemn the rest of the World and await escape from the ungodly mess of Planet Earth in a 'Rapture.'
So those are my thoughts (for now), and it is my hope that from them a conversation might follow which will deepen my understanding even more.
KiJjiT the FoX