End Times prophecy was a major focus in the first half of my ministry. My call to ministry came in 1991 and I was immediately caught up into cold-war epic readings of Biblical prophecy in the Old and New Testament (as we called them back then.)
I had them all memorized. I subscribed to End Times magazines. I watched weekly TV programs that read the news in one hand and the Bible in the other.
I was trained and ordained in a denomination that has the 2nd Coming of Christ as one of its 4 major themes. As a young pastor, I would lead weekend seminars to help people understand the timelines of our times, complete with wall-charts.
If you are not familiar with this sub-culture of Christianity then you may not understand some of the news happening right now. You may look at the Evangelical support of the current President or the zeal over what is happening in Jerusalem right now and wonder what you are missing.
Last night, I got to hang out with some of my favorite conversation partners. This year we went through the ABC’s of Faith in Sunday school and 3 themes kept coming up:
Genre: Genre is by far the most important thing about the Bible that many people who claim to be ‘Bible-believing’ don’t know. Nothing matters more than genre when it comes to reading the Bible.
Simply stated, one must read a poem differently than history, prophecy differently than a gospel, a letter (epistle) differently than apocalyptic literature. When people claim, “the Bible says …” it can be a bit of a misnomer.
It would be like reading a newspaper and taking the weather forecast, the police report, the comic section, and the opinion column as A) equal and B) literal.
Revelation: I love the book of Revelation. I study it all the time. I am inspired by it and challenged by it and am constantly referring to imagery within it.
The only thing I dislike is what most people do with the book of Revelation.
- It is not a book about the end of the world.
- It is not a book about the 21st century.
- It is not a book that should terrify or intimidate us.
The early audience for that book would have taken great consolation and comfort from it. The sad thing is that we should be writing things like the book Revelation for our time – but don’t because we think that John’s letter is about our time!
Y2K: this event is emblematic of the apocalyptic mindset. As I said earlier, I became a bible-believing Christian during the cold-war era. Communist Russia was our biggest threat and ‘Christian’ bookstores and TV shows were filled with very specific projections about how current events lined up with biblical prophecy.
Not understanding that apocalyptic literature in the Bible is a critique of their time and that era’s order and a hope of future deliverance makes us vulnerable to panic in ours.
Now here is where things get wonky. You may think “so what – charismatics and evangelicals ignore genre and read things out of context – big deal.” But you are missing an important extra ingredient! The longer these things don’t come to pass the more that some have begun to work on them behind the scenes in order to help them come to pass.
The longer these prophecies go unfilled (in their reading) the more effort they put into helping fulfill them.
In my next post, I will tell you how a misreading of Daniel 9 “the prophecy of the 70 weeks” means that the Muslim ‘Dome of the Rock’ in Jerusalem is a major focus because eventually (according to prophecy) that temple mount has be returned to its former (and future) function for the Jewish people.
You might think that this stuff sounds silly, but I am hoping to let you see behind the scenes to how consequential this way of reading the Bible is to our current world. Imagine if you thought that all of this long-expected stuff was going to happen in your lifetime and that God has fore-ordained it (or at least foreseen it) before the foundations of the world. The Bible, seen this way, is a history book written before hand by an all-knowing all-powerful God.
Hopefully that helps you understand the evangelical support for the current President and this move of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. It’s not trivia – it deadly serious.