Agog About Gog

Mike Skinner wrote a post about the end-times prophecy approach to the Bible, and the attempt by some to identify Vladmir Putin as Ezekiel’s Gog. Here’s the conclusion:

Let’s stop the madness of pretending that ancient prophetic texts are futuristic codes for us to decipher current political events. Let’s read the biblical texts responsibly.

Click through to read how he gets there, with good reasons why this way of approaching the Bible is problematic (to say the least).

A few days ago I received a piece of mail about an event that is coming to Indiana, called “Revelation Speaks Peace.” The pamphlet says “The Bible will be our guide” and yet also talks about “The New World Order” and promises that one of the topics will be “How To Postpone Your Funeral.”

The key reason why some people will think this event is worth attending is a lack of Biblical literacy and knowledge of church history. It is the same in any area. If you do not have a basic grasp of a subject area, then whether a person is claiming to stick to what the Bible says, or give you what the scientific facts indicate, you will probably not be able to tell whether those claims are actually true.

Why do I mention a knowledge of history, as well as Biblical literacy? It relates to a point I’ve made about other aspects of conservative Christian approaches to interpreting the Bible.  If you aren’t aware that the same approach to the Bible which you adopt was used by those who defended slavery, then you may be less likely to think that the approach itself is problematic. The same goes for the history of end-times thinking. If you don’t realize that the same approach that is being used to say that end times events are unfolding before your eyes has been applied to events for as long as Christianity has been around, you won’t approach those claims with the skepticism they deserve.

  • Tim

    Great article by Skinner. We need to hear this kind of advice more often.

  • arcseconds

    You don’t just need an ignorance of church history to miss that end-times have been proposed plenty of times before and been wrong. You also need to be ignorant of current events!

    Is it really credible that none of the people turning up to the Revelation Speaks Peace thing have ever heard of Harold Camping?

    I suspect most of them have, and I suspect also that most of them are at least dimly aware that there have been plenty of end-times predictions in the past that ended up being wrong.

    I don’t think ignorance is enough to explain the perennial attraction of these phenomena. They must surely be thinking something along the lines of ‘well, sure, the others were wrong, but we are surely living in the end times, and our guy, he’s got it right.”

  • anon

    Ha, you just hate the idea of Christ returning, don’t you? Too scary, too much of a horror-film scenario for your cozy professorship, so it all has to be in the past and spiritualised.

    Fortunately Saint Peter is a nice corrective:
    2 Peter 3:3-7
    3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For
    this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of
    old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

    Irenaeus and the rest of the Church right up into the Third Century would also disagree:
    http://www.biblestudying.net/preterism5.html

    Come to think of it, “Bible prophecy wasn’t meant to talk about the future, even in a cryptic way” is debunked from the Old Testament:

    14 I am poured out like water,
    And all My bones are out of joint;
    My heart is like wax;
    It has melted within Me.
    15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    And My tongue clings to My jaws;
    You have brought Me to the dust of death.

    16 For dogs have surrounded Me;
    The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
    They pierced My hands and My feet;
    17 I can count all My bones.
    They look and stare at Me.
    18 They divide My garments among them,
    And for My clothing they cast lots.

    A first-person description of a crucifixion. A “code” nobody in the 11th Century BC could possibly have understood, since the practice didn’t exist back then. But it’s there, frustrating skeptics and higher critics. And fulfilled on Calvary, when Jesus was crucified – hIs bones out of joint, His heart melting like wax, thirsty, His hands and feet pierced with roman nails, wicked men tearing away his clothes and gambling for them. What shouldn’t we expect from a God who knows the future:
    21 “Present your case,” says the Lord.
    “Bring forth your strong reasons,” says the King of Jacob.
    22 “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen;
    Let them show the former things, what they were,
    That we may consider them,
    And know the latter end of them;
    Or declare to us things to come.
    23 Show the things that are to come hereafter,
    That we may know that you are gods;
    Yes, do good or do evil,
    That we may be dismayed and see it together.

    • Neko

      Jesus and Paul, and every other end-times prophet after them, were obviously wrong about the imminent end of the world.

      This expectation that Jesus will return is one of the things that disturbs me about Christianity. You could say Jesus lives forever in the collective consciousness. But there will be no Son of man appearing in the clouds. Face it.

      A first-person description of a crucifixion, etc. The gospel authors cribbed from the Hebrew scriptures to promote Jesus as the prophesied messiah. It may or may not be that God exists and knows the future, but he’s not a necessary precondition to explain the correspondence between the psalm and the gospel.

      • anon

        Yes there will. Jesus is alive right this day, right this hour, right this second. I know that He will come again as He promised:
        1 Corinthians 15:
        12 Now if
        Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some
        among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes,
        and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of
        God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the
        dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

        The Resurrection does not mean to orthodox Christians “his teachings live on” or “he lives on in our memories”. What it means is that Yeshua of Nazareth, the Messiah, lives on literally and physically as a glorified human being (who is also God). This is as objective a reality as you’re ever going to get. You can be an atheist, a Jew, a muslim, a new-ager or anything else but that truth remains despite any refusal to believe it (justifiable or not) – He is risen.

        • Neko

          Right, I know what orthodox Christians believe. And I’m certainly not interested in getting into a debate about whether Jesus is risen.

          Never mind, please.

    • IgnorantiaNescia

      Ha, you just hate the idea of Christ returning, don’t you? Too scary,
      too much of a horror-film scenario for your cozy professorship, so it
      all has to be in the past and spiritualised.

      You just love the idea of Putin returning too much, don’t you? What have you been doing cozying up to that scary horror?

      Anyway, with all your proof-texts you still fail to substantiate one crucial point: that the end-times really are being fulfilled now. How do you aim to back that up?

      • anon

        I wasn’t arguing that “the end is coming right now”. I was arguing that:
        A. The Bible predicts the future many, many times (see also Book of Daniel, but skeptics (laughably) argue it was written by the Maccabees)

        B. God basically dares the idols to predict the future in Isaiah, saying that if they’re really just as good as Him it should be a trivial task. Ergo God can predict the future.

        C. No major Christian scholar in the first centuries after 70 AD ever thought that what happened in that year had fulfilled the prophecies of Christ’s return. Surely they would be the best-suited to know?

        Strawman fail.

        And no, I don’t know what you’re going on with about Putin. He’s a strongman – Russia’s had plenty of ‘em. I’ve given him a shred of eschatological significance.

        • anon

          I meant to say:
          “I’ve never given him”. Damn typos!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      How could you tell the difference between Psalm 22 being a prediction of the crucifixion, and Psalm 22 being something Jesus quoted on the cross, and thus a text on which the Gospel authors drew when depicting the crucifixion?

      Also, do you view Wisdom of Solomon 2-3 as a genuine prophecy about Jesus, or as a text on which Matthew drew in his passion narrative?


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