A Great Question That Brought Someone Here

There have been and continue to be lots of great, insightful, amusing, and even bizarre keyword searches that bring people here. But this one is worth noting and reflecting on. Someone typed into a search engine:

That is a marvellous question, one that has the potential to burst the whole End Times hype approach to the Bible and Christianity like the abnormally inflated balloon full of hot air that it is.

Why do so many who supposedly revere and respect the Bible demean it by treating it as thought it is the sort of vague fit-all pseudoprophecy of the sort that prognosticators have always come up with so that no one could ever say they were wrong, always vague enough that something would fit? This fundamentalist approach, rather than honoring the Bible, makes it into the sort of “prophecy” that Woody Allen famously parodied with his prediction “Two nations shall go to war, but only one shall win”.

Also, as a great post on Experimental Theology noted (which I drew attention to a while back), all this Left Behind nonsense assumes that the antichrist is clever enough to deceive the whole human race, but not to read the Book of Revelation and do a few things differently to at least try to avoid ending up at the fate predicted. As that post puts it:

So you have to figure, on the eve of the battle, that he might think back on his whole life, where each step has been predicted in perfect detail, and wonder, “Hmmmm. Maybe I shouldn’t fight this battle tomorrow on the plains of Armageddon. Seems like a bad idea. Maybe I should, well, CHANGE TACTICS! Fight the battle somewhere else. Like Boise, Idaho.”

So why doesn’t the Bible just say “The antichrist’s name will be Barack Obama, and I’m telling you in advance so that Christians won’t try to prevent his election and thus screw up the prophecies and delay the rapture”? Because it doesn’t actually make any of the sorts of long-term predictions that are sometimes claimed. It certainly applies texts with the benefit of hindsight to new situations. But the only seemingly precise “prophecies” that (more or less) consistently get things right are those in the Book of Daniel, and that’s the very reason for dating the book not in the time of the Persian Empire, but the time of the Maccabean Revolt, up until which time it follows the course of events with increasing detail, and after which it predicts the end of the world and the final resurrection. So-called “Bible believing Christians”, in their utter disrespect for the Bible, force the Bible to be “right” by inserting in such places leaps into the distant future that are not mentioned in the text (which they supposedly wish to adhere to), and treat phrases like “at that time” as if they were the equivalent of “fast forward”.

The irony in it all is that the author of Revelation did tell readers who the Beast was. It gave a code that early Christian readers could and did crack, but the Roman authorities would in all likelihood miss. He who had ears to hear heard, but since then, Christians who can’t believe the Bible wasn’t written directly for them continue to misread, misconstrue, and misinterpret. And they do so because of an egotism and a prideful certainty about “what the Bible means” that are perhaps more directly and more obviously at odds with the Bible’s teaching than all their End Times speculation.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13807417739407553416 Don Hendricks

    Hundreds of Amens to those thougts.

  • http://notes-from-offcenter.com Drew

    In addition I have always found the assumed conflation of John’s antichrist and the beast of Revelation to be strange. It assumes that the same John wrote both texts for the same purpose and that both terms must refer to the same thing. Unfortunately there is not good evidence in the text or otherwise to suggest that any of this is true.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00928552876098168839 Three Ninjas

    Can you recommend any books that expound on this topic? I read the preterism chapter of Four Views on the Book of Revelation, and that’s the only source of information I know of on this.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I’d recommend digging in further by getting hold of an academic commentary on Revelation and seeing how it discusses some of the relevant details about date, meaning, and the interpretation of key passages. Most good academic commentaries will discuss a variety of possible interpretations before making the case for the one the author finds most plausible.Why not start with one whose author has some connection with your own tradition? George Beasley-Murray is a Baptist. I’m not sure what David Aune’s denomination is. There are plenty, and all of them should cover the major issues and evidence.Does that help? If you had something else in mind, do let me know – I’d like to do whatever I can to help!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00928552876098168839 Three Ninjas

    I’m not exactly sure what my own tradition is, but your suggestions are a good place to start. Thank you! This does help.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Aune’s is certainly detailed. Beasley-Murray’s is a bit idiosyncratic (he thinks the “author” actually made use of a pre-existing Jewish apocalypse and reworked it, which isn’t a view that has gained much acceptance. Talbert’s is very concise. There are some other good ones that I have on my shelf in my office or have used, but they aren’t coming to me. The good thing about academic commentaries is that, even if the author’s view doesn’t persuade you, usually he or she will give you enough information about other views that you can make up your own mind.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17407216819056323566 Scott Bailey

    “He who had ears to hear heard, but since then, Christians who can’t believe the Bible wasn’t written directly for them continue to misread, misconstrue, and misinterpret. And they do so because of an egotism and a prideful certainty about “what the Bible means” that are perhaps more directly and more obviously at odds with the Bible’s teaching than all their End Times speculation.”HA! CLASSIC!Well said. Amen.

  • http://www.theoblog.ca theoblogger

    I recently had a go at the Glorious Appearing, the 12th book in the Left Behind series. What the Bible doesn’t reveal (and Tim LaHaye makes absolutely plain) is how boring it is to read about the end of time. Be sure to bring lots of coffee to Armageddon. Also, you’re wrong even to hint that Barack Obama might be the AntiChrist. As any true-blue, beer-swilling Canadian will tell you, it’s Stephen Harper. Just look at his beady little eyes.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07138537741185209736 truebeliever

    It is interesting that you mention, Why doesn’t the Antichrist look back at prophecy and say, “This might be a bad idea, maybe I shouldn’t go to war.”Firstly, the Antichrist will not be inhabited by Lucifer until the near end of his rein. Secondly, Lucifer believes he is above the Lord, that he is more powerful and that he will win. He is pure evil, in which consists of the deepest pride ever known. He is egotistic, selfish, unbelieving and self absorbed. He knows every word of the bible and most likely believes that he will be able to stop God no matter what is written in the Bible. Laugh at my so called foolishness in believing the Antichrist is real. Yes, there are many Antichrists, but as you must have forgotten, there will only be one who accomplishes world peace, although this world peace will last only so long. If no one could bring peace to the middle east since biblical times when Abraham’s two sons first started all this, why is it Obama will be able to?Many say, the scripture was not meant for these times, but prier, when there’s no evidence to either. It only states, in the future, these things will come to pass, though not in those words exactly. I do not pose to be a Christian, but I am a believer in the Bible. I do not look for secret messages in the bible, I believe in what God leads me to understand of his word. I am not a church go-er, but my home is my church. I am no zealot, I do not believe those who are not Christian will go to hell. I believe that those who do not believe in God and his son Jesus will have plenty of time to figure it out. In the end it will be their decision and no one else’s.I will not paste biblical reference to what I say because their is a bible to be found if you choose to look for yourself. I have not come to argue my point but to say that those who choose the Lords way will become great in the kingdom of Heaven. Those who want to make up excuses so they do not have to believe and change their ways of envy, lust, gluttony, pride, anger, greed, sloth. In meaning, those who wish to covet another mans belongings, the wish to covet another’s body, the act of taking more than your share, the act of wanting more than needed, the act of not accepting others help when needed, the act of not loving or forgiving, and the act of being too lazy or selfish to worship God. Even good believers suffer from these, but true believers strive to better their selves. The seven deadly sins are the characteristics of Lucifer, and this should explain why he would not believe in Gods scripture and why he would continue with his plans of world domination. Those who think I am a fool may laugh and taunt, but then you would just be feeding into your pride. I expect to be shunned, because I will be shunned in Gods name, for believing and worshiping in his name.Those who do not believe, might never believe, but due to freedom of choice, which God provided for you, it is your choice. This being the reason why God has not given the Antichrists name, for a believer will acknowledge the Antichrist when it has been shown to him. Why would God want to make it so easy for us, he’s already made it easy enough as it is. He will make it known during the Antichrists days of running this world, who the Antichrist is, which will surely be easy enough. There will still be unbelievers none the less, but as it says, they have freedom of choice. No one can talk you into or force you to accept God but you and you only. Believe what you will but in the end, we will not be able to deny the one true God.