You might have wondered if I only answer questions I can… uh… answer. No so! Refusing to show the sense God gave a donut, let me leap into the brier patch with these questions:
Can and will you shed some light on the end-times prophesies
from Revelation and the old testament? Is the thousand year reign still
to come? What about the tribulation? It that history or ahead of
us? Who is the Antichrist? What about the mark of the beast?
The viewpoint that all this is in the past seems to be in the minority in the
world of Christianity today. I understand the important thing is that the
end is near and if we are ready, nothing much else matters.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I have read Revelation. I’ve also read Ezekiel many times and two of my favorite books are Zechariah and Isaiah. That said, in an attempt to be transparent and open about this question, I need to state firmly that I am not sure I understand Revelation… and I am pretty sure other people don’t understand it, either.
The question assumes that Revelation is about the end of time. I know that that is how the book is almost always taught, but is that a fair assumption? Max R. King — a member of my religious tribe — wrote a book back in the 70′s detailing his belief that the Second Coming of Jesus had already occurred, back in 70AD when Jerusalem fell. He, and those who follow his teachings, believe that there is nothing in the Bible that indicates that Jesus looked forward to a future dissolution of the universe. I disagree with King, but his scholarship and argument prove that good, decent, intelligent people can read these books and come out with completely different ideas about them.
Full disclosure: I have often mentioned that I grew up on the far right of our fellowship. Ira Rice, Jr. was a frequent guest in our home and some of my earliest reading materials were "Contending for the Faith", "The Axe at the Root", "Questions and Answers by Lipscomb and Sewell" and everything written by Foy E. Wallace, Jr. I believe I had read everything Wallace had published — some of them several times — by the time I was 15. I still have a great deal of respect for the man (especially for the faithful way he loved and cared for his invalid wife for many years; serving her joyfully and lovingly) and no one could or should question his love for Scripture. He was a confirmed believer that Revelation was written prior to the fall of Jerusalem and that almost everything in the book had already been fulfilled — long ago. While, today, it might be hard to find a scholar who believes Revelation was written that early, he made several powerful arguments that are worth reading.
That said, I have also read a lot of material written by the End Times prophets of our age such as Hal Lindsay and Tim LaHaye. I am a big fan of the radio/tv personality Glenn Beck and was saddened to see him give SO much time to Kenneth Hagee and Tim LaHaye in 2006 and 2007. Each of them are convinced that we are living in the last days and use such "powerful and convincing" scriptures as one line in Daniel that says information will move across the world as never before. Uh… couldn’t every generation say that? You might want to go to http://wwwwww.religioustolerance.org/end_wrl1.htm and look at their lists of unfulfilled prophecies about the end of the world before you go running out to buy the latest John Walvoord book. Besides, if you wait a year you can buy today’s hottest books on prophecy for 50 cents on the remainder table. Every one will fail as every one has failed before them.
Still, End Times prophets will fill thousands of churches this year with detailed studies of Revelation, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Daniel, and Isaiah. They will come complete with PowerPoint or MediaShout presentations, thick workbooks full of charts and fill in the blanks, and at least one large table full of books and bumper stickers to buy to "support this anointed ministry." The people who come to listen and learn are also in a search for drama in their lives.
Count me out. I don’t panic when I read Revelation. I make myself remember that it almost didn’t make it in the Bible because even the earliest Christians thought it wasn’t that important. And, besides, it was weird! The Jews didn’t let young people read Ezekiel because they felt it was too strange and might damage the minds of anyone younger than 25. I’m beginning to think they had a point.
When I read Revelation, I get one message: "We win." The same story is told three times, utilizing three different sets of symbols but always moving from fear, persecution, terror, and despair to hope, salvation, and our victory over evil. I fear that those who are searching for the names of politicians, the mark of the beast (which has been everything from the hat the pope wears to the port wine-stain on Gorbachev’s forehead to the scan number on the socks I bought at Kohl’s), or, perhaps, trying to figure out the exact date of the end of the world… I think they’ve lost the point of the book.
The point of Revelation isn’t that we should be afraid, looking for bogeymen and angry angels behind every world event, but that we should be confident that Jesus will ride to our rescue and, in fact, already has by giving his life for us.
As I have said many times: I am NOT concerned about the end of the world. Not in the least. I couldn’t care less. I AM concerned about the end of ME. I want to be found faithful when Jesus comes again OR when I go to meet him. I will confess to being amused at some who think the end of the world is just around the corner. I see them take out mortgages to buy a home and wonder "isn’t it dishonest to tell the bank you will give them their money over the next 30 years when you are convinced they aren’t going to see much of it?" I am also amused by those who think we can save the earth by driving smaller cars and using mercury filled fluorescent light bulbs. Why are you trying to save what Jesus said he was going to destroy? I’m just asking…
Fact is, I think we ought to be good to the earth while we work it and subdue it. And I think we ought to be ready for Jesus whenever he comes again — whether globally for everyone or personally for just you. I think Revelation has a lot to offer us when it is read in a spiritual fashion, applying the emotion and turmoil of the book to our lives along with the hope, confidence, and assurance we find on every page. Am I worried about the Antichrist? Not so much. First John tells us that everyone who denies that Jesus has come in the flesh (I believe he was referring to gnostics like Simon Magus, Marcion, and Dan Brown) WAS Antichrist. John said that by his day there were already many Antichrists. That would seem to make the search for ONE today a rather foolish search. Rather than a "where’s Waldo?" game it would be a "can anybody miss Waldo?"
It all comes down to this: if you belong to Jesus you must might suffer quite a bit on this planet. You might go through some real spiritual meat-grinders before it is all over but… YOU WIN.