Lately, several parts of my life have found themselves oddly synchronized. My love of bad movies had me in the theater last night watching Left Behind (An Armageddon drama based on a particular interpretation of the Book of Revelations), while my general day-to-day research landed me on the Orange County Harvest Crusade, a Christian Rally. Their most recent crusade dealt with the end of days, and they spent over an hour talking about interpretations of the Book of Revelations, their reasons for believing in Pre-Tribulation Rapture (more on that later), among other things.
The odd thing about the Harvest Crusade is the devastating specificity they claim in knowledge of the end times. They do not just know that Israel is to be attacked by an alliance of ten countries, they claim to know several members in those countries. They also claim knowledge of military strategy based on the book of Revelations (“Why, in the 1970’s, one Priest who is a member of our Church was speaking to the generals of the Israeli army, and he told them to watch out for Iran. Now, at the time, Iran was an ally of Israel, but then just a short while later the government was overthrown, and Iran turned against Israel. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the generals of the Israeli army placed a phone call back to our Priest just a few days after Iran came out against Israel, asking for military advice!”), but their ideas seem somewhat anecdotal. In any case, to claim detailed knowledge of the end times is a little odd to me, as it was said in Mark and Matthew, No one shall know the day nor the hour, not even the son, or the angels, but only God in Heaven.
That being said, this seems to come into stark contrast with this line (found in not one, not two, but THREE of the Gospels!), “Truly I tell you, there are some here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom!”
Do you want to know how people resolve this line, by the way? This is a theory that is not widely known, and I cannot even think of when I last heard it cited; this is generally a section of the Bible ignored for obvious reasons. Strong Literalists do so like to say that the Bible offers specific prophecies, and has never made an incorrect call. How would you justify this line from Jesus? How could some of those there be alive 2,000 years later?
Now, please know that this theory is not popular, even among Biblical Literalists (though I’d love to hear their justifications, as I am not intimately familiar with them), but it does have adherents in any case. It is the legend of The Wandering Jew. Cited as early as 1228 A.D., and perhaps being even older than that in verbal tradition, there is supposedly (walking the world among us to this day!) a Jew who was present when Jesus stated the above. He was given immortality (whether a blessing or a curse is left to the reader to decide), and will walk the Earth until the second coming. This seems an odd way to validate prophecy, to me (We literally cannot be wrong because the immortal Jew could be here until the sun explodes in a few billion years, and that could be interpreted as God’s wrath, so no matter what, we are right!). Whatever, I can let them have their cake.
Now for more oddly specific readings of the Bible, and more things people fight over, in the silliest ways in the silliest forums. Now, there are three primary timings proposed for The Rapture, very creatively named and defined as pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, and post-tribulation. The runny thing is, again, this gives them enough wiggle room that it would not even be defined as wiggle room. If the end of the world happens without the Rapture, it obviously wasn’t Pre-Trib. If the world recovers from the brink, it obviously wasn’t Mid-Trib. Post-Trib is vague enough that the human race could go extinct and then no one else would be left to tell them they are wrong! Boy, with such devastatingly specific prophecy, it’s no wonder that people cling to the Bible! It practically knows what I am having for lunch!
For those not overly familiar with the Biblical displays of the end times, the Tribulation is the time in which God’s wrath is poured out onto the world, and it will be the seven worst years in all of history to be alive. Wars, famine, plague, suffering, all headed by an Anti-Christ. Why do I say “an” Anti-Christ, instead of “the” Anti-Christ? Well, that comes down to the fact that Anti-Christ is a very vague term applied to many people throughout the Bible and beyond. Really, if you are not a Christian, you are an Anti-Christ. Do you want to know the funny thing? Do you want to know how this Anti-Christ comes to prominence? It will make you sad, I fear, for it is silly.
This Anti-Christ will be defined by his or her ability to bring peace. Before the Tribulation, there is (or may be) a single nation world, and all wars will end. You may not immediately see the problem with this yet, it is ok, it is very hard to without speaking with a ton of people who believe in the book of Revelations.
If the worst time in human history is brought on and presaged by one who brings peace and prosperity during his or her rise to power, then any good, Bible-believing Christian must stand against anyone who preaches these values. And there are certainly those who do; people in my very own family have voiced opinions AGAINST bringing the world together. There are people who stand against world peace, for that is the last sign of good times before the end times. I would even go so far as to say that people who hold to this opinion are the reason that this will never, in all of history, be allowed to come to fruition. I would argue that there are enough people out there that believe peace and world-unity are enough of a devastating sign of the proximity of the end times that they would form their own nation in defense. Well, now we’ve got a two nation world, and don’t need to worry about Armageddon. Problem solved!
Forgive me, but to me this is just silliness, and silliness that is dangerous. Christians may stand against Muslim extremism, but the nearer the world comes to unification, I would argue, the more often we will see Christian extremism. And to say that this is something that would never happen, recall the story of George Tiller, a doctor who was willing to provide abortion services who was murdered by Scott Roeder, a Christian extremist. I do not know how one justifies punishing someone they view as a killer by killing him, but his was the picture of an unwell mind. That being said, it shows certainly and clearly that it is possible, and the more downtrodden a people feel, the more extremists will be born.
I suppose I ought to clarify that; Islam is certainly the fastest growing religion in the world, how can they feel downtrodden (as I would argue they do, and as I would argue is the cause of the rampant extremism among the faithful compared to most other religions today)? Their Holy book teaches that the adherents of the religion are truly the most superior, gifted people in the whole world. It doesn’t matter that they may soon be the dominant religion in the world, even in the west, they do not feel that they are the dominant FORCE in the entire world, as they were promised to be by THE GOD OF ABRAHAM Himself. Anything other than a perfect Muslim caliphate is less than they were promised; this certainly does not mean that all of them are going to be extremists some day; like Christians, there are more who are patient and waiting for their gift from On High than there are who are going to fight to create that very gift themselves. That being said, the worse you feel about your position, the higher the chance that you will birth extremists (to use an analogy, the more cornered a scared dog feels, the more dangerous it is), and being as your goal is nothing short of perfection, even 99% completion feels like a drastically missed target.
Ah, I have deviated again, so let’s get back to the point.
Sam Harris said it best, I think. Christian end times, the tribulation, is characterized by death, war, famine, and destruction on a drastic scale (and they are seeing the signs everywhere, in the earth quakes and tsunamis of the recent years), which led the prolific atheist to write “New York City could explode in a massive mushroom cloud, and there are those who would see a silver lining in it; it would signal to them that the best thing that will ever happen is about to happen.”
To this end, I call on everyone to take a step back, think, and seek peace. Do not even stoop so low as to find a silver lining; there is no monstrous act of death that could signal anything good in this world. If God spoke a word, and all unbelievers were killed, and Jesus Himself came to me and told me I was left alive despite my unbelief, and I should rejoice, I would tell Him (though I know he would have foreseen my response) that it is a horrible thing that has happened this day.
For the happiness and life of a massive number of people to be snuffed out, that is a terrible thing. I would say I am happy to hear of their suffering coming to an end, but in this case, the Bible is clear that they are those accursed who shall suffer for eternity.
No, I stand against death, but even more, far more than standing against death, I stand against suffering. I hope you understand this, reader. I hope I have impressed upon you the difference between death and suffering, and the silliness of the end of the world.
Also, Left Behind was hilariously awful. I wholeheartedly recommend it!