Much of what is taught by Bible-prophecy teachers about the end-times” is grounded in Paul’s two epistles to the Thessalonians. It is claimed that in First Thessalonians, Paul introduced the notion of a rapture. And it is believed that from Second Thessalonians, he introduces believers to some revelations about the “Antichrist”. The Apostle certainly does share some divinely inspired insights into what was future to his original audience. But the modern reader may not understand how future it was to these Thessalonians – which may mean that it is not future to us.
Much damage to the credibility of the Bible has nearly been done by those who twist the contents of the Book of Revelation to force it to sound like it refers to the events of our present day. Time and time again, so called Bible-Prophecy teachers have been left with egg on their faces as their ridiculous speculations have proved to be completely wrong. Our Administrator forwarded onto me a copy of an email we were sent claiming that our understanding of the Book of Revelation was wrong and that we would be humiliated by the Lord when the Rapture took place on October 17th 2009.
You’ll notice that I am writing this brief article after this ‘day of humiliation’. But still the sillyness continues to be rolled out by many TBN preachers who (even inadvertently) misrepresent the Book of Revelation by claiming that it is written to us about our day. (I have compiled a small list of such of failed interpretations.) In the unlikely event that you are a now cynical believer reading this article, or even in the more unlikely event that you are a complete skeptic about Christianity and the Bible reading this article, I hope to take just a few minutes of your time to offer an alternate understanding of the Book of Revelation that will actually present a credible case for Christianity and the Bible.
Professors Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart state that the entire framework of the New Testament is eschatological (How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth, 2003:145). “Eschatology”, they write, “has to do with the end, when God brings this age to its close.” Hence my double entendre heading – Understanding what the Bible teaches about “finally” (Eschatology) is necessary in order to understand what the New Testament teaches…
The Book of Revelation has variously been described as so mysterious that it simply cannot be understood. But this has not stopped some from speculating about what its symbolims means. Such speculation is based on the assumption that the Book of Revelation is uniquely symbolic. But what are the implications of the idea that Revelation is written with consistent Biblical symbolism in how we understand its message?
In fact, it can be shown that the Book of Revelation is saturated in Old Testament imagery and symbolism. Understanding this should help us to avoid abusing this profound Book with ridiculous speculation that forces such contemporary events as the European Union, the United States, modern Iran, and computer technology into the text.
I’m currently on Annual Leave. Having just spoken at the A2A Conference on the Gold Coast of Queensland, we chose to tack onto the first part of our leave some time on the Fraser Coast (which is north of the more famous, Sunshine Coast). To our surprise and delight, the motel where we had booked our couple of week’s stay upgraded us to a room which had cable TV. Taking advantage of this perk I channel surfer to the Christian channels and landed at Daystar where Irvin Baxter was interviewing Pastor Paul Begley on his program, End Of The Age (May 7th, 2018). I had never encountered either of these men, who struck as being very zealous and sincere. But what they stated as being ‘Biblical’ and clear signs from the Bible that we are living at the end of the age was bewildering. And even more bewildering was their claim that God was using President Donald Trump as a modern-day Cyrus who would help to usher in the return of Christ by moving the American Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem!
For example, some time ago I was lecturing in a closed country on the topic of Hermeneutics (how to interpret the Bible) when one student asked me about the ‘Third Temple’ supposedly prophesied in the Bible as a sign of the last days immediately preceding Christ’s return. This student had innocently adopted an end-times-guess (adiaphora) as if it was a Biblical idea. My question in response to her question was which text in the Bible was she basing her question? She looked at me stunned! She thought I was playing some game with her. “Of course the Bible prophesies that the Temple will be rebuilt in the Last Days in order to usher in the return of the Lord!” she responded. Again I asked her – “Where?” I have asked this question in lectures in several countries and have never been shown where the Bible prophesies such a last days rebuilt (Third) Temple!
The End. That’s what the Greek word “eschaton” means. But a question that some are now asking is, “The end of what?” Up until recently most Christians would have said- the world, but now good Biblical scholarship is shedding greater light upon this highly controversial word and revealing that most of us may have been wrong!
When I went to church as a young boy, ‘End Times’ teaching was all the rage. Afterall, there were wars in the Middle East, famines in Africa, natural disasters in Asia, and economic struggles in Europe and America. There were conspiracy theories, global uncertainty, a worldwide fuel crisis, and the emerging cashless society. All of these things were apparently predicted in the Bible many thousands of years ago as being the last signs before the end of the world. As the last three decades have unfolded however, it has become obvious that none of these things have led to the end of the world, and now most people realise that the Bible doesn’t even make reference to them – let alone pinning the triggers for the end of the world upon them! With so much error in this speculation it’s little wonder that many Christians have put eschatology (the study of ‘final things’) either in the too-hard basket or now regard it as not worth worrying about because nobody knows anyway.
I was once dining with a theologian who had lectured on the Book of Revelation for years. He had even been to Patmos to conduct teaching tours of the Apocalypse. But like some theologians, he felt that Revelation was a complete enigma. He was adamant that there was not any particular method to understand everything in the Book of Revelation. His claim is believed by many. He cited Deuteronomy 29:29 to justify his belief that it was impossible to understand the Book of Revelation, claiming that The Apocalypse was a divine secret. But there is one immediate and gargantuen problem with this idea: for Revelation to be a revelation it has to be a revelation. There is a certain hang-over from Post-Modernism that makes the idea of the Book of Revelation being divinely vague very appealing. Post-Modernism relishes in the idea that nothing can be known for certain. It despises the notion of being ‘right’ and extols the notion of uncertainty. If it can not be understood, then it can never be a revelation!