I’m a huge fan of the Jason Bourne franchise. In the first instalment, Jason eventually becomes aware of a CIA conspiracy to assassinate uncooperative international political figures called Operation Treadstone. But unlike many of the internet conspiracy theories that have been flying around lately, Jason has good reasons to believe that Treadstone was more than just a theory, because he discovered that he was central to it, and interacted directly with its proponents. That is, Jason engaged with the ‘primary sources’ of an actual conspiracy which enabled him to verify it. This is also what I would like to encourage all those who too quickly (and too easily) embrace the various conspiracies that are going ‘viral’ on the internet. But it’s not necessarily all of the variations speculating about government conspiracies that most concerns me.
Beginning from the late Second Century, prominent Christian thinkers and preachers have got the interpretation of the Book of Revelation wildly wrong.
Armageddon? Some say it’s just about to happen. But what does the Bible say about it? Whenever things flare up in the Middle East, especially involving Israel, there are always people who speculate that Armageddon is about to happen. The word “Armageddon” has now become synonymous with “the final battle that ends the world”. So ubiquitous has the word become for the end of the world that Hollywood have titled blockbuster films with it, fictional books have been written about it, and media commentators now refer to it as the catch-all word to describe the level potential fall-out from a Middle Eastern battle.
This is all very staggering considering that it occurs only once in Scripture, in the Book of Revelation, and is not alluded to anywhere else. Added to this is…
Dispensationalism comes in various forms. A “dispensation” is a period of time. An era. In its most extreme form it regards God as having multiple plans of salvation depending on the particular dispensation. These dispensations generally commence with the Dispensation of Innocence and include other Dispensations such as the Dispensations of Works, Law, and Grace. This is contrasted by the orthodox Christian view of regarding God only ever having one means of salvation: the work of Jesus of Nazareth, especially His suffering, death and resurrection. But Dispensationalism is most notably distinguished from orthodox Christianity in the way it regards Israel. Dispensationalism says that God has a distinct plan and salvation for Israel. The roof of Dispensationalism is then supported by the walls of a novel form of end-times teaching. This includes such things as a rapture of the Church, a two-part Tribulation period, the global rule of an Anti-Christ, the reconstruction of a Temple in Jerusalem, the Battle of Armageddon, and then the Return of Christ. Dispensationalist Bible Prophecy teachers have gone to great lengths in their predictions of what the future holds based on their interpretation of the Bible. I have written a separate article on some of these predictions. But there’s a problem. A big problem!
If you were downtown and looked across the street over the parked cars and saw someone you knew rushing intently to push a little old lady over, what would you think of that person? Would your opinion of this person change if you later discovered that the cars you were looking over obscured your view of this person actually pushing this little old lady out of the way of a speeding sports car which was hurtling towards her and about to hit her? Sometimes, a bigger picture changes the entire picture!
This is what reading the Book of Revelation is like for some people. They have their understanding of the Book of Revelation obscured by their lack of understanding about history, Biblical language, and even modern opinions.
And this is one of the biggest problems with how people approach the Book of Revelation: the historical background to the Book is unknown to most readers. The second huge problem is that most people who promote themselves as experts on “End Times” or “Bible Prophecy” do not understand how the principles of sound Biblical hermeneutics also apply equally to the Book of Revelation.
Who is the man identified in The Book of Revelation with the number, “666”? This article sheds light on this controversial question. I grew up in a church where regular Bible-prophecy teachers hinted that they knew the identity of the coming ‘Antichrist’. This man, was, according to these teachers, also referred to in Scripture as “the Beast” and “the man of lawlessness”. It wasn’t until I started to realise that these teachers were not only guessing about this Antichrist, but pretty much everything else they taught was a guess as well, that I began to understand what the Bible really says about these things.
The Bible is uniquely prophetic. No other religious or holy book makes predictions of the future like the Bible does. This phenomenon has led some Bible teachers to over-emphasise the Bible’s ability to predict the future. The rise in claims of the Bible’s prophetic detail coincided with its increased availability. When medieval scribes increased production of Bible copies the number of prophetic speculations also increased. When the Gutenberg Bible revolutionised the way Bibles were produced from the 1500s, there was similarly a marked increase in the number and variety of prophetic speculations.