Christopher B. Browne's Home Page

7. Prophecy and Apocalyptic Times

A somewhat related area is that of eschatology. My views and perspectives are certainly informed by the AGC position that I grew up around. Pre-mil, pre-trib; all the good buzzwords...

Way back when, we had the Hal Lindsey hypothesizing of how "today's technologies" were clear examples of God fulfilling Revelation's prophecies.

There was the (really rather disturbing) [ Thief in the Night] movie series:

With guillotines, bad acting, lots of guillotines, cheap props, direct comparisons to the UN (the "Beast's" people are called UNITE), and did I mention lots of guillotines, the films were sufficiently disturbing as to drive a number of impressionable Christian youths to need extensive counselling.

In the new millennium, there is the new Left Behind series of novels. There are about a dozen of them, now. With movies in the works, after a bit of a hiatus of disinterest in the '80s, we're back to "prophecy being really cool again."

I will take a quite contrary view to all of this. Not from any perspective of it all being completely "biblically/theologically wrong." No, I have few issues with it from that perspective; I haven't read their series, but have little reason to expect it to be wildly heretical.

My contrary view comes not from the theology, but from the question: "What sort of people are spending their time on this, and why?"

I tend to see three main answers:

There certainly are legitimate reasons to study Revelation, but these three reasons strike me as being dangerously typical.

I was recently counselling at Camp Kakeka and a film was shown, [ Deceived ], involving a sort of "end-timesy" notion of a (left-nebulous) "evil force" trying to possess people. This elicited a lot of discussion, rather fitting into that "fear of kingdom come" model of things.

What was really remarkable was just how much the kids had absorbed from seeing films and books of the likes of the [Left Behind] series. It was very interesting how much eschatology they had internalized, even though they almost certainly don't know the word, and probably couldn't put together a particularly coherent position on what their position is.

What was dismaying was the problem of how much fiction they had internalized as being fact. The book of Revelation is certainly not a screenplay, and when making a movie, you need a screenplay. Whether working on a movie or a series of novels, that necessarily means "leavening" the story with a whole lot of fiction.

I think there is considerable danger to pushing this stuff because in order to make it "presentable" to people that don't have heavy-duty theological backgrounds, a lot of fiction has to be thrown in, and that critically undermines any truth that may also be present.

If "prophecy" is being used as a substitute for doing occultish stuff, that's about as "moral" as using nicotine patches and gum as a substitute for smoking. It may be a lesser evil, but that still leaves it being... evil.

Feeding kids' minds on "prophecy" to scare them into thinking about spiritual decisions is little better. It is almost like giving them nicotine gum to keep them from smoking, though that is probably a somewhat extreme characterization.

At any rate, the typical result of discussions tends, from what I have observed, to be an extensive set of disputing over small details that as often as not are about someone's fictional theories of what might happen in the "end times." Or people get overly certain that one political event or another is of very precise spiritual significance, typically because some "prophecy pundit" suggested so.

I believe I hold a valid position, namely that " I have no idea when any Rapture, or Tribulation, or Return of Christ will occur." That is supported by Matthew 25:13, that "ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh".

I reject that any of the "signs" that people think they see are in fact signs of that. If they were, then that would mean that people should expect to be able to anticipate the timing, and I am afraid I would have to characterize that with the ugly word: heresy.

And I refuse to get hysterical about matters that are so unknown. I didn't have to worship a false god to get a VISA card; I just had to promise to pay the bill at the end of the month. There are quite enough problematic issues of security and privacy surrounding the use of credit cards; there is no need for "Mark of the Beast" hysteria when it's clearly nonsense.

The way I see it, in any of the churches I have been in, of late, save one, there are not a sufficient body of believers with both a sufficiently competent understanding of eschatology and a sufficiently common understanding of eschatology for there to be any meaningful dialogue about the subject. Discussions that get beyond the blandest generalities are almost certain to find people:

Those two scenarios both have serious problems with them... The former indicates a troubling level of ignorance, in effect, implying (quite correctly) that believers are rather lazy and disinterested in the details of their faith. The latter points to two problems, one being that at least one side is holding to false teachings, the other being that believers are trying to worship in community with others that hold to false teachings. None of these problems are particularly comforting.

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