Apostasy first appeared on an epic scale when Christianity was made the official state religion of the Roman Empire. Biblical teaching was buried under pagan doctrines, superstitions and customs and the cross became perhaps the most profaned symbol in all history.
But it wasn’t enough that the new pagan leadership of the amalgamated religion added to God’s word. They also had to subtract from it what offended them. And nothing offended them more than prophecy of the end times.
Because the Word of God calls out the kings of the Earth as intensely wicked approaching the end of the age, and the kings of the Earth during the “Holy” Roman Empire knew that their subjects believed Judgement Day might happen at any time, something had to be done to alter public opinion inside the Church.
The solution was to allegorize prophecy. Since the prophetic portions of the Bible were obviously laden with symbolic language describing literal history in advance, it was easy for them to declare it was all completely symbolic, with no literal meaning that could be understood.
When the reformation came along, many heresies of the Roman Catholic system were identified and corrected, but the allegorization of prophecy was not.
This heresy is widespread today, even among evangelicals. One of many flavors of this is amillenialism: the belief that there will not be a literal 1,000-year reign of the Messiah on Earth from the throne of David in Jerusalem, during which the devil is restrained until the very end of it. It’s not just the iron scepter or “rod of iron” (Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15) that is symbolic (of His unchallenged authority on Earth), they say–the entire millenium is symbolic. Jesus isn’t really going to establish His kingdom on Earth, but “in our hearts.”
Pretty much any part of scripture can be rendered meaningless by assuming there’s no literal truth to be understood in it. And this is precisely what the enemy does–according to the level of vulnerability in the respective believer.
Some will purport that the thousand-year reign of Christ has already occurred (another Catholic tradition). At what point in history, you might ask, has the devil ever been restrained from deceiving the nations? (Revelation 20:1-3) Well, that’s just symbolic, they say.
Okay: symbolic of what?
If that stumps them, they might turn to the time period itself, claiming that 1,000 years is only symbolic. After all, to God, a day is like 1,000 years and vice-versa. Okay, by all means, point to a single day in all of world history when Satan was bound. And if you can find a date which allegedly was free of deception, what was accomplished by that supposed devil-free day in God’s plan? Were any of his stated purposes fulfilled by that date that nobody can point to with assurance and nobody else will agree on?
Maybe God is just experimenting haphazardly and doesn’t have a definite plan. Maybe His word isn’t an integrated message and He doesn’t really mean what He said through His prophets. Or maybe He wanted to confuse and baffle us just for a laugh. Or maybe the Almighty Creator, who spoke the universe into existence, just isn’t powerful enough to orchestrate the revelation of His message into written form. Certainly not powerful enough to inspire (via His Holy Spirit) His earthly stenographers, to get His word written accurately despite their humanity/imperfections.
These absurd arguments are often assumed by self-identified Christians.
When an occultic psychic’s predictions prove 5% accurate or better, the secular world falls all over itself marvelling at the psychic’s mystical abilities. But God has been 100% accurate in His predictions given through His prophets and preserved in the Bible.
There are about 500 prophecies surrounding the second coming of the Messiah. If the heretics are correct, then we will never know if they are fulfilled some day because they either can’t be understood or they only vaguely point to some symbolic spiritual fulfilment that is subject to interpretation. However, most self-identified Christians do believe that the Messiah at least came the first time, about 2000 years ago.
There were about 300 prophecies concerning that first visit, given centuries before the fact. If the same God prophesied both advents (often within the same chapters, sometimes within the same verse) then maybe we should examine God’s M.O. and extrapolate from there.
For instance, was Jesus really born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), or was Bethlehem just symbolic of some town somewhere on the planet, subject to interpretation? Hmm. Maybe we’re still being too literal. Maybe no physical Messiah would be born at all. Maybe all the prophecies of Him being born were just symbolic of some Messianic idea that would grow “in our hearts.” Maybe the first one to conceive this idea was even a virgin (Isaiah 7:14). Then again, maybe “virginity” was just a metaphor for some quasi-innocent state of mind.
Was Jesus really born in the lineage of King David (Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5), or was that bloodline just used symbolically to mean He would be a descendent of somebody somewhere in history who could be compared to David? Or maybe it was just symbolic of some inner attitude of somebody’s heart that gave them some form of “spiritual royalty.”
Was the Messiah really executed (Daniel 9:26)? After all, that’s a pretty ironic prediction. It must be a metaphor for something that happens “in our hearts.”
Was the method of execution really crucifixion (Psalm 22:14, 16–written centuries before crucifixion was invented, when capital punishment was carried out by stoning), or was that just symbolic of some form of mental or physical anguish somebody in history may or may not have gone through?
Did the Messiah’s enemies really cast lots for his garment? (Psalm 22:18). Maybe that was just a colorful allegory for something subject to interpretation.
Was the Messiah really betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver? (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12-13) Did the money really wind up given to a potter? Surely that was just an allegory against the evils of capitalism.
I could go through 300 prophecies asking these questions. Too bad the people who met Jesus and testified about Him weren’t still alive–we could educate them that they probably took prophecy too seriously. Who’s to say that Jesus was really the Messiah, anyway? There is no evidence, if prophecy is just allegory.
Okay, okay, all the prophecies of the Messiah’s first coming (including the small sampling above) were fulfilled literally, and with amazing precision. But maybe God has changed since then. Maybe He’s not as powerful anymore. There must be some reason why His prophecies surrounding the second coming shouldn’t be taken as anything more than allegory.
All the way back to the Garden it’s been a consistent tool of the enemy to convince people that God doesn’t really mean what He says. This especially applies to end-time prophecy. So many in the Church have a spirit of fear that keeps them from taking it seriously. Others have simply been confused or deceived about it. Others insist that it can’t be understood and it’s wrong to try. Of course this plays directly into the enemy’s hands.
Most self-identified Christians won’t oppose the establishment of the beast’s kingdom. In fact, during the early days when it seems to be the answer to all the world’s problems, they will even help establish it, being wilfully ignorant of God’s warnings.
Already, church people are picking and choosing what parts of the Bible to believe. How much more so when the Man with the Plan is telling them everything their itching ears want to hear? Not to mention wowing them with lying wonders and “solving” political, economic and military problems around the world.
More next time on how, specifically, the Man will appeal to those itching ears.