Gift of Tongues Part 4

My previous posts on this topic are available in the archives, and you might want to look them over + look up the scriptures referenced there.

When you hear someone describe their church as “spirit-filled,” you can safely assume the music is Christian Hip, there is a lot of  jumping, shouting, raising of hands, an emotion-filled oratory by the preacher, and a frequently enforced call-and-response expectation between the pulpit and the pews. But the ultimate 21st Century implication of the phrase “spirit-filled” means the congregation “speaks in tongues.”

It is highly unlikely, during a service at one of these churches, that you will witness any of the spiritual gifts Jesus displayed, nor those of His apostles–except, possibly, one.  You will not see miracles, obvious healing, or raising from the dead, even though Jesus said His followers would do even greater things than what He did (John 14:11-13). But you will witness people shouting incomprehensible combinations of syllables, which they will tell you is the “Bible evidence” of their baptism of the Holy Spirit: Speaking in tongues.

Of all the demonstrations of this I’ve seen (and I’ve seen many), I’ve never once witnessed the spiritual gift that manifested at Pentecost, in which foreigners (to the people speaking) heard them preaching in their own native languages (Acts 2:4-12). I also haven’t seen sight restored to the blind, the limbs straightened on people with deformities, or skin diseases healed, though I have seen people with those defects go through the healing line in “spirit filled” churches. After their “healing,” they’re usually advised to act like they’ve been healed, even though it doesn’t seem like they have been healed “in the natural.”

Is this greater than what Jesus did?

I’ve also seen alleged prophesying at these churches, wherein the “prophet” gives a condensed summary of a recent sermon. Often the “prophet” punctuates their monologue with phrases like “sayeth God” or some other King James-ism. You just know it’s authentic because God prefers to speak in 17th Century English regardless of the historical period or geographic location the prophet lives in, right?

I’ve heard “spirit-filled” church leaders claim that speaking in a “Heavenly language” (as opposed to the gift of tongues manifested at Pentecost) is THE sign that a believer has received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I also know personally one preacher who won’t let any believer hold a leadership position in his congregation unless that person speaks in a “Heavenly language.” There is no biblical justification for this, unless he has found John Smith’s magic glasses and is reading scripture hidden in between the lines.

Some “spirit-filled” preachers admit that the point of 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 is that different spiritual gifts are given to different believers–therefore they grudgingly admit that the gift of tongues is not given to everyone. But in the next breath they claim that everyone should pray in other tongues. I’ve never heard them defend this assumption biblically.

Let’s examine prayer, with tongues in mind.

One argument you might hear for praying in tongues is that it is like a coded transmission from you to God, so the Devil won’t know what you’re asking for. First off, it’s ironic to me that fear of Satanic eavesdropping is a bullet point for this crowd that routinely insists that the Devil has no power. If the Devil is powerless against you, why do you care if he understands your prayers?  Secondly, this assumption requires ignorance of what the Bible says about Satan. Why would the Devil not know your heavenly language when he himself is a heavenly creature (or “celestial being”)? (Ezekiel 28:13-16; Isaiah 14:12-14; Jude 1:8-10.) Yes, he is fallen from his exalted position in God’s kingdom, but nowhere is it stated or implied in scripture that he lost his ability to  communicate in his native tongue. If you renounce your citizenship tomorrow, you will not forget how to speak your native language.

Another argument goes something like this: “You might not know what you need to pray for, so let the Holy Spirit take over your mouth.” Actually, Jesus made sure we know what to pray for in Luke 11 and Matthew 6. Moreover, how does this remote-control-of-your-mouth theory appeal to a God who has put up with so much, and gone to such lengths, in order not to violate our free will? Did he give us brains only because He really wants to bypass them and play with our vocal cords Himself? Does He want automatons or living, thinking people who choose to obey Him? Perhaps Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 14:14 when he writes of the unfruitful mind. From Romans 8:26 we know that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know what to pray for; but He does so through “wordless groans,” not by using our mouths to utter words from a “Heavenly language.”

One carefully selected Scripture used in the “Heavenly language” camp is the first half of 1 Corinthians 14:4, which says that speaking in a tongue edifies oneself. Most of the chapter is ignored though, because in it believers are encouraged to seek spiritual gifts which edify or build up the church, and not seek self-aggrandizement.

In Matthew 6:7, Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”

“Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Oh, yes, yes, yes, Lord.

Bega ramoth warichi hachmanma reymanini.

Hachma bero mina ro ro ro ro ro vegal reymanini.

“Oh, yes, yes, yes, Lord…”

Ever heard somebody praying like that? I have–too many times to count. Into a microphone, at that.

Jesus also said, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

So I have another question for the “spirit-filled church”: Why does the only spiritual gift on display in 99% of your gatherings just happen to be the only one you can effectively fake without collaboration?

That’s right. I went there. There’s a whole lotta’ fakin’ goin’ on by people obsessed with edifying themselves in the sight of others. I’m not pointing the finger at any specific believer or even a specific congregation. You know who you are and so does God. But this is happening and it’s a pathetic shame.

Here’s some more questions: Why are what few “prophecies” given in your churches little more than regurgitated televangelist soundbites wrapped in Shakespearean English? Why does your “healing” require people to pretend their health has been restored? Why do the only miracles that take place among you have to do with the raising of money?

Most present day churches don’t even acknowledge the Holy Spirit. In the ones that do, and even consider themselves spirit-filled, you’ve got these lame theatrics being pushed as “gifts of the Spirit.”

Is all this greater than the things Jesus Did?

As good?

Remotely close?

In the same league?

Is it any wonder that the present day church, especially in America, is ineffectual?

Is it any wonder that people don’t take the Bible seriously or even believe in absolute truth–even people raised up in the church?

Is it any wonder that, statistically, churchgoing people have become morally indistinguishable from the surrounding culture? Shouldn’t gifts of the Spirit like words of wisdom and words of knowledge be giving believers an advantage, so that they’re not falling in the same traps as people of the world?

Is this the destiny that God called us to?

Quit trying to appear spiritual. Quit trying to help God out by jump-starting a spiritual gift in your own strength. Quit faking it ’til you’re making it. Quit gerrymandering scripture to justify what you do.

Quit being religious!

Passover: a Prophetic Fulfillment Still to Come?

We interrupt this regularly scheduled series of blogs on the topic of tongues to share a possibility which may prove very important in the next few years.

I can’t conclusively prove what I’m about to propose. It’s mostly a conviction laid on me as I read about the first Passover. I’ll try to briefly duplicate the revelation as it came to me.

Up front: Passover has already had a prophetic fulfillment, when Jesus served as our Passover Lamb once for all, and His blood (if we accept it) protects us from the Destroyer. But as often happens with God’s prophecy, there can be more than one fulfillment. Example? Take Daniel’s prophecy about the abomination of desolation (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11): it was fulfilled when Antiochus Epiphenes sacrificed a pig on the brazen altar of the Temple. AND YET Jesus referenced this very prophecy in Matthew 24:15/Mark 13:14 when warning of events that are clearly yet future. (In fact many of Daniel’s prophecies–particularly about the kings of the north and south–seem to suggest multiple fulfillments.)

In Exodus 12, God (through Moses) established Passover as a “lasting ordinance” (verses 14, 17) for ongoing generations of the Israelites. As I was reading the chapter, verse 11 jumped out at me:

This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.

If you imagine yourself living in those times, this is how you would prepare yourself for the possibility that you must evacuate at a moment’s notice–possibly in the middle of your meal. Eat hastily, dressed for the outside weather/traveling, with your running shoes on, your GPS battery fully charged, your SUV’s gas tank filled, etc.

If you read  Chapter 12 in its entirety, maybe you’ll notice that the Israelites did leave their homes after the firstborn were struck down, but it was at the urging and with the cooperation of their Egyptian neighbors. They took time to collect gold, silver and clothing before leaving Egypt (12:33-36). Sounds like an orderly evacuation, does it not? So far as we can tell from the text, the Israelites didn’t have to abandon their meal partially eaten and beat feet in a matter of seconds. They took the time to go door-to-door collecting charity from those they were leaving behind.

So why did the Lord tell them to prepare that way? Do the rituals He ordained serve no practical purpose? Or do they only partially fit some practical purpose?

What about the kosher diet and cleansing ordinances from the Torah–seems like all moot ceremonies after Luke 11:37-41, Galatians 2:14-15 and other scripture to some people, right? But while the Black Death was wreaking devastation on the people in Europe, the ghettos and other Jewish communities were mostly unaffected, because Orthodox Jews were careful to observe the ceremonial washing ordinances, and stuck to their strict diet codes.

In bringing this up, it is not my intention to cause controversy regarding New vs. Old Testament, or get into legalities. I merely mention this as an example of how some of these seemingly quaint customs the Lord ordained will actually protect those who faithfully practice them. There are plenty of other examples–circumcision on the 8th day, for instance (that’s when a baby boy’s immune system is at it’s strongest, modern medicine has discovered).

So why would God establish this lasting ordinance to eat the Passover meal in haste, ready to drop everything and bolt at a split second’s notice?

There is a day coming when such hasty action will be necessary for survival. It was prophesied by the Lord Jesus Himself. Remember that example I gave you above? Here it is, in context:

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—  then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house.  Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak.  How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers!  Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.  For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.” –Matthew 24:15-21

Notice that this warning is addressed specifically to Israelis living in Judea (the “West Bank” in media Newspeak). The Temple will be built not far from this area. When the coming false messiah violates the covenant made with Israel (providing for this very Temple to be built in the first place), has the two witnesses killed and sets an image of himself up in the Holy of Holies to be worshiped, they need to get the blazes out of Dodge…and NOT go door-to-door asking for handouts from their neighbors, I would guess.

Suppose this fateful day occurs on Passover. The devout Israelis who don’t yet accept Jesus but nonetheless obey the Law as best they can, including the quaint customs about Passover, will be prepared and in a position to heed Jesus’ advice–which will save them from a time of tribulation far worse than the Holocaust of the National Socialists.

Wouldn’t that be just like God–to hide his survival evacuation plan for His people in plain sight for thousands of years so that the unfaithful who deem the custom too silly and antiquated will weed themselves out? I strongly suspect that this event called the abomination of desolation, which occurs in the middle of the 70th “seven” (“week” of years) prophesied by Daniel, and which marks the beginning of the three-and-one-half year Great Tribulation, will take place during Passover.

Revelation 12:6 is one of many places where this future bug-out is mentioned.

I’m not trying to establish what year this will happen, so this is not date-setting. This prophecy is at least 1,260 days/42 months/ time, times, and half a time away. But I feel utterly confident that it’s not too terribly far away.

Gift of Tongues Part 3

So far, we’ve learned that the english word “tongue” used in relevant passages was translated from the Hebrew word “lashown” and the Greek word “glossa,” both of which were used to mean 1) language; 2) people who speak a common language; as well as 3) the organ in the mouth human beings use to speak. We’ve reviewed that Jesus promised His disciples the Holy Spirit (John14:26) and said the signs that accompany His believers will include speaking in new languages (Mark16:17). And at Pentecost, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, as promised, and also spoke in new languages so that people from all over the world understood them in their own native tongues (Acts 2:1-12).

Pentecostal (I use the term generically, not denominationally) and charismatic believers purport that the gift of tongues actually means speaking in a “Heavenly Language,” which is usually not understood by other human beings. I’ll come back to address this concept in a future installment. For now I’ll allow that 1 Corinthians 13:1 and 14:2 arguably give evidence that  this concept is legitimate. So with that issue tabled, lets compare the modernday practice of tongues with what the Bible says about it.

Although tongues is only one of the spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 (and it is obvious from the text that different gifts are given to different people); and is not as important as prophecy according to 1 Corinthians 14, it is likely the only spiritual gift you’ll witness in a Pentecostal/charismatic service. (Occasionally I’ve witnessed “healing,” but not the obvious, miraculous kind our Lord performed–after which the crippled walk and the blind see. I’ve also witnessed alleged prophesying, though it offered no significant revelation, as God did via His prophets, recorded in scripture.)

During such a service, it is not uncommon to have several people–congregants and ministerial staff–speaking in their “Heavenly Languages” simultaneously, especially during corporate prayer. Rarely is any interpretation offered. When it is, it is almost always by the same person who spoke in the tongue and is a generic message like, “This worship service has my annointing, saith the Lord,” or, “There’s someone in here who’s been hurt.” Often the preacher or a minister, when leading prayer, will alternate between repetitive phrases in the vernacular or something like, “Yes, Lord. Yes, yes, yes, yes, Lord…”, with digression into tongues, usually with no interpretation at all, but sometimes an interpretation they themselves offer. Sometimes behind the pulpit, a preacher, while teaching about tongues, will depart from the vernacular and demonstrate with a sentence or two in a tongue, then revert to the vernacular in a smooth transition back to the lesson, but never actually reveal the meaning of what was just spoken (if there was one).

Guidelines for orderly worship are laid out in 1 Corinthians 14. Verse 27 says that three people are the maximum that should be speaking in tongues, and they should do so one-at-a-time. Verse 28 specifies that without an interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet. Obviously, this is not happening in many of the charismatic churches.

We must also ask ourselves an honest question: if the person who spoke in a tongue knows the interpretation, why did they not just speak it plainly in the first place? Is God inefficient? If the Lord gives someone a message to be shared with others, what purpose is served by having them first speak unintelligibly? Chapter 14 makes it clear that prophecy is better for the body of Christ, so why not just prophesy, if the Lord has given you the interpretation?

In the charismatic services I’ve attended, when scripture on tongues is referenced, only the first half of 1 Corinthians 14 verse 4; verse 5 and verse 14 are read aloud. In fact, most of the chapter will be ignored. Verse 18 is a favorite, but it is doubtful that verse 19 will ever be read aloud. In like manner, Acts Chapter 2 is a popular passage to quote, but only up to verse 4.

Here is what is said in some verses, and parts of verses, which are skipped over:

Speaking in tongues builds yourself up, but it is prophecy that edifies the Church (verse 4).

(Paul) would like everyone to operate in the gift of tongues, but would rather we prophesy (verse 5).

When you pray in a tongue, your spirit prays but your mind is unfruitful (verse 14).

It is better to speak 5 intelligible words of instruction in the Church than 10,000 words in a tongue (verse 19).

That’s what the Bible says on the subject, for those who believe the Bible. However, nowhere is the gift of tongues condemned, forbidden, or delegitimized. It is a valid gift, as is interpretation of tongues. It simply appears, judging by Paul’s letters, that the gift was misused or malpracticed in the early Church. That misuse was/is not limited to the First Century.

To be continued.

Gift of Tongues Part 2

Before his arrest, Jesus promised His disciples a filling with the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). After His resurrection, He said, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:17-18)

Sure enough, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit showed up. Also, the disciples “spoke in tongues”–that is, they were supernaturally given the ability to speak other languages, so that people from every nation could understand them (Acts 2:1-12).

Most charismatic/pentecostal preachers will stop reading Acts 2 at verse 4. Those who dare to read on claim that this is just one form of manifestation of the gift of tongues, and there is another equally legitimate manifestation which involves speaking a “Heavenly Language” which is not understood by human beings. If you attend a pentecostal/charismatic service, you will probably not witness healing, miracles, prophecy or discerning of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:7-11), or exorcism (Mark 16:17). It’s also doubtful you will witness the gift of tongues that was demonstrated at Pentecost. What you probably will witness is numerous people repeating many unintelligible phrases and syllables which have no meaning in any language spoken on Earth. If asked about it afterwards, those who were making the noises will say they were speaking in their “Heavenly Language.”

You won’t find the phrase “Heavenly language” in the Bible. Nor will you find any verse that says speaking in tongues is speaking in a Heavenly Language. But there is an interesting statement Paul makes in the “love chapter”:

If I speak in the tongues[languages] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. –1 Corinthians 13:1.

Later, in chapter 14, verse 2, Paul adds:

For anyone who speaks in a tongue [language] does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.

To some, this is ironclad proof that the gift of tongues includes speaking in a “Heavenly Language” unknown to human beings. And these two verses do seem to present a strong case for the “Heavenly Language” camp. So for now, I’m going to assume the gift of tongues includes speaking in a non-human language for the sake of argument.

To be continued…

Gift of Tongues Part 1

For some time now, I’ve been convicted to explore the topic of “tongues.” “Speaking in tongues” is one of those controversial topics that can ignite bickering among Christians. “Pentecostals” and “charismatics” have built doctrine around tongues, with the associated catchphrases “baptism of the Holy Spirit” and “Heavenly language,” claiming that the practice, as manifested in their services, is biblical. Other evangelicals either believe the practice (as manifested in those services) is not biblical, while still others believe that it once was legitimate, but not in our present dispensation.
In this analysis, which will probably be broken down into many parts, I will trust the Spirit and the Word to clarify the subject.

There is no disputing that the Bible contains references to speaking in tongues, so if you believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, as I do, then you must acknowledge that this not only took place in biblical times, but that tongues (and interpretation thereof) was listed as a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-11). One question I intend to explore is: Is the gift of tongues referenced in the Bible the same thing that is happening in charismatic churches? Another question branches off from that one: Assuming the modernday “gift of tongues” is the same as that described in the Bible, are those practicing it following biblical instructions?
Let’s start by defining what the translators of the Bible meant to convey when they used the word “tongue” or “tongues” in respect to a spiritual gift. The first instance of the word in the King James version is in Genesis 10:5. It is translated from the Hebrew word “lashown.” The meaning is a grouping of people identified by a common spoken language. This same word was used in the same way in Genesis 10:20; 10:31; Deuteronomy 28:49 and Ezra 4:7, for example. In Revelation John uses the word “tongue” meaning “language”–or referring to people-groupings according to language–repeatedly, starting in Chapter 5 verse 9. Here it was translated from the Greek word “glossa” (from which we get the word “glossary”). This same Greek word was the source for the translation “tongue” or “tongues” used in the letters to the Corinthians and in other New Testament scripture relating to the spiritual gift.

It is plain to see that both the Hebrew and Greek words translated “tongue,” taken in context, mean “language” in the English spoken today. That is, the English tongue, as it were.
In Mark 16:17, Jesus says one of the signs accompanying His believers is speaking in new languages (tongues). Another promise Jesus gave His disciples was the Holy Spirit (John 14:26).
Now we come to Acts Chapter 2. At Pentecost, Jesus’ promise is fulfilled when the Holy Spirit filled the disciples, who then began to speak “in other tongues.”

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs-we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”–Acts 2:5-12
Truly it is amazing, and miraculous, that people from every nation heard these Galileans speaking in their own native languages. Who but the Holy Spirit could give someone the supernatural ability to speak so that people of foreign tongues could understand them, when the speakers themselves don’t know that language?
To be continued…

Mysterious Babylon

John describes “the great prostitute” in Revelation 17, and prophesies her destruction in chapter 18. Bible scholars over the years have identified the Babylon of this passage as Rome, or the actual city of Babylon.

Rome makes sense for many reasons, including Revelation 17:10 when, as John is explaining his vision of a recurring political system during the times of the Gentiles, he refers to the king(dom) which exists, present tense, at the time he is writing it (Rome). Also verses 17:6; 18:24 and 19:2 allude to a history of deadly persecution of God’s people. Rome fits the bill in these respects.

The literal city of Babylon also fits parts of the description nicely as well. The city fell to the Persians via subterfuge, and has never yet been destroyed in the manner prophesied by Isaiah and Jeremiah. In fact, Saddam Hussein instigated a rebuilding effort of the city, including the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. Remember Babylon was originally Babel, the epicenter of the original one-world government, and the birthplace of pagan religions. Most, if not all, false gods can be traced back to Babylon, as can astrology and so many other superstitions and occultic practices. A fitting seat of power for a future world leader called “the Assyrian” by some of the prophets, who will institute a global religion which combines the elements of all the demonic doctrines derived from Babel, right?

The woman riding the beast is more than just a city, you’ll discover as you plumb the depth of John’s vision. And the beast is more than an empire, or succession of empires, or an emperor. But for now I’m only discussing Mystery Babylon the city. How can it be both Rome and literal Babylon? Perhaps there’s a clue in Zechariah 5:5-11.

Then the angel who was speaking to me came forward and said to me, “Look up and see what is appearing.”

I asked, “What is it?”

He replied, “It is a basket.” And he added, “This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land.”

Then the cover of lead was raised, and there in the basket sat a woman!  He said, “This is wickedness,” and he pushed her back into the basket and pushed its lead cover down on it.

Then I looked up—and there before me were two women, with the wind in their wings! They had wings like those of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between heaven and earth.

“Where are they taking the basket?” I asked the angel who was speaking to me.

He replied, “To the country of Babylonia to build a house for it. When the house is ready, the basket will be set there in its place.”

Notice, first of all, that these 2 women had wings of a stork–an unclean bird, which rings a bell from Revelation 18:1

“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’
She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird

Also notice that they are taking this basket to Babylonia (modern day Iraq, which, with Syria, was historically called Assyria), inside of which is the city of Babylon.

Diligent study has led many scholars to speculate that during the end times, a major world religious capitol (Rome/the Vatican) will be relocated to Babylon, which will then become the world religious capitol…again. This vision of the two winged women carrying the basket to Babylonia might just confirm the theory.

But what about the third woman–the one inside the basket? Actually, she might help resolve the problem I’ve had with the Rome/Babylon interpretation of the great prostitute vision.

See, when I read Revelation 17:15 (Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.), I can see how that might allude to Catholicism (headquartered in Rome), or the New World Religion that will be headquartered in Babylon. But I can also think of a third city that fits this description quite well.

When John mentions the luxuries and largesse this whore adorns herself with (17:4; 18:7) and the adulteries she commits with the kings and inhabitants of the earth (17:2, 4; 18:3, 9, 16), it brings to mind a present-day city which is neither Rome nor Babylon.

But when I read Revelation 17, 18 and 19, what most suggests this third city (despite the wisdom of theologians and eschatologists before me) is this theme: The beast will hate this harlot/city that “rules over the kings of the earth,” and will conspire to destroy her. Yet when she is destroyed, the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her will mourn along with the merchants and shipping tycoons who grew rich off her excessive consumerism. And when she is destroyed, there is no longer anyone to buy their products. This city/harlot “rules over” the rich and powerful of the world, who hate her and lust for her destruction, yet will mourn her destruction when it comes because they got rich off of her.

There’s still some momentous history to unfold before the fat lady sings, but from where I sit right now, every time I read this vision, I can’t help thinking of New York/Wall Street in microcosm, and the USA in macrocosm.

New York/Wall Street is the current financial capitol of the world. Businesses all over the globe have and do get rich off of this economic whore, and yet hate the USA and hate that the US dollar is still the international standard in exchange. The world longs for the destruction of America…yet who will buy their goods in the volume we do once we’re gone?

Could the vision in Zechariah be hinting that the relocation is twofold–that the financial epicenter will move from New York, the religious headquarters will shift from Rome, and all will be consolidated in the rebuilt Babylon? Remember that in this New World Order, finance and religion will be inseparable: people must worship the beast and accept his mark, or they won’t be allowed to buy or sell (Revelation 13:4, 8, 15-17). Also remember that by the tribulation period, the United States of America is so insignificant as not to be mentioned in any of the end-time prophecies (unless you want to argue that she has a cameo in Ezekiel and/or is part of this unholy triad).

I could expound on this quite a bit. Maybe there will be a Part 2 later.

Birth Pangs

When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

Mark 13:7,8

1848 is known by historians as “the year of revolutions.” If the revolts in the Middle East keep spreading, 2011 may give that year a run for its money.

While I sympathize with those who thirst for freedom and take up arms against tyranny, it’s a tragic consistency in history that revolution only begats even more oppressive regimes (the American Revolution being a conspicuous exception).

If we are as close to the conclusion of history as I suspect, then ultimately what these uprisings will result in are radical Islamic nations even more hell-bent on Israel’s destruction. And whatever your feelings about the US/UN occupation of Iraq, ultimately what will result after our pull-out is a New World Capitol exercising the opposite of the freedom we’ve enjoyed in the USA.

The circumstances on this earth are only going to get worse for the remainder of mankind’s rule here. But the nations can rage all they want–in the end, God wins.

What Prophecy Is (and Isn’t)

Among those who have never read the Holy Bible, probably most have heard of “the book of Revelations.” In fact, most people think they know what’s in the book (though I would argue that they don’t).

Before launching my own spin on Bible prophecy, I feel compelled to clarify what it is and isn’t: Bible prophesy isn’t all “gloom and doom.”

Many people emphasize the catastrophic events depicted in prophesy and ignore everything else. For the unbelievers and those who have refused to accept the free pardon from divine judgement: the death, destruction and suffering should be terrifying. For those who have accepted the pardon, though, the ultimate message of prophecy is one of great victory.  Through it we know we will have eternal peace, freedom and joy. There will be no more death, suffering or sadness and the mystery of God will be completed.

I know and care for people, including some family members, who feel it is wrong to study, discuss or try to understand prophecy. This is an unbiblical attitude (Rev. 1:3) and probably exists within many Christians partially because of  overemphasis on the gloom and doom. Part of the problem is probably also a failure by many self-described Christians to understand and revere what the Word of God is (2 Tim. 3:16).

Bible prophecy isn’t all about the “last days.” Most of it is,  but some of it has already been fulfilled. Take the Messianic prophecies, for instance: Centuries before the fact, many details of the life (and death) of Jesus were prophesied. Obviously those prophecies were fulfilled. Yet what frustrated the Jews during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry is that there are far more prophecies about His second coming. It was easy to overlook the fewer prophecies about his first coming, partly because a Messiah who would suffer and die was less appealing than one who would take the planet by force and conquer Israel’s enemies. Both divine missions are prophesied, but like so much Bible prophecy, careful scholarship is required.

The Bible is brimming with prophecy, even in books you wouldn’t consider prophetic like the Psalms, Ruth or Paul’s letter to the Romans. And all of it ultimately points to Jesus the Messiah, starting with Genesis 3:15 (the “seed of the woman” is a biological oxymoron since, in human reproduction, the “seed” is in the man. However, this curious phrase hints at the virgin birth of the one who will ultimately defeat the “seed of the serpent” at the conclusion of history).

The Book of Revelation is the most famous prophetic book. I see it as the membrane connecting all other prophecies. Conversely, the other prophetic texts within the Bible contain the codebreaking info for Revelation.

You might hear about 2 different “camps” or schools of thought within Christianity–those who “take the Bible literally,” and those who dismiss most of it as allegory or symbolic moral lessons. I identify more with the former, but must qualify that: I believe the Bible is true from cover to cover, yet frequently uses parables or symbolism to convey literal truth.

For instance: I don’t believe Jesus is literally a young sheep, though He is referred to as “the Lamb” in scripture.

Symbolism was used, understood and accepted throughout biblical times. If not, Joseph wouldn’t have angered his family by sharing his dreams (Gen. 37:5-10). Jesus used symbolism prolifically in his parables. So I must differ with those who take “literalism” to extremes that render prophcies irrelevant and ridiculous. When terms like “the 4 corners of the earth” are used in the Bible (or at least some English translations), you are not required to believe that the earth is a flat square. “The winepress of God’s wrath” is not a literal vat of grapes somewhere in the Valley of Jehosephat.

The other extreme is far more dangerous (and more popular). I’ve even heard some evangelical Christians on the radio try to allegorize what is obviously literal. When John writes about a remnant of Israelite men, numbering 144,000, sealed by God to survive the coming wrath, then bothers to list the 12 tribes that each contribute 12,000 of these men (Rev.7:4-8; 14:1-5), neither he, nor the Holy Spirit inspiring him, used this description as a “symbol” for 92 televangelists; or 361 Rabbis; or 54,000 devout Jews; or 144,000 men, women and children; or 144,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses; or whatever. When the great tribulation/second half of Daniel’s “70th Seven” is described as “times, time, and half a time” (Dan. 7:25; 12:7; Rev. 12:14); then as 42 months (Rev. 11:2); then as 1,260 days (Rev. 12:6); what is being prophesied is not a “symbol” for some different period of time.

If you have trouble distinguishing between literal text and symbolic imagery depicting literal truth, I believe my pages can help you.

So welcome to Seven Thunders. More blogs to follow.