Unlike other last-days scenarios developed after a casual study of the subject, and usually influenced by someone who stood to gain by telling folks what they want to hear, my perspective has come about through many years of a strong desire to escape the subject, which would often involve the diligent effort to try proving my own theory wrong, but it would only lead me deeper into the hole. At the end of the day it all seems so simple and I scratch my head as to how others cannot see it, and yet I recall what it has taken from me, twenty years of my life and serious sacrifice, all leading me further from “normalcy.” I share hopefully that someone, someday, can come to see it without going through the same sorts of ordeals.
Apocalyptic prophecies inspire unconventional and varying levels of interest, and as such may require unconventional methods of study. Perhaps the catchiest phrase gleaned from the book of Revelation is “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.” We hear it somewhat often in the world. However, there is probably nothing from the last book of the bible more intriguing to the world, believers and non-believers alike, than the number 666. That number and the fear it evokes arouses all manner of superstitions, not to mention the creation of books, movies, art, and music labels.
Seriously though, there is something about this phenomenon that lends credence to the Word long before we will know the identity of the man who will come to be associated with that number. The true revealing of that man comes at the end of seven years of peace, (and the end of the forty-two month storm), which also coincides with the end of the ministry of the two prophets mentioned in Revelation 11:1-13. According to verse seven only one man will be able to kill them. Thus he will prove to be the world’s hero; and as the two prophets’ ministry will occur around the area of the Jewish temple, circumstances will put this one man in position, around that time, to sit in the temple proclaiming to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4—see also “Abomination of Desolation: Trigger of Great Tribulation”).
Any speculation as to his identity before then, before he kills the two prophets and before he sits in the holy place of the temple is just that—speculation. There may be cause for a few to speculate and learn his identity before the fact, but I believe the real power of the Scriptures in this case rests in its ability to inspire watchfulness in all people. When people are in a watchful mood, they may be more open to discussion about the end times, and there may come about more opportunity to plant seeds of truth where they might grow and bring forth fruit.
Assuming the subject does come up, as it will now and then in various circumstances, how prepared will we be to share seeds of truth?
I guess that depends on how we study the subject, and it could also depend upon our mood or state of mind at the time. I botched an opportunity this past summer at a gathering at a relative’s house. Just about everyone had been drinking, and I think I had put down a couple brews myself. I don’t know how the subject came up but a neighbor mentioned the idea that one day we all would—like some people’s cats and dogs—have to use ID chip implants. I was somewhat taken aback by his attitude, as the notion to him seemed little more than an inconvenience, like renewing a driver’s license or paying taxes. Anyhow, I said something rash and pretty much ruined the opportunity for the subject to take a serious turn.
Maybe I felt unprepared at that time and in that setting to have a serious conversation, and so I inadvertently or subconsciously shut the door. Rationalize it how I may, it still leaves me wondering why I felt unprepared. Ironically, I hate the subject, probably because it has owned me for the past two decades. It has made my life somewhat more difficult than I see in those who meet with success as they approach the subject with a cavalier attitude, ready to lance anybody who disagrees. What little compensation I get comes from the notion that someday I could help to enlighten someone and bring them to a greater understanding of what is to come, and so they might be better prepared.
On that note, I am somewhat picky about how I spend time in certain books like Daniel and Revelation. I don’t much care who the ‘ten horns’ were or are. Speculation or knowledge about their identities will not likely improve our situation in the forty-two month storm. And I do not care that some think the rider of the white horse is the Antichrist: for even if that is true, it would be useless information because it gives us nothing whereby to increase our level of preparedness.
Many folks like to study Scriptures line after line, going in order, building one idea upon another; but the construct of the chapters or books that are based upon end-times visions may not require us to study in this manner, and they may in fact require us to be more flexible in our abilities to jump around and make connections that most do not see. While some apocalyptic vision is valuable for foresight, a good deal more of it will not be useful for anything but hindsight. Fortunately, hindsight provides the clearest vision, and this clearer vision is what is most likely at the end of the day, to produce a stronger belief in the Scriptures and the power of God. The lives of Jesus’ disciples provide us clear evidence as to this phenomenon.
(These example are from the Gospel of John).
- The disciples did not get together one day and read the Scripture: “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” [John 2:17], and then come to the conclusion that Jesus would do something out of the ordinary to display his zeal for God’s house. Instead, Jesus did something zealous and out of the ordinary in the temple, which allowed his disciples afterward to make the connection between Jesus’ actions and the Scripture.
- Jesus once told people that if they would “destroy this temple” [John 2:19], that he would raise it up in three days. The Jews thought he had been speaking of their temple of worship, but he meant the temple of his body. Only after his death and resurrection did the disciples remember this encounter and come to believe in that word spoken by Jesus.
- Jesus rode into Jerusalem on an ass, fulfilling prophecy, and, “These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him” [John 12:16].
- John 13:21-30 is an example of a prophetic word staring us in the face, and yet we cannot see it at the time. This one relates to Jesus foretelling his betrayal and providing a blatant clue as to his betrayer, and yet the other disciples not understanding the events unfolding before their eyes at the time.
- Even when directed at us personally, we seem to be powerless to alter a truly prophetic word. Peter was told he would deny the Lord three times before the crowing of the cock on the next morning, and sure enough, it came to pass (John 13:38, 18:27).
- Despite Jesus telling his disciples on more than one occasion that he would be crucified and then rise from the dead, “…as yet they knew not the Scripture…” [John 20:9].
- John 20:25, as it relates to the story of ‘Doubting Thomas’ is perhaps one of the strongest examples we have of the difficulty we have to believe in something before we see it. While the story of Thomas’ doubt is not exactly prophetic, it does contribute to the idea that hindsight is a very valuable tool to the increasing of faith.
It is not by contrived efforts that we begin to understand the apocalypse and believe the Scriptures, but it will happen naturally through seemingly spontaneous actions and events that we realize, after the fact, what certain Scriptures meant to convey, and always to the benefit of our faith. It is potentially distracting if we study the book of Revelation and some other prophetic books, (like Daniel’s later chapters), in such a manner that we see it necessary to foresee everything that is coming.
While selectively focusing on certain Scriptures from apocalyptic prophecies that contribute to foresight and better preparedness, we do not have to feel guilty of overlooking those things that do not contribute. At the end of the day though, every man and woman will have to decide for themselves what they watch and where they focus their attentions.
If I could guide anyone into a better course of study, perhaps it could help to point out that apocalyptic visions are not like a movie on TV that we sit down and passively observe. They are more like a movie that has been filmed—the various scenes shot in no particular order—and then are sent to the editing room where someone has to make sense of what goes where. Someone like myself who is focused on preparation won’t have much reason to put in his two cents as to the rider of the white horse. I will show more interest in the timing of the climax of the story and how that relates to a natural flow of events.
And maybe I could be more patient on the subject if more people were not teaching things that I see as contrary to that natural flow. When I question why I have a hard time being more patient, like Jesus was with his disciples, it comes to my attention that when someone contradicted the truth of what he was predicting, he was not hesitant to offer a rebuke.
An awful paradigm seems to exist in eschatology: that any teaching that does not support our own is a false-teaching. Rebukes and worse are not uncommon, and these may have contributed to my serious distaste for this unfortunately unavoidable subject. Perspectives that do not align with my own I regard as misunderstandings, and some of these I see as if they were designed or fated to exist for some reason; it does not stop me from sharing my perspective, but it helps me to have a little more patience, which I desperately need on this subject, and which I would like to see coming from a lot more people who think they have some reason to pursue it themselves.