Archive for the ‘Eschatology’ Category

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The Whore of Babylon Identified

September 20, 2011

Ever wonder who or what the author of Revelation had in mind when he penned these verses:

1 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. 2 With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”

3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. 5 The name written on her forehead was a mystery:

BABYLON THE GREAT

THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES

AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.

(Revelation 17:1-6)

Well wonder no longer. Damon Thompson has heard from God and it turns out the whore of Babylon is Rob Bell!

Who knew?


Okay, so the whore of Babylon isn’t Rob Bell himself. According to Thompson, the whore of Babylon is “the universalist church”, but if you’re reading Rob Bell, you are flirting with said whore.

Rob Bell, probably praying to the Beast

It’s about time someone pointed out how “drunk with the blood of God’s holy people” those universalists are. Why, just this week a Reformed church in my neighborhood was firebombed by a mob of universalists wearing TOMS and chanting slogans about the reconciliation of all things. Those bastards!

What I found particularly helpful was Thompson’s insight that Gehenna can’t be a reference to the Valley of Hinnom outside the walls of Jerusalem. Why not? Because worms die in the Valley of Hinnom. Hell, on the other hand, is located in “the bowels of the earth” and has no shortage of worms capable of tolerating the 4000+ kelvin temperatures in the earth’s core for all eternity. Game, set and match, you inclusivist Babylonian hookers.

So in case you got lost, here’s a recap: When the Bible describes the place of the dead as being under the earth, that’s literal. When it mentions immortal worms eating the dead, that’s literal. When it describes a prostitute with the name “Babylon the Great” on her forehead, that’s a metaphoric reference to Christians who believe God intends to reconcile all people to himself.

Exegesis is so much easier when stuff just means what you want it to mean.

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Earthquakes & Short Memories

March 13, 2011

Panda’s Thumb has posted an excellent explanation of the Japan earthquake and tsunami by Donald Prothero of Occidental College. Prothero is a geologist with training in seismology. He specifically addresses the issue I mentioned yesterday of earthquake frequency:

Are we seeing more big quakes than normal? This is another question buzzing over the Internet and the media. With our short attention spans, it sure seems like the events in Japan, Haiti, New Zealand and Chile add up to a lot more than average. However, if you do the statistics carefully, the quakes of this past few years are about normal for a given period of time. In any given year, we average about three huge quakes worldwide that are bigger than Mw 6.0 or greater, and thousands of smaller ones; earthquakes are happening every second somewhere around the world. And if we look over enough decades, we see that this current crop of big events is not even the biggest in the past 50 years. The 1960s, with the biggest earthquake on record (1960 Chile) and the second biggest (1964 Alaska), had far more giant quakes than we have had in the past decade.

The myth probably arises because we have short memory spans, and most of us were not even born then, let alone adults paying attention the news in 1960 or 1964. In addition, we now have worldwide instant media coverage of a big quake, especially those in countries like Japan where there are cameras everywhere. By contrast, there was almost no film coverage of the 1960 disaster in southern Chile, and only a few films were made of the 1964 Alaska quake. Most people learned of those quakes by the newspaper days later, and saw little or no film footage on TV.

I guess there’s no need to ratchet up the Rapture Alert Level just yet.

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Japan as Collateral Damage

March 12, 2011

I wondered how long it would take.

A natural disaster strikes Japan.  Thousands are killed and a nation is devastated.

While the rest of the world looks on with empathy and sorrow, it was inevitable that someone would announce that this was all part of God’s plan. Before Pat Robertson could figure out what historic sin had caused God to punish Japan, Tim LaHaye was first out of the gate to let us all know what this means.

LaHaye, who has made a career out of misunderstanding Jewish apocalyptic literature, was in Hawaii to speak at two “prophecy conferences” when the waves hit the islands. The author of the Left Behind series had this to say:

“The Bible tells us in Matthew 24 that one of the signs of the last days – one of the birth pangs to occur – is an increase in earthquake activity and intensity … We’re seeing that happen here. It’s not just earthquakes, but hurricanes and all kinds of natural disasters.”

Now, to be fair, this is not on par with blaming the Haitian earthquake on the country’s pact with the devil (a la Pat Robertson). But something is terribly amiss when your reaction to massive human tragedy is not to empathize with the victims, but to rub your hands together and say, effectively, “Aha! See, I was right. This is all unfolding according to plan.”

I know what the mindset is like, because I once held it. If you believe that great natural disasters must occur before Christ’s return, it blunts your proper moral reaction to human tragedy. If you believe that a particular evil is a necessary evil, you tend to rationalize it. You slot it into the “sad but inevitable” category.

And I don’t mean inevitable because of the random shifting of tectonic plates. I mean inevitable because it’s part of God’s coming apocalyptic judgment on an evil age. It’s a mere “birth pang” – an unfortunate but necessary side effect on the way to something great. It’s collateral damage.

This is not the message that a hurting world needs to hear from the church. Rather, as Rachel Held Evans proposes, “Let us weep, Let us hurt, Let us pray, Let us help.”

By the way, here’s a graph showing the frequency of earthquakes of magnitude 5 or greater over the past 20 years. If you see a trend, let me know.

HT: Unreasonable Faith

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Why the Rapture Should be Left Behind

February 22, 2011

There’s a moment of childhood panic that is familiar to many evangelicals. In fact, for some, the experience continues well into adult life. It’s the panic that ensues when you suddenly find yourself alone in a location where you would normally expect to find other people (e.g. your home, school, dormitory). Where is everyone? Why am I the only one here? The terrifying thought inevitably kicks in: they’ve been raptured and I’ve been left behind!

I’ve even heard of pranks in Bible college dormitories where all the students, minus the target of the prank, empty out of the dorm early in the morning leaving clothes strategically placed on their beds. Someone blows a trumpet to wake the poor remaining student (and because Jesus’ return is to be announced by trumpets, of course). The poor student wakes up to find his worst fears confirmed. He wasn’t truly saved and now he’s going to have to slog it out through the tribulation with the rest of the heathen.

With the recent popularity of the Left Behind series by Jenkins and LaHaye, this distortion of the New Testament’s apocalyptic texts has probably become even more ingrained in the evangelical psyche.

Earlier today, John Byron posted the following helpful video in which Barbara Rossing explains the surprisingly recent origins of the idea of a rapture and why it’s an idea best left behind: