PUBLISHED 16TH FEBRUARY 2017
Jesus told us that the closing age would be marked by wars, rumours of wars, earthquakes, pestilences and famines. You could take these literally, metaphorically or both. He also taught his disciples to expect persecution, and persecutions have been the lot of Christians (and Jews) from the first century to this one. So, let’s be clear… the more positive note I am about to sound at the end of this article is not one of ignorant optimism. I am not an optimist. Neither am I a pessimist. I pride myself on being a realist. And a realist says, even though things are all fine for me today that does not guarantee it will all be rosy for me tomorrow. But a realist also says, even though I see darkness and decline all around me today that does not guarantee that the whole of the world can only go one way from here on in. A realist acknowledges that throughout history, in different places, at different times, things have sometimes got better and other times got worse.
Discussing The ‘End Times’
From time to time I find myself in conversation with Christians on the topic of The ‘End Times’ etc. With few exceptions they confidently inform me of “What the Bible says” will happen in the last days. The consistent highlights are nearly always:
- Someone called ‘The Antichrist’ is about to appear on the world stage – any day now.
- He will be in charge of a one-world government, with a global currency/monetary system (usually coupled with a one-world religion).
- The aforementioned monetary system will require people to have a chip (or something similar) implanted into them in order to buy or sell anything.
- This is the “Mark of The Beast” – and, by my reckoning, is presumably accompanied by some kind of denial of Christ.*
(*No-one usually makes this latter point but if that is not the case then why would it be a mortal sin to receive this ‘mark’?)
I’ll spare the many other details for now but please just note again, the above statements are presented as absolute ‘facts’ – and boldly backed up with, “This is what the Bible says.” I hear this stated as ‘fact’ by individuals I converse with and I hear it stated as ‘fact’ from popular Televangelist with universal consistency. Christian bookshelves are awash with writings that all attest to these same ‘facts’.
Well, I have been reading the Bible fairly thoroughly and consistently for over 30 years now and I can tell anyone reading this right now that you will not find any of the statements made above in the Bible. None of the above statements are ‘facts’ – some of the words and phrases are in the Bible but the exact, descriptive conclusions above are all opinions, views, INTERPRETATIONS.
Biblical Facts vs Interpretations
Let me illustrate the difference between stated facts and interpretations. For the purposes of my illustration I am going to use a passage from Daniel that concerns a statue he saw in a vision (more on this later in this series)…
In Daniel chapter two Daniel saw a vision of a statute (that Nebuchadnezzar had also previously seen). The statue had a head of gold and this head of gold represented king Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom – this is a bible FACT – it tell us so in Daniel 2:38.
The statue had “breast and his arms of silver” – this is a bible FACT – it tell us so in Daniel 2:32 – The breast and his arms of silver represented a kingdom that would be “inferior” in some way to the previous one – this is a bible FACT – it tell us so in Daniel 2:39. This kingdom was the Medo-Persian kingdom that arose and conquered the Babylonian kingdom – this is an INTERPRETATION – nowhere in the Bible are we plainly told this.
The above ‘interpretation’ is commonly held to be the correct understanding. I agree, that makes perfect sense to me and anyone else who has studied even the simplest overview of the history of this time. However… it is still not a Bible FACT it is an INTERPRETATION.
When we continue down that statue we discover that most people interpret the next two kingdoms as being Greece, then Rome. I agree with the common interpretation about these. But then we come to the feet and toes – “part of iron and part of clay”. Popular thought today says that this final kingdom will be a ‘one-world government’. It may be popular to say this but that is not a Bible FACT that is an INTERPRETATION.
Alternate interpretations say that it represents the old Roman empire, The Roman Catholic Church, The European Union, a combination of the above and/or many other things. Whatever the viewpoint, whatever the reasoning and regardless of what ‘cross-references’ are used there is one thing that is absolutely sure… these are all INTERPRETATIONS not plainly stated Biblical FACTS!
Investments Can Go Up As Well As Down
In the next section I will summarise, by means of a very simple outline, the main views of Eschatology (study of end things) and later we’ll return to Daniel’s statue. But for now you may ask, where is the promised positivity in this post? Well, it’s this – given that ‘one-world government’ etc. is only ‘an interpretation’ not a Biblical fact it might be that this is an incorrect interpretation. Unless you are claiming that you KNOW, as an absolute fact and have personal revelation from God Himself then could it not be possible that you do not know with 100% certainty all that the future holds? Let me put it this way, investments can go up as well as down! In other words, world history has always had its ups and downs – things have not just gotten worse all over the world century after century. There have been times and seasons of great light and sincere, humble acceptance of God’s love and mercy. Situations all over the world have at various times improved – investments can go up as well as down!
So, is it really possibly that the vast majority of ‘experts’ may have misinterpreted the most obscure and difficult passages of Scripture – of course it is! In fact, if you are not already aware then now would be a perfect moment to realise that most of the ‘household names’ in the Christian world (I’ll list some you’ll be sure to know in the next instalment) did not believe in a coming ‘one-world’ government. This is a more modern interpretation. Massively ‘popular’ yes, albeit there are still plenty of lesser known folk who hold to quite divergent interpretations.
Whatever the views, all agree at least on one thing – Jesus is definitely coming back again – and that is about as bright as the future can be isn’t it!? However, meanwhile, as we eagerly await His return we should all bear in mind that interpreting the future is not a surefire thing. Whilst we can unfortunately continue to expect that difficult times will come, it might just be possible that The Lord has also planned some good things for His people too. Be open to hearing what others have to say about the final kingdoms of this world and the end of history (‘His Story’). I’ll outline the main views in the next article.