The parts of the bible which deal with “end times” prophecies are something I’ve always shied away from dealing with directly. Studying and researching those parts of scripture can be very entertaining, but it’s a dangerous past time. Nearly everyone who gives it a go winds up lost and led astray. And sadly, some of these people have managed to warp many people’s entire understanding of Christianity.
Part of the problem is a pervasive, fundamental misunderstanding of what prophecy is and what it does. In the bible, a prophet doesn’t predict the far-off future. Instead, their gift is an ability to see and explain the reality of what they see happening all around them. These are the people who have heard the voices of those who are being silenced. They see through the agreed upon lies and narratives for why things are the way they are. They are able to look at their present with spiritual eyes and recognize what others are blind to. Further, they understand God and his ways well enough to easily see where it’s all heading.
Which is not to say that they have nothing at all to say about the future. The ancient Hebrews viewed time as circular. What has happened before, will happened again. When a prophet shares a vision, it is a symbolic description of what they see happening in the spiritual realm. It’s purpose is to illuminate of the archetypal patterns at work in their world. That way, when a time cycles back and a time such as the prophet’s comes around again, we might better understand the spiritual reality of what we are seeing.
This is why, bible prophecies which clearly refer to a specific person or set of events in the past continue to inform us about what we see going on around us today. For example, the whore of Babylon in Revelation obviously refers to the Roman Empire. And also bears a striking resemblance to the corrupt Roman Catholic Church of the late middle ages. And is arguably a good illustration of a certain super power at work in the world today. It’s an archetype of empire at work in the world. So long as empires which rely on violence, greed, fear, idolatry and control continue to arise, the whore of Babylon will also continue to arise.
Of course, the prophets didn’t leave these odd descriptions behind just for entertainment and speculation. The intention, I believe, is two fold. First, when a time such as theirs comes around again, we will recognize what is happening. And second, when we see it happening and we are properly equipped, we will be able to align ourselves with God in order to interrupt the cycle once and for all.
According to Revelation, when that happens, the age of the new heaven and new earth will begin. The “ages of the ages*” as the bible puts it. Remember, the prophet both sees what is happening and, because of their relationship with God, is able to understand how God will act going forward.
Part of the challenge of trying to use apocalyptic writing to predict the future or even understand the present is that the fulfillment of prophecy can often only be understood when looking backwards. For example, most of the verses which the disciples and writers of the gospel pointed to as foretelling the Jesus were obscure passages which no one had ever thought of as prophecy. It was only in hindsight that their relation to Jesus became clear.
However, it wasn’t really a coincidence that “potential messiah” was a booming profession around the time of Jesus. Those who had spiritual eyes to read the times with could see that conditions were ripe for the arrival of the messiah. What they thought he would look like and do was way off. But they weren’t wrong in thinking that the messiah was soon to arrive.
I believe that we are in a similar position today regarding what is often called “end times” today. I know, I know. Only fools come right out and say such a thing. Jesus said no one knew when he was coming back. He told several stories which emphasized how unexpected the arrival of the bridegroom would be. And he said that it was “an evil generation” which went looking for signs.
Nonetheless, there are certain things happening in the world around us which have never happened before which I believe are the fulfillment of scripture. And seeing them doesn’t even require being able to interpret wild symbols or do complicated mathematical computations or superimposing ancient history on current political actors. Instead, they are so obvious that no one could seriously deny that they are happening.
Over the next few days, I will share the three obvious indications that we are approaching the fulfillment of the events described in Revelation. I’ll also be sharing what those of us who claim the name of Jesus can be doing to bring ourselves into alignment with God’s will on these matters. And don’t worry. What’s I’m going to share is so obvious and so not crazy that even non-believers will have no real problem admitting that they see what is happening. Seriously. Stay tuned.
* “Ages of the Ages” is the actual translation of “aionas ton aionan”. This is a phrase which is frequently translated as “for ever and ever”. I explain the problem with translating aion and words derived from it here. And I’d just add that translating “aionas ton aionan” is self-evidently ridiculous. Aionas and aionan are plurals of aion. Evers and evers makes no more sense in kione Greek than it does in English. Plus “ton” does not mean “and”. Literally nothing about translating “aionas ton aionan” as “for ever and ever” is correct or makes sense.