Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
It seems that each day one or several new and awful discoveries are revealed in the press concerning corruption in high places in the political, social, and religious spheres.
Although some might be manipulative news “leaked” from dubious “anonymous” sources crafted for political and/or propaganda purposes, other news is properly vetted and reported. None of it is pretty, however; much, fearful.
Those who track biblical prophecy, however, are not quite so dismayed.
They are shocked and grieved, of course, by the disclosure of the terrible things people and shadowy political cabals can and are doing to destroy civility and the kind of critical thinking that leads to reasonable solutions (think about the damage the Political Correctness movement has done to such thinking, for one example).
And good people of all religious and humanitarian stripes do what they may to counter the real human tragedies that occur when greed, avarice, hatred, and I would add psychopathy , proliferate and restraining forces are told to “be quiet (or else) and/or to “stand down” while violent anarchists destroy legal protests to, arguably, create fear, division, and chaos.
But for believers, there is another perspective as well.
Prophecy teaching, specifically prophecy that seems a part of a much larger, spiritual pattern illustrated in biblical history and writings, surfaces more and more, these days.
In this post, I am suggesting the following four-part prophecy pattern I believe might well apply given the state of the world today. It relates to the doctrine of the so-called “Rapture of the Church.”
The Rapture doctrine is controversial, to be sure, and different groups hold different views* regarding the timing and the nature of the phenomenon, but all seem to agree that at some point determined by God there will come an end to what man–and Satan–can and will do to destroy God’s creation, although in the case of mankind, it might be an unintended consequence of bad decisions and sin. See what you think.
THE PROPHETIC PATTERN
First, there is some kind of disclosure where trouble/sin/crimes are revealed. Think of God’s transporting Ezekiel to the rooms in the perimeter of the temple in Jerusalem to show the prophet the apostasies and abominations practiced there (any edifice in Rome, today, come to mind, literally and figuratively, especially regarding sex scandals?).
Secondly, God directs His people to repent and turn from such ways, to prepare for darker days to come, to warn others, and to spread the Gospel message in whatever way they feel so led.
Another Old Testament prophet, Jonah comes to mind, here, regarding his particular calling and assignment to warn the inhabitants of Nineveh of God’s judgment on them if they did not abandon their sins. Though Jonah was reluctant and spent some time “in the belly of a whale” wherein he realized he needed to get to work, he did follow through, and so did the ultimately spared Ninevites.
Today’s “prophets” suffer their own brand of distress over disclosure and warning. For one thing, does the current global controversy around censorship of conservative and Christian speech and thought come to mind (the link provides one view and plan to counteract this)?
For another, and to expand the modern timeline to include the last century, it is estimated that more Christians died for the faith than in all other time periods in history, combined.
My view is that as painful as are the darker days, the storms, as it were, ahead before the calm (see below), this reveals God’s patience to use events that are the results of man’s sins as well as Satan’s machinations (Satan being the real enemy as the promoter of evil), and God’s warning to seek Him for salvation–on the planet, in each person, and for eternity,** before, well, all Hell literally breaks loose.
Thirdly, such events seem to directly precede some kind of intervention by God to protect, spare, and/or remove God’s people by Him. The intervention can be regional or global (think of the deliverance of the Jews from their enslavement in Egypt and the flood in Noah’s time).
Deliverance can also be personal for an individual or a family after some manner of dark season and just before a judgement of sorts that only God may foresee.
Think of how Joseph, the husband of Mary, Jesus’ mother, was instructed in a dream to leave Bethlehem for the safety of the holy family before Herod instructed that all first-born Hebrew males of a certain age be murdered. Joseph had no idea what Herod was up to until God’s warning and plan of deliverance was revealed to him.
Prophecy scholars today reveal not only the “signs” but indicators of the “times” of our particular era which may well be portending the plan of rescue/escape also known as the Rapture.
Think also of how Old Testament heroine Abigail’s story illustrates how her courage and action spared not only her and her entire household’s family from the death of all of the male inhabitants because of her husband, Nabal’s foolishness but also how her actions spared the young and impetuous King David from a very foolish action of his own.***
By this illustration, consider how in all eras God leads those who diligently seek Him in their personal dark times out of and away from the foolishness and senseless anger of someone or someones in their lives.
Lastly, God’s judgement falls, often through willing (although usually unwitting) human actors and their destructive machinations and machinery.
You might say that before a calm of sorts takes place where God leads His people to a “safe place” of refuge away from some kind of cataclysmic event or events, a foretaste of the subsequent Hell soon to break loose occurs.
This Hell is often preceded by damning reveals of corruption and sin in high places (as well as low), so there is no doubt that some impending doom will follow.
After the suffering of the Israelites in Egypt and the evil in Pharaoh’s court was revealed, not to mention the hardness of his heart, God’s people made it to safe ground just prior the Red Sea swallowing their pursuers.
After the hardship surrounding the birth of Jesus in a land hostile to any other than the current religious and secular ruling elite, the holy family was spared the death of their first-born, Jesus, by fleeing to Egypt.
After enduring life with a man who had proved (by reputation) he was an angry fool (Nabal’s name means fool) Abigail and all members of her family were spared not only the murder of every husband and son but for another important reason as well, so that “(David would) not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself” (v. 31).
ARE WE CLOSE TO THE THIRD PART OF THE PATTERN TODAY?
Even in the secular realm, who does not, this very day, have a sense of some pending catastrophe, especially when one is bombarded with the modern genre of crisis-to-crisis news cycles (“If it bleeds, it leads” has never been more apparent)?
People reference tipping points of no return to the safety, calm, morals, and civility that used to be more common than not, not to mention the possibility of killer comets closing in on earth, and global weather, both real and engineered, threatening to create destruction of “biblical proportions,” as it were, and so on.
But in the spiritual realm, prophecy scholars and speculators are getting more and more air time, as believers who are not given over to certain teachings are sensing. I refer to teachings even in the supposedly Christian camp such as Universalism where somehow God takes everyone into heaven in the by and by (even Satan, himself, some adherents believe) and Kingdom Now where it is so believed that it’s a select group of people, not God, who usher in and rule over their brand of Utopia to come as kind of gods, themselves.
Something’s got to give, given not only the signs of the times prophetically, but the signs on every street corner, in the skies, in religious and political institutions, and in many hearts, these days, filled with seemingly unabated hatred, division, and blood thirst and–to my point–exposes now coming out daily about just how corrupt our trusted institutions have become.
Could it be in all of this mess that God’s four-part prophecy pattern in on display, part three coming right up?
Could it be that for believers who resist the evil being revealed on so many levels but who feel they are losing ground can, indeed, now, “look up, for (our) redemption draweth nigh”?
Something to seriously consider. These days. I think.
And if you have not yet come aboard the Ark of salvation, so to speak, now isn’t too late.
In other words, today would be good.
(See footnote,** again, for how).
*Notes on discerning biblical patterns: and the vital importance of Christ-centered interpretation.
For a short, scholarly overview of patterns found in the Bible, I recommend this summary written by Matthew Y. Emerson: “Three Theological Reasons to Look for Patterns in Scripture.” Of this interpretive method, gleaned from his doctoral supervisor, Emerson notes, “This interpretive method produces readings that sometimes (many times) vexes those who hold to the historical-critical method and its evangelical cousins.” It does so primarily because it is Christ-centered.
In my view, as much as I highly value what the original languages, historical contexts, and other ways to interpret the Scripture have to say, if it is not Christ-centered, I am very wary, especially of anything that smacks of the very popular, modern, historical-critical methodology.
As a literature teacher, I would also point to the fact that there is great variety in how literature is interpreted, i.e., “criticized” in the academic sense; for example, you can view a given work through a feminist “critical lens,” a “historical lens,” an “LGBTQ+ lens,” or just a “reader response” lens.
Students must always keep this in mind.
Regarding biblical interpretation, just because a person has impressive letters at the end of his or her name if even from a top-tier set of universities or seminaries, listeners and readers must always keep this in mind: Who or whom is the focus of the interpretive method? Is it Jesus Christ, the end-all and be-all of our faith or some person or institution, even if said person or institution has all the impressive trappings of the world’s “intellectual elite”?
In other words, is the “spirit” of the text Christ-centered, or is it some other self or institution-aggrandizing “spirit” used to interpret the literature (and there are always new methods in the world of lit crit)?
Jesus gave the best test: “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you” (John 16:13-14, NIV).
***As I have discussed before in many posts, Abigail is one of my biblical heroes. Here is perhaps my best exposition on this beautiful, brave, intelligent, and wise woman. I honor her whenever I can. I try to emulate her obvious close relationship with God. Here is another of my favorite posts on her.