I apologize for the length of this post. But if you can wade through it, you will never read the Bible the same again. I promise.
One of the blogs I read is de-conversion. It is primarily a site for people who were once Christians, but no longer. They are now either agnostics or atheists. The posts explain why and how the authors ”de-converted.” I do not recommend the site for the faint of heart, the weak of mind, or the easily angered. However, if you want pointed criticisms into the weaknesses of Christianity and what others think of Christian religiosity, this blog is one of the best.
In three recent posts, Josh gives a summary of the Bible which I found insightful, amusing, and…sad. It was not sad because I think Josh misses the point. To the contrary, I think he summarizes the story quite well. I found it sad because of how much errant theology got equated with Scripture. This is no fault of his, but another fault of us Christians who tend to put our theological systems on par with Scripture. Often, when people reject “the Bible” they are not really rejecting Scripture, but a system of theology that has been built up around Scripture and which blocks the beauty of Scripture.
The point to remember as you read Josh’s summary is that people do not read Scripture the same way you do. Probably, Josh presents a “reading” below which is far more common than the typical “Christian” way of reading Scripture. If this is so, how will this effect your conversations with other people and especially your use of Scripture in those conversations? How will it effect your preaching and teaching? How will effect your Bible reading? How will it effect your theological system? How will it effect your hermeneutics? (As a side note: If your answer to these questions is “Not one bit” there is something seriously wrong with you.)
In an effort to produce more creative writing on the de-conversion website (and stir the able minds of our readers to seriously consider their faith (or lack thereof (wow, I’m not sure a triple parenthetical is good grammar))), I hereby present to you: the gospel story in its entirety. Being complete with historically accurate facts, a fundamentalist friendly framework, tongue-in-cheek humor, and many twists of irony, this small set of condensed Biblically faith-based narratives is sure to warm your heart and give you the eternal security for which you have always longed but did not know it yet because you are blinded by Satan. For best results, enjoy with a warm cup of holy water or a wheat wafer and non-alcoholic wine (unless you suffer from frequent stomach ailments).
In the beginning God exists for an eternity. At some point he begets a son and chooses him to be the sacrifice for a world he is going to create. Then he looks ahead and sees all the people in the world who will eventually choose his human sacrifice as their salvation and elects them to that very salvation. [Or something like that. It depends on your denomination and interpretation of complicated theological topics like predestination and free will. But these probably don't affect your salvation. Well, they might, depending on whether they are true or not. Don't see a pastor about them unless they scare the hell out of you. But I diverge.]
Then God creates angels, who – though being spiritual in nature – are quite indistinguishable in features from the physical creation he is about to create. In fact, according to Paul they are often confused as gods and worshiped via little stone and wooden creations. Some of them can walk, talk, have wings (though there is no air in the spiritual realm), and they come and go from God’s throne. That is right, God (though spiritual and having not yet created the physical realm) has a throne in heaven and these angels come and go from it. There are lots of neat physical mirror-like surfaces, smoke effects, water effects, jewels, and sacrificial equipment in God’s spiritual throne room.
Then one angel gets the wonderful idea to rebel. With him fall one third of the angels in heaven. This angel’s name is Lucifer and he is soon to become known as Satan (the accuser). He is the most beautiful in all heaven among all the angels, and though sin does not yet exist, Satan becomes arrogant and rebels against the God who created him. He is cast down “like lightning” from heaven to earth.
Did I say earth? That’s right. You see, God had created a planet and the cosmos particularly for habitation by physical creatures. In six days he created this planet and all of the cosmos (stars, sun, moon, light, and every other physical thing) because after everyone fell he needed a good length for a week so men (who were going to become mortal at some point, even though God was not sure man would fall because he was going to give them free will) would not work themselves to death. God, though being outside of time and not a physical creature and incapable of tiring, rested for one complete 24 hour day to be a good example to men after he would give them the Law where he would say they should rest for 6 days. Then God said everything was “very good”.
It was at this point that Satan, though being outside the cosmos (and therefore outside of time) fell “like lightning” (though he was a spiritual creature and gravity only exists inside the universe) to this planet. When faced with what form to take, Satan chose to take the form of a serpent. Though it may not yet seem important, serpents at this time had legs.
Now for some reason, even though all creation was perfect anyway and built for habitation by men, God created a garden. He then placed Adam in that garden. Then, though all other mates for animals were created from dust, God created Adam’s mate – Eve – from one of Adam’s ribs. Adam was then lacking a rib. God gave Eve to Adam. This is why some Christians celebrate the fact that men have one less rib than women to this day.
Now in the garden God created a tree called the Tree of Life. He also created another tree called the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil (which can also be translated as the Tree of Knowledge of Everything). Though Adam was free to do anything and he had no clue what death was (because it did not yet exist and he did not know everything and did not mind because he did not know he was supposed to mind), he was told he could not eat from this tree or he would die the very day he ate from it.
Now Eve, being more easily deceived because she was a woman (even though everything in creation was “very good”), was tricked by the Serpent (Satan embodied) into eating from this tree because the Serpent told her that if she ate from it she would be like God. And being a woman (and therefore wanting to be like God) she ate from it. Her husband – being a man and therefore easily tricked by the wiles of women who want to be like God – ate as well. This is not sexist, it is the truth and the way in which God made men and women different and should be celebrated.
Then they were naked. Actually, they were naked before, but it was just then that they realized they were naked and wanted to cover up, because nakedness symbolizes spiritual nakedness even though this is not just a symbol in this story. At this point God, though on a throne in heaven and outside of time and nonexistent in a physical body, was somehow walking in the garden and called for his two people creations. Adam and Eve covered up with fig leaves at some point (the fig tree being one of the original species God created). They were afraid of God (because of the tree incident) and hid.
After a conversation with God, the two were banished from the garden. Eve had an increase in childbirth pain and was subservient to her husband. Adam now could not enjoy taking care of a garden but had to toil over the soil. The serpent lost its legs. The biggest loss, of course, was the fact that Adam and Eve could no longer eat from the Tree of Life and live forever. God, always on the safe side, stationed one of his angels with a sword (because guns were not yet invented by men and for some curious reason angelic inventions seem to always lag one step behind human inventions) at the entrance of the garden to keep Adam and Eve and their little youngin’s away. Adam and Eve did not die on this day physically as God said (because if they did we would not be here). Instead, they died spiritually, which means they were separated from God (even though God is everywhere).
After this, God introduced death and its subsequent perfectly ordered systematic food chain into the world. Actually, the food chain is a little confusing at this point because men cannot eat meat yet. But death did exist because God sacrificed some form of a goat to get the animals skins that Adam and Even now wore. But regardless of the introduction of death, for some reason people lived a really, really long time. This is probably because it was before the flood and a massive canopy of water existed above the hard dome of heaven wherein the stars, sun, and moon were fixed. This canopy of water kept the bad rays from the sun (even though all creation was “very good”) from attacking man’s sensitive skin and causing them to age faster. Or it could be that some of that Tree of Life was still floating around in their bloodstream.
After many generations, men began populating the earth. Somehow men became more evil and God had a problem with the fact that they would take any woman they wanted. (This was before Joshua Harris discovered God’s plan for courtship and men did not consult and wait on God for him to lead the right person into their life.) Not only this but some of the angels (though being spiritual) began to have sex with women with physical penises and sperm and produced nasty monsters called Nephilim, which roamed the earth and became legends and mighty hunters. According to the Book of Enoch (which the inspired Jude quotes from as authoritative and which Revelation alludes to quite a bit), these now physical sons of God were punished by losing their bodies and became all the invisible demons that roam the world terrorizing people to this day (with ghost sightings, hunched backs, strange voices, possession, and more).
God, though outside of time and unable to change his mind, became grieved that he made man, got upset, regretted his earlier decision, and figured he had better destroy everyone (because he is holy and has a hard time just fixing things without the physical shedding of blood once men, who have the illusion of free will, mess things up). So he sent a flood that covered the entire earth and killed everything. Even though mountains should not exist at this point (because mountains only come about via deadly tectonic plate shifts and everything was very good on day seven), the flood waters covered the highest mountains. The waters came from inside the earth (actually “under” would probably be a better translation because the earth was considered pretty flat at this time) and a massive canopy of hovering water that existed between the atmosphere and the massive hard dome (the firmament) that contained the fixed stars. This water was held miraculously in place to protect men from deadly gamma rays and bad things like that from the universe even though everything was “very good” on day seven when God (who does not need to rest), nevertheless, rested.
But Noah found favor in the sight of God because he was righteous and had carefully followed God’s rules on courtship and his thoughts were not always evil like the rest of mankind.
Now God told Noah to build this big boat and it took him a really, really long time to build it. In fact, it took a couple hundred years. But Noah had some help because God decided to save Noah and his family – even though Noah was the only righteous one God found. Obviously Noah would not be able to reproduce by himself so God saved them all because He is merciful and for some reason likes full households and happy families more than individuals (for more information, ask James Dobson). And God saved a lot of animals. Well, he only saved two (or seven) of each kind. But you have to remember that this was before micro-evolution had really gone into full swing and so there were not a lot of species on the planet. Somehow they all fit into the boat (probably because they were babies). Then God sent the flood and killed everything except for some seeds which obviously survived, and miraculously salt-water and fresh-water fish survived in the tumult and obviously everything in Noah’s boat (affectionately called the “ark”) was safe too.
After the flood, God invented the rainbow (because refraction of light through tiny water droplets in the air to produce a prism effect did not exist before the giant canopy of water fell to the earth even though a mist used to rise from the ground to water all the plants). The rainbow symbolizes God’s promise to never again destroy the earth with a flood. In fact, as we will soon discover God has better plans when he gets upset in the future: He is going to use fire (isn’t it nice to know it won’t be water though?!)
Now you may ask why God gave the rainbow and made the promise. Well, you see, despite the way God was acting with the whole flood thing, God actually loves mankind and had a plan to save everyone whom he chose to be saved.
Now the entire human population after the flood grew rapidly but did not want to fulfill God’s command to spread out and fill the earth. The had the sex thing down, but like most humans did not like packing and moving. So God gave them a kick in the right direction by inventing a whole bunch of new languages so they could not talk to each other anymore and could not finish building their massive tower that God was a little nervous was going to reach heaven because He was afraid that man could now do anything they wanted (remember this: even though God looks insecure, he is not!).
Anyway, then there was this Abraham dude who was a fairly ordinary nomadic wanderer in the ancient middle east with lots of cattle and tents and servants. He had a wife named Sarah who is known for her cute laugh and her white lies. God chose Abraham to be the ancestor of Jesus because even though everyone on the planet was super confused at this time about what was going on, God thought it might be nice to tell at least one person that he had the salvation ace up his sleeve. So you know what God did? That’s right! God promised that Abraham would have a kid in his old age. And this was not just any kid, mind you. A male. Because men are more important that women in the Bible and God had not informed anyone differently yet. Anyway…
So after a confusing succession of events in which Abraham had sex with his wife’s maid (with his wife’s permission, of course) and had a kid through her and this produced a ton of family strife and Abraham was nervous God’s promise would not be fulfilled, Abraham and Sarah (though both nearing one hundred years old) had a kid name Isaac because God promised that this would happen.
After a while, God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on an alter because either God was nervous that Abraham was not faithful or Abraham needed to be taught to give everything to God (it’s hard to tell from the story!). Never mind that God later told the Hebrews that human sacrifice had never entered his head, because God was good and saved Isaac at the last moment right before Abraham was about to kill him. This story is symbolic of the human sacrifice God had in mind to save the world, which we will get to shortly.
Abraham became the father of many nations. First, he became the father of all those in Arabia (through his mistress’ son), and second He became the father of all the Hebrews (through his wife’s son). These people still fight and die today because of Abraham’s sin in not trusting God (for more information, ask a fundamentalist).
Anyway, the Hebrew nation got bigger and bigger and eventually they went into captivity to the Egyptians (because they had to because it was prophesied). For hundreds of years they died over and over and made it no where until God sent Moses to save the few souls who didn’t die in the wilderness. Moses became one of the greatest prophets because he gave them this amazingly strict Law and finally wrote down their amazing story which we have been recounting. (Sadly, Moses could not enter the promised land, though, because he tapped a rock to make water come out of it instead of yelling at it because God is super strict in his commands and Moses probably got confused due to a previous incident of a similar nature.)
This Mosaic Law is special because it was super strict and gave the death penalty for lots of things and required sacrifices for just about everything. All this death was to show that God means business and requires lots of nasty bloodshed each time a person commits even the tiniest sin because God is holy.
Up until this time there was a priesthood called the priesthood of Melchizedek which is only mentioned once (could be because once we get to Moses it was not important anymore). Now God established a new priesthood through Aaron, who just happened to be related to Moses. The people obviously became upset at the power God gave these two men and were punished by having their entire families killed or swallowed up whole by tectonic plate shifts that caused the ground to open up like on the movies. One man was even put to death by stoning for picking up sticks on the sabbath day!
All of this was so that the people could fulfill their end of the bargain so that they could go to the promised land that God had previously promised to Abraham. God (Yahweh) had apparently been allotted this portion of land in all the earth. After several hundred years and lots and lots of dying (because God’s law was really strict and people could not read so they probably easily forgot portions of the instructions and they were born sinners by nature anyway and probably could not help it because they did not yet have the Holy Spirit who could enable them to fulfill God’s requirements), God fulfilled the promise through a bunch of people who just happened to be born in Abraham’s lineage. The Hebrews now occupied the land of Israel after killing probably hundreds of thousands of people (Canaanites, Amalekites, women, children, infants, evil cattle) who had it coming anyway because they were super wicked and did not follow God’s law which they had never heard of anyway.
After a long time, the people wanted a king and after their first king was a complete flop (because God told them that He wanted to be their king and was a little jealous that they wanted to be like other nations who also had kings and let them choose a guy who was super good looking instead of a nice personality), they had the best king ever: David. David was a man after God’s own heart and wrote lots of neat prophetic poetry, and even got away with killing one of his commanders and sleeping with his wife. But God did punish David by killing the baby and eventually making his family fall to pieces. But God also decided that the lineage of the promised Messiah (the savior of the world) would come through David and via Bathsheba, the hot chick he watched take a bath! This is to show that God is merciful and works through humans even when we make mistakes like murder and adultery. It also shows that even though God killed lots of people for breaking the Law, if you understand the Law just right like David did (or you are a king like he was) then you don’t get stoned like the Law says you should!
So then the nation of Israel was split into two portions (Israel and Judah) and there was a long succession of kings on both sides (most of them wicked) and lots of prophets came and went and the nation went into captivity several times (primarily to the Babylonians (like everyone else did) and to the Assyrians (like everyone else did)). And they got upset and were trying to figure things out and finally became so frustrated that the Law was so hard to follow and God kept sending them into captivity and there was so much death and eventually the prophets started prophesying about a day that would come where the hearts of the fathers would return to their children and a sacrifice that would be the final sacrifice so that they could all stop killing so many animals (which God also admitted He never wanted in the first place because that was not the point), and also that God would eventually wipe out the old system and write his law on their hearts and minds so that they could finally follow him without making so many mistakes and messing up everything. Oh, and everyone would be resurrected from the dead too and finally come into judgment and everything would be made right and there would be a new temple and a new prince like Ezekiel prophesied (which still has not happened and cannot happen but this is not a problem because we are just supposed to trust that God knows what He is doing) and then everything would be all right!
Then came the Romans. By this time there were tons of sects in Judaism because nobody understood the Law and the prophets properly because it was so confusing and written in ancient Hebrew that had probably been modified so many times that nobody knew what it said in the original anyway. But they did have the Septuagint, which was a perfect Greek inspired version of the original Hebrew (that’s why the New Testament authors quote from it!) (but remember: the Septaugint is no longer inspired! Why? because we have better English translations of the original Hebrew than the Septuagint ever was even though it was inspired!). Anyway, the middle east was completely overrun by the Romans and the evil philosophizing Greeks and the Jewish people were super oppressed and confused and were looking desperately for the Messiah to set them free from this tyranny and wondering what God was up to.
Then came Jesus! – born in a manger to a virgin (like the confused prophet had foretold in the inspired Septuagint he did not know yet existed in a passage that had nothing to do with the Messiah and in a poor translation of the Hebrew word “young women” into the Greek word for “virgin” which miraculously was what the Holy Spirit meant in the first place). Jesus grew up and was unique because he did not ever sin once even though he cursed at a lot of people he did not like and ripped off a pig farmer by sending a massive lot of demons into his pigs and never paid him back. He also did lots of miracles and cast out those nasty bodiless Nephilim demons who were floating around in the abyss when they were not possessing people or pigs. Jesus, though one among many Messiahs, was the right Messiah: the promised one who was in the lineage of David (even though the two family trees we do have do not match each other at all) and who would become his own great High Priest thereby nullifying all the hard work the Aaronic priesthood had done in slaughtering animals year after year trying to please God who was not pleased by the sacrifice of animals anyway even though He said He would be at one point.
Jesus went into ministry for three years. He fulfilled everything in the Law, and even was a Nazarene! He never made any mistakes and spoke to everyone in parables so that all the people who did not already understand would never be able to understand and would go to hell which they deserved anyway because God had prophesied that “seeing, they would not see, and hearing, they would not hear” and God has to fulfill his prophecies. Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies in the Old Testament about his first coming that he could (and then some!). His followers were these twelve men called disciples (except for one man named Judas who was an impostor who, being prophesied about, did not have a choice about his own eternal security).
Jesus kept clearly telling his disciples that he was going to die and rise again, but they never got it until after the fact because it was hidden from them. They thought that all the old prophecies were about a physical kingdom, but in reality the entire thing was spiritual! That is why Jesus kept saying “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. They thought that God was going to set up a king like David with a priesthood like Melchizedek but they were wrong! It was all spiritual, meaning that it was super invisible but it existed anyway!
Then Jesus died. The disciples were devastated. All their hopes were destroyed, and because they were blinded from listening to Jesus when He told them over and over that this would happen and kept giving them hints that they might be able to stop it (like giving them swords when he went to the garden of Gethsemane and then telling them not to use them after Peter cut off a man’s ear trying to protect Jesus out of love and then Jesus told Peter not to use the sword that he had told Peter to bring in the first place).
The key here is this: Jesus was a human sacrifice to fulfill all the sacrifices of all time. He died to save us from ourselves, because we were born in sin and could not help it because none of us had a choice to be born into this race but we were born here anyway by God’s choice and so who best to save us but God Himself so that He could get the glory for saving us from a problem that was in His control in the first place? Even though God seemed to indicate that we could actually gain life by living according to the Law, He secretly knew (and hoped we found out), that we could not do this. We needed a perfect savior, a human sacrifice, like us, because all the blood of animals that was spilled under the Old Covenant through Moses did nothing even though God told them to do it and implied that it actually would do something. This is why Jesus was of the order of Melchizedek and not of Aaron because the Aaronic priesthood was nullified without even a 30-day notice! In reality, none of the Law worked and was just a shadow of the things to come. David discovered this principle and this was probably why God let him off the hook and did not have him stoned to death for adultery and murder like the law required: because David was humble and repented (even though Achan and plenty of other people repented and God still punished them, and this has nothing to do with the fact that David was king and probably would not have commanded his own stoning to keep the law even though he wrote Psalm 119 which is all about how much he loved keeping every commandment in the law).
The point is this: God loves you. And all those people who had little choice and died horrible deaths in the Old Testament for their sin, well, you don’t have to end up like that in hell for eternity if you just accept the free human sacrifice that God gave us through Jesus.
If you want to do this, you can either pray a prayer, or just sit there and soak up the love, or you can go on a mission trip, or give to the poor. Just make sure you aren’t doing good works to be saved because that never worked, remember? You have to just believe, and that just right. Make sure you don’t believe anything that is not true or you might be a heretic (and its all the rage to be orthodox because then you don’t get burned at the stake!) And even though your heart is deceitful above all else, and desperately wicked, make sure it is right before God (don’t ask how you can know if it is right, you’ll just know because it will feel right even though you can’t trust your heart in the first place). And if everything is just right and the Holy Spirit is moving in your heart it will all come together and presto: Eternal Salvation!
Now don’t let any evil doubts come into your life because those are from Satan. And if this doesn’t seem to make any sense, its not supposed to make any sense because if it did then it would be the wisdom of man and we are not supposed to follow the wisdom of man, but the wisdom of God (which seems to look a lot like the foolishness of man). And at the end of the day you shouldn’t worry about this anyway because your election is “sure”, meaning you don’t have any control over it either way. So if you are going to hell there is not much you can do about it. So be joyful in the Lord, you might be saved right now, or you might be saved someday, or you might be saved and lose your salvation someday, or you might never be saved and you don’t have any control over God’s election process anyway!
You see, Jesus not only died, but he rose again according to the Scriptures on the third day (I would highly recommend never looking for the passage in the Old Testament that predicts this because you wouldn’t want to damage your new found faith!) He did this to conquer one of mankind’s greatest personified enemies: death. And this was also done so that Jesus would become the first fruits (that is a fancy sacrifice) among all mankind. Just as Adam died and brought death into the world, so Jesus rose and brought life and light to all mankind. This is joy and wonder of your faith, my brothers and sisters!
Now that you know what happened, the next important thing is to think about the future because the future can even be scarier when God is involved (remember the flood?). God has promised to some day not only return but to destroy the entire earth with fire. While this may sound simple, this is extremely complicated theology because God needed to give theologians something super hard to study while he was being patient for every elect person to be saved. So what follows is a careful analysis as to how you can become a master end-times sleuth! Put on your urim and thummim and grab your seven golden lamp stands and join in the fun that is predicting (or discovering) the future!
You see, there is one major tactic to interpreting Bible prophecy that everyone must know. Because most of the Bible is prophecy and does not know it yet, if you do some clever pattern matching between events that have actually happened and passages that look like they are talking about those events, you can end up a neat mosaic of beautiful (even though they look disjointed) passages of fulfilled and not-yet-fulfilled prophecies. All of the passages that fit events that actually happen might be fulfillment of prophecies. All the tiny pieces of passages that do not yet fit can normally fit into one of many hermeneutical categories that account for these things (like double prophecies and such.) As any eschatological (yep, that’s a big word for studying future things!) expert will tell you, it is super hard to tell if your pattern matching of actual events to Biblical narratives (vague and disjointed though they may appear) is accurate until new events happen that break your hypothesis and then you have to start over. But that is part of the fun! Try, try again! Never give up and let Hal Lindsay be your role model! Keep your head in your hat and give it the ole’ Mormon try! Eventually you’ll dig up a pattern that cannot be refuted and then you can sell millions of books and inspire an entire generation to frenzied converting with your prophetic discovery!
You see, now that you are saved, you have to just trust that the Bible knows what it is talking about even when it does not make sense because the key is to make the church some cents and to not allow some smart-ass church member to pick up the foul scent of what you are doing. Part of the cool thing about eschatology is that it is ever morphing into a closer version of the truth (this is proven by the fact that almost everyone in the last two thousand years has been wrong and there are not a lot of options left!). The trick is to sound prophetic yourself while fulfilling some old prophecies that everyone is as yet confused about.
The truth is that no one yet knows exactly what or when Christ’s return and massive Armageddon of bloodshed (with blood being so deep it reaches the bridle of a horse even though people do not use horses anymore in battles!) of all God’s enemies will happen, because only God knows. Not even the son knows, even though He is God (because God can make Himself forget things).
If you decide to study end times, here are some tips:
Make sure your prophetic interpretations and fulfillments include lots of bloodshed followed by great amounts of peace for the faithful. Most believers are annoyed that God rarely, if ever, actually shows up in this lifetime so they want retribution and justice in the future. But not too much bloodshed, because you do not want to reduce the love or patience of God to a human level and you do not want believers being terrified of what is going to happen to their unbelieving relatives. Remember, God is perfect love and perfect wrath. Try to avoid Hebrews 10 if you can because it might scare people. And Hebrews 6. And 2 Peter 2. And some of the scary passages in Revelation. Oh, and if people notice you are avoiding these passages, just say it is a “difficult passage” and lots of scholars “struggle” with proper interpretation. And if they keep pressing, you might be able to point out that some scholars do not think they were even written by an apostle and they might not even be inspired. And if they press you more, tell them that they are showing a lack of faith. And if that does not satisfy them, they are obviously showing an unhealthy interest in controversy and disputes about interpretation of Scripture and are causing divisions and should be treated like an unbeliever until they feel remorse (for being neglected) and repent of their waywardness and then you can invite them back into the fold as a brother. So make sure you balance that line between God’s wrath toward His enemies and God’s mercy toward those who are still unbelievers very well. You might even try ignoring this topic because it can get really emotional for people.
Jesus once supposedly said that this massive list of end-times prophecies he made would happen in the very same generation. Don’t make the mistake of calling this an error! Obviously he didn’t mean that. After all, God cannot lie and so Jesus cannot lie and so even though it looks like he made a mistake he did not! So when you run across a prophecy that looks like it has failed, just remember that you probably should split the passage into bite-sized pieces and convince your congregation that that is the proper way to break up the passage because you know more Greek than they do. Yes, that’s right, learn Greek. The Bible can only properly be understood in its original language. This also gives you a nice barrier (like the Catholic church once used to great effectiveness) to convince the amateur readers of the Bible that your interpretation is more accurate and they could not possibly understand what it actually meant unless they had special training like you! Oh, and always give those spiritual babes in your care the impression that most scholars are in agreement with your interpretation or else they will start to think that being an expert theologian is nothing less than coming up with your own interpretation and teaching it as if it were true. And, of course, that is not what is happening because you have the Holy Spirit who is leading you into all truth!
About precision in prophecies: this is a tricky subject. For example, Ezekiel once prophesied that the city of Tyre would be scraped “bare like a rock” by Nebuchadnezzar. He also prophesied about a new temple, a new priesthood, and a new prince that never actually happened. First of all, never, ever, ever be this specific! The trick is to combine vagueness with a sense of awe. If your prophetic interpretation is awe-striking (like cataclysmic or something) then people ignore the fact that you are not providing specifics. If you do provide specifics, make sure that they are self-fulfilling. You have to get people to want the prophecy to come true so bad that they do the very things which cause the prophecy to come true! This is not dishonesty, it is helping God because God has to work through people who have an illusion of free will and so you are actually helping God get the glory in the end! Second, when doing eschatology, rank the prophecies in order of “difficulty of understanding”. Make sure that your prophecy fits the clearer passages effectively and when you cannot make it fit the more difficult passages (like the Ezekiel one), just say “well, that is a difficult prophecy that we do not fully understand” and leave it at that. The truth is that there are tons of prophecies that are completely misunderstood by everyone in the church because God has lots of mysteries. This helps keep the awe factor up and keeps people worshiping God in anticipation as to how in the world he can make all the confusing disjointed Biblical prophecies actually happen in any conceivable order within a time-space-continuum. But God is God and He cannot lie and since all the books we have in the canon have to be fully inspired because if they were not this would mean God failed in preserving His Word and so we cannot have that so we have to just make do with what we have and so we just keep trusting God and making everything fit as best we can. One example: nobody is supposed to know the day or the hour Jesus is coming back so if you find a nice pattern in the Bible that seems to predict something that specific you had better start over! Make sure your prophetic interpretations are no more specific than one year, and always provide an exception so if you are wrong you can name your next books in one number increments from the previous one.
Anyway, despite all the confusion about pre-millenialism, a-millenialism, post-millenialism, the recent invention of the rapture, Paul’s confusing statement about “we who remain”, the entire book of Revelation not appearing to be written by John because of the Greek used, and the odd way in which eschatological views seem to change in the New Testament Pauline letters, and the bizarrely easy way people like Thessalonians became convinced Christ had already returned in their time, and all the other confusing things about New Testament prophecy – the truth is that it is all trustworthy and you should not question this. If you get super confused, just fall back on the simple promise that Jesus will return and nobody knows when and just trust God that even though He put all this stuff in His Word supposedly so we could have a decent understanding of what is happening in this crazy world you actually do not have to understand any of it to be saved.
And at the end of the day you should be focusing on making disciples anyway (known to those deceived in the world as “proselytizing”), because Christianity is not about influencing world events or lobbying for change or convincing people your end-times interpretation is accurate. It is about telling people about Jesus and saving as many people as God has elected. As long as you do that, you cannot fail, and you do not want to be one of the poor souls who gets whipped with many lashes when Jesus returns. Actually, make sure you really know Jesus because you also do not want to be one of the poor souls who hears “I never knew you, depart from me…” That would really suck.
So, in conclusion, make sure you are not so confused that it causes you to doubt your salvation or the promises of God. So only study just enough so that you feel comfortable about your faith, and never put yourself in a position where any current events could cause you to doubt your faith. In other words, never be too specific and make sure your theology cannot be contradicted by reality. And keep trusting that Jesus will return. And never add to the Bible or you will be cursed with tons of plagues like Revelation says.
So, in conclusion, to speak in a similar vein as the Apostles Paul and John:
To God be the glory. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Come quickly. May your wrath be poured out on the enemies of the church so that your infinite patience may become known in saving all the elect from the eternal damnation that all the non-elect are destined to find not because they were not elect but because they chose with their illusion of free will to reject the Lamb of God and His infinite mercy in choosing some people to be elect even though His blood is sufficient for the entire world according to some theologies and the apostle John and all people have to do is repent and turn to the true church and the true gospel which is so evident even though those outside the church think it is not clear enough to warrant listening to any of it at all and they think that the Bible is not inspired when it is and it is so obvious to everyone and they are just suppressing the truth even though they probably have no choice because they are blinded from the truth by Satan who is bigger than them but you will destroy Satan someday and death and all the bad things that are part of the curse because Adam ate a fruit and did not have a choice because you chose before the foundation of the world that all this would happen and so this is all about You and to You be the ultimate glory for being so wise and awesome and in control of everything and for being the Alpha and the Omega and the Beginning and the End and for sending your Holy Spirit who makes this all so obvious and ultimately we thank you for your sacrifice and to You be the glory for saving your Creation! Amen.
Thank you, Josh!