A new round of books by the prophetic writers of Evangelical Christianity is most likely on the way. Our fascination with the “end times” and the scenarios that some individuals seem to squeeze out of the Bible is never ending. I first encountered it when I was in high school and our church youth group went to a youth rally that our association was promoting. They showed a movie which I thought was very frightening. It opened with a scene in which a woman wakes up to the sound of her husband’s electric razor in the bathroom. She walks in, and it is buzzing away in the sink, but no one is there. Ultimately, she discovers that the Rapture has occurred and her husband, along with millions of others, has disappeared. Evil takes hold and the movie becomes more nightmarish until we get to a scene that is identical to the opening scene. She wakes up, and everyone is relieved. The buzzing sound of the razor can be heard, and as she enters the bathroom once again, this time ostensibly for real, she sees the same thing, the razor buzzing in the sink, no husband. And so it ends there.
A song with a haunting melody was the theme, with the words, “It’s too late to change your mind, the Son has come and you’ve been left behind….”
I had bad dreams for weeks after that. The invitation time that night was solemn and serious. And it was during that time period that books began appearing everywhere, written by people like Hal Lindsey, Salem Kirban, Pat Robertson and John Hagee, predicting that the time of the Rapture was drawing near, because we could read the signs of the times in the Bible and we could see the things predicted there happening all around us. The re-establishment of Israel, the development of the European Common Market, which at that time had 10 members (the ten horns), all contributed to the author’s certainty that the Rapture was just around the corner. By the end of the 80’s, according to some of them, the Rapture would take place and Jesus would be on his way.
“When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. Deuteronomy 18:22, ESV
It’s amazing that some of those guys are still around, and they still have an audience.
The interest has been up and down in recent years, but the recent agreement between Iran, the US and the UN has sparked a lot of talk again. Most of it is political, as can be expected these days. Those critical of the current president and his administration are saying that this is a bad deal, doomed to failure and not a good idea. For the most part, the politics are just the same old negative on whatever the President does. But there are some who believe that Iran figures into end times Biblical prophecy just as it did into Old Testament prophecy, and that the political strife that exists between Iran and Israel is just God’s historical plan moving forward to usher in the end times.
A US Congressman, Duncan Hunter, of California, has suggested that the US should not be making any kind of agreements with Iran, which has been a rogue nation as long as any other in the world, and that our response to their resistance to inspection of their nuclear facilities should be some kind of low level, “tactical” nuclear attack to destroy infrastructure and disable what nuclear capability the Iranians have.
A “tactical” nuclear attack? Is that how the United States wants the rest of the world to think that’s how we do business?
I’m not big on futurist or dualist interpretations of the “prophetic” parts of scripture. I think a consistent, historical, literal interpretation of the scripture, which takes into account the time contexts of the writing, precludes the presence of any prophetic “signs of the times” that would lead to the identification of the season of the return of Jesus. And I don’t think the current configuration of “nations,” or the current political situation in the Middle East fits any of the prophetic scenarios, including the existence of a politically independent Israel. When John writes of the woman on the beast in Revelation, and speaks of the seven hills on which the woman sits, he was talking about Rome, not a “ten nation confederation roughly analogous to the Roman Empire.” Rome existed when he wrote, and that is what he meant. What is going on in the Middle East now has to do with money, commerce, oil, and the geographic and political interests of nations, both those that inhabit the region, and those with the financial reach to influence it, including the US. It has nothing to do with Biblical prophecy.
Iran has been a rogue nation ever since the Ayatollah Khomeini succeeded in launching a revolution that pushed out the hated Shah, who was not much more than a US puppet, and established an Islamic Republic. They’ve made noise, threats, called names, harbored a few terrorists, funded and encouraged a few more, attacked their neighbor, Iraq, in a demonstration of general military ineptitude and ineffectiveness, impoverished many of their once-prosperous people, and looked pretty ugly. They were not a genuine threat to Israel, though they may have been somewhat of an obstacle to US interests, mainly big corporate oil, and that has always been the main irritation. I suspect that their nuclear capability is about on par with where Iraq’s was at the time we invaded them, which, as it turns out, was zero. They derive what little influence and power they do have by talking big, and keeping what they have a mysterious secret. Americans are ticked at them over the hostage crisis back in 1979. Our lack of knowledge of middle eastern history, culture, religion and politics has enabled exploitation of that, and 9-11 to get support for whatever action might be undertaken in the future. It’s the same wave we rode into invading Iraq.
We can argue all day long about the intentions and visions of our founding fathers, their values, the course our history has taken with regard to other people groups, such as the treatment of native Americans in our westward expansion, or the exploitation of blacks as slaves. I don’t believe that the values of the America that exists today extends to turning a whole country into ruins because we don’t like their culture or religion, or justifying it by hiding behind the claim that we are defending one of our little friends. God isn’t asking us for our help, and he’s not going to cheer us on in that endeavor.
I doubt that there is much, if any, real trust of Iran in the current administration. They realize who the Iranian government is, and what they are capable of doing. This is an effort, and that’s all it is. Get past the political talk on both sides, and the realistic expectations of what has occurred so far are quite small. Give it a chance and see how far it goes.
And if the temptation arises to become prophetic, remind yourself of Deuretonomy 18:22.