Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Friday, November 09, 2007

None dare call it heresy

I went away on vacation and haven't caught up with everything yet since I got back.

Anyway, this blog usually has political stuff on it, but I want to look at something else today. I am an ordained United Methodist minister, and I teach Old and New Testament courses for a university. I have something to say about an ignorant heresy that has been around for over a century now, and this is my opportunity to spout off about it.

During the 19th. Century a preacher named Darby came up with a theory that has been called, "Pre-Millenialism." He took a Bible verse here and a verse there completely out of context and put them together in a way the authors never intended and came up with something completely contrary to what the Bible teaches throughout its text.

The heresy claims that at some point (soon!) all the "good" people (probably Republicans) will be carried up to heaven to meet in the air with the righteous departed who will rise from their graves. This will leave school buses to crash, ambulances unattended, hospitals understaffed (wait--that's nothing new), etc.

Following that will be the "Tribulation:" a time of intense misery--although how much more miserable it could be than the Bush Administration I couldn't say. This tribulation will last seven years after which time Jesus will come back and end the world, send the bad people to hell and establish a thousand year reign of righteousness on the Earth. After that, the world will end and the good people will return to heaven to enjoy eternity.

First, despite the fact that this is total hogwash, it is totally out of character for God as we see Him revealed, especially in the New Testament. If there is to be any tribulation at all the place for Christians is in the midst of it, carrying out God's work of comfort to those afflicted, and bearing witness to God's love in Jesus Christ.

Second, the number 7 is a symbolic number. It is part of the Hebrew numerology we see throughout the Bible. Seven is the number for God, for perfection, the complete number. The number for evil is the incomplete number: 3 1/2. "Time and times and half a time." Sometimes, it is six, but most of the time evil has three and a half years.

Furthermore, there are minor references in the heretical scenario that don't hold water: The "Universal Church" they predict has no scriptural references. None. You will see proof texts for the other assertions in their literature, but not for this one. It is made up out of thin air. Also, the number 666: In Biblical times they didn't have Arabic numerals the way we do, so letters had double duty as numbers, so each consonant had numerical value. The values in "Neron Caesar" (the accusative case spelling of his name) add up to 666. It has no significance to us beyond that except to warn us of Nero wannabes, such as George W. And when Revelation tells of the Mark of the Beast having to be on the forehead and wrist of anyone who wants to do buy or sell, it shows that evil cannot create anything; it can only counterfeit the good. When Jewish men pray they put phylacteries on their foreheads and wrists. So this was John's way of showing evil imitating the good. It has no significance for modern times except to warn us to be wary of those who wear religious cloaks to mask their evil intents. I won't name names this time, but I'm sure you can find examples.

Finally, if you will read all the references they use to proof-text the events in their context you will see that the Bible contradicts this whole scenario.

The way I've got it figured, this scenario, this heresy, is popular among people for whom the demands of Christian discipleship are too much trouble, so they fold their hands, sit back, and say, "Maranatha," which loosely translated means, "God, get me out of this."


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