The Prophecy

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“Just surfing,” I found an odd site on the web called bibleprophecy.net which sells a book called The Late Great USA: The Coming War with Iran. Some readers may remember similar nonsense being written by prophecy-obsessed Fundamentalist Christians during the First Gulf War. More rational Christians may consider such views harmless–“Let the Fundamentalists play games with prophecy.” The problem is that these Fundamentalists vote and tend to support warmongers for public office. And when some politicians themselves believe nonsense and support the United States attacking Iran due to Bible prophecy, their views do become dangerous.

I must confess I was the same way as a child–I was fascinated with the prophetic books and believed that the worsening conditions in the world showed that Bible prophecy was being fulfilled in front of my eyes. Although I was never a Premillennialist, I still tried to find parallels between Bible prophecy and present-day Israel that did not involve Premillennialist theory. I accepted the “continuous historical method” of interpreting the book of Revelation, believing that it was an almost chronological foretelling of future events.

Of course I was wrong-headed, since the prophetic books of the Bible were meant to communicate with people of their own day. Prophets were not as much foretelling as warning God’s people that unless they repent, God would use their enemies to destroy them. And the apocalyptic books such as parts of Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation were meant to comfort Jews or Christians facing persecution with the knowledge that God would destroy their persecutors. The symbolism of prophecy is well-understood by scholars. The symbol “666” as the symbol of the beast is seven minus one–with seven being the perfect number for ancient Jews, “6” was imperfect or flawed, “seven minus one,” so that “666” refers to evil times another important number, “three.” The idea is that “666” refers to ultimate evil. We can interpret that evil in terms of today’s evils, but to argue that the number refers to one specific person is a flawed interpretation.

To use Bible prophecy as an excuse for supporting war is theologically and morally reprehensible. In addition, an obsession with prophecy as predictions of present events takes Christians’ minds away from amending their lives and becoming more Christ-like. There is a certain perverse fun in discussing whether the beast of Revelation refers to Iran or to China, or whether Armageddon refers to a final war between the United States and China (or whatever enemy becomes the obsession of the day). But Christians should pay more attention to the prophetic books’ warnings to amend their lives. They should take comfort that God is in control and trust in Him. Focusing on prophecy at the expense of more important things is sinful. Using prophecy to support killing of one’s fellow men is evil.