Friday, August 29, 2008

Who Do You Think the Anti-Christ Will Be?

Dave’s Bible study group wants to know what the book of Revelation is all about. “Who is the Anti-Christ?” “Is the Laodicean church this generation’s church?” “Is America the ‘Great Whore’?” “Are the 7 years of Tribulation, after the rapture or before the rapture?” “Do the ten horns on the beast represent the European Union? And if so, who is the talking horn?” “Is the 'Mark of the Beast' a computer chip to be implanted under the skin?” “Please help us on this, as we aren’t all in agreement!”

My, my, my! Not in agreement? And you call yourselves Christians! Well, sit back Dave, and let me tell you exactly how this is all going down. Ha! Right!

Instead, let’s take a look at the Revelation itself, and see what God wants us getting from this amazing book. I recommend folk read Revelation for themselves, after they’ve read the Gospels, Acts, and Romans. Then see what you get from it? The differing teachings and theories concerning the end times are all fascinating. Almost everyone I’ve heard teach from Revelation sounds rather convincing. But if I thought that my understanding of this book indicated spiritual maturity, I’d suck my thumb.

It used to seem that whichever teaching I had read last, was the right interpretation. Here’s what I now believe God wants us to get out of this book. This may be too simplistic for some. So if you think you have more insight about specific orders, identities and locations from Revelation, please write a book and send me a copy. I’m sure I’ll believe you too.

Okay, what does God want us to get from Revelation? First of all, He wants us to be blessed! At the very beginning of the book, we find that those who read and honor this book will be “blessed.”

“Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.”

Revelation 1:3

We aren’t told how we’d be "blessed." Scripture doesn’t mention Rolex watches, gold fillings, or miraculously received dividends off our tithing. We just aren’t told. We simply trust that one day we’ll see how it was good to have read and taken to heart, the words of this prophecy. Verse one of the book, tells us this:

“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.”
Revelation 1:1

It is “the revelation of Jesus Christ.” It is not the revelation of the identities of the Whore of Babylon, or the Beast or the False Prophet, or the Anti-Christ, or the Rapture, or who the talking horn is. We are being shown through this prophecy, a fuller picture of Jesus. The gospels and Acts show us who Jesus was on earth, his death and resurrection, and that He’s now alive. Revelation reveals to us more of who Jesus is, from an eternal perspective. So when reading this wonderful book, focus on Jesus. Read the descriptions of Him! Watch who is worshiping Him! Notice the insanity of those who rage against Him more and more frantically as their end draws nearer and nearer. His servants need to know Him as he is now, for what will “soon take place.”

Read what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Examine your heart! How is your attitude towards God? Are you willing to suffer for Him if need be? Would you die for your Lord?

“Oh, but Tom! I have heard that “the Rapture” takes place before the Tribulation period.” Yes, I actually came to faith while reading a book about just that. But other Christians teach that the rapture comes in the middle of the 7 years of Tribulation. And more historically, the church assumes that we'll go through the tribulation period before being taken up to glory. We all agree that there is going to be a terrible Tribulation Period. And we believe that sometime by the end of this Tribulation Period, we in Christ will be taken up to God in glory, and that it will be wonderful!

The word “Rapture” is not found in scripture. The first mention by Christian writers of a pre-tribulation “rapture,” is around 1830. This doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Just that it’s a relatively new doctrine in Church history. Considering the churches historical position on the subject, it isn’t essential that believers worldwide should agree on this. It’s coming whether we are in our p-jays or a tux.

In 1830, a Scottish girl named Margaret MacDonald had a dream or vision that Christians were taken up to God just before the Tribulation. Pastor Edward Irving heard about this dream and taught it to his congregation. Soon afterwards John Nelson Darby, founder of the Plymouth Brethren, visited Miss MacDonald and then began teaching a pre-tribulation rapture.

The teaching then came to America shortly after the Scofield Bible was reprinted in 1917. This version included Darby's view in the commentary. Various Bible colleges and seminaries began also offering this theory in eschatology (study of the end times). I’m not saying that the rapture won’t take place before the Tribulation. I’m just saying that God’s people don’t all agree on the particulars.

Funny Thought: I find that the ones most able to present the end times Tribulation Period, seem to be the very Christians who don’t actually believe that they are going to be around for it.

I can’t think of a best selling book or author who talks of “end times” believers going through the Great Tribulation. Ever see a movie about the Tribulation that had Christians not raptured before Tribulation starts? I’m sure people have presented a post tribulation view. They just aren’t best sellers in America. It won’t hurt to look at both views. Preparing our hearts in case one day, we have to face either denying our faith in Jesus or being executed, (Just as Christians everywhere have always done and are still doing in parts of the globe.) is historically realistic.

Here’s what we know from Revelation. There’s a Throne in Heaven with worship happening. We see what Jesus has done for us, and how He alone is worthy to open the scrolls of God. We are shown spiritual beings in Heaven, in worship, and in battle. We get the big picture of the battle of the ages. We learn that all our prayers here are continuously effectual. (See chapter 8). Mostly, Revelation is a “Revelation of Jesus.” We need to keep our focus on Jesus when reading this book.

We need humility when discussing this book. There is much that John saw, that we are not told. In chapter 10, after the “Little Scroll” was opened, John says,

“I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write them down.”
Revelation 10:4

God hasn’t shown it all to us. It is interesting to discuss and to read the different theories. But we don’t have to agree upon what is going to happen step-by-step. God doesn’t seem to require “knowing it” of us.

Simply put, we are blessed if we read or hear, and take to heart “the words of this prophecy.” We know that we don’t know it all, because John wasn’t allowed to tell it all to us. So let’s keep it humble.

One last thing we need here. At the very end of the book of Revelation, there is a stern warning to anyone who is going to discuss this prophecy with any authority. And this is why we need to be very humble when we approach this prophecy. John writes:

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

Revelation 22:18,19

I suggest reading or listening to Revelation in its entirety. Inserting our opinions as if we are quite sure that we know what this or that means risks adding "to the words of this Prophecy.” Avoiding verses that don’t jibe with our theories, risks “taking away,” words from this Prophecy.

Basically:
1. You are blessed if you read it and heed it. (1:3)
2. You don’t have all the facts, cause John wasn't allowed to tell you. (10:4)
3. You need to humbly not change a thing. (22:18,19)

So while you may think that Hollywood is Babylon, and that the girl who laughed at you in Jr. High is the great whore; and while you’ve calculated which presidential candidate’s name matches the number of the Anti-Christ, you should just sit on that. Discussing possibilities with friends humbly is fine. But do be careful. I’m quite certain that everyone so far who has predicted with any certainty that Jesus was coming back on any specific date, have been wrong. Let me check. Yes, they were all wrong! Next?



PS: Dave, I checked your math and I’m quite sure that it is NOT Pat Sajak.