Cutting Away the Anchor
When even Christians start believing the Bible is just a book of fables, you know the end is near. I read this comment in another blog:
Unfortunately... a lot of Baptists, maybe most, do interpret The Book of Revelation literally...
“Unfortunately”? Since when is it considered unfortunate that Christians, regardless of denomination, should take prophecy literally? While as I’ve said many times, we need to recognize genre in the Bible, we should also remember that even allegory and apocalypse refer to real things. Some interpret “real things” as merely lofty ideas, but what I mean by it is that there are literal, real events in Revelation that are no less real or literal due to the manner in which they are conveyed.
I wonder if some of these people who reject the literal meanings behind the vision of Rev. would have rejected a literal Jesus had they lived before He actually came. Take Isaiah 53 for example. The Jews have long held it in the same regard many Christians today take Rev.: as a vague hope or lesson about good and evil. Yet in hindsight we know with certainty (or we wouldn’t be Christians) that Isaiah was talking about something very concrete and literal, that would come to pass in uncanny detail.
So by what right or standard do any Christians today reject the literal truth being conveyed in Rev.? John was NOT, as some claim, simply reacting to his time or culture or circumstances; he was spoken to by Jesus Himself while worshipping on “the Lord’s day”. This is hardly a made-up lament by a depressed exile!
First John was given imagery such as is typical in the OT when God reveals Himself to a prophet. Then John was told to take down letters dictated to him by Jesus, which were to real churches at the time. We can speculate as to additional applications and meanings for this, one of which is a prediction of church history. And then John was told to “come up here” to record what he would see, “things that must soon take place”. See the sequence? Revelation, church history, then “come up here”. Where are the “interpreters” now? Why do they ignore this? Could it be because it seems to support a pre-tribulation rapture?
And what John did in the vision was to simply write down what he saw and heard. He didn’t make anything up; he didn’t try to guess what anything meant. And when the angel did tell him a meaning, it was literal and in ordinary language. What was all this for if merely a moral lesson? Can we just ignore parts we don’t like or we think are improbable?
The literal fulfillment of prophecy is exactly what separates Christianity from all pretenders. Had Jesus’ coming not been predicted, who would have taken Him seriously? How would anyone have known He was the promised Messiah? Who would have cared? And why would such things be necessary for mere moral instruction?
Christianity is based upon the eyewitness testimony of those who saw Him rise from the dead, who had been expecting Him, who were convinced by their own scriptures that He was the Son of God. Prophecy is the fingerprint of God, the seal of the Divine which marks it as genuine. Can we then discard the very basis of our faith, the foundation of our testimony, without reducing Christianity to just another religion?
There is no “witness” without witnesses, and witnesses are supposed to be affirming something they’ve seen. This is the exact opposite of moral lessons, vague interpretations, and allegories. And who would know much about Jesus without the Bible? Yes, people can be (and have been) saved without written scripture, but the people who told them the gospel eventually got it from what has been written, and what has been written was the testimony of witnesses:
But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”Without that which is written, there would be no way to verify that which is claimed by anyone beyond the actual eye-witnesses. Even if the gospel alone is all Jesus wanted to convey, we would only have the word of secondary witnesses to go on. No, it is fulfilled prophecy and legal testimony backed up by verifiable facts that makes Christianity The Truth in a sea of lies.
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
— Rom. 10:8-15
So the written Word does matter, coming as it has from God and not man. God’s words are no less powerful or alive when written as compared to when spoken. So when people dismiss Rev. or Genesis or any other scripture they find personally offensive, incomprehensible, or just inconvenient, they are rejecting the very Words of God. Jesus treated all such scriptures as literal on their faces or pointing to literal facts or events. When He spoke in parables He made it obvious. Take the account of Jonah for example. Jesus compared a literal truth to come— His death and resurrection— to Jonah being swallowed by the fish and then spat back out. This was no moral lesson but a prediction of a literal event, the very purpose for His coming.
Based upon what has already come, I can rest assured that there will be a literal Rapture, there will be a literal 7-year Tribulation, there will be a literal Millennium, and there will be a literal eternity where conscious souls are either with God in a state of bliss, or with all the forces of evil in a state of torment. And please, don’t give me that “Left Behind... Darby did it... middle ages” line. I get my views from scripture studied in the light of evidence.
We can get moral lessons from anywhere, but only the Bible tells us the of the Way the Truth, and the Life— and the future.