Great Expectations

jesus-christ-triumphal-entry-949744-wallpaperIt just dawned on me what it was that led to the people who called for Jesus to be crucified only a week after hailing him as the Messiah… their expectations!

We are often told from pulpits that the Pharisees and the religious ‘establishment’ in Jerusalem ‘turned the crowd against Jesus’. That has an element of truth in it, but it wasn’t in just one week that it was achieved. The people had been fed a diet of expectation all their lives. It was the received wisdom, from specific interpretations of their scriptures, that the Messiah was about to come, but he would be a warrior king who would supernaturally eject the Romans from Judaea and ‘restore the kingdom’ i.e. just as it was in King David’s time.

That was why they cried ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ (Matt. 21:9). They were expecting this revolution, this spiritual freeing of their nation from oppression. They had heard many things, and many rumours about this prophet from a far-off part.

Imagine their disappointment when he actually did not challenge the Romans, nor be drawn on any questions about how they should ‘deal’ with the Imperialists. Instead he continued in his teaching he had always maintained… that he wants his followers to be servants, to everyone, and to love all, even enemies! It wasn’t a battle cry, or a call to arms, or anything remotely like that. No, it was the opposite! This man they had been told was coming even arrived on a donkey! The donkey and colt were ready for him to use for his ‘triumphal’ entry, just as Zechariah had prophesied, so these people were not properly informed on scripture after all. The first thing Jesus did on arrival? He went to the Temple and drove out those who had commercialised his religion! His attacks were not on their conquerors, but their own religious leaders. He just could not have been their glorious Messiah! So when the call came for his death, they were only too eager to join in.

What are our expectations of Jesus? Do we decide in advance what we think he will do for us, or who or what he will be to us?

Or do we just accept who he iswhat he is, and most importantly, what he asks us to be, and to do? It’s all there in our gospel records, so why the false expectations?

Grace be with you.

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Messiah?

Have you ever wondered why the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law in Jesus’ time, who were avid students of the scriptures, did not see the fulfilment of prophecies in Jesus, who was right before them? Even if seeing his miracles wasn’t enough to convince them, surely they would have been able to recall the many things foretold about him?

Well, actually, even the disciples didn’t really ‘get it’ until after his resurrection. They truly believed he was the Messiah, the Son of God, but his arrest and execution struck a blow to them and sent them scattering in fear, even though he forewarned them of this on many occasions. Why? To put it simply, they weren’t expecting that sort of suffering Messiah, who would die for all our sins and take them upon himself (even though Isaiah clearly pointed this out – 53:5 et al.). They were looking for what all Israelites, under Roman oppression at that time, were taught to expect from prophecy:

I’ve said before; see the predicted signs once they happen. We are told to watch for them but never to predict. Predicting was the problem the Jews had when Jesus appeared – they all thought the Messiah would be a warrior king who’d run the Romans out of town and establish a new glory like David’s Kingdom again, so they couldn’t see God’s real plan when he sent his peace-preaching son. Even less could they grasp what he was saying when he said he must suffer and die – it didn’t fit into their worldview. Even John and James asked him to sit them on his right and left in his ‘Messianic Kingdom’ (Mark 10:37).

Let us not make the same mistake when looking for Jesus in our own lives, or for his coming again. Let him be what he wants to be for us, not what we expect, and to come when the Father sees fit. If our worldview hinders this, may we have the grace to change it.

Grace be with you.

Stop it! Just stop it now!! (End Times prophecies 3)

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A friend posted this graphic to my timeline and invited my comments. Once I stopped laughing, I offered them. When I looked at the complexity of this, I then became sad; sad for the poor miserable soul who wasted half their life investigating and plotting it out. I’ve mentioned before that I spend a lot of time playing online games on my phone, but that is truly a better use of time than this nonsense!

These people need a life! Seriously!

This is ground I’ve gone over in my previous End Times prophecies 1 & 2. However, my journey is not complete yet… I’ve had some things I thought were set in concrete smashed to bits by my own investigations, and I’m entering a new era of discovery in my theology and my life.

Let me just get this clear, since I’ve only alluded to it before, stating sweepingly that Hagee’s ‘Blood Moons’ is ‘a load of old codswallop’ – here’s why, very briefly (since it doesn’t need to be elaborated on):

The premise is taken from one verse of scripture, Joel 2:31:

The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

This was repeated in Acts 2:20 when on the day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter spoke to the crowd and quoted this section of Joel’s prophecy.

The premise has now been proposed that it speaks of lunar eclipses when the moon turns a copper colour, sometimes a bit more red depending on the physics of it. These lunar eclipses occur in occasional tetrads of four spread over two years. That much is scientifically, astronomically true. Then it is stated that these tetrads have only occurred eight times since the time of Jesus, and they have all coincided with the Jewish feasts!

Rubbish! The whole eight tetrad thing is deception from the start (yes, I will use the word deception with no apology) since there have been 64! Yes, 64!! The Jewish feasts only occur at full moons, and lunar eclipses can only occur at full moons. Do the maths and work out the probability (roughly one in 6 of the 64 should ‘coincide’ with the feasts) and the eight tetrads that happen to occur with the feasts are actually less than coincidence, they’re predicted! And not by prophets, by any astronomer with a slide rule! The moon orbits the Earth every 27.322 days, so like a clock it is precise, measurable, calculable; it meters out days and months inexorably and inevitably, so the ‘wonderful’ figures and sliding scales in the graphic above are nothing more than the waxing and waning of our single natural satellite, that has always maintained control of our tides (and the hearts of romantic poets and minstrels).

I could jumble and juggle the maths myself to get any sort of graph I like, but I’d have no desire to get into it; reminds me of that Jim Carrey film, ’23’, that I’ve only ever seen trailers for. He becomes obsessed with seeing 23 everywhere, then sees 2s and 3s, then finds a 6 and says ‘that’s 2 times 3″ or a 5: “that’s 2 plus 3!” and so on… it’s clear he’s going mad.

That’s just the scientific argument. What about the theology? I could start by saying that this is just poetic imagery and such grand and terrible things about darkened suns and moons are found all over apocalyptic literature, of which many passages do not talk about ‘the end’, but let’s leave that aside and just accept the interpretation that Joel 2:31 is describing a real time in history with accurate detail:

As I said, this is all based on just one verse… no, hold on, it’s actually a half verse! What about ‘the sun turned to darkness’? If we’re talking about lunar eclipses, then there must also be a solar eclipse, yet the two can never occur together – we’d need two moons for that! (In case you haven’t studied astronomy from a child like I did: lunar eclipses occur when the moon is behind the Earth, solar eclipses occur when it’s in front of us, between the Earth and Sun). Yet nowhere do these people even mention the sun!

Many heresies are borne from one verse (or more often actually half a verse) taken out of context.

And look at the end of the verse, which is what we’re meant to be looking to happen: if it’s a sign for the coming of ‘the day of the Lord’ then why would God give us that sign eight times over 2000 years? Is that not a bit deceptive? Those who saw the ‘first tetrad’ (whichever one of the 64 that was!) would have been deceived into thinking ‘he’s coming soon!’ and so would those who saw the second, and the third… how would anyone know which one was ‘IT’?
And if these ‘eight’ tetrads have been significant, why not nine or ten or… isn’t twelve a ‘perfect’ number in scripture? Yeah I’ll go for that: wait until the twelfth! I now notice in the graphic that there is allusion to further tetrads into 2019… what? So the ninth set is going to be right after this one? So we are looking at more? How many? Oh, and this one now is the most ‘perfect in symmetry’ since 3000 BC!? Now I start to smell a rat! Any of these things should show symmetry since, as I said, they align mathematically according to the fixed cycles of the moon. If previous tetrads did not have symmetry, then something went wrong with the moon’s orbit! That would be noteworthy, not the ‘symmetric’ one! Anyone remember these sort of things from before? Someone would post a meme on Facebook saying something like “hey look, this year is the most significant date in history since, like, about 2002 years before the year in which Jesus died!” and then they display their wonderful maths, and I’d reply a minute later with “actually, that also occurred in every century since then; here are the dates….”

If you read this and still wish to go after the ‘Blood Moon’ stuff, be my guest, you’re entitled to, but please don’t go around trying to tell others all about it; you’ll only drag them down with you into a useless pursuit after nothing and just make a fool of yourself (and much more importantly, my Lord Jesus!).

Just in case you think I’m being smug about this, let me say that I’ve been here before myself. I read ‘The Bible Code’ some years ago and was taken in by it, stunned at what was being shown. I should have known better: there is no hidden code in scripture, waiting for a computer age to find it out; that’s the age-old teaching of Gnosticism, the idea that there is a higher, ‘hidden knowledge’ that only an elite can tap into. It’s also a general problem when a small group of believers think they’ve found some ‘great truth’ in the Bible and end up sneering at those who ‘just can’t see it’ – it’s a common trap of conceitedness.

The Bible Code was later debunked when some hoax-slayers managed to get the same ‘results’ from the works of Jane Austen!

 No, my main worry now is that we have become far too obsessed with something that we’ve already been warned about. John Hagee worked at the start of this idea with a man called Mark Blitz, who has now been discredited and forgotten since he made a prediction that the tribulation would start about 2008 and Jesus would return on 28th Sept. 2015 (the ‘last’ blood moon). Glad to see that such predicting distinguishes these people as contradicting our own Lord Jesus who said that ‘only the Father knows the time’ (Matt. 24:36). However, when I read another statement Jesus made, in his ‘Olivet discourse’ I get more worried:

He replied: ‘Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and, “The time is near.” Do not follow them. (Luke 21:8)

Jesus actually warns us about anyone who says “the time is near”! Does this mean all the preachers who do the usual round of ‘end times’ sermons? Something to think about, surely. I believe in the Second Coming, absolutely, but I also believe the words and warnings of my Lord when it comes to trying to figure it all out. Like I said before, watch for the signs as they happen, but do not predict! So please, stop doing that, or following those who do, right now! Free yourself.

Still like that ‘Blood Moons’ stuff? Worried about admitting that you wasted so much time reading it and believing it? The time I ‘wasted’ reading rubbish like ‘The Bible Code’ I treat as lessons for me that stopped me listening again to things like this.

Turns out I was right when I smelt a rat! Click here – it’s all a pack of lies! [Note, though, that the debunker in this video, right at the end, makes the same mistake of making his own prediction!]

Grace be with you.

End Times prophecies, and how I got it so wrong.

I quickly tired of all the books and writings on the ‘end times’ and that was long before the inception of the internet and all the added claptrap that brought! Eschatology is the proper term for this study of the prophecies concerning the end times of the Earth and our Lord’s return. I was a Christian only four years when I took my first job after leaving school in 1983. That was in the Faith Mission Bookshop in Belfast (purportedly the biggest Christian bookshop in Europe). Our bestselling books changed from month to month, but the most consistent seller that year (even across the Christian world) was one entitled ‘Christ Returns by 1984!’

Now there is the first and most important point to make: our Lord Jesus Christ said himself that even he did not know the time of his return:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Matt.24:36)

So if anyone, anyone, tries to attempt to find a date or timescale for his return, stop listening to them! They think they know more than Jesus!! This is a fruitless pursuit. Jesus even gave clear warnings about such people:

Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am he,” and, “The time is near.” Do not follow them. (Luke 21:8)

In 1986, I entered Belfast Bible College for a 3-year full-time course. Part of our lectures was a systematic study through each of the 66 books of the Bible with the students of all the years together to give it a full three years’ attention. When we got to Revelation, many in the college were excited; “oh, we’re going to study about the tribulation, the millennium, the antichrist…. I can’t wait!” and stuff like that. My reaction was sort of ‘ho hum’ if I’m honest. Our lecturer went through the chapters over about a dozen classes, and repeated the theme of Christ’s glorification, the angels crying ‘Holy is the Lamb’, how every knee will bow and confess that he is Lord, how his name is above all names… yes, that is the message of the book, from chapter 1 to chapter 22! At the end of the last class, he handed out an A4 sheet, only half-filled, with 4 paragraphs laying out pre-tribulationist premillenialism, post-tribulationist premillenialism, postmillenialism, and amillenialism. A couple of people were almost apoplectic; “THAT’S IT! THAT’S ALL WE’RE GOING TO GET ON IT!?” but I could not help but laugh. It was brilliant, as far as I was concerned.

I already knew that there were as many interpretations of eschatology as there are chapters in our Bible! You may attempt to decipher it all, but you have no certainty about your interpretation over anyone else’s. You have your opinion, but that’s all it is at the end of the day. Yes, there are different interpretations of many Bible passages, but they can be argued over fairly simply in comparison to the riddles and conundrums of the end times passages, and we know the most important passages about our salvation and Christ’s divinity are much clearer; it’s not all an enigma!

However, we are told by Jesus to watch for the signs: “be always on the watch” (Luke 21:36). In fact, it is because we do not know the day he will come, that he tells us to watch:

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. (Matt. 24:42)

So, as I have always said, we can only discern two definite things about the second coming;

1. Nobody knows when it will happen.
2. We must always be ready for it.

But if we cannot trust our own interpretations, how are we to watch? The most recent revelation I believe I have had is this: we are told to watch but we are never told to predict anything! What’s the difference? Even I got this wrong; in Revelation 8, we have an account of seven angels with seven trumpets, each heralding an event to happen. The third one caught my eye since I have long had an amateur interest in astronomy (not astrology!). About half of one of my shelves would be books on the universe and astrophysics.

The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water – the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter. (Rev. 8:10-11)

Knowing what I know, I thought this could not be a star, since even the smallest star would be many times bigger than the Earth. Could it be a ‘piece’ of a star? When stars explode into novae, what is left is gas and dust, since they are just glowing balls of nuclear plasma; there would be no ‘pieces’ to consider. To the ancients, planets were stars (planet means ‘wandering star’) and of course, also shooting stars, which look like stars, but are actually meteors; now they are pieces of rock from asteroids or planets, some only specks that cause brilliant steaks as they enter the atmosphere at immense speeds. When they land they are called meteorites. This was what John must be describing, and such a meteorite may contain toxic, even radioactive elements that would be pulverised on impact and could contaminate water. Yes, I thought, Wormwood must be a meteorite.

Some years after the disaster in Chernobyl, I heard that it was the Russian/Ukrainian word for ‘wormwood’. I think I laughed, and reasoned some ‘end times nutter’ was trying to fit Chernobyl into Revelation somewhere, somehow. Of course, I looked up the word myself, for a debunk. However…it does mean the herb wormwood, which is a bitter herb used to flavour absinthe. The word translates as ‘black grass’ or ‘black stalks’ but it does refer to that herb. I had to do a rethink, since this was no meteorite. Then I realised that a star is a natural nuclear reactor (yes, we could argue that stars use nuclear fusion, which we have yet to harness artificially, and our reactors use nuclear fission, but is that not just splitting hairs?). The resulting radiation leak, 200 times greater than the fallout from Hiroshima, did contaminate many rivers across Europe, and many people did die from its effects. Stunned, I was.

Once events like this happen, and we see them with wisdom and decipher them, we can be assured of the signs, but before it happens, our predictions may just come up with a dead-end alley. So why bother? Let us wait to see things happen first, then rejoice at their fulfilment. When I was a young Christian, I was told by many that the EU (well, it was the EEC then) was about to expand from its 9 members. Once it became 10!… Daniel describes his vision of a beast with 10 horns, and it appears again twice in Revelation. Many people link that beast to Rome, and so predicted a 10-member-EU to herald the end. And it happened! But… then it became 11, then 12… now, it’s what? 28? I even came across an old website from 2007 that tried to refer back to a 10-member alliance that sort of replaced NATO in Europe and how it all fitted into prophecies. The author of that site died in 2007 but he predicted things like sacrifices on the Temple Mount again and peace in Jerusalem by 2010! What were those warnings we read about?

Personally, I look for signs in the sun, moon and stars. I always wondered at how the moon would show signs, since it never changes at all. At least it hadn’t been changed, until 1969, when it was altered by footprints! (If you’re one of those that believes the conspiracy theory that all 6 missions were faked, as well as the failed Apollo 13 mission, just get a powerful telescope and look. You’ll see the landers and the lunar rovers with their tracks in the dust).

And, oh yes, Hagee’s ‘Blood Moons’? Load of old codswallop!

Stop listening to the predictors!

Grace be with you.