Of all biblical subjects, end-time prophecy is one of the most popular, and often the most confusing. Why does confusion reign?
For many reasons, not the least of which are bad Nicholas Cage film adaptations of equally troubling novels.
But drilling down beyond the obvious (and needed) surface critiques of doom-and-gloom prophetic interpretations to the core paradigm issues that underlie them is one of the cornerstones of Presence. Since 1971, we’ve been deconstructing biblical interpretations that lead to fear and division, discovering an alternative perspective that – we’ve found – leads to fulfillment and peace. In wrestling with the texts of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and New Testament, we’ve found a reading of The Greatest Story ever told that is truly good news for all people. It’s been hiding in plain sight – right in our Bibles.
In 2015, we’ll be blogging through material closely based on Presence founder Max King’s seminal work The Spirit of Prophecy. This is the book that started it all – a major rethinking of popular-level understandings of the “end times” that only emerged in the 19th century with John Nelson Darby, continuing through the 1970s with Hal Lindsey’s Late, Great Planet Earth, a host of televangelists and made-for-TV movies, working its way through the 1990s doomsday fantasy series Left Behind, and continuing to leave its mark today, everywhere from what our friend Brian McLaren calls “radio orthodoxy” to ecological attitudes to political foreign policy.
In attempting to give voice to a more faithful and life-affirming reading of our cherished scriptural texts, we return to our question: When it comes to understanding prophetic texts in Holy Writ, why does confusion reign?
Max King has proposed two main reasons:
First, the precise meaning of prophecy often is not recognized until after the fact. It is easy for us to look back on prophetic texts and see, say, the life and work of Jesus in them, but only because we already have a portrait of Jesus as the Messiah in 20/20 hindsight. The Jewish people in Jesus’ time had considerably more difficulty making a connection between this itinerant first-century rabbi and the Messiah they’d hoped for.
Second is the question of literary genre. When we start delving into prophecies and prophetic texts, we learn that language can be figurative or literal, and that prophecy can speak of spiritual events or temporal events, or some combination of both. Wading our way through these distinctions is no easy task, and it may require us to let go of some of our cherished presuppositions.
And so: If you’re willing to have some of your sacred cows tipped, join us every Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the full book here.) The Comments section will be open, and we want to hear from you!
See you next week as we look at why so many attempts to provide dates and times for the Apocalypse have continued to disappoint.