|Satan Evicted: Introduction|
Some thirty years ago, the Lord led me into a study of biblical prophecy. At that time the Internet was in its infancy and information was scarce relative to today’s standards. Armed with a New American Standard Bible, Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Unger’s Bible Handbook, Cruden’s Complete Concordance, and Clarence Larkin’s Dispensational Truths, I proceeded to seek an understanding of end time prophecy. The study was interesting and enlightening; however, the results were also disconcerting:
How can so many learned scholars be so misguided?
A plain reading of prophetic passages by this unlearned youth revealed that much of what we are taught in Sunday School and from the pulpit concerning the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ is simply inaccurate… The problem was puzzling, but I felt no calling to address the issue.
Three decades later, I return to that study armed not only with an abundance of informational resources but also with much greater maturity and experience, both worldly and spiritually. Once again the study is both interesting and enlightening; however the results are even more distressing:
How can so many learned scholars be so misguided about so many things?
A plain reading of all biblical passages again reveals that much of what we are taught in Sunday School and from the pulpit concerning God’s plan for mankind is simply inaccurate… The problem is puzzling; however, this time the Internet provides an avenue to publically express those concerns.
The learned scholars have it wrong, at least many things wrong. Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps Daniel’s instructions to go his way because the “words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end?” Perhaps Satan’s work to misled and deceive has been more effective than we think? Perhaps mankind, a stiff-necked people, just wants to see what it wants to see? In any case, things will not be the way they are frequently described. Of worthy notation:
In all things, events, and experiences, we should give God the Father and Jesus Christ praise and glory because it is God’s eternal plan that redeems mankind’s sinful souls; it is God’s eternal plan that redeems a groaning planet that yearns to be free from the plague of mankind’s wickedness.
The purpose of this study is to share my personal quest and discoveries. I offer this study as a viable, not exclusive, interpretation of the events that will transpire as humankind transitions from the current age into the next.
No attempt has been made to exhaust the materiel under discussion. An Internet search reveals that supporters of any particular issue can present countless arguments and allude to hundreds of scriptures in support of their specific view. While I offer basic reasoning for each claim, I make little attempt to either prove each point or disprove the contradictory points of other. This is not an attempt to “convert” those with differing eschatological viewpoints… It’s a simple sharing of my personal findings.
Following my retirement as a public school teacher, I finally found the time to quietly settle down and read; to simply read without being concerned about planning lessons, grading papers, or coaching students. Among the many books that first summer were apocalyptic novels by James BeauSeigneur and Joel C. Rosenberg. I found their narratives entertaining and intriguing; however, their storylines seemed to depart from my usual understanding of end time events. Several decades earlier I had conducted a preliminary investigation into John’s Revelation but had never brought the project to completion. Retirement seemed to perfect time to correct that shortcoming.
There are a number of views on what will occur at the close of this age; so many views that it seems rather arbitrary to simply pick one and adopt it as the foundation for personal belief. But how does a person go about understanding the cryptic messages contained within biblical prophecy? Certainly if the learned scholars haven’t figured it out correctly, a common layperson has little chance of success?
Unfortunately, learned scholars may be the root of the problem. The Bible was not written exclusively for academics with a Ph.D. in theological studies… Jesus Christ did not select disciples from among the Pharisees or Sadducees but from simple men – fishermen, tax collectors, physicians, and tent makers. Christ’s audience was not the upper-crust of society but the poor, the down-trodden, and the humble. A great many early followers were not literate:
Luke 11:28: But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." (NASB)
The Book of Revelation is filled with an array of symbols, allusions, analogies, and other literary devices that make for difficult understanding. However, the Gospels and John’s Revelation are deeply rooted in the oral tradition – testimony that is transmitted orally so that it would be understood by the masses. Throughout the New Testament we encounter verses such as:
Matthew 11:15: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Mark 4:9: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
Revelation 13:9: If any man have an ear, let him hear.
The Bible is not a deeply encrypted code that requires special gifts or special skills to understand. It is a collection of passages intended for the common person who, with patience and endurance, can read, understand, and apply its wisdom. Besides, we are not alone in this quest. After Christ’s ascension, God sent us the Holy Spirit that comforts us in times of tribulation and guides our path into the truth.
For centuries, the doctrine of Christian belief was controlled by the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches. Much of that time access to God was held hostage to the whims of learned scholars. Fortunately, the Reformation and the translation of the Bible into the vernacular – various native languages – enabled the common person to seek a personal understanding of God. This freedom empowers the individual but it also entails a responsibility – a responsibility to seek and discover God’s will for our personal lives.
The Bible contains sixty-six books, over one-thousand chapters, and some thirty-one thousand verses. Each verse is a small fragment of truth that, when properly pieced together, paints a portrait of God’s plan for humankind. The task of piecing each splinter into a single, unified picture seems to be an overwhelming task, but it is not.
We approach the task as we would a thirty-one thousand piece jigsaw puzzle. We sort the pieces that share similar characteristics into individual piles and then work each pile until a coherent picture emerges. At times we realize that a piece simply does not fit in the section we’re working and must be moved to a different pile. At times we become frustrated because none of the pieces fit so we stand up and take a break. Eventually, with patience and endurance, the pieces become disjointed images, and the disjointed images become a unified portrait, and the unified portrait provides a glance into God’s purpose for our lives.
In my quest to understand the “end times,” I first set out to discover the basic organizational structure of the book of Revelation… it was much like a puzzle solver who looks for a straight line in a wall or a curved line in a face to build a section of a complex puzzle. Ignoring the small details of each passage, I found a common thread and built an outline that represented the book as a whole. Once satisfied with my working draft, I searched for existing viewpoints, solicited news ideas, and identified potential flaws.
I expected to locate a few competing theories; but to my amazement, I found a wide array – some familiar, some unusual, and some outright bizarre. Many were relatively easy to reject because they made outlandish claims with scant scriptural support while others either ignored basic scriptural evidence or required distorted interpretations. Those that remained served to test my working draft and forced me to consider alternatives or justify my own.
This became the foundation for my study. Once I developed a specific, coherent line of thought, I searched the Internet for competing views. I would then examine those views in detail considering where beliefs originated, the soundness of scriptural support, and the impact on my thoughts. This method led to a close examination of scripture, new discoveries, and, at times, alterations in my original beliefs.
I do not personally subscribe to any specific religious doctrine or “end times” belief system (eschatology). As there is no settled theological framework among Christians, each individual is responsible to search the scriptures using sound interpretation guidelines and develop a personal framework according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The following statement of faith outlines the foundation for my search:
I possess no qualification, spiritual or academic, to speak authoritatively on the matters of God; I submit that this work is an account of my personal study and is offered only as a personal confession. It is my hope that these words may inspire others to conduct an individual exploration and obtain a personal understanding of God’s plan for their life.
For the purpose of this survey, the term “interpretation” means to acquire understanding from scriptural text that is consistent with God’s intent. Many fundamentalist view “interpretation” as an evil, “There is no need to interpret the Bible; the scriptures mean what they say.” This is an unfortunate posture because it prevents the reader from considering the context, style, use of figurative language, and other elements that make the Bible a beautiful work of literature. Admittedly, there are those who twist, and turn, and manipulate passages to achieve their desired outcome. However, with care a reader can be reasonable assured that their interpretation is tolerable in line with God’s will.
A Plain Reading
Jesus Christ’s disciples were not “learned men.” They were fishermen, tax collectors, physicians, and tent makers. Jesus Christ’s primary audience was not the experts in the law, Sadducees, and Pharisees but the downtrodden, the poor, the lame, the beggar, the sick, the sinner. Biblical scripture is the only source of for the inspired, infallible Word of God, not the apocrypha, not the writings of the Church, not scholarly commentary, and certainly not academic histories. The Bible is not an easy work, but neither is it an academic dissertation. Our first and primary approach, therefore, is a plain reading… What would the passage mean to a common and ordinary person?
James 1:18: Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
Some Christians claim that the authorized King James Version of the Bible is the only inspired version of the English language Bible and other versions misinterpret and leave out vital passages. I’m not sure if I agree, but I trust the King James Version. However, its language and grammar is rather archaic and makes it difficult to understand. For study I prefer the King James Version, for reading the New American Standard, and for sharing the New Living Translation. The Internet provides us with easy access to study using the various English versions as well as Greek and Hebrew. Scriptural passages within this work use the King James Version unless otherwise noted.
2 Timothy 2:15: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Two or Three Witnesses
Complete an Internet search on John’s Apocalypse and you will find scores if not hundreds of different interpretations. Most of these scholars have good intentions, but something is definitely amiss. Many of the more unusual interpretations build elaborate, detailed images from one, perhaps two isolated scriptures. While such interpretations may be interesting the obscure and confuse… they should be avoided. We can reduce the chances of such errors by insisting that any new idea is validated by two, preferably three scriptures that confirm one another.
Deuteronomy 19:15: "One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.
The Bible is not a secretive book filled with hidden, encrypted messages. While it is a complex work of literature and employs a wide array of authors, genres, styles, and literary devices, it is intended to be read to or by the common person. Therefore, it is not the exclusive domain of trained academics and must be interpreted in light of the intended audience. When considering figurative language, interpretation must be limited by context, subject matter, and biblical convention. A basic, limited approach reduces the chances of introducing strange or erroneous interpretations. Whenever possible, a basic literal interpretation is preferential.
Revelation 22:18: For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
A basic, limited approach to biblical interpretation does not mean that the reader must ignore the figurative nature of scripture. When we read the phrase, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” we immediately grasp two qualities of Jesus Christ: (a) he is docile and gentle, and (b) he is the sacrifice for our sins. In fact, figurative language is imperative if we earthly beings have any hope of visualizing the spiritual. Imagine John’s description of the throne scene in heaven if he did not use similes, metaphors, and allusions – the task would not be possible.
Figurative language, however, does not grant the reader a dramatic license. Attaching meaning to a figurative element, beyond the personal, requires careful consideration and scriptural justification. Far too frequently, fanciful scholarly interpretations have led to wide divisions and confusion within the Church.
Matthew 13:13: Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand…
The human mind is limited in its capacity to absorb information within a single sitting. Biblical passages observe this limitation by narrowing their focus and omitting extraneous information. An error occurs when the reader transfers information from one context to a dissimilar context or when the reader assumes that something does not exist because it is not included. Contextual awareness is difficult at times because a passage may suddenly shift focus, contain multiple messages, or serve a dual purpose. Nevertheless, the reader has a responsibility to carefully consider the context before formulating meaning.
2 Peter 1:20-22: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.
Fluidity of Scripture
Biblical scripture is not a historical documentary that merely records speeches and historical events. It is the living, breathing Word of God that is just as relevant today as it was the day the words were first written. One technique use to enhance its timelessness is fluidity… ideas are presented not as concrete hard facts but rather as a flow of thought. For example, John 12:31 declares that “now” is the time for judgment of the world. Did the great white throne judgment occur at that moment in time? No, Christ had not yet completed his earthly ministry; however, Christ’s mission was in the “process” of completion and the end results a foregone conclusion… it was the same as done.
John 12:31-32: Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me.
Beware of Learned Scholars
One would think that those with the best education and the greatest knowledge are better prepared to understand the complexities of the Bible than the common individual. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The learned Jewish scholars of the first century missed the Messiah’s arrival. Apparently, they believed that he would come as a conquering king to establish a physical, earthly kingdom. Jesus took his message not to the learned but to the common person… and, perhaps, we also best assume a humble posture in our biblical study.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8: No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
The scriptures in John’s Revelation are just a few of thousands of prophetic scriptures interwoven throughout the Bible, each with varying authors, time periods, and viewpoints. Each scripture is a single piece to an elaborate and complex puzzle. In some cases, one piece alludes to another piece located elsewhere such as:
Matthew 24:15: So when you see the abomination of desolation – spoken about by Daniel the prophet– standing in the holy place…
-- alludes to --
Daniel 9:27: On the wing of abominations will come one who destroys, until the decreed end is poured out on the one who destroys.
In isolation, a single scripture, like a single piece of a complex jigsaw puzzle, doesn’t portray a precise image of the whole picture. We need several pieces correctly assembled together before we begin to get an accurate glimpse. We must also avoid forcing dissimilar pieces together just because we think that they share similar traits.
The Bible provides us with glimpses into God’s spiritual realm, but these glimpses are simplistic, blurry images. We may assume that someone is at our front door if we see a shadow through the frosted pane, we may even be able to determine if that person is a male or female; but until we meet that person face to face, we only see a fuzzy figure. The same holds true for prophecy – regardless of how hard we study, the images will remain imprecise until the event actually occurs.
1 Corinthians 13:12: For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Prophetic verse seems cryptic because the prophets are describing events beyond their own, personal experiences; they are forced to rely on metaphors, symbols, allusions and other literary devices to communicate complex scenes with elements that well beyond their comprehension. Additionally, the experiences of the prophets vary from ours by hundreds of years and vastly different cultures. Our only hope is to rely on the Holy Spirit for clarity.
Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
With all glory, honor, and praise to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...
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Calvin E. Roberts, Jr. — San Augustine, Texas 75972 — email@example.com