September 14, 2007

Toward a Credible Prophetic View…

In an earlier, introductory essay on the question of whether we live in the ‘End Times’, I pointed out the confluence of numerous prophecies, ancient and modern, that converge on some kind of vision of the end of the present age… whatever that means. I stated that there was a thread of commonality running among these disparate models, that lends a collective gravity to them. After all, one may dismiss an isolated oracle; but dozens pointing in the same general direction cannot be ignored or conveniently explained away.

Having made that point, I now have to deal with the more difficult problem. In their details, themes, and basic values, the various prophetic models differ considerably, sometimes radically. So the truth-seeker is faced with the always thorny problem facing all humans: which one(s) is/are presenting a true picture, and which are not? As I implied in that previous piece, there’s no secret guide book, no decoder ring you can order online; everyone is on his/her own in this cosmic dilemma. Well, perhaps not quite alone… but that will emerge later. In that intro, I laid out the kind of approach that works for me—briefly: examine all pieces of information that come along, placing them in a great metaphorical puzzle board, rearranging them as reason and inspiration direct, into as coherent a collage as possible at the moment. You just keep doing this, like a philosophical algorithm, until the truth starts to emerge, by virtue of consistency and inner conviction. As the saying wisely goes—the truth will prevail. And as it solidifies, you know where to direct your successive efforts.

As a tangible example of how this can work, I cite for your consideration, the Bible… asking the skeptics to please concede that the process requires an open mind… we’re not talking about ‘religion,’ mark; this is about information. The Bible, summarizing, is a compendium of literature, compiled over some two millennia, written by numerous authors of widely differing backgrounds and dealing with a variety of subject areas (e.g. history, poetry, prophecy, proverbs, spiritual insight, etc.). It starts with five books attributed to Moses (the ‘Pentateuch’) followed by stories of kings and prophets, ‘wisdom books,’ and more history and prophecy, all packaged as the Old Testament. That’s the Bible for Jewish believers. For Christians, there’s a whole, added section called the New Testament, dealing with the life and teachings of the one called Jesus, the Christ (Greek for ‘Messiah,’ which means ‘anointed one.’).

Okay; my point here is that this dense book contains a great deal of information. In fact, one can argue that it contains too much! Certainly, there’s more in that book than one needs to find the ‘gospel’ of Christ and consequent ‘salvation.’ An objective onlooker could logically enquire why do Christians even keep the Old Testament? Of what use is it to their faith? Indeed, then, why is the Bible so voluminous? The answer may surprise many. It has to do with redundancy that ensures reliability… to apply a key concept from information theory. What the heck? Well, you have to know a bit of secular history. You have to know that, down thru the ages, dark forces conspired to destroy Jesus’ message of hope, the gospel. They did this by attempting to destroy the receptacle of God’s truth, the holy scriptures. Councils were convened in the centuries after Christ by men with various views, orthodox or heterodox, to define the canonical Biblical texts. Authorities of the self-appointed Church kept the scriptures hidden from the eyes of all but the adepts. Primordial text was translated from one language to another, allowing the potential for selective editing. And yet—thru all this manipulation, the essential message of Jesus remains available to any who seek. Why? Because under divine guidance it is woven so skillfully into the words that no human could extirpate the truth without gutting the entire book! Nowhere in the book does a gospel or epistle writer indent a paragraph or underline a sentence, and insert a heading ‘This is the gospel.’ No; a reader must assemble it from interrelated scriptures under the unction of God’s Holy Spirit. The Bible’s message, to use a modern analogy, is fractal—it is nowhere yet it is everywhere, like a divine hologram. Or put another way, the Bible is merely the physical vehicle; the message is infused within it, and only discerned by means of a sincere search. You see, this is precisely why Jesus could state unequivocally that he has hidden the message from the wise and revealed it unto little children.

Alright, I hope you are still with me. I believe this is the same way we can discern truth in our present age of rampant deception. Allegorically, we are creating a hologram, using pieces of information, some of which fit the pattern, and some that don’t. Having laid that groundwork, the next thing we can do is examine some of the main lines of prophecy that confront our minds today.

For centuries, the primary prophetic optic for the Western mind was the Bible, but in the 19th century a veritable eruption of potential new sources appeared… almost by magic. There were individuals like Joseph Smith (Mormonism), Charles T. Russell (Jehovah Witnesses), Ellen G. White (Seventh-Day Adventism), who started new churches derived from the Christian tradition. Outside that circle, there were movements like the Theosophical Society (Mme Blavatsky), Spiritualism (the Fox sisters), Baha’i (Baha’ullah), and the new popularizing of various enlightened gurus from India (Aurobindo, Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, etc.). From this original vanguard grew the tangle of spiritual avenues that now branch out on the roadmap to truth. I will try to choose the most popular routes that have become recognized for their signposts to the future. And the best way to do that is to divide the choices into groups, because it turns out that there are really just two main schools of thought in this subject area (tho there are, as expected, many variations on the themes).

In fact, the bifurcation in end-times prophecy comes down, basically, to the Biblical eschatology versus the rest. (Eschatology refers to end-time theology). Virtually all the non-Biblical schools profess a cyclical model of cosmic history, in which civilization rises and progresses thru an age or ‘aion,’ until a pre-ordained point in time and space is attained, at which point the world is physically destroyed and mankind must start the cycle anew from the few survivors. There are variations on this model, for example, one variant teaches that there is a change in consciousness associated with each such passage from one aion to the next. For Hindus, the present age is called the Kali Yuga, which implies an age of self-gratification. Another, principally New Age, view is that we are on the verge of a jump in consciousness, going from what they term ‘third density,’ to (you guessed) forth density. This school is further divided into those who envision that only ‘evolved souls’ will make the jump to forth density, while the laggards remain in 3D and presumably perish. Then there are the aboriginal people of the Americas who have had, apparently, an amazingly accurate body of oral prophecy. In their lore, the outcome of the coming calamities will be a new civilization wherein all races will live in harmony and cooperation, acknowledging the wisdom of native peoples everywhere whose traditions emphasized careful custodianship of nature.

A growing community believes in some form of ‘alien intervention,’ either just prior to, or during or following the calamities that denote the paradigm shift in human awareness. I place this group with the others because most often the ETs are viewed as ‘spiritual guides’ who will help mankind make the leap to forth density. In some schools, the aliens are evil impersonators of ‘beings of light,’ including their leader, Satan, who attempts the ultimate counterfeit—the Second Coming of Christ. This school of thought includes believers who are professed Christians, and others who are not.

Some may wonder ‘What about Nostradamus?’ ‘What about him?’, is my retort. After years of considering the enigmatic quatrains of this so-called seer, I have come to the conclusion that you might as well just read them for entertainment; you’re not (ever) going to get anything useful out of those obscure verses. Certain of his proponents claim to read various prophecies into them—after the fact; often long after. But those tenuous successes are of no help in deciphering other quatrains of ostensibly still future events. Sure, some will argue his case; but at the end of the day, my advice is don’t waste time on Nostradamus… it isn’t worth the effort.

Can you see what the main characteristic of all these non-Biblical sources is? They essentially foresee this next end of the age as typical; i.e. that the survivors will, after the time of turmoil subsides, resume business as usual among humanity on planet Earth. These prophets envisage a new aion wherein we’ll have another go on the great cosmic merry-go-round… with or without a new consciousness to help us do it better this time. In these oracles, humans are mostly on their own, or dependent on ‘extraterrestrial entities’ for continued survival and development. Hence, many believers in these camps are ‘American survivalists,’ stockpiling food, goods and guns for their supposed continued existence in the ‘after time.’

In stark, perhaps isolated contrast to all those ‘humanist’ styled prophecies stands the ‘book of our age,’ the Christian Bible. (I deliberately attach the modifier lest anyone doubt that the majority of end-times scriptures are found in the New Testament.) Astronomically, we are living near the end of the era of Pisces, as reckoned from the precession of the polar axis, a slow cyclical ‘wobble’ in the axis (as seen in a gyroscope, for instance) that takes almost 26,000 years. The north pole points within one ‘sign’ for about 2,160 years, and is presently passing from ‘the Fish’ (still used as a symbol of Christianity, tho few know why) into the age (or sign) of Aquarius. This has been the period of the flourishing of the Christian religion (such as it has existed), and of reverence for the Bible as the premier source of transcendent wisdom over that age. Now that period is reaching a transition stage, and momentous events are under way.

Biblical prophecy is not cyclical, nor humanist; it is presented as linear, and theistic. The prophecy embodied in the great vision of Nebuchadnezzar, interpreted for him by Daniel in the second chapter of his ‘book,’ (see Old Testament) displays human history as a giant statue, the head being the King himself and his then great Babylonian Empire, and the feet and toes representing the final nations on Earth at the time of the ‘end.’ Thus, quite linear, from head to toes. Now, the end scene in this vignette is depicted as a huge boulder, ‘cut without human hands,’ that smashes into the feet with sudden, explosive force, and destroys the entire statue. It is ground into dust, and the Rock (of Ages) grows to fill the entire world. Without laboriously decoding this ‘verbal-video,’ even a neophyte can discern the allegory of the earthly order being utterly terminated and replaced with the order of Christ. Now let’s move on to the New Testament.

The premier prophecy in the Christian Bible must be (no—not Revelation!) the sermon of Jesus, recorded in Matthew 24 (and parallel passages in Mark 13 and Luke 21). Yet, here again, there is confusion… which I argue is deliberate and effectual. The ingenuous apostles tacitly assume that the destruction of Jerusalem and their fabulous Temple must, naturally, highlight the end of the age. So, they enquire of Jesus, ‘Tell us, when will be the destruction of the temple and the end of the age?’ (paraphrased). Jesus, in replying to the hybrid question, seems to provide a hybrid answer. He warns his followers about the attack of the Roman army and the destruction of Jerusalem, and gives them a warning sign to watch for. Within 40 years of his death, his words were fulfilled, and those who remembered and heeded his warning were able to escape the carnage that ensued in 70 AD.

However, Jesus embedded that warning within a larger description of various, further events, apparently yet to be fulfilled. (One might argue that it was the evangelists who got things confused as they recorded these words, much later, from memory thru the filter of their cultural blinkers. But I submit this is unlikely, since the parallel accounts did not edit the convoluted sequence.) In fact, so skillfully intertwined are the dual narratives that today there is a sub-set of Christians (‘Preterists’) who are convinced that Jesus’ entire sermon describes His ‘Second Coming’ as occurring in 70 AD, everything having a ‘spiritual’ rather than literal, physical fulfillment. I leave it to the reader to investigate Preterism in the strict glare of scripture, and see its folly. The important thing to note is that by giving his ambiguous response, Jesus thwarted later attempts to edit the text into some form that would suit the self-serving agenda of church authorities. Another important point is that several parts of Jesus’ sermon are corroborated in the writings of Paul, Peter, and John, the other NT writers; and similarly, nothing Jesus stated is contradicted in any other text.

I don’t intend in this essay to do an exegesis of NT, end-times, prophetic texts. (Maybe another time!) What I hope to demonstrate is that the Christian prophecies depict the End of this world as we know it. There will be no following aion, populated by the ragged survivors of the cataclysms, ready to start the whole sorry cycle over again, ‘by the bootstraps,’ i.e. on human effort alone. There will be no New Age populated by gurus enlightened by alien intelligences. No; the Bible is clear in enunciating ‘a New Heavens and a New Earth wherein righteousness dwells.’ This revolution is impossible for humans or for ‘ETs’ to accomplish; it is solely a work of the Creator. What the final days of Earth reveal undeniably is the inherent corruption of mankind, and our utter inability to institute righteousness globally. We will finally see, beyond any shadow of doubt, our abject sinfulness and absolute need of a divine savior. And that is what scripture promises—God with us, a savior who becomes our beneficent ruler in a worldwide Kingdom of God. Further, we are told that we will not live in these corruptible, fleshly bodies, but in new, glorious bodies similar to Christ’s resurrection body. (Okay, you could think of that as ‘forth density,’ but obviously in a radically different setting.)

None of this sounds much like the extra-Biblical descriptions of the end of the age. So those are the two main streams of thought on the approaching cosmic crisis. Without going into minute detail (you can do that yourself), I have set out the two big paradigms that await the investigation of the seeker of truth. These are archetypal models at opposite poles of the prophetic spectrum. They present a clear choice: a choice between a path that purports to be delivered from God, and a labyrinth of paths that branch wildly from a multiplicity of mostly human sources. Of course, if you’re an inveterate rationalist with no regard for mysticism or anything that smells of it, you may not care for either description. In that case, you can always continue to listen to the explanations of the official experts, the scientists in the employ of governments and corporations. You will see how consistent and reliable is their version of reality… if you haven’t already noticed the endless lies and cover-ups. If you’re an atheistic skeptic of both governments and religions, then I invite you to maintain a ‘healthy skepticism,’ but to try my process of weighing all the facts while suspending a prejudged conclusion. And ‘weighing ALL the facts’ means taking the trouble to investigate claims that you think you already know about (that is mostly arrogance, and inexcusable to the true seeker). It also means keeping an open mind about things you would ‘prefer’ to dismiss in some convenient category of your personal design.

As for me, I make no excuses for adhering to the Christian Biblical prophetic vision. I do not do so out of some blind, fundamentalist, dogmatic faith that is really the last refuge of the moral malingerer. No, I accept this paradigm because it has demonstrated its robustness, from the aspect of spirit, of logic, and of experience. My final advisory note is that the seeker must go directly to the scriptures themselves; never put your trust in any human middlemen (and their odious denominations). Yes, it’s not easy, I understand… but who said finding truth was going to be easy? This essay has tried to provide the reader with a roadmap; now it is up to you to follow it and see if it, indeed, leads you to a trustworthy destination.

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