Let’s change plans. Juan’s questions, Bob’s observation, and e-mailers’ inquiries reveal people have questions about “The Last Days” Let me make a few short observations in hopes you will respond with your ideas.
Juan asks how we discern the “prophetic” aspect in Revelation and the rest of the Bible. I obviously reject the methods of those who treat the issue as an intellectual puzzle solved by pulling together verses, reading their opinions into them, and coming up with “predictions” which profit them in some way. It is far more honest to do what the Bible tells us to do.
For instance, the first 3 verses of Revelation tell us John is speaking about what is going to happen “very soon”. He says we can discern what that is by reading his auditory “prophecy” out loud in a group and letting it bless us. His title, “Apocalypse” reveals this will remove the veil covering reality, so we can know what is really going on.
If we follow his directions with a little help from studying what the words meant to his first century listeners, we come up with this story. When the veil is removed, we find Satan is behind the Roman Empire. That mighty power can not fulfill its promises to make eternal peace, because it says evil is good and good is evil. Its vast navy brings the earth’s resources to Rome, making her rich and all other nations poor. We then hear Rome will be destroyed very soon by her own lies and greed as the rest of the nations turn on her. However, the church need not despair, because when the veil is lifted, you also see God, not Rome rules the universe. He shall care for his people, giving them a new life without suffering and tears.
It seems to me Revelation’s “prophecy” is not so much specific “predictions” about particular events but rather general “promises” that give continual hope. It is like Jeremiah promising God would bring his people home to Jerusalem in 70 years. God did it, but in 50 years. Jeremiah’s “prediction” was wrong but his “promise” was fulfilled. So, too, John’s promise was fulfilled as Rome collapsed, and the Church remains to this day.
I think Juan is right that Revelation’s “prophecy” still speaks to our situation. We, too, discern its message by following John’s instructions. We should read it out loud in a group, listening as if God is speaking directly to us. Then we should share our responses.
That is not to say everyone will hear this “prophecy” in the same way. I have found young people just about always respond, “That’s us. That’s a picture of the Empire the United States has built.” Adults have seldom heard this. They hear a more general promise that evil will bring its own demise while good will triumph, because God brings justice when Christ rules. Well, to be honest, sometimes adults hear the “prophecy” demonizing our enemies and endorsing our own government. I find that twists scripture to rationalize our own sins in the manner of Dick Cheney’s Christmas card few years back which read “If a sparrow can not fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?”
Pure intellect might respond to “prophecy” in fear. Faith responds in a hope that continues loving in spite of the situation around us. Does this make sense?