“Then the man brought me to the gate facing east, and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory. The vision I saw was like the vision I had seen when he[a] came to destroy the city and like the visions I had seen by the Kebar River, and I fell facedown. The glory of the Lord entered the temple through the gate facing east. Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.” (Ezekiel 43:1-5)
Humanity never really changes. We often think “people are worse” now than ever before. Part of that is the 24/7 news cycle we can’t seem to escape from.
Yet I’m often struck by the commonality between eras and generations. The cuneiform tablets unearthed in Mesopotamia in the last couple centuries attest to that. Financial records, crime logs, personal letters…all reveal human frailties and character defects we display today. People were cheating on taxes then, robbing stores, committing adultery.
Just like today.
An interesting passage from Ezekiel, which highlights prophecies directly given from God to the prophet, shows us clearly that human nature never really changes. The passage comes from Ezekiel Chapter 12:26,27—
“The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, the Israelites are saying, ‘The vision he sees is for many years from now, and he prophesies about the distant future.'”
The context is the coming Babylonian invasion of Israel, due to the idolatrous nature of the Israelite kingdoms since Solomon’s kingdom was divided. Think about what the Israelites were telling God’s man, Ezekiel: No, the Lord isn’t telling us about our near future; He’s talking about something coming way off in the distance.”
Years from now. Decades. Centuries.
Typical human behavior.
Of course, we know (as they should have and perhaps really did) that the prophecy very much concerned their futures. Due to the punishments handed down by the Creator, the Israelites would either be slaughtered in the coming invasion, or they’d be taken into exile.
All that happened.
Likewise, Jesus and the apostles predicted certain things that would come to pass in the very last days of human history, around the time of Jesus’ Second Coming. Ironically, there are key scoffers in the Church claiming all these things (if they are even literal) are very far off. The scoffers even scoff about the Second Coming.
They could learn a few things from the ancient Israelites.
We are all on our own individual journey.
No matter who we are or where we live, we have similar issues. Even if we are not outwardly emotional or appear to be stoic, the big questions of life confront each one of us at some point.
At his country estate at Down, the British naturalist Charles Darwin had the advantage of independent wealth, which allowed him to spend the last several decades of his life doing literally anything he wanted.
Of course, what he wanted was to advance his philosophy of naturalism, even beating competitors like Alfred Russell Wallace to publication with his On the Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection.
While reading the brilliant book on Darwin, by Paul Johnson (Darwin: Portrait of a Genius), I was struck by the fact that Darwin cherished a “walking path” near his home. It was here he took strolls daily, his nimble mind crafting the means of marketing his philosophy to the masses; with this, he had enormous help from his friends like Thomas Huxley (“Darwin’s Bulldog”) and Herbert Spencer (who coined the phrase, “survival of the fittest”).
A walking path.
Darwin chose his lot in life, and we all do, really.
I have a walking path as well, near my modest home. It is secluded, bounded by woods and meadows. In fact, my walking path is so secluded, no one knows where it is. I mow it regularly in the spring and summer, and it is here I do my deepest thinking. I have been doing that since boyhood.
On the same path.
How different, though, are my thoughts from Darwin’s. Where he saw the cold, impersonal hand of Nature producing the world Tennyson called “red in tooth and claw,” I see beauty and purpose.
I hear the birds right now, in the heavy woods. I see cattle on, if not a thousand hills, quite a few. A dog runs through a pasture in the distance. My memories of tractor rides in this very meadow, with my grandfather, are still fresh. To be very honest, these thoughts and feelings make me feel good.
If that is my opiate, so be it.
For I believe that the cold, impersonal god of Darwin could not have made the birds, or the cattle or anything else. That god could certainly not develop my mind and heart in such a way that beauty and love and goodness bring a contentedness I am certain come from the God of the Bible.
Finches may have different beaks. Mild forms of erosion might explain modest examples of rock layers.
But only the Bible gives us a true picture of earth history and, more importantly, our own history. It is in the Bible that we learn where we came from, why we’re here, and where we’re going.
When I watch animals play, with all their intricacies, I marvel. When I consider that God had a purpose even in the flood of Noah, I marvel. When I see a re-born nation of Israel, defying all historical odds, I marvel.
I realize Darwin marveled at the world he fashioned in his mind. He saw purpose in it, I suppose. However, I am certain that his views of naturalism were philosophical, and not science in the sense we think of it today. Many will disagree with me, of course. Interestingly, the loudest voices of criticism today would come from within the Church.
I also know that Darwin and many of his colleagues suffered from lifelong depression.
The apostle Paul likened his life’s journey to a race. He wanted to finish well.
I might run sometimes in my life journey, or more often, stroll up and down my walking path. But I too want to finish well.
And it is only in the Bible that I find a world that makes sense to me. God has lit my path all my life, every step.
He is the only true God.
I just returned from the Mid-America Prophecy Conference, seeing many dear friends. The conversations alone were salve for a tired soul.
The very language I just used hearkens back to the “old time religion” that is largely gone from our society today. That has changed even in media. We’ve gone from Barney and Andy leaving the Mayberry Community Church and sitting on the front porch for the afternoon, to films depicting clergy that are depraved.
I also spoke to some of the top Bible prophecy experts in the world, and one theme kept returning: Apathy.
“We are witnessing an incredible, daily fulfillment of Bible prophecy, and yet more and more people are not paying attention,” said one.
Another spoke of the weariness some feel when confronted with a daily diet of bad news around the world. Overlay that with prophetic teaching, and it’s easy to see why people just want it all to go away. People want their heads buried in the sand.
Honestly? The prophecy community over the last four or five decades deserves some criticism here. Almost countless affirmations that Jesus “is returning soon!” have left the masses no longer listening.
However…I think the larger problem with apathy about fulfilled prophecy is the critics. Critics in this area can range from secular media to leaders in the Church. It is this latter group that is guilty of marginalizing one of the great truths of Scripture: God keeps His promises through His prophetic declarations about the future.
“And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:6-8)
This rhetorical question from Jesus Himself tells us clearly that when He returns, there will be a dearth of true faith, worldwide.
I believe much of the blame for this can be laid at the feet of the current crop of shepherds in America, specifically, evangelical leadership that for the most part holds Bible prophecy teaching in contempt. Paul encouraged Timothy (and all pastors who would come after him) to simply preach the Gospel. That he had to remind Timothy indicates lack of focus on this single issue would become a problem:
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
Interestingly, some of the best-known Christian pastors today in America defy this command. Although it raises the ire of many to point it out, Andy Stanley is one of the biggest offenders.
His mocking of plain Bible preaching, and his own personal story of tossing-over doctrine and scriptural truths when he first went to college, are clear examples that Andy Stanley believes modern methodology in the Church trumps Scripture. In the link, you can see what Stanley believes about the historicity of Scripture; the transcript of the exchange is as follows:
Host: I’ve heard you do this a lot. When you talk about Adam and Eve and you kind of address, Hey, you may not believe in Adam and Eve, but you unpack it by going back to Jesus. Can you give us…I think that’s a good example.
AS: Yeah, well if I can take a step back, and tell me if I’m not answering your question…I think we have done previous generations, especially children and high school students a terrible disservice by the way we talk about the Bible.
I remember my freshman English class at Georgia State University. We were talking about literature, it was a literature class, and one of the pieces of literature was the Bible. And my teacher was not an anti-religious person, but began to talk about the myth, the Creation Myth—other creation myths. And without meaning to, began to slowly dismantle the faith of every single person in there who’d grown up in church.
When she was finished, all of us were convinced that there are many creation myths: the story of Adam and Eve is a creation myth, it’s one of many…let’s move on to the next topic.
Well, because of the way the Scripture had been presented to me, and probably everybody in that class, it’s a house of cards. So as soon as you pull out one piece of the Bible to say, well, this is a myth, then immediately it’s like, Well, what else in there is myth?
The foundation of our faith is not the scripture, the foundation of our faith is not the infallibility of the Bible. The foundation of our faith is something that happened in history. And the issue is always, Who is Jesus? That’s always the issue. The Scripture is simply a collection of ancient documents that tells us that story. So when we talk about the scriptures and especially the reliability of the scriptures, I think any time we can tie the Old Testament especially back to Jesus, we have done everybody — Christians and non-Christians alike an incredible service by letting them know, you know what? You can believe the Adam and Eve story is a creation myth…so what? Who is Jesus?
And then to your point, when I deal with Adam and Eve, I’m quick to say, hey, this is one of those odd stories. This is one those stories you heard growing up, about two naked people running around in a garden. And who can believe that? And there are many creation myths. But here’s why I believe this actually happened: not because the Bible says so, but because of the gospels, Jesus talks about Adam and Eve. And it appears to me that He believed they were actual historical figures, and if He believed they were historical, I believe they were historical, because anybody that can predict their own death and resurrection and can pull it off…I just believe anything they say.
So what have I communicated? What I’ve communicated is that even though we’re going to talk about Genesis and the Garden of Eden, the issue is, Who is Jesus? And I think that any time we can weave that small little apologetic into our teaching and preaching, it helps our high school students, and it helps our college students understand, the foundation of my faith is not an infallible Bible; it’s something that happened in history. Jesus came into the world, walked on the earth, represented God, was God, and rose from the dead. And that’s a very, very important piece of the, uh, a very, very important part of our approach to the Scripture every single week.
This is astonishing. Stanley says clearly that, “all of us were convinced” that the Adam and Eve account is a myth!
This has inevitably led to Stanley (and his other pragmatic ministry friends) diminishing the importance of the Bible. Is it any wonder the Church Growth/Mega Church Movement has been partly responsible for the plague of biblical illiteracy in the U.S. churches?
It follows that the attempt to erase teaching about the Old Testament (or, when it is brought up, it is taken out of context) marginalizes and diminishes the importance of Bible prophecy in today’s culture. This itself was prophesied:
“Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation. But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed.” (2 Peter 3:3-6)
Bible prophecy has never been more relevant. Yet apathy has set in. Ironically, Relevant magazine publisher Cameron Strang writes a “Reject Apathy” column regularly, yet his magazine (targeting Millennials) serves as a mocker of what I’d call traditional Bible prophecy. This contributes mightily to apathy among people who profess to be the Body of Christ, the Church! Mocking quacks like Harold Camping and lumping him in with other prophecy teachers is shoddy journalism.
Although I am often marginalized as a “critic” or a “troll” or some other epithet when I point these things out, I am also convinced that a coordinated effort to erase true Bible teaching in the West has been underway for quite some time. Again, it’s ironic that the Bible predicts this.
This in part explains why Christians and non-Christians alike know very little about the Bible. What is taught for the most part in mega churches is self-help (relationships, child-rearing, finances). The biggest ministry leaders also appear to be most interested in building and maintaining their own brands. Teaching the whole counsel of God (2 Timothy 4) is out of fashion in the American Church.
Ultimately, when Bible prophecy is not taught, along with the whole counsel of God, the people cannot discern what is going on in our world.
That is a profound shame, and will go down as a stain on Church history.