‘Strange’ Doesn’t Quite Cover It
By Jack Kinsella
The Bible’s outline for the last days has always been considered a little strange to scholars. The Books of Daniel and the Revelation were so strange that great expositors like Calvin and Luther omitted them from their Bible commentaries.
The strangeness of the heads, horns and beasts, etc., convinced previous generations that the books were largely symbolic, and to be understood in the context of history, rather than future prophecy.
Everything about the outline of the last days is noteworthy for its strangeness; strange signs in the heavens, strange social attitudes, strange politics, strange climate changes, strange wars…
It was too strange for previous generations to picture. That is one reason that the traditional view of Bible prophecy was that the events depicted in Daniel and Revelation were all fulfilled in AD 70 with the Destruction of the Temple.
This is called the ‘preterist’ view, whereas viewing Revelation and Daniel as Bible prophecy for the last days is called the ‘futurist’ view. Preterism was the dominant view of the historical Catholic Church, and was among the doctrines retained by mainstream Protestantism following the Reformation.
Indeed, that is the first charge leveled against futurism — it is a ‘new’ doctrine unknown to the Reformers. And it made sense enough, especially in a world in which the latest technological breakthrough was the printing press.
As literal, future events, especially as depicted by Revelation and Daniel, they were just too strange. Large portions of Ezekiel were also viewed as either allegorical or historical.
For almost the entire life of the Church, the concept of Israel being restored to her ancestral land was too strange to contemplate. The Catholic Church taught replacement theology — that God’s covenant with the Jews was transferred to the Church when the Jews rejected Jesus. It was retained by the Reformers as part of mainstream Protestant theology.
It is replacement theology that gives the imprimatur to Christian anti-Semitism.
It was difficult for previous generations to grasp some of the events outlined by the Lord as well; signs in the sun, moon and stars, mass communications, the whole concept of globalism, sudden, simultaneous increases in global earthquake activity, famines, floods, pestilences, rumors of wars; this stuff was too strange.
Especially given the time frame specified — a single generation. There is a reason for that.
In previous generations, change came slowly — my great-grandfather’s world had not changed significantly in 300 years. (My grandfather, on the other hand, was in his teens when the Wright brothers flew the first airplane. He lived to see Neal Armstrong walk on the moon.)
So, to previous generations, it was too strange to be future, so it must have been referring to past events.
To this generation, ‘strange’ is the new normal. The Bible outlines a series of strange wars that, viewed from the perspective of history, make no sense at all.
The Gog-Magog War has no logical objective in the historical sense. Israel is plundered by a vast Arab alliance, led by Russia and Iran — ostensibly for her wealth. But it is the Arabs that have all the wealth. And Israel is about 0.6% of the Arab world. Why risk global war? Too strange.
But Israel is at this moment facing the prospect of exactly that kind of war, against exactly that alliance.
Even the ostensible reason is strange. Iran — awash in oil — argues it needs nuclear power to supply its energy needs.
While denying it wants nuclear weapons, it argues Israel’s wealth of nuclear weapons justifies Iran developing an arsenal of its own. And if denied permission to build nuclear weapons it denies wanting, it has threatened to use those nuclear weapons it denies wanting against Israel. Too strange.
But Iran has enough support for its position from Russia and the Islamic world to prevent the UN from taking any meaningful action against Iran. Instead, the UN is proposing disarming ISRAEL and putting Tehran on the honor system. How strange is that?
While all that is going on, the West is engaged in what is euphemistically called a ‘war on terror’. It is the strangest war in history. On one side is the entire non-Islamic world. On the other side are significant minorities of the entire Islamic world.
The rest of the non-Islamic world is rumored to be ‘moderate’ — except that they share the identical ideology with the terrorists. And all the polls show the majority of the ‘moderate’ Islamic world is in sympathy with their aims, objecting only to their methods. (And not very loudly)
The heavily Islamist United Arab Emirates was one of only two nations on earth to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. (The other is our other ally, Pakistan) Money from the UAE funds and supports terrorist operations. Many terrorists were given safe haven in the UAE.
But the United States, the principle target of the Islamic jihad, is fighting tooth and nail to hand US port security to the UAE, claiming there is nothing to worry about. How strange is that?
It was this kind of other-worldly, inexplicable ‘strangeness’ that made end-times prophecy such a mystery to previous generations. Things taking place on a global basis that don’t make any sense in the natural.
It is as if history itself is being dragged, kicking and screaming, toward an appointed destiny, almost, (as Ezekiel put it), as if it had a hook in its jaw.
Nobody is quite sure why Israel is to blame for all the world’s ills, but that is the way the Bible outlined it, and that is the way things are. Logic needn’t apply.
Why, oh why, would the United States put its security in Islamic hands, even as the reality of a global clash of civilizations looms large on the horizon? The Bible makes no mention of America as part of the overall last days’ scenario.
Originally Published: February 23, 2006.