** Updated 2012: Got another mailer for the 2012 Prophecy Code Seminar. Who pays for these things?! Better yet, who replies? It’s rare to see overt promotion materials such as this, but it generally emanates from Conservative American Christian organizations. **
As you can see from the comments below from those who’ve attended over the years this isn’t a Left Behind bandwagon jumper, but it most certainly is an endeavour that erroneously assumes the church still sits at the center of society speaking from a position of the majority. Even in relatively conservative Calgary the church no longer holds this kind of prominence. Rather, it sits at the margins and sould be classified as a minority group.
I want tread lightly in this post, anytime one comments on other Christian things they open themselves up to a lot of strife. However, when organizations come into my city with a certain message that reflects a small contingent of overall Christian history, it’s worth posting some thoughts.
The notion that there is some type of code or prophecy predicted in the Bible and unraveling before us today is a popular assertion but is largely false.
Simply put, treating prophecy, and especially the Book of Revelation, as predictive for future events generally sits outside historical Biblical interpretation. Or to put another way, the vast majority of ‘prophecy’ in scripture is in fact not about foretelling/predicting future events, but explaining the current world in light of God’s grand unfolding plan.
The number of ‘prophesies’ in the Bible written for a future generation 2000 years or more after the fact is exceptionally small. So any event that has the following taglines to attract in listeners:
Does prophecy speak of one-world government?
What is the Mark of the Beast?
Does prophecy predict the economic melt-down?
you have to approach with heavy skepticism. By the way, the easy answer to all of these questions is an unequivocal ‘NO’. You can dry your dardnest to legitimize and twist scripture to mean what you want. But keep in mind, the perspectives that regard Revelation and prophecy as explanations for current events like financial crises, the Mid-East, and politics, come from a dwindling contingent largely based in the Southern US.
Most all Christian traditions do not hold this view. That should speak volumes.
Here are some additional thoughts on the Book of Revelation. It’s the last book in the Bible and contains an incredible, almost dreamy, and certainly confusing, account to seven churches in Asia Minor. People have long interpreted Revelation in three separate camps: premillennialists, ammillenialists, and post-millennialists.
These three views of the ‘end times’ can’t really be described in one line but here goes: Premillennialists believe there will be a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on earth and then after that judgement (after a huge conflict with Satan); Amillennials believe that when when Christ returns that’s it; Postmillennials believe we’re already in the ‘1000 years’ and must work towards a better world before Christ returns.
There was a very popular off-shoot of premillennialism that sprang out of America (actually rooted in the UK but then took off in the US) called dispensationalism. Essentially the view separates history into ‘dispensations’ or components and certain things happen in the world to usher in another dispensation.
In comes prophecy. Dispensationalists will point to Revelation and use certain interpretations to explain current events having little trouble believing the original writer John had their 21st century context in mind. That means strange things like one world currency is a no no, the rise of certain powerful nations (but America is OK) should be feared, certain leaders might be the anti-Christ, etc., etc., etc.
To wrap up, here are some more thoughts to share.
1) Very little of the Bible is actually predictive prophecy. There is plenty of prophecy, just very little of the predictive nature. When you hear about prophets in the Bible, their primary job was to take the message of God and translate in a way the contemporary people could understand. Usually it was news that went against status quo, but it almost always had implications for the present.
Apart from certain portions of Revelation and Daniel, predictive prophecy doesn’t show up much in the BIble.
2) Assuming the Book of Revelation has predictive implications playing out today the last 2000 years of church history were absolutely clueless regarding the interpretation of the book since it didn’t apply to them. it seems strange that John would write something that made zero sense to his contemporary audience.
3) Speaking of church history, the three perspectives I mentioned above have a place in history; dispensationalism only turns up in the past 200 years. We should also note that the vast majority of contemporary biblical scholars, even evangelical ones, reject dispensationalism as a viable eschatological theology (fancy word for end times interpretation).
4) Dispensationalism is a bloody and gory end to things. The secret message of Jesus that isn’t so secret is a message of love and reconciliation. In fact, the only saving grace that makes Christianity different is the fact God chose to act–chose to redeem humanity. The crux of that message is love and reconciliation. Why Christ would return with wrath and guns blazing to chop up all pagans in a bloody massacre is beyond me.
Do I believe in a final judgement? Sure, but I don’t think it comes at the cost of God reigning military supremacy over the devil. That’s way to Rambo-esque for me.
5) Rapture is a scam. Dispensationalist believe in a ‘rapture’ where all the good guys get taken away to heaven (but only for seven years cause they have to come back again?). The word rapture is never used in the Bible and the theology behind it relies on one single passage. This notion has very little support in the history of the Church.
6) Speaking of heaven, the huge problem I have with the whole perspective that we get the hell out of Earth to spend eternity in heaven singing to a harp is false. Dispensationalism and evangelicalism have done a diservice to Christianity by putting the hopes of their people into heaven. The Orthodox Christian position on where we end up is NOT in heaven. Heaven is maybe a holding place. We RETURN to earth, a new earth, one that is redeemed, a place where all wrongs have been turned right and every bad thing saved.
Again, the Christian hope is not in heaven–it’s in the redemption of the world we live in now. We’re not in this as an escape plan to get out, but are called to help God in his plan to redeem the here and now.
7) Finally, a dispensationalist perspective also lends to the notion that we can do whatever we want today because eventually we get the heck out. That leads to America turning into the largest capitalist and free market in the world, and simultaneously pillaging the world for its resources. No other place, except maybe Canada, do the citizens waste and destroy the planet. There’s no reason to hang out and redeem what’s here if we’re getting out (and apparently getting out soon given the latest arms development in Russia <-- sarcasm.) This was a long winded post on some reasons why you should not only beware of the Prophecy Code coming to Calgary, but also understand Christian perspectives that are quickly losing support even within their own ranks. I'm not going to say that dispensationalism is wrong, not my place to do so, but I will say that there are a couple of other strong perspectives that have far more support in the worldwide church community, far more support support in scripture, and far more support in our history.