Getting the Goods
on Bible Prophesy
I am currently trying to find out the validity of Bible prophecy and have come across one of your pages "The 'Left Behind' Scenario Is Really Real." My research, which I must admit that it is not a thorough and detailed one, is not particularly successful. If you would excuse my laziness, would you please kindly suggest a few resources where I could find more information on the subject?
Looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your time.
From: "Positive Atheism Magazine"
To: "Michael Lau"
Subject: WebMaster: Positive Atheism Index (Bible prophecy)
Date: October 20, 2004
What we know of the past is mostly not worth knowing. What is worth knowing is mostly uncertain. Events in the past may roughly be divided into those which probably never happened and those which do not matter.
What these "End-Times" afficionados are doing is prognosticating. They are doing precisely what they themselves have denounced as "occultic" in every palm reader and horoscope writer to ever grace their respective fields of vision. And I hereby challenge any Evangelical religious leader to demonstrate to us the difference between what Christians such as Tim La Haye, Hal Lindsay, and Chuck Missler are doing and what Joyce Jillson, Jeanne Dixon, and Minerva have done (except that the latter at least tries to be funny).
This is to say nothing about the masochistic streak that is surely required of one hopes to spend much longer than a few moments thinking about some of these ideas.
Hal Lindsay, by the way, is easily credited with having sparked the modern mass popularity of this idea with his grotesquely successful book, The Late Great Planet Earth.
"Premillenarianism" is more commonly called "premillennialism," perhaps owing to its being just a tiny bit easier to pronounce, if that. The modern form of this idea harkens mainly from the Dallas Theological Seminary in Texas. To gauge the popularity of premillenarianism in America, we never would have guessed that one solitary school is responsible for its profusion!
I have recently come to call this teaching "the Left Behind scenario," after the infamous book series by Tim La Haye, which probably grabbed its name from the equally infamous (in its day) Jesus Freak-era folk song from the 1960s, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready":
Life was filled with guns and war.
There's no time
A man and wife sleep in bed.
There's no time
If you have never heard this "spirit-filled" lilt, this "good cheer of good riddance," then it's probably because you're enjoyed the fortune of never having graced a Wednesday-night Evangelical sales-pitch extravaganza aimed at recruiting our nation's teenagers (by frightening the bejesus out of them through biblical fortunetelling).
The "End-Times scenario" of the "Left Behinders" and others, goes something like this:
0. The ancient nation of Israel is re-formed. I numbered this zero (0) because it's somewhat of a Johnny-come-lately Bible prophesy, having enjoyed very little in the way of popularity until 1948 (of course). Interestingly, I've never been able to find any Bible passage which clearly predicts this occurrence. What's alluded to in the books and videos are what one might consider the circumstantial evidence of Bible proofs: an example might be Jesus speaking about the end of the world and his nation in the same breath; of course, his nation was yet standing as he spoke (and most likely would have remained standing if he'd had any say in the matter -- assuming, for the sake of discussion, that a "Jesus" figure existed at all).
Aside from all that, the modern nation of Israel is a far cry from the ancient tribe of Judaea. There's certainly no continuity between the old and the new -- with a single glaring exception rearing its ugly head: both nations have practiced wanton genocide against its "neighbors."
1. When the "Rapture" (supposedly) takes place, dead Christians and living Christians of good standing will literally fly up into the sky, en masse, to meet Jesus. At this time they'll all be whisked off to -- uhh, well, er-uh, okay: there's a bit of disagreement, here, depending, of course, upon which Bible passages get interpreted and which ones simply get ignored! Some say they'll be escorted to the Christian Heaven, others that they'll join Jesus as a "backup," of sorts, in his effort to rid what's left of this miserable world of her atheists and Muslims and Hindus and the like, and to convert what's left of those who think they are biological Jews to The One True Faith (that is, premillennialist Evangelical Christianity).
2. Another thing we deal with (or so the story goes) is the so-called Great Tribulation, which is (supposedly) described in numerous (very psychedelic) Bible passages. Again, depending upon which of these passages are taken literally and which are only metaphor, this "Great Tribulation" is supposed to last either a few minutes, three-and-one-half years, seven years, or (now) over two-thousand years (or something like that).
Some say that the "true" Christians will have to endure this "Tribulation" (due to a post-"Tribulation" "Rapture") and others that they will escape it (in a pre-"Tribulation" "Rapture") and still others that they will endure only part of it (being whisked away in a mid-"Tribulation" "Rapture"). And still others (the vast majority of Protestants, until very, very recently) think the passages allegedly describing this period are rightly applied to the bloody reign of the Papacy!
As you should be able to see by now, part of my goal, here, is to demonstrate that nobody could possibly be any more confused as to what the Christians believe regarding the "End-Times" than the Christians themselves!
3. At the Second Coming, Jesus Christ supposedly rides in out of the sky -- on a horse (!) -- holds up his hand, and stops the "Great Tribulation" right in the nick of time to rescue the handful of Christians who were "Left Behind" (although why "He" would do this after all that hoopla about the "Rapture" is beyond me). I act surprised at the horse part despite the intricate drawings of that worthy steed in various "End-Times" literature. The same passage describes Christ as having a sword coming out of his mouth, too, so there we have more of that "selective metaphor-izing" that I alluded to earlier!
4. The Millennium is: (a) a literal 1,000-year length of time that occurs after the "Great Tribulation"; (b) a metaphor for either "a long period of time" or "a complete era," lasting (now) at least 2,000 years; (c) a metaphor for something else entirely, and it has not been given unto us to know the times and the seasons. (In the "field" of Christian Bible interpretation, the latter is always a safe bet, to be sure!)
5. The "Great White Throne Judgement" takes place when "the dead, both great and small" (and sizes in between, too, we'd hope) are judged for their deeds. Christians are supposedly in on this judgement, despite the fact that Christians are saved by Grace (whatever that means) or Christians and their babies are saved by Grace (however that works) or Christians and all babies are saved by Grace (wherever that is explained in biblical exegesis).
6. "Eternity" takes place within the gates of a huge sugar cube-shaped city (of finite size) that appears to literally float through space. A new Heaven and a new Earth are part of this picture, according to some, but not enough information is given to anybody (except the Jehovah's Witlesses) to explain just how these two roles pan out.
Ah, but you had to ask, didn't you?
Your most thorough source for exposing La Haye's "Left Behind scenario" would be those Christians who believe in a different "Left Behind scenario." And your best source of information for refuting the generic "Left Behind scenario" (the idea itself), would be the Amillennialists -- those Christians who see this thing as the lucrative scam that it is. Of course, the Amillennialists have skeletons of their own, and to deal with those, simply ask your nearest "Left-Behinder"!
Yup, I'm saying it:
Let the various Christian sects speak out against themselves by speaking out against each other!
I broke my own "Left Behind" habit in the early 1980s, while yet a Christian, using this very method. I later broke the Christian habit altogether with extensive Bible study and a searching and fearless facing up to what I saw as the truth. This whole process was, of course, aided by the use of mind-altering drugs and kinky sex.
What I then called "Late-Great-Planet-Earthism" (at least within the confines of my own skull) is, as I mentioned above, properly categorized as a subset of "Dispensationalism." Most "Left Behinders," however, are oblivious to even the basic tenets of Dispensationalism, opting instead for a diet consisting entirely of "End-Times" prognostication. Dispensationalism proper subdivides time into seven convenient "dispensations" (of course), some of them being governed by the Law of Moses and others being a product of the "Grace of God" described by Paul. (We're currently in an era where only the words of Paul are valid to anybody, according to a hard-shell Dispensationalist. There's a huge poster of the Dispensationalist time-line available in many Bible stores. It's about a foot high and about six feet long, and shows this "Great Tribulation" followed by the "Millennium" followed by "Eternity" (and, if memory serves, a rather psychedelic drawing of the sugar-coated sugar-cube city).
To rid oneself of Dispensationalism (specifically, the "Left Behind scenario" habit), one could do much worse than a tiny pamphlet by the Los Angeles Bible teacher Ralph Woodrow, called Daniel's Seventieth Week (or something along those lines). The passage in (the Protestant version of) the Book of Daniel plays heavily in Dispensationalist "End-Times" theology. Furthermore, anybody with even half-a-sense of honesty will admit that the "Seventy Weeks" passage in Daniel is baffling at best, its interpretation strained at the very worst. Only those accustomed to believing whatever their preacher tells them will have no questions or objections to this central component of the Left Behind business.
After reading this pamphlet, I quickly snatched up the rest of Woodrow's works and became an adamant Amillennialist for the next year or so, to the chagrin of the numerous Premillennialists who had to deal with this already angry young man (angry, for the most part, because the church had been touted as a place for social interaction, though devotion to said church and her beliefs and teachings and people caused wholesale rejection
Speaking of which, I completely evaded mention of the Postmillennialists, who have got to be the scariest group of Christians going. They teach that Christ will return after the "Millennium," wherein He (Christ) will reign through His Church!! Yes, these Christians plan to clean things up around here, and they don't expect any help from their God in this matter. Instead, it is their responsibility to bring about a literal thousand years of peace (for Christians, at the expense of freedom for others), and this thousand years will happen before they ever hope to see their beloved Savior return (as if they need Him to begin with, given their tall agenda). Their critics wonder about the passages that talk about Christ returning "as a thief in the night" (nobody will know when). They also wonder (obviously) what need there is of even having a Christ, when the Christians are so capable of handling things for themselves!
There are a few atheists who have bothered to get into it with these types, but none of them stick out in my mind at the moment. But why bother when the Christians have already such a bang-up job for us?
Hope this give you at least a vague idea of what's in store for you if you tackle (or just study) this particular social phenomenon.
Ironically, the sheer popularity of this particular "End-Times" teaching (the "Left Behind scenario") is easily the most powerful force in what will most likely end up sparking the end of the world as we know it. This is because this teaching is the basis of the entire pro-Israel movement among America's politically-charged Christians. All others (Amillennialists, etc.) consider modern Jews to be just another brand of non-Christian, as much in need or Christ's work on the Cross as any of us. Only the Premillennialists teach that some Jews will obtain God's favor simply because they are Jews (with or without Christ's work on the Cross).
My main suggestion with all this is to avoid taking it too seriously. Just have fun with it, okay? Keep in mind that for atheists, happiness is up there with health and survival, and this brand of Christianity can be a bring-down unparalleled by any other modern ideas.
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