Eschatology Issues IV:
With regards to the two points of time references WAS and IS NOT in Rev. 17:8, 11 -- in respect to the following statement, The beast, which you saw, was (i.e., "existed"), and is not (i.e., came "not to exist"), what is the standard point/position of measurement that this time is being referenced from, (i.e. from the point and time of John's day - the time of John's vision)?
While the Beast and God are by NO means the same in any way, we nonetheless see this same type of grammatical expression with reference to time regarding the description of the existence of God in Rev. 1:4, where the IS time reference is being implied at the point and time of John's vision - of course all 3 time tenses express the 'eternal' existence of God.
Revelation 1:4 (KJV)
Yes, this is a deliberate comparison scripture makes between the two, but the negative in the case of the beast makes the difference quite clear. God cannot "not exist", but the beast / Beast has (and the beast will).
The time "anchor" for all this is in the future as this is a prophecy of events to be fulfilled during the Tribulation. The Roman empire had not yet ceased to exist in John's day, and antichrist, the other referent, has not yet come onto the historical stage.
There is also a staggered fulfillment here in the case of the pseudo versus the true "was/is/will": the revival of Rome (significantly different from original Rome) will precede the pseudo-revival of the personal beast (where the "resurrection" will not be genuine at all).
Thank you for your response. I am having a difficult time in projecting the 'anchor' for the time measurement with respect to the time 2 time tenses of question, WAS (past), IS NOT (present), as being applied to the future, rather than to the past and present of John's day.
Moreover, when we analyze Rev. 1:4 we see that it is a personal 'Salutation' to the 7 Churches in Asia declaring God as the God 'which is' (present tense) - notice that the 3 time tenses in this Salutation starts with the present tense and then reverts back to the past tense.
Revelation 1:4 (KJV)
The correct choice and placement of the time tense HERE is so critical, because it literally dictates what interpretative options are allowable to us with reference to Rev. 8-11.
Yes, this is where many interpretations go astray. "Which is" certainly sounds contemporaneous, but in context it cannot be. The beast refers both to antichrist and to revived Rome. But even if a person wants to limit the application to one or the other, it has to be a relative "is" referring to the future because at the time John was writing Revelation there was no beast (still isn't), and there was no revived Rome (the original Rome was still in place). I think the critical thing to remember here is that John is in the midst of being shown the events of the Tribulation, and so he is being addressed from that time-line perspective (not from the perspective of the 1st century). That would have been very clear to him in the process of vividly experiencing these things; it is only unclear to us because we are reading parts of it at a time and vividly experiencing none of it. But if we were transported to heaven and given to see the Tribulation unfolding, "is" would clearly refer to what we were watching/experiencing, not to where our clocks were set back on earth.
Thank you for your kind response. What you say regarding John himself moving forward in time to see the Scarlet Abyss Beast from WITHIN a 'future perspective and time-fame', does support valid reasoning. However, consider this perhaps laughable but applicable suggestion below.
While this makes me feel a little like the Clinton argument - it depends, as you suggest, on what the relativity of IS is. John was transported in the spirit according to Rev. 17:3 from his current location in Heaven to a 'Wilderness' (whatever/wherever that location was - i.e., some spiritual wilderness movie studio to view futuristic events, etc.) and SAW, while there, a futuristic event. However, Scripture does not in any way suggest that the Wilderness location itself was within the confines and location of the future, but ONLY a place/location where John was transported in the spirit to see, watch and witness the future visionary event of the Scarlet Abyss Beast.
As such, there is a vast difference in WATCHING a futuristic event (i.e., television, movies, etc.) from a distant perspective, than actually being transported and becoming part of and present WITHIN the actual time-frame of the future event itself. The VIEWERS of the event in the two scenarios are watchers from completely different locations and time perspectives.
Nonetheless, when the television, movie, vision, etc. stops playing in either scenario the video/scene of the future event, the time perspective and location of the two WATCHERS is completely different - one viewer is in their same location before the vision, or movie was ever played, (arm chair in front of the TV, etc.) while the other viewer still remains active and present in the future time frame.
Therefore, if the Wilderness to where John was transported was simply a place/location for John to see the vision of the futuristic event and was indeed located somewhere within Heaven, and NOT within the future itself, then when the vision was OVER and the angel began explaining to John what he had just witnessed seeing - then the anchor of time measurement would return to the location of the Wilderness where John was positioned, and the actual day of John's vision, and not the future location and time frame. Therefore, the IS would apply to John's day the WAS would be before John's day.
Revelation 17:8 (KJV)
What one must then ask about John's Heavenly visionary experiences, did John actually move by relocation INTO the futuristic time frames of the visions he saw or did he simply view them from a distant Heavenly location and perspective, as we would crudely watch futuristic events unfold on Television today?
Yes, this is the alternative point of view, but in my way of thinking one cannot divorce the vision from the commentary about the vision. The "was/is not/will be" relates to the vision, not to John or his circumstances. Then of course there is also the issue of how antichrist could be said to have existed in the past before John in the 1st century so as not to be present at that time (the "was" and "is not"), or for that matter how Rome could be said to have existed in the past but not at John's time of writing (which it most certainly did). As we know that neither of things can possibly be true, I prefer the prophetic anchor.
Also, while it may seem that the third element, the "will be", does not pose any problems for the historical anchor, that is not the case. The only reason for this statement to be made to John is to stress the seemingly miraculous revival of the beast and the Beast (i.e., of antichrist and Rome). If the "will be", which must be eschatological with either anchor, is divorced from the "was/is not" as in the alternative view, then this statement makes little sense. Whereas we know from this very verse in Revelation that it is precisely because of the "miraculous" revival that the beast will be so admired:
Were the "was/is not" not fairly contemporaneous, it is hard to see what the world would find so astonishing.
Was struck by one of your comments in a response in your email postings on the Tribulation. I think you’re right that a sensible scenario on the circumstances of the rise of Anti-Christ is that the country may go along the path of left-wing, socially liberal politics in the extreme and that a counter response to that will attract a lot of political/social conservatives (which is not necessarily synonymous with Christian) and many conservative religious people will join in. Monumental social changes can happen in the next 16 years. Given the nature of the Church in this age and the politically correct bent of those in it and in positions of social influence, one can foresee a society that might look like later Rome or Carthage at its height - rich, self indulgent, sexually deviant, militarily powerful - where certain groups in society are ridiculed by many in academia, arts, business, media and politics. Many will be made to feel like outsiders in their own country and society. That’s where awareness helps keep a proper perspective on life. All this physical stuff we have really is worthless. We tie so much of ourselves and our time to it. Our country is so rich overall compared to the rest of the world not to mention societies in the past. To keep it, many can justify almost any conduct.
While some may think that has already happened, it can become much worse in the years ahead. While a present impediment to a permissive, socialist transition is the existing legal system which allows free speech, the use of hate crime legislation to stifle opposition will probably increase. Some on the left are so extreme they would negate those protections if they could. Many on the left have also become anti-Israel in words; one would expect that ‘anti’ sentiment to become one of action as conflicts continue that are tied to the Middle East. The rise of Islam in this country and increased illegal immigration will likely to continue and contribute to the Balkanization of society. Some of the ethnic groups that want to break off geographic pieces of the existing country may become successful.
An opportunity to teach those a lesson who contributed to such a situation in the guise of "cleaning up society" will get a strong following for Anti-Christ in the same way that so many German church members followed Hitler (they did not recognize the anti-Christian nature of National Socialism or else excused it) and so many missionaries thought Mao was a good thing because he closed down the opium dens and houses of prostitution and promised land reform for the poor. Neither Hitler’s Germany nor Mao’s China looked liked what had proceeded it; no reason to think Anti-Christ’s country will look like today’s USA. May be the same geographic area with the same language, people and cultural trappings, and maybe the same name, but serving it will be serving Satan. By mid-Trib the actions of Anti-Christ’s followers will make Torquemada look like a piker. Throw in the galactic and supernatural events and people will really be going wild.
Apart from the acts of an evil government there will be the increase in violent crime due to the lack of restraint on the part of individuals. No place to run and hide for what person can you trust. No doubt there’ll be many think of suicide as a way to avoid the calamity. We have been given the years of fat to prepare for the years of lean. And knowing what’s coming dredges up feelings of awe and dread while also that of relief at Christ’s return. Hard and terrible lessons for a coming hard and terrible time.
Any Christian who wants to remain faithful and enters the Tribulation should expect to be persecuted, impoverished, imprisoned and possibly put to death. While curiosity may make someone want to live to see what it is like to experience the end, and I confess to be guilty of that, I am deferring to the Almighty as to where I’ll be. In other words, I’m not praying "let me see it" but rather "thy will be done" so that if I’m here when it hits the fan, I’ll figure it is because He wants me here and not because I want to be here. That’s not so that I can blame God for putting me in the situation but rather so I’ll know it was His will and not my machinations. Naturally I am concerned about my children. But no matter what you teach someone, ultimately it is up to them and their free will as to what they will do. You take the opportunities given and do the best you can to provide instruction. It is like teaching; you put the info out and answer questions, and prepare the exam based on what you’ve taught. But how they do on the exam reflects their preparation. When I grade tests, I want to ask some of the college students if their mind was present in their body while they were sitting in class. Sometimes I want to ask jurors that when I try a case.
In the for what it’s worth department, and I say this as we have known each other more than 30 years, I am glad you have the ministry you do. The Almighty uses us in ways we could never imagine before it happens. It doesn’t seem like it but it was 16 years ago when I retired from the Corps at age 41; not very long when looking back. They say 70 is the new forty; I’ll be 74 when the next 16 years have passed (assuming I’m still in this life). So that means I’ll be ‘middle-aged’ when the Trib hits if He leaves me here until that time; no reason not to have a sense of humor just because the world is literally falling apart around you. Hey, aren’t you a year younger than me?
Thanks much for the "musings". If you have no objections, I'll probably be posting them soon. I think your comments are right on the money. When the beast's police come to confiscate my "stash-o-cash" I will be able to wish them "good luck and good hunting" with an unfeigned smile.
Yes you are the elder!
Your pal in Jesus,
Interesting article here:
This correctly explains why the 'secret rapture' theology is incorrect but goes on to say that true believers alive during the Tribulation will congregate in Judea (having followed God's dictum to flee there) and be protected by the Spirit.
I have not confronted this concept before. My understanding was that many believers would be persecuted and die, others would simply be imprisoned (though how they will not be killed prior to Christ's return if they are sitting in a prison controlled by the Antichrist is something I find hard to imagine) and perhaps a very few might actually survive until the moment Christ returns (His Grace keeping them alive). I link this to the scripture about some will die by the sword, some will be jailed, etc - and this teaching calls for patience and endurance on the part of God's people.
Good to make your acquaintance. Thanks for the link. It's always nice to see some correct views in print. The way I explain the survival of other believers (apart from the Jewish converts who flee into the wilderness: Rev.12) is the favored place which Babylon will enjoy in antichrist's system (until she falls out of favor and terminally so). I surmise that privileged Babylon will act as sort of safe-haven while the rest of the world undergoes the beast's depredations unimpeded. The command to "flee Babylon" is what will generate the escape of those who have survived within her borders hitherto, that is, at the end close of the Tribulation just prior to the Armageddon campaign. I fully expect that, safe-haven or no, there will indeed be many believers who are imprisoned even in Babylon. But the reason I posit from scripture that Babylon becomes so hated by antichrist that he is desirous of destroying her is because of her betrayal of him when he disappears into the "north" to quell insurrections that arise as a result of the fifth bowl judgment (Rev.16:10). No doubt when Babylon throws off the yoke, all such "political prisoners" will be released; that will be our moment to "flee" (assuming we have survived to that point). This is written up in greater detail at the following links (all in CT 5):
Thanks again for the link and also for your interest in this ministry and in the Word of God.
In Jesus our Lord, for whom we breathlessly wait.
Hello again, Dr. Luginbill,
I hope my writing to you again will not be an intrusion. I just had to share the following with you, in confirmation of what I have been studying this evening. I am now at Chapter 3B of The Tribulation, where you discuss the antichrist's paternal origin, and potential date of birth as the year 2000.
As Christmas drew near that year, I was eagerly anticipating watching television movies concerning the birth of Christ, the Nativity, etc., movies one would expect to be seeing. However, to my great amazement, there were NONE to be seen. Instead, the various TV channels showed movies like "Rosemary's Baby," "The Omen" and its sequels, "The Exorcist," etc. I remember being totally flabergasted and felt something very evil must be happening in the world for this to be taking place.
In studying your work about the possible beginning year of The Tribulation (2026), it occurred to me that if antichrist was actually born in late 2000, he would be 26 when it began, and thus 33 at the time the Millenial period would begin. As you've so intelligently described, antichrist does try to mimic our Lord Jesus Christ, and that would make his (beast) ministry ending at age 33 as well. It all falls into place.
I share this with you as a confirmation of what you have written - so that you might know what was happening "out there in the world" at that precise time of the year 2000.
Dr. Luginbill, perhaps this has already been suggested to you - but is there any type of format or forum in which we "out here" might stay abreast of current developments concerning the end times, based on your expertise as a Bible scholar? It could be a blog (daily, weekly, or other) that we could tap into and move forward together? You obviously have a great head-start over many of us, but please know that you are helping to change lives with your work. Your advice helped me so much in your earlier e-mail, redirecting my path at a crucial juncture. I would welcome such an opportunity. Perhaps it could be seen as an extended ministry for you. I'm sure I speak for many of us who yearn to be fortified in our faith and would welcome moving forward with companions and wise teachers. If our Lord deems this to be a helpful endeavor, I'm sure He will let you know. For my part, I would welcome it with all my heart!
Thank you again for blessing my life with these new understandings and helping us to "make straight the way of the Lord."
In loving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
That is a fascinating observation about the beast (and I will most definitely keep it in mind)!
Your idea is also very interesting. I would certainly be amenable to considering something along these lines. I have purposely been reluctant to sign onto any of the various social networking models out there at present. For one thing, between a full time job as a professor and this ministry as it stands, I have my hands quite full. For another, there are privacy concerns. Bible study and Bible teaching works best, in my view, when it affords a certain amount of privacy and therefore objectivity. That way, a person can be convicted of the truth by the Spirit without any confusion about what influence other people may or may not be having. I would worry about wolves in sheep's clothing too, predators who pretend to be enthusiastic Christians but are really only looking for victims (does, "Dear in Christ, I am dying of cancer and want to give you ten million dollars" sound familiar?). So the format would be tricky. As it is, whatever I learn personally, I am happy to share (and glad to receive as well). Along these lines, in addition to the RSS feed which announces the weekly email postings, there is also a notification email list which I use to announce major new postings. I would be more than happy to add you to the list if you are so inclined.
Thank you for your good offices. Perhaps this idea of yours would be the ideal ministry for you personally. We all have our own unique gifts, after all.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I think I am well over my head here so I could really use you proven wisdom on this one. In Matt. 24:34 we read the following per KJV.
The focus of my concern is whether the above highlighted word ‘fulfilled’ can also be grammatically translated as ‘be coming’ or ‘be beginning’.
The greek word ‘ginomai’ is suggested to be a - v. 2Aor. midD 3 Sg. ginomai, Greek 1096, Strong’s ginomai, ghin'-om-ahee; a prolonged and middle form of a primary verb; to cause to be ("gen"-erate), i.e. (reflexive) to become (come into being), used with great latitude (literal, figurative, intensive, etc.) :- arise, be assembled, be (-come, -fall, -have self), be brought (to pass), (be) come (to pass), continue, be divided, draw, be ended, fall, be finished, follow, be found, be fulfilled, + God forbid, grow, happen, have, be kept, be made, be married, be ordained to be, partake, pass, be performed, be published, require, seem, be showed, × soon as it was, sound, be taken, be turned, use, wax, will, would, be wrought.
As the Strong's entry indicates, gignomai is a very flexible verb. It can be as neutral as a synonym for the verb "to be", or as specific as a synonym for the verb "to be born", and may mean many other things besides. Its particular semantic force is also colored in the NT by the fact that it is the verb most often used to translate the Hebrew hayah ("to be / become"), and, specifically in regard to this case, the idiomatic use of that verb in dependent clauses to suggest a furthering of the narrative (i.e., "and it came to pass" in the OT is vayehiy in Hebrew and kai egeneto in the Septuagint respectively, forms of hayah and gignomai respectively).
Although the verb can potentially mean many things, that of course does not mean that it does mean anything other that what it actually means in a given context. In other words, there are in this list of Strong's some right answers for a given context and some wrong ones, and the correct solution/interpretation must come from context and usage to determine which is which in any given case. This is usually a matter of experience on the part of the writer and expectation on the part of the reader (the latter of which we try to duplicate through intensive reading of much Greek). So for example as an English speaker you know very well the difference between "put up" (house / or place on high), "put down" (insult / or drop), "put over" (deceive / or place beyond), "put on" (pretend / or don); etc., each of which pair of meanings is decidedly different and cannot be substituted one for the other in every context. However, if a non-English speaker were to look up the verb "put" and then look up the prepositions that are placed with it in the examples given here, some very strange things might result. And even if this person got to the different meanings in the pairs above, he/she might get to only the wrong one in a context: "Are you putting me on?" does not mean "are you donning me like an overcoat?", for example. Long story short, in this biblical context you ask about we have a continuing series of events ("event" being the key). Matthew is anticipating that we will easily realize that gignomai in Matt.24:34 means the "happening / becoming / coming to pass" of those events.
I would prefer to translate "until all these things happen" or "until all these things come to pass". This is what it means. I don't like "fulfill" because Greek has a perfectly good word for that if such had been what Matthew had wanted to say, and that word in Greek (pleroo) usually focuses on the fulfillment of a positive prophecy (as we expect when we read the normal English equivalent, "fulfill").
If your question is about timing rather than meaning, that is, if that is what you are getting at with "beginning", it would be most unusual for a Greek writer to say so in this way, since the verb is in an unfulfilled temporal clause and in the subjunctive mood. That is to say, there is no "cue" here for the reader that such should (or even potentially would) indicate that the inception of events is the case (and the normal idiom suggest their conclusion instead). The conventional thing to convey a beginning would be to use some verbal cue (as in using the verb archomai which means "to begin") if the idea were one of incipient action.
From a purely semantic point of view, since these actions are in the distant future, the termination of the generation "of this sort" is being envisioned as more or less simultaneous with the happening of "all these events"; though, technically speaking, the last event should occur at the latest at the same time as the end of "this sort" generation. That is pushing the language a bit farther than it will probably go. What the verse means, in my estimation, is that the trend of hardness of heart in Israel ("these sort" being those who reject Messiah) will continue until Messiah returns – and we have that precisely from Paul in Romans and from Zechariah as well.
I have this particular passage explained in some detail at the following link:
Hope this helps,
I am very uncomfortable with the translated word ‘fulfilled’ with respect to final, completion, etc. Why? For one, as you well know the Preterist have premised a complete doctrine on the speculative summation that ALL of the prophetic events of Matt. 24 had to be completed (fulfilled) before the generation of Jesus day had passed away – i.e. 70 A.D. Of course we both know that with respect to Scriptural totality this makes no sense whatsoever.
Meanwhile, the Atheist use this Passage (Matt. 24:34) to support their claims that Jesus failed to return and resurrect the dead, etc., etc., by the completion of this one and same said generation.
However, with such grammatical latitude regarding the greek word ‘gignomai’ I am perplexed that the KJV translators chose to translate the word in this given Passage as ‘fulfilled’.
What you suggest is far more prophetically reasonable and responsible "until all these things happen" or "until all these things come to pass". As such this signifies that the events of Matt. 24 occur at different time intervals until completed.
In summary, what I was intending to suggest was that the prophetic events of Matt. 24 would actually begin before the passing of the said generation in question BUT would not actually be completed until the latter day coming of the Lord Jesus to resurrect the dead.
Yes, I think your conclusion is right on the money. That lines up precisely with what the Bible teaches about the end times. "Hardness in part" is prophesied to dominate the physical seed of Abraham until the end times begin (Rom.11:25). There will be no significant revival of Israel until the tribulational ministry of the two witnesses, Moses and Elijah (see the link), and no wholesale turning back to the Lord until He and His sign appear in the heavens at Armageddon (please see the link: in CT 5: "The Repentance of Israel"). That is essentially what the continuance of "this generation" is meant to convey in Matthew 24:34.
Thanks for your prayers regarding my family. Just as demonic activity and deceptions may *help* you in recalling something you probably shouldn't, the Lord's activity blows away anything Satan has to offer. That is, I've known some people who have been deep into the occult; it always leads to an Earthly hell that precedes the actual hell. Does the Bible speak of an Earthly hell, I see many people that are in it, it's very sad. Drug addiction, sex addiction, addiction to money and power. The people I knew who were involved in the occult seemed to have a deep and evil-like wisdom. However, the wisdom that comes from God is always exactly the opposite. Good and evil is a black and white issue when it comes to God, and as Christians, we know exactly what is evil and what is good. I believe this can really only come completely as an adult, which is why it's so important to have good parents, I pray that things will work out for my family in this way.
Hope all is well and that you are physically well. I am concerned about H1N1, not only for my niece and nephews. I had a friend who become seriously ill to the point where he was in the hospital for a week, a young, healthy athletic man. Are these signs that the last days are upon us? There is such wickedness in the world, I watched a Christian You Tube video about child prostitution. I wanted to see if this type of thing actually occurred here in America, and sadly, it does. It seems like kids never even have a chance, these young girls' parents our on drugs, they get turned out by pimps before they know what is right and wrong. There should be people out there like David Wilkerson (spelling?) who preached on the streets of New York generations ago. In most cases, the 35 year old prostitute who is working the streets was once a teen prostitute. Now, she's got a bad drug habit and her looks are gone. I don't think enough outreach work is being done among Christians, like myself.
Thanks so much for the update. I am very happy to hear that your family members are doing better, and will continue to keep them in prayer. I am also praying that they will respond to this gracious blessing of God and realize that only He can help when trouble arises.
The world is a rotten place, but it has ever been so. On the other hand, it is probably the case that the extreme degeneration of conscience generally is preparing the ground for the accelerated horrors of the Tribulation. It's not going to be a pretty picture, that's for sure. All the more reason for us to stockpile as much truth in our hearts by faith as we possible can before that balloon goes up.
In our dear Lord Jesus,
Bob, I got one for you. Google "demographic problem WMV". It is titled immigration. It is an eye-opener. Thought you might get a chuckle out of this. This would be really funny if it wasn't so real!
That was really an amazing video. I about fell over though when at the end it was used as a fear-appeal to get people to witness! And of course for a believer-produced video, it betrays no conception that the end times might have something to do with scrambling the statistics (or that God has intervened in such cases before). Still, scary stuff. You can see how an anti-Islamic antichrist will be able to garner support pretty easily in time to come.
Yours in our Lord Jesus,
Dear Dr. Luginbill:
May I start by saying that your work has literally changed my life. Never had I understood the concept of the original sin or Satan's rebellion, let alone the Tribulation. But even more importantly, it has reconnected me to my love of our Lord Jesus Christ and shown me how critical it is to stay rooted in faith.
I am not anti-Semitic and I've come to appreciate the role the Jewish race may well be called upon to fulfill in the coming times. However, I am confused about the atrocities being committed by today’s Israelis against the people of Gaza and the West Bank. Surely there have to be consequences for such cruelty and atrocities against other human beings! It seems that Jewish people the world over justify these actions by adamantly justifying it because "God gave them this land." One hears this pronouncement over and over again by Jewish people – no care that Palestinians are starving and being murdered and thrown out of their homes. How can such behavior not call down the wrath of God, or show these Israelis the error of their ways? How can such behavior still warrant God's Grace? Granted, I understand it is not every single person in Israel doing this, but I expect most of them favor it.
I hope you will have a moment to reply to this e-mail and I certainly understand if you choose not to post it.
Once again, sincere thanks for your inspiring work! I look forward to reading the last installments.
May our Lord Jesus Christ grant you special blessings in your continued work!
Good to make your acquaintance. Thank you so much for your encouraging testimony. I will most definitely strive to be worthy of it!
As to your question, let me begin by pointing out that this is in my view more of a political question than it is a spiritual one, and as a frequent user you no doubt know my views on the counter-productive nature for believers of involvement in politics of any sort. That being said, we certainly are not meant to keep our heads in the sand or to have no opinions whatsoever. It is true, however, that when it comes to complicated questions of "nation versus nation", the number of times in human history where one side was completely right and the other completely wrong have been very few and far between. God works all things out together for the good, but that doesn't mean necessarily "victory" for my side and "defeat" for yours. As a historian and historiographer by profession, I can affirm that there are in fact so many imponderables in any major historical event of the scale of the Arab-Israeli conflict that no single individual could ever hope to come close even to having fluency in them all (let alone mastering them all, far less "knowing" everything about them). And even if it were possible for an individual to "know everything", that would still fall far short of having God's knowledge about a given situation. God works things for good in His way, and it is often the case even in our own lives that this way may surprise us at the time and only make sense to us after the fact.
One cardinal principle I try to remember and hold fast to is that of doing what I know for certain God does, namely, dealing with everyone in this world as an individual, and refraining (here's the harder part) from dealing with groups as groups (however the groups in question are "constituted"). A nation-state like the USA does not have that luxury, but, blessedly, I am only one person and not at all obligated to take the collective view. Moreover, it is a mistake, in my opinion, to do so when it comes to any group of people. My ideal application here (speaking for myself and apprising all and sundry that in fact my application is not perfect) would be to pray for the salvation and spiritual growth of all on either side, and have confidence in the Lord that whatever is transpiring is working to precisely that end, regardless of how things may appear to human eyes.
It is a biblical fact that if a person adopts a thought pattern which is negatively prejudiced vis-a-vis the Jewish people and then acts on such a prejudice, that person is apt to incur a special divine response of judgment – but as Christians we are already commanded and disposed to love everyone, even those with whose actions we strongly disagree. Scripture also does say that God will "bless those who bless you" in regard to Israel. But I hope that I made it clear in my previous posting that the conclusion drawn by many evangelical groups to take the part of "the nation-state of Israel right or wrong" is not one with which I would agree at all (and I believe I have scripture on my side here as well). For one thing, support of a nation-state and its policies is a political act of the very sort in which I have been saying all along it is a mistake for believers to become involved at all. Acting in love toward anyone (Israeli or Palestinian, for example) out of pure Christian motives is commendable, and even a cup of cold water given in the Name of Jesus Christ will not fail to receive its appropriate eternal reward. Supporting any group out of political motives is, spiritually speaking, a complete waste of time (not to mention that this is to jump into precisely the sort of spiritual quagmire that can destroy a person's spiritual life). And since the two sides in question here are at war for most practical purposes, furnishing material or even moral support to either side in the conflict, aid that will no doubt result in contributing to the death and destruction of some, is most certainly political and therefore not at all spiritual.
My knowledge of these things is imperfect, but it may be better than that of some. As I have often observed, Zionism is a secular movement, and the majority of Jews living in the state of Israel today are decidedly a-spiritual to what would probably be for most American Christians a surprisingly cynical degree. The most common Israeli collective attitude on spiritual matters tends to be quite different from what we might assume from our conversations with many Americans of Jewish descent. The Israeli body politic, moreover, is far from homogeneous to a degree that makes the US seem relatively "united" by comparison. Given the heated nature of the situation in the middle east and in Palestine in particular, and the heated nature of the rhetoric over it, it is certainly understandable that people on the outside get worked up about it too. I have had many conversations with both sides, and I have what I would call a middling ability to appreciate the problems, the fears, the claims, the anger, and the necessities of each. As in the abortion debate, once a side is chosen, blood pressure will inevitably go up.
As a Bible teacher, it is my responsibility to teach the entire truth of what scripture has to say regardless of whom it might offend. The principle of blessing the blesser and cursing the curser where Jewish people are concerned is a scriptural truth and must be accepted as such. That is not the same, I hasten to repeat, as requiring "good Christians" to give the secular nation of Israel a blank check of support for anything it might do. Indeed, as I have said, giving any political entity a blank check is a serious mistake for a Christian in my considered view. How then to separate the Jewish people from the "Jewish state"? In fact, I believe that is a fairly easy thing to do. As a Christian whose driving desire it is to please my Lord Jesus Christ, the efforts I see the Bible as deeming appropriate in regard to helping anyone are those which help others to accept Christ and to grow in Christ (and I would be overjoyed to learn that this ministry was of help to a single Israeli become or advance as a believer, or a single Palestinian, or, even better, some of each). For unbelievers, this means the ministry of the gospel; for believers, ministries which foster spiritual growth. Either category can and often should have a physical dimension. But whether it is providing medical care, or counseling, or foodstuffs, or technical assistance or whatever, if the spiritual dimension is missing, the physical dimension is worthless: the cup of water has to be given in the Lord's Name. This is to be the nature our involvement with any individual or individuals (and we really ought to think of all groups as collections of individuals because that is the divine point of view: God deals with everyone as an individual, even those who are Jews by birth).
I suppose this is a very long and tortuous way of saying that involving our emotions in the political affairs of the world is a distraction and potentially very counterproductive. I do not mean to suggest that I am immune to it – anyone who watches the news or reads it on the net or in the paper is going to react on some level. I simply mean that I recognize on what I hope is an ever deepening spiritual level that like the Psalmist it is a mistake to "concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me" (Ps.131:1 NIV). This was said by David, by the way, a king who was involved in the practical aspects of statecraft on a daily basis. What nations do is all in God's hands. He is the One who has "determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live" (Acts 17:26 NIV). We can choose to become involved in such great matters if we wish, but in my opinion and experience, the more we abstain, leaving things that trouble us to the Lord and entrusting them to Him in prayer, the happier we will be, the more productive we will be, and – I firmly believe – the more we will please Him. Very soon, we believers are going to find that the time has come "when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God" (Jn.16:2 NIV). When it does, all of today's political give and take, atrocities, wars, invasions, plagues, the horrible results of the human condition, will count for very little, regardless of how we felt about them or what side we chose. The only thing that will matter then is the degree to which we prepared ourselves for that darkest night.
Life provides us with all manner of testing. The imperfections of this world, the assaults of the evil one and his minions, the pains we suffer, the trials we endure, the needs with which we grapple, the horrors our eyes see, swarm around us like bees, and it takes a deep Christian faith to "cut them off in the Name of the Lord" (Ps.118:12), choosing to see things from the divine point of view instead (Heb.11). Different things affect different believers in different ways. We all have our weak points. We all have our strengths. Some temptations make us recoil; some draw us in. But as we grow in Christ, we learn how to inure ourselves to the unimportant physical realities around us, no matter how they pain or tempt us, setting our eyes instead on the glorious rewards and heavenly realities to come through the power of Jesus Christ.
As those who have committed ourselves to Jesus Christ, we learn to put the spiritual objectives of the Christian life first. We how learn to look to the goal. We how learn to run the race . . . until we break the tape.
I apologize in advance if this answer does not meet with all your concerns and would be happy to discuss the subject with you further. Once again, thank you so much for you kind and humbling words.
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Dear Dr. Luginbill,
My sincerest thanks for your quick and lengthy reply. I am deeply moved that you have taken such time and energy to reply to my question. I am humbled by it.
If anyone could set me straight on this subject of the Middle East crisis, I knew it would be yourself. After writing to you, I then read about the Turkish flotilla being attacked, so I was doubly pleased at your quick reply that is helping me take a step back from judgment and involvement, and making clear what a true Christian's response should be. Thank you for clearing the debris before I got more immersed in these external situations (which are only accelerating), and helping me to see through this trap more clearly, with a more spiritual blueprint to guide me. Your reply was, to say the least, "a lot to swallow," but so wise and makes so much sense.
I see that I have a very long way to go to consistently live in a way that is "pleasing to our Lord," but the willingness is there. Points that are particularly poignant in your reply are that ANY political opinion or reaction is a waste of time and part of the "unimportant realities around us" and that any help not given in the Spirit of Christ is meaningless. That is it in a nutshell. It certainly puts all of the "doing good" in perspective! I have had strong concerns not only about the Jewish and Palestinian crisis, but also with the corruption of our own government. Your advice to see "individuals" as opposed to "groups" is also priceless, the need to pray for all sides and to trust that God's perspective is so much vaster than my very limited and not-so-informed points of view. I certainly have my work cut out for me in terms of remaining vigilant against personal and biased thought patterns, let alone negative ones.
You can be assured that I will be re-reading your e-mail many times in days to come, as a reminder and a guide of which direction to take. It may be challenging to begin with, but once I adapt to this new frame of mind, I pray it will only get easier to remember. It's learning a new way of being, one that I dearly welcome and will strive to abide by.
Thank you sincerely for your thoughtful and blessed advice!
From a grateful heart, in Christ Our Lord.
And thank you for your thoughtful email. I am very pleased with your response. Some things are easier to hear than others. It seems that the devil is adept at finding the places where a particular teaching ministry rankles, then using them to create umbrage. Kudos to you that you refused to take that bait.
The lesson of turning one's back on politics is as difficult to learn as any of the other lessons involving turning our backs on the world and the things of the world. Perhaps I am so emphatic about it because it was so difficult for me personally to learn. Indeed, it is a weak spot of which I'll probably always have to beware. I was always much interested in politics in my youth, and it got me into plenty of spiritual trouble. And needless to say nothing good ever came of it. We are here to do the works God has prepared for us to do (Eph.2:10); but our own works count for nothing (Eph.2:8-9; 2Tim.1:9). We cannot improve the devil's world, no matter how hard we may try – because it is un-improvable. All we can do is let ourselves start dancing to Satan's tune instead of heading straight up the high road to Zion and reward. Everyone has political opinions, and I would certainly not dare to put myself in the position of judging which are right and which are wrong, especially since I have gone on at length to demonstrate that not only are they unimportant, but can also be extremely spiritually distracting.
And not only that. We cannot really know what God is planning or why. Jonah was far ahead of us all in seeing things from the divine point of view, but he still let his temporal political prejudices get the better of him. We can certainly understand that. If we were in a conventional war with another country, it would be very difficult not to take a parti pris position. Indeed, it might be considered treason if we remonstrated against our own nation vocally and especially if we took any tangible action. The Assyrians were a gathering storm on the horizon as far as the Jewish people were concerned, and they certainly did prove to be a serious threat down the road (destroying and deporting the Northern Kingdom in ca. 712 B.C.). Jonah was not only a prophet; he could also apparently read the political tea-leaves. The prophetic knowledge that Assyria was going to be judged and destroyed was good news to him. But when the Lord commanded him to go and proclaim this impending judgment at Nineveh, he fled as rapidly as he could in the other direction – precisely so that the Assyrian people would not even have a chance at repentance (cf. Jon.4:2). Thus Jonah came as close as any other single human being ever has to effecting a real political change by his own actions (i.e., the destruction of Assyria for want of an opportunity for repentance).
Of course God had other plans, and no one can oppose the Almighty, even someone as well-informed in the truth as Jonah was. In the event, the Assyrians did repent and were not destroyed (and so survived to be the Lords' "rod of anger" against Israel: Is.10:5ff.). As an Israelite of that time, I would certainly wish to see my nation's enemies destroyed. But the Lord, who loves Israel so much, was concerned for the people of Assyria too, who, despite all their cruelty and aggression, were willing to repent and be saved (the people of that particular generation, anyway).
We all have our own political agendas, and they may even be defensible to some degree by biblical standards, but God has His plan, and that is the plan which will stand, and there is nothing we can do about it. Our political plans always entail involving ourselves in groups to oppose other groups. But God deals with us the same way He dealt with the people of Nineveh: as individuals. And instead of acting against opposing groups, He expects us to do true good, divine good, for individuals, one person at a time, one cup of cold water offered in the Name of the Lord at a time. Anything else is bound to get us into trouble, or at least cloud our spiritual vision and hinder us in this race.
Keep on fighting this good fight of faith!
In Jesus our dear Lord.