Left Behind: The Mark Review–Part 2
On page 142, we read in one of Tsion Ben-Judah’s missives to the world:
While the messianic prophecies were fairly straightforward and, indeed, led me to believe in Jesus as their unique fulfillment, I prayed earnestly that God would reveal to me the key to the rest of the predictive passages.
This he did in a most understated way. He simply impressed upon me to take the words as literally as I took any others from the Bible, unless the context and the wording itself indicated otherwise.
Note that we’re not told how exactly God “impressed” this upon him. We’re just supposed to take his word for it.
In other words, I had always taken at its word a passage such as, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” or “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Why then, could I not take just as straightforwardly a verse which said that John the Revelator saw a pale horse?
Because the Bible is made up of all different kinds of genres: poetry, narrative, apocalypse. You wouldn’t take every word of poetry literally, would you? Why should John have seen a literal pale horse when he’s writing apocalyptic literature, NOT narrative?
Must we read the Bible as if we had a literal brain that thinks that when you say, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” cats and dogs are actually falling from the sky?
Yes, I understood that the horse stood for something. And yet, the Bible said that John saw it. I took that literally, along with all the other prophetic statements (unless they used phrases such as “like unto” or others that made it clear they were symbolic).
Prophecy is meant to be ambiguous. You don’t apply the same rules to an apocalypse that you do to, say, a history.
My dear friends, the Scriptures opened to me in a way I never dreamed possible.
That’s funny, I always found the prophecies to be much harder to understand when literal, than when I began to read them metaphorically. Nothing in Revelations makes sense when you take it literally! I finally began to understand it when I discovered the symbolic readings.
Also, the Scriptures opened to me in a way I never dreamed possible when I began reading it with an Orthodox Study Bible that explained how everything fit together. Things that had been lost in Protestant literalism and sledgehammers making the Bible read how different denominations wanted, now became clear with the Orthodox reading.
For example, James and Paul now work together rather than opposing each other on works vs. faith. Another example is, I had no idea that when Christ was baptized in the Jordan, he redeemed the waters of the world and made them useful for Christian baptism.
On page 144, Tsion refers to Revelation 13:11-18 as a “clear prophetic passage.” Yeah, clear as mud! Check out this passage for yourself. We’re supposed to take this as completely literal?
It makes far more sense to me to see it as, say, a metaphor for a Roman emperor who got too big for his britches (another metaphor we can’t take literally). If the mark of the beast is money, printed with the emperor’s face, then it makes perfect sense to say that you can’t buy or sell without it.
And are we to believe that the Antichrist is a literal beast with two lamb horns on his head, coming out the ground, and speaking like a dragon? After all, there is no “like unto” there! But even LaHaye and Jenkins don’t give Nicolae two literal horns!
On page 1711, the Orthodox Study Bible reads:
The early Church was convinced the Second Coming was near (Acts 2:16, 17; Heb. 1:1; 1Jn 2:18). John’s vision was first of all a reminder from God to the churches not to give in to their adversaries, but to hold fast to their faith.
The book can also be seen as prophecy addressing a time far distant from its era of composition, predicting actual future events; or as an exposition of the ongoing relationships and conflicts between God and His kingdom, humanity, and Satan. These three approaches are not contradictory but complementary; all are valid.
While seen as canonical and inspired by God, the Revelation is the only New Testament book not publicly read in the services of the Orthodox Church. This is partly because the book was only gradually accepted as canonical in many parts of Christendom.
In addition, in the second and third centuries Revelation was widely twisted and sensationally misinterpreted, and the erroneous teachings brought troublesome confusion to Christians–a trend that continues to this day.
As for the number 666, which The Mark references on page 145, and the mark of the beast, let’s see what the Orthodox Study Bible says on page 1733:
The mark is a parody of God’s seal in 7:3, alluding to both the Hebrew phylactery of Deuteronomy 6:8 (God’s Law kept on the forehead and left hand) and to chrismation (when the new believer is marked with a cross by holy oil on the hands and forehead, among other places). This is not necessarily a physical or visible mark, is “gained by worshiping the beast,” and “is required to do business.”
As for 666, in Roman times when Revelations was written, letters were used for numbers (ie, Roman numerals), so you could calculate the numerical value of names. So 666 is the value of the name of the beast, who is a man.
“John may be purposefully enigmatic, using a secret code to protect against a charge of sedition.” 6 stands for “falling short, incompleteness, imperfection,” 7 for “perfection, fullness, completion,” 8 for “eschatological perfection, a superabundance of fullness.”
Sunday is the 8th day, the day of Resurrection. Though “777” is used in evangelical circles to represent Christ as a counter to 666, “Jesus” in Greek is actually 888, while the Trinity is 777.
666 is “the epitome of created inadequacy.” When transliterated from Greek into Hebrew, “Nero Caesar” equals 666. Transliterated from Latin into Hebrew, it’s 616, which some Revelation texts read instead of 666.
If 666 actually refers to Domitian, “whom some considered to be Nero reincarnated, it would be safer to refer not to the present persecutor but to the one long gone.” But still, only 100 years after John wrote Revelation, St. Irenaeus still “had no idea to whom John was referring!”
(Here ends the summary of the Orthodox Study Bible, p. 1733.)
Despite the first book, which showed that people could think they were Christians and still get left behind in the Rapture, Tsion now tells his cyber flock that they can know for sure they are eternally secure as Christians: “If you are already a believer, you will not be able to turn your back on Christ, praise God.”
But even in the real-life persecutions and martyrdoms in the early centuries of the Church, many believers turned their backs on the Church rather than be martyred in the many grisly, torturous fashions dreamed up by the Romans.
So how can these Tribulation Saints be so sure, just because they believe, that they won’t do the same? It is dangerous for their souls to tell them they won’t.
Here we read about the many who lapsed from the faith to avoid martyrdom, and the controversy in the Church over letting them back in later on. If so many couldn’t stand up for their faith in the face of terrible death, how can Tsion be so certain that all believers will be able to stand up for their faith in the face of the guillotine?
Are you a Calvinist, Tsion, once saved always saved? What about the many people who were left behind after the Rapture, thinking they were saved? Don’t give your flock such false security!
We find no such teaching in the New Testament, to trust that we won’t fall, rather that we are to be vigilant, to stay steadfast, lest we fall away.
To be continued.