Thursday, November 11, 2010

Critical Evaluation of http://atimetochoose.com/blog.asp

The book of Revelation in the Bible is a mysterious book concerning the end times of this world and the second coming of Christ. Not only does it provide a guide of the events that will take place during the earth’s apocalypse, but it does so in an esoteric manner so that only a select few would truly understand its true meaning. The author, who goes only by the name of John, left a shroud around the implication of this text and bequeathed future readers to guess as to whether he was composing a political commentary on his current time period and devising its regime’s destruction or whether he was truly prophesying Christ’s second coming. While many readers have attempted to decipher their own interpretation of the events in the book, they inevitably obscure certain details in order to fit a specific idea. Paul Paradise, the author of the blog on Revelation at http://atimetochoose.com/blog.asp, has undertaken the task of providing his own analysis on this book and its events. While some of his apprehensions are based on the text of this literature, a fair amount ignores certain facts in order to preach of an impending Armageddon.

The first page of this blog is designed as a vague overview of events that could be seen as leading up to Judgment Day. The page is headed with a peaceful and serene picture of a dock on a lake during a sunset and is followed by a picture of lightning striking an erupting volcano. This serves as a representation of the calm that the second coming of Christ will bring to the earth that will be preceded by violent natural events. While lightning is literally depicted in Revelation in several chapters, a volcano is never directly stated in his translation (King James Version) meaning that he has already taken an interpretive liberty to this blog. The beginning half of his first page is covered in scripture from New Testament books such as Matthew, Luke, Romans, and 1 Corinthians. I enjoyed the background scripture Paul provided in order to inform the reader of references outside Revelation that refer to similar events happening in the book. Halfway through this page, Paul compiled a list of natural disasters that he hinted could relate to some of the events leading up to Christ’s second coming. A majority of the occurrences listed would be a stretch to connect to those listed in Revelation such as blizzards, sandstorms, landslides, and higher ocean temperatures. The only consistent natural events, listed numerous times, are earthquakes; however, none of the magnitude expressed in Revelation. Those in the book are listed as “a great earthquake” (Rev. 6:12 and Rev. 11:13) or single earthquakes accompanied with flashes of lightning and thunder such as in Revelation chapters 8 and 16. After this, he lists events that could occur with scripture citing each event. Paul summarizes his introduction by quoting Matthew 24:34: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled!” He also claims that “we are the last generation” and “the hourglass is running out” predicting that 2010 will be the year the apocalypse begins and that Christ will make his second coming soon. This makes it apparent that the purpose of his blog is to inform his readers of this impending doom and preaches that they should repent. Based on the facts presented, I would have to disagree with these statements. Paul does not offer any specific text based evidence for these claims and completely ignores the idea that the book of Revelation could be a political commentary attacking Nero and the Roman Empire. While his only attestation is that of the natural disasters occurring in Revelation, he does not specifically link any scripture to his listed current events.

In Paul’s blog entitled Signs of the Times Related to: Israel, he discusses Revelation 12. In this chapter, a woman clothed with the sun and pregnant with a child who was to “rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Rev. 12:5) is being chased by a dragon who ends up fighting a war with Michael and his angels eventually leading the dragon being cast down to earth. Since John leaves this woman unnamed and therefore unidentified, the reader is left with the right to decipher this metaphor. Paul depicts the woman as representing Israel since the woman wears a crown of 12 stars, symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel, and is about to give birth to the prospective Messiah. Since the Messiah would represent Jesus, Paul finds it logical to assume that a metaphorical Israel giving birth to Jesus could just mean that Jesus was born in Israel. While this is an accepted interpretation by scholars, there are others just as likely. Roman Catholic scholars suggest that this woman is actually Mary who literally gave birth to Christ indicating that in verse 17 when “the rest of her offspring” is mentioned, this is referring to Jesus’ other physical siblings. Witherington, in his commentary Revelation, says that this translation is unlikely and this phrase is more than likely referring to “believers, perhaps in particular persecuted believers or those about to be persecuted” (Witherington 167). As he notes, this parallels the metaphor described in Isaiah 66:6-9 which also envisions Israel as a woman in labor giving birth “before her pain came upon her. Witherington’s interpretation would also make sense if the woman represented the Church. The sun under which she is clothed would then embody God and the “moon under her feet” (Rev. 12:1) would exemplify the people of God. In verse 5, the child is “snatched away and taken to God and to his throne. Paul argues that this represents Christ’s death and ascension to heaven. This would make sense since it appears that the dragon, representing Satan, held a part in Christ’s crucifixion and in verse 4, there is evidence the dragon was the one who killed the child in this metaphor.

In Paul’s blog entitled The Christian Church, he addresses Revelation chapters 2 and 3 concerning what the Bible says about the Church in the last days. He describes each different church that receives a message as a different age of the church’s life starting from the church’s birth following the resurrection of Christ. Paul explains that since there are seven different churches being addressed by Christ, then the last 2000 years of the church’s history is separated into seven time periods. His idea is that the first age includes the beginning of Christianity and the following few hundred years and that the last age is the time period in which we are currently living. He remarks that “the interesting point is that there was only one church age in which Jesus had nothing bad to say. It was the church age right before our own! It was the church age that included the pilgrims coming to this land to find religious freedom and established the United States. It was also the time when Martin Luther wrote his thesis on what the church was supposed to be and the protestant reformation that followed. The idea that each church represents a different age has absolutely no textual support. Each church addressed was one of the seven main churches at the time Revelation was written. In fact, each of these churches was major cities back in this time period and some are still around today. Also, as Witherington points out, each letter is similarly structured into eight parts: the address to the angel, the indication that these messages are from Christ, a description of Christ, praise of the church for its good features, the church’s fault, consequences of said judgment, a “Gospel-like conclusion” (Witherington 91), and the reward of staying faithful until Christ’s second coming. This suggests that these messages were transcribed after the rest of Revelation and a preface and introduction to the rest of the vision also meaning that they were indeed indicated for churches of the present time period. While the faults stated in these messages may still be true today, there is no indication that Christ meant all but the first letter to be addressed to future readers. In fact, many of the issues discussed were quite pertinent to that era. For example, in the message to Smyrna, it is stated that this city is one that is rich, yet also poor with a certain ordeal. It was well known that Smyrna was a port city “with strong ties to Rome and a large Jewish population, making it doubly difficult for Christians” (Witherington 98). The city’s work force was also based on the guild system where, in order for one to work a specific craft, he had to be a member of a guild which entailed its members to perform numerous pagan ceremonies. Smyrna’s prosperity would account for its description as being rich and while it may not have been financially poor, the Christian’s of this church would have been poor in spirit and their faith since they still performed pagan rituals. The congregation would be left with the conflict of whether or not to give up their jobs in order to become spiritually rich but economically poor.

Revelation is a book in the Bible that is not meant to be an outline for the end times. Rather, it is supposed to give solace and comfort to the reader that the wicked shall be punished and the true followers of Christ shall be rewarded with a place in heaven. Revelation begins with messages to the churches of its own time period that may still resonate with our present day church body. John’s description of his vision of the second coming of Christ is filled with metaphors that can be interpreted in several ways. However, it is important that these interpretations be based on textual fact. Overall, Paul Paradise’s blog provides an interesting perspective on Revelation, and while his prediction of an impending apocalypse by the end of the year is intriguing, it has little evidence to support this claim.

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