Lenny Bruce is Not Afraid
Regular readers to my blogs will have recognised by now that I have an aversion to religious types who try to enforce their faiths upon others (Ya don’t say McTavish? Gosh! Shock! Horror! Who would have THUNK it?). Among these however, there is one type of God-botherer who irritate me in the extreme; the End Times believers.
These people take the Book of Revelation and other parts of the Bible literally and claim that they point to ‘signs’ of the ‘End Times’, which will culminate in the rapture, when the faithful are called up to Heaven, the second coming of Jesus Christ, and the ultimate battle between good and evil at Armageddon. They are so sure of this that they have even identified the Plain of Megiddio in Israel as the appointed place for this battle.
Traditionally there are twelve signs of the End Times in the Bible, although some preachers stretch this out to claim that there are many more by putting their own particular twist on Biblical verse. One American evangelist has claimed there are 26, and attempts to include a rise in vegetarianism as a sign of the End Times, due to the verses in 1 Timothy 4:3-4; “Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.” This gives one a clear indication of the mentality we are dealing with.
Those who interpret the Bible in their own particular and peculiar way apart, however, let us examine the traditional 12 signs and the claims made by some Christians that these signs are apparent now and that we are thus in the Eng Times.
1) Many will come in the name of Christ and deceive many (Matt.24,5; Mark 13,6; Luke 21,8)
Well actually, many have always come in the name of Christ, even at the time of Jesus. There were even then a great number of “false prophets” claiming to be the true messiah, either through the wish for power, greed for money or simply through mental illness. This one therefore is a no-brainer as it was always going to happen.
2) There will be wars and rumours of wars between nations and kingdoms (Matt.24, 6-7; Mark 13,7-8; Luke,21,9-10).
Actually, although it may not seem like it, the world is right now enjoying one of the most extended periods of peace it has ever witnessed. Iraq has largely been settled and while there continues to be terrorist attacks both there and in Afghanistan, these cannot be called “wars”. Similarly many of the powder keg regions of the world are actually quite peaceful just now. And given that when the disciples talked of “the world” they meant largely Judea and the surrounding regions, they too are largely peaceful just now. Israel is not in open warfare with either the Palestinians or their immediate neighbours and diplomatic talks continue between Israel and the Arabic nations to achieve some kind of peaceful settlement.
The first sorrows will be in the form of calamities: ‘famines, pestilences and earthquakes in divers places’, fearful sights and great signs from heaven (Matt.24,7-8; Mark, 13,8; Luke 21,11).
While there are still people living in poverty and starving, humankind, with very little help from religions, has actually acted very effectively in combatting want and hunger in the world. Indeed, far from there being famine, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) Societies have stated that today there are more people likely to die from obesity than from starvation;
“In statistics used to underline the unequal access to food, the IFRC stressed there were 1.5 billion people suffering obesity worldwide last year, while 925 million were undernourished.”
Pestilence is likewise the problem it used to be. Modern insecticides and fertilizers have put paid to a great many problems of bugs and parasites of the past. Likewise where science has not outright eradicated some diseases, it has certainly developed effective medicines to combat them. One favourite of the Christians in this is to mention the spread of HIV/AIDS (now that they can no longer get away with claiming it to be “God’s judgement”). Easily countered by pointing out that the spread of HIV has actually lessened and that modern AIDS inhibitors mean that a great many HIV Positive people now live long and fulfilling lives. Similarly they point to “bird flu” and “swine flu”, which again, modern medicine has been able to effectively combat. I was quite amused when a Christian friend of mine once said she would love to go back to the 16th century then added “But not without a shot of penicillin first. In those days even the slightest scratch could prove fatal.” I think even her faith in modern medicine underlines the fact that disease is not the problem it once was.
There is absolutely no evidence that earthquakes have increased in number or magnitude. Peter Shearer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Philip Stark at the University of California, Berkeley have noticed that a disproportionately high number of large earthquakes greater than 8.0 in magnitude occurred between 1950 and 1965. Then, there was a bit of a slump in seismic activity from 1996 to 2003. This, along with other data gathered since records began in 1863 that the global frequency of large earthquakes is no higher today than it has been in the past. What has happened is that we now live in the information age, where news of natural disasters is flashed across the globe in a matter of seconds, thereby giving the impression that earthquakes are increasing in frequency and magnitude. Even within living memory of most of us an earthquake in the Pacific Rim may once have taken days to reach the UK or the USA, so naturally it now merely appears they are increasing.
Some Christians are wont to stretch this matter further by claiming that earthquakes – and volcanic eruptions (despite not being mentioned) are occurring in non-seismic regions. This is utter fantasy as obviously such events cannot possibly happen in non-seismic regions. Some are even willing to lie. When the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and subsequent tsunami took place, I recall one Christian claiming that Sumatra had never before witnessed seismic activity. Either that person is deeply misinformed or they were lying through their back teeth. Either way, they have evidently never heard of the 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, which sent the barographs off the scale and the shock wave from which circled the Earth seven times. And notice that there has never been a volcanic eruption of that magnitude since 1883.
4) Orthodox Christians will be delivered up, killed and hated by all nations.
Well of course, it depends how you define “orthodox”. One man’s orthodoxy is another man’s sect. Christian Post US reports an actual increase in evangelicals and Mormons but a decrease in Protestants and Roman Catholics. But are these people being “delivered up, killed and hated”? Indeed they are not. However, what we do find is Christians spreading their hate towards atheists, non-Christians and those in the LGBT community, with many in these groups living under constant threat of violence.
5) Everywhere men will hate and betray each other.
As they always have done, since the beginning of time, as they shall always do, unto the end of time.
6) Many false prophets will appear and deceive many.
This is exactly the same as sign 1, of people coming and claiming to be or represent Christ. Again, it happened in the time of Jesus, it happened before the time of Jesus, it has happened for 2000 years, and it shall always happen.
7) On account of abundant iniquity (evil deeds and unrepented sin), the love of many will grow cold. Only those who endure to the end will be saved.
If there is any decrease in the power of love, I for one am not witnessing it. Love is as abundant as it has ever been. Indeed, given there are now 7 billion people on the face of the Earth, most living to ripe old ages, it could be argued there has been an actual increase in love.
8) The Gospel will be preached throughout the world ‘for a witness unto all nations’.
Hold on, isn’t this in direct contradiction to sign No. 4, “Orthodox Christians will be delivered up, killed and hated by all nations.”? Christians, not for the first time, trying to have their cake and eat it as well.
9) After this Jews will become Orthodox Christians(Romans 11,25-28).
Except this is not happening. If anything many Jews, who tend to follow academic careers, are turning away from all religion altogether and embracing atheism.
10) Preparations will be made for the coming of Antichrist, called the son of perdition and the beast. Preceded by false prophets and false signs and wonders, Antichrist will be a master of illusion, of ‘shock and awe’, taking away people’s freedom, but making them think that they have been freed. He will persecute the true servants of Christ with rage and fury. The Temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt for him to be enthroned there in the place of Christ – hence his name ‘Antichrist’, he who comes in the place of Christ (Matt, 24,15-24; Mark 13,14-22; 2 Thess.3-11; 1 John 2,18; Rev.13,1-8).
Well people’s freedoms are always at risk, not least from those who would impose their faith upon all mankind, while fooling them into thinking they are freeing them. The servants of Christ, as I have previously stated are not being persecuted with rage and fury but rather are the ones doing the persecuting of others.
The rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem is taken as being the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and the formation of the state of Israel. Notice how that contradicts sign No.9, “After this Jews will become Orthodox Christians.” And under the current situation, one does not see the Muslims surrendering the Temple Mount to either the Jews or Christians.
11) Signs will appear in the heavens, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from heaven, the sea and the waves will roar and the powers of heaven will be shaken (Matt.24,29; Mark,13,24-25; Luke 21,25-26).
The sun being darkened and the moon not giving it’s light are clearly references to solar and lunar eclipses, which of course have been happening ever since the Moon formed. The stars cannot fall from the skies. Some indeed may already have “fallen” but the light from their demise has not yet reached Earth. Meanwhile, new stars are being formed all the time. The sea and the waves roaring is again references to tsunami, which have been happening since the oceans formed. And if the powers of heaven can be shaken, that does not say much for the “omnipotent almighty”.
12) The sign of the Son of man (the Cross) will appear in the heavens and then will take place the Second Coming of Christ with power and great glory. Angels will be sent and shall gather the elect together ‘from the four winds’ (Matt.24,30-31; Mark 13,26-27, Luke 21,27).
Well the cross was not even considered as the sign of Christ until the First Council of Nicea in 325 CE, which just goes to prove it is men writing this guff. In Matthew 24:34, Jesus tells the disciples, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” There are two ways of interpreting this; one, that the living generation would not pass, or two, as is normally accepted, that the people he is addressing, shall not pass. Well, as I have already said, the Jews are not turning into Christians and Christians, despite their claims, are not being hunted down and killed. Ahh, some Christians would say, but it says they will not pass until all is fulfilled. Ahh, I reply, if they are following Christ, how then could they not be, by definition, Christians? The entire claim therefore is fatuous.
The wording of Matthew 24:34 is actually very important. For it is ever since Jesus stated that, his followers have claimed to see the signs of the “End Times”. The fall of the Roman Empire, which ended a bountiful supply of goods as well as learning, heralded in the Dark Ages, which must have seemed to a great many across Europe to be the end of the world. Likewise we know that during the Dark Ages some cataclysmic event took place, possibly a meteor strike, which caused a sudden drop in global temperatures and subsequent crop failures across the world. No doubt the sky was darkened at this time and all these things would have been taken as signs. Various plagues and pestilences, wars and natural disasters continued down the ages, with many pointing to the signs of the End Times. And all the time there were the “prophets” gathering the faithful at given times for the coming rapture. The year 2000 came and went with many faithful expecting the return of their messiah, who failed to show, just as he had failed to show for other faithful expecting him in the year 1000 (properly speaking, it should have been 2001 and 1001 respectively anyway – those were the true starts of the new millennium).
As an atheist, I do not buy into any of it anyway. I only wish however that the End Times believers would only follow their own Christian faith. If they did so, then they would realise that they have absolutely no right, by their own faith to speak of the End Times but rather would take heed of what Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”
To try and tell others that they know the “signs” thus makes them false prophets, and hypocrites to boot.