The Omega Letter Intelligence Digest
Vol: 121 Issue: 7 - Friday, October 07, 2011
Perspective Is Everything
Some years back, Gayle and I went on a tour of some of the Civil War battlefields; Antietam Creek, Harper’s Ferry, Gettysburg, etc. Except where there were monuments or signs, one battlefield looked pretty much like another.
Some of the places we saw were unique and having visited them, far more memorable than merely hearing the stories. Take Burnside’s Bridge over Antietam Creek, for example.
On September 17, 1862 Union forces under the command of General Ambrose Burnside (whose distinctive whiskers came to be known as “sideburns”) attempted to cross what was then known as the Antietam Lower Bridge to capture the bluffs held by the Confederates on the other side.
Stories of the battle are hair-raising. The three-arched, 125-foot long bridge over the creek was just twelve feet wide. Burnside’s men tried to cross it in a column of four men abreast.
The Confederates that were dug in just above the bridge had a clear field of fire.
By the time that the Union forces were forced to retreat, the bridge was impassable because of the number of bodies that blocked the crossing. It is said that the Yankees that survived did so because the bodies were stacked so high they formed a bullet-proof barricade.
The Battle of Antietam Creek, (also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg) was the bloodiest single day of battle in American history, far surpassing the losses at Pearl Harbor and Normandy combined.
The 23,000 casualties suffered in the Battle of Antietam Creek equaled 25% of the Federal forces and 31% of the Confederates.
These are all facts of which I was already aware long before we ever visited Antietam Creek. But they were just dry facts until we visited Burnside’s Bridge.
Looking at the bridge one can hardly imagine that anybody would attempt to cross it under fire from the other side. It was clearly a suicidal mission, but the Federal troops marched four abreast into the gunfire.
Standing atop the bluffs where the Confederate sharpshooters were dug in gives one a different understanding of what constituted a ‘sharpshooter’ during the Civil War. It wasn’t accuracy – it was proximity.
The distance from the bluffs to the bridge wasn’t more than a couple hundred feet. The range was close enough that one could have scarcely missed a target if one was firing a pistol.
A Confederate could have hit a Federal with a rock from those bluffs, but the Confederates held the high ground and were dug in, rendering most Federal return fire useless.
It was one thing to know the facts about the battle; it was an entirely different experience to stand where the combatants stood and view the killing fields from their perspective.
One of the bloodier battles of Antietam, apart from Burnside’s Bridge, was the scene around the Dunker Church outside Sharpsburg. As one stands outside the building, there is a little podium facing it. Mounted on that podium is a photograph taken the day after the battle.
The Dunker Church is in the middle of a pleasant green meadow. The scene in the photograph was shot from the identical spot, but was knee-deep in bodies and destroyed weapons. It changes one's entire perspective.
The same thing at Gettysburg. That famous photo of Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address is mounted on a podium located at the same place the photographer stood when he took the picture.
I knew all about the Gettsburg Address. I can recite it from memory. I’ve seen the photo a hundred times. But when I stood there, overlooking the hill where Lincoln stood, looking down at the photo of Lincoln as he stood there, one could almost hear his voice delivering the opening line;
“Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal . . .”
I’ve never been to Israel without hearing somebody say that the experience made the Bible come alive for them. After standing where Jesus stood when He delivered them, the Beatitudes don’t sound the same.
Having stood in the synagogue where Jesus taught in Capernaum one has a new appreciation for what the scene must have been like.
Indeed, before having walked where Jesus walked, Bible stories were just stories. Having been there and seen that, they are less stories than they are memories.
With the right perspective, everything becomes clearer. Without that perspective, stories are just stories without anything to anchor them to. One can believe them, but there is no frame of reference within which to visualize them and make them real.
And with the wrong perspective, the stories themselves can be totally mangled even while the facts remain intact.
Perspective is everything.
Dispensationalism is the system of Bible hermeneutics that sees a series of chronologically successive “dispensations” or periods of history during which God relates to human beings in different ways under different covenants as part of an ongoing series of progressive Divine revelation.
If you look it up, you’ll probably read that Dispensationalism was ‘invented’ by John Nelson Darby in the mid-nineteenth century. (Actually, it was invented by God and first mentioned by the Apostle Paul – 1 Corinthians 9:17; Ephesians 1:10, 3:2, Colossians 1:25)
Dispensationalism was inconvenient to mainstream Protestant theology, which held that the Jews were replaced by the Church in the covenant promises of God. The prevailing theology of the nineteenth century was preterist and held that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled with the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.
Dispensationalism is not so much a question of interpretation as it is one of perspective. If one’s perspective is that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s covenant promises, then one will read every prophetic passage from that perspective.
And from that perspective, the modern state of Israel is not a fulfillment of prophecy and neither Israel nor the Jews are of any special significance to God.
It is from this perspective that mainstream Protestant Churches like the US Presbyterian Church, United Church of Christ, New England Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Church of England and the World Council of Churches have all voted to ‘divest’ themselves of investment in Israel as part of an overall boycott and sanction regime aimed at the Israeli “occupation of Palestinian land.”
You do see it, don’t you?
If you believed that Israel was NOT the Chosen People being restored to the Land of Promise, but rather a bunch of usurpers that took over somebody else’s country and kicked them out of it, would you be a supporter of Israel?
Now to return to the topic of yesterday’s Omega Letter Intelligence Digest, “The Times of the Gentiles.”
I got a surprising amount of flak both in the forums and in my email box about my statement that the Tribulation saints are primarily Jews and not Gentiles. Many were upset because they were leaving material around for the loved ones that they expect will be left behind.
Others expressed hope that when the Rapture happens, it will “wake them up” and they will join some massive revival. Others cited Dr. John Walvoord, who contends that during the Tribulation, there will be a massive Gentile revival, including a “period of a great harvest of souls.”
I had the greatest respect for Dr. Walvoord, whom I was blessed to spend a lot of quality time with back in the 1990s. Dr. Walvoord was very generous with his time and knowledge and taught me much. It feels disloyal to contradict him, but we actually discussed this very subject and agreed to disagree agreeably.
The Apostle Paul was specific and direct when he said that those that rejected the Gospel during the Church Age would embrace “the lie” because they preferred it to the truth. And for THAT reason, they would ALL be damned.
“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)
It ain’t pretty, but it is Bible. There is a not-too-subtle shift in perspective beginning in Revelation 4:1. The Church moves from earth to heaven – and stays there.
The Dispensation of Grace is over and the perspective shifts back to that of Daniels’ Seventieth week, the final week of the Dispensation of the Law.
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24)
Upon THY people – Daniel’s people – the Jews of Israel and Jerusalem (thy holy city).
To make an end of sins, to reconcile sinners before God, bringing redeemed everlasting righteousness. . . which of these was NOT accomplished at the Cross?
The vision was given to the Jews, and it is to Israel that the Lord will return and be anointed King. So clearly this is NOT a prophecy given from the perspective of the Church. The Seventieth Week is not for the Church, but for Israel.
The Holy Spirit does NOT indwell Gentile converts during the Tribulation – Revelation 7 says that only the 144,000 Jews are sealed (indwelt) the way that Gentiles are during the Church Age.
It is when we read it from the perspective of Gentiles that we find a continuation of a Gentile Church Age during the Tribulation. That's what we want to find there.
But the Tribulation is the time of Jacob’s Trouble, not the time of Adam’s.
In Revelation 13 we read of the antichrist’s war against the saints in which John says he ‘overcomes’ them. But during the Church Age, the same Apostle says that is impossible.
“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)
Different Dispensation. Different perspective.
Revelation 13 details events as they transpire on earth and the chapter concludes with the promise that “as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.”
Let’s look at the logistics for a moment. John describes individuals being executed following an individual choice not to accept the Mark of the Beast. Suppose Dr. Walvoord is right and there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles and “a great harvest of souls” during the Tribulation.
How long would it take to try multiplied millions of individuals, (even if the trial lasted only a minute or two each) and then, having sentenced them to execution, to behead them individually – as the text demands?
The Nazis were able to murder some 12 million people in seven years. Very few of their victims were individually tried and most died in mass executions. But they ran out of time before they could complete their insane mission.
It would seem to indicate that only a few million at most actually reject the Mark of the Beast, which is just about in keeping with Revelation Seven’s 144,000 Jewish male virgin evangelists and their Jewish converts.
In Revelation 14, the scene shifts to heaven where we learn that the martyrs of the previous chapter learn a new song (that only the 144,000 can learn) and that the task of carrying the Gospel has been relegated to an angel.
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” (Revelation 14:6)
Despite the preaching of the angel, there is no record of any Tribulation saints remaining on the earth or of any subsequent persecution of either the Tribulation saints or the Jews.
If one looks at these same facts from the perspective that the salvation of the Gentiles, (rather than their judgment) remains the focus of God’s attention during the Tribulation, then one can hold out hope for those left behind.
But it is a false hope. The Left Behind series is a work of fiction written from the Gentile perspective. It is not written from the perspective of the Bible, which identifies the Tribulation as the “time of Jacob’s Trouble” set aside for the national redemption of Israel and God’s Divine judgment against a Christ-rejecting Gentile world.
Not everybody that gets saved during the Tribulation are Tribulation saints led to salvation by the Jewish evangelists of Revelation 7. According to Zechariah 12:10, the majority of those saved are saved when the Lord Himself appears over Jerusalem, when they;
“shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”
“And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” (Romans 11:26)
I am not trying to depress anybody or bring down the room or burst anybody’s bubble for the fun of it. There is nothing fun about it.
The idea that those left behind will get a second chance is comforting because it relieves us of some of the responsibility. . . if we don’t do it, maybe somebody else will after we’re gone.
Well, somebody else won’t. Sorry.
It is up to you. There is no putting off the responsibility on somebody else. They won’t be convinced by the Rapture and suddenly become warriors for Christ willing to endure persecution and death for their faith.
Why would they? You got saved and you didn’t suddenly become a warrior for Christ ready to give up your life for the Gospel. You probably aren’t ready now.
You think that you are?
Most of us aren’t even willing to risk being warriors for Christ now, on this side of the Tribulation, where we can do so with relative safety.
How many people did you share the Gospel with, yesterday? Now let’s look at the other side of the question: How many people did you NOT share the Gospel with, yesterday?
YOU are saved, indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, empowered and emboldened by His presence, and face very little, if any risk to life and limb by stepping out boldly for Christ.
Now think about the loved ones you are expecting to suddenly become lions for Christ, (without the Holy Spirit) during the Tribulation?
And yet you aren’t willing to be a lion for Christ now, or you wouldn’t be hanging on to the hope that somebody else will do it for you after you are gone.
The Tribulation Period, when looked at from the perspective of the Bible, is not a modification of the Church Age. It is a time of judgment so all encompassing in scope that, if the days were not ‘shortened’, (limited to seven years) there would be no flesh saved.
We can’t put off our responsibilities to our lost loved ones to somebody else in the future once we’re gone. There isn’t anybody left to put the responsibility on.
And if there were, then there would be no sense of urgency about the Tribulation.
Left Behind is a work of fiction, written from the perspective of Christians, aimed at entertaining its readers.
The Bible is a work of fact, written from the perspective of God, aimed at warning its readers that today is the acceptable day of salvation.
There are no second chances. We don’t get a second chance to see them in heaven, and they don’t get a second chance to accept the Gospel.
We only have today to fulfill our obligations under the Great Commission and we can’t count on somebody else doing it for us once we’re gone. If we could, then we would. (And some of us already do.)
Perspective is everything.
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