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America obsessed with future apocalypse

By Tom Harpur
Toronto Star Newspaper
10/5/2003

"Revelation has absolutely nothing specific to say about events today or events tomorrow. Fundamentalists conveniently skip over the fact that its very first verse says its contents are about happenings that will occur "speedily" and verse three underlines this by saying the time spoken of is "near" at hand. Nothing could be clearer."

There is no work in all literature that has been more misunderstood, prostituted, exploited and abused than the Bible's final book, titled simply in the Greek, "Apocalypse of John." The phenomenon is evidenced daily in the quite incredible fascination of our culture just now with "end times" and apocalyptic scenarios of every kind.

The word "apocalyptic" has appeared every day for months in some newspaper, magazine or TV program in the GTA. Endless movies and videos, tonnes of lurid, top-selling pocket books, and repetitive use of related themes by right-wing preachers and politicians, especially in the U.S., reveal an near-total North American obsession with the idea that a future of blood, mayhem, and utter desolation is looming ahead. Only those saved "by the blood of the lamb" will be "raptured" to the clouds and eternal glory. Fortunes are being made overnight by hordes of unscrupulous fiction-writers and alleged Bible experts alike as they spin imaginary tales of coming cataclysm.

President George W. Bush, himself a "born-again Christian" has, ever since the 9-11 catastrophe, played his Christian Right card on this repeatedly. At every chance he milks the theme of an impending showdown between good and evil, exploits the growing fears of the American people of terrorism at home and abroad, and stresses the helplessness of the average citizen to cope without his heroic, God-appointed leadership.

What scares one most about all the ignorant but lucrative nonsense being spouted about Revelation just now is that a recent Time Magazine/CNN poll found that 59 per cent of Americans actually believe the "end-of-the-world prophecies" in the Book of Revelation will come true. About 25 per cent believe the attacks of Sept.11, 2001, were predicted in the Bible. About 17 per cent believe the world will "end" in their lifetime.

This kind of belief creates the conditions to bring about the very thing supposedly most feared. It makes it easier for Bush and the Pentagon to conjure up nightmare possibilities and to persuade the masses to countenance any measures deemed necessary to win. If you convince enough people that an Armageddon is coming, it's simple to prod them towards it. Self-fulfilling prophecies become the order of the day.

We need a remedy, one only some basic knowledge can bring. Apocalypse comes from a word meaning "to reveal what is hidden" and so the customary translation is "the Book of Revelation."

This book is definitely not by the author/editor of the John's Gospel its Greek, which can be described as "barbarous," has a completely different style and it belongs to a whole genre of books appearing in Jewish circles in the uncertain times from about 200 BCE down to 100 CE. But, there were apocalypses in other pre-Christian religions as well.

In fact, British orientalist Gerald Massey wrote that Revelation itself is the oldest book in the New Testament and is really a Christian version of the Mithraic apocalypse, the Bahman Yasht. Massey says the latter has the same drama drawn out as in Revelation and that all ancient Parsee or Persian sacred books referred to the original scriptures as apocalypses.

The fact that Revelation is the Bible's last book was a purely arbitrary decision of the church and it should be widely known that the book itself was only accepted into the official canon after four centuries of wrangling over its authenticity.

Revelation has absolutely nothing specific to say about events today or events tomorrow. Fundamentalists conveniently skip over the fact that its very first verse says its contents are about happenings that will occur "speedily" and verse three underlines this by saying the time spoken of is "near" at hand. Nothing could be clearer.

People totally ignore the fact that the author nowhere claims to have known the "historical Jesus" and is very vague about the Apostles. They ignore as well the reality that the Christ of the Apocalypse is not the "personal Jesus" of the Gospels but a cosmic intelligence and principle. He is the spiritual Christ of Pauline mysticism.

Let me illustrate this with two passages I have never heard any preacher mention. In Revelation 11, verses 8-9, we read: "And the dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that is ... called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified."

The Gospels say Jerusalem was the place of crucifixion. But this says it was Sodom and Egypt. Sodom was destroyed centuries before; Egypt is obviously not a city. What this means is that the crucifixion was in reality a spiritual transaction not rooted in any historical place whatever. The entire story is symbolic.

Revelation 1:13 describes the Christ as an androgynous figure with "paps" or female breasts. Plainly this has nothing do with a historic Jesus or any coming events on this planet.


Theologian and author Tom Harpur's books focus on spiritual growth.

Additional articles by Tom Harpur

What do YOU think ?

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Date:
08 Oct 2003
Time:
06:29:49

Comments

The author of this piece, for some reason, left out the word "spiritually", in quoting from Rev 11:8. Instead, he inserted the little line of dots. Why is this? The word "spiritually" is essential to the meaning of the passage, and is only a few letters longer than his "line of dots". Well, who am I to accuse anyone of muddying the waters? Albert Burke


Date:
13 Feb 2004
Time:
08:43:33

Comments

Unfortunately, Harpur begins well but ends badly. His essay only adds to the soup of confustion swirling around Revelations and the "so-called" end times of our day. Any comments added will only heighten the confusion. I rest my case. Yiannyis Kalos


Date:
08 Nov 2004
Time:
22:29:50

Comments

America is brainwashed into believing the Iraqi's are evil. The Iraqi's are brainwashed into believing America is the great Satan. Religion has failed us... www.tzolkinelement.com


Date: 27 Sep 2006
Time: 11:09:49

Comments:

Prophecy in scripture simply means "revelation from God" and rarely implies prediction of future events. Having said that anyone familiar with biblical prophecy should know that the city of Jerusalem is frequently referred to as Sodom, Egypt or some other land infamous (in Hebrew lore) for evil and rebellion against God's laws. The word "spiritually" which was left out of the quote could also be translated "figuratively". The "great city" in the quote from chapter 11 is therefore Jerusalem - the "city that murders the prophets" where also our Lord was crucified. The sash worn around Christs "paps" is simply a priestly vestment worn by the levitical class in ancient Judaic society. The "paps" refer to his nipples. Men have those too!


Date: 02 Dec 2009
Time: 10:38:16

Your Comments:

Dispensational Futurists believe in A WRONG JESUS, just as Mormons believe in a different WRONG JESUS, just as Jehovah's Witnesses believe in another completely different WRONG JESUS.

The CORRECT JESUS has fulfilled all He promised. Now the kingdom of God is in believers of this CORRECT JESUS.


 

 

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