|Four Horsemen of Apocalypse, by Viktor Vasnetsov. Painted in 1887|
I wish to write a disclaimer here. When talking about these matters, some might get the false impression that I am complaining about Evangelicalism, or the highly Evangelical area in which I live. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the dense Evangelical population is one of the reasons why my family decided to move to the Ozarks to begin with, and one of the reasons why I have not left. For the time being anyway, this religious demographic has provided a relatively safe refuge from the corrosive effects of modern Secularism on Western Civilisation. The stubborn Evangelical resistance to the militant Left-wing social trends now dominating the United States and Canada is a breath of fresh air, and an example I can only hope and pray Catholics will soon emulate.
Today however, I am writing a warning to all of my regular readers, and anyone else interested. This warning goes out not only to fellow Catholics, but most especially to any Evangelical who is willing to listen. 2014 (and 2015 for that matter) is going to be a very strange year for Western Christianity, especially in the United States. Evangelical Christians are really deep into Biblical prophecy, namely because they are eagerly awaiting the Biblical end times and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Most of them are eagerly awaiting an event called "The Rapture" as well, which I have written about extensively HERE, as well as why I don't believe in it, nor should any good Catholic. The fact that Evangelicals eagerly await the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is not a problem at all. Catholics should be eagerly awaiting that too. The problem with Evangelicals is their narrative of how this is supposed to happen, and I believe it is this very narrative that is about to get them into a whole lot of theological problems.
The Evangelical end-times narrative is based on the Dispensationalist theology of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), which was later popularised by the Scofield Reference Bible. I explained all of this HERE in my previous post on the Rapture and why I don't believe in it. Because of this narrative, an entire eschatological (last things) belief system has developed which is wrapped around the headlines in the news. Usually, Evangelicals are very particular about using only Biblical sources for their belief system, but I think their willingness to reach out into the headlines of the news, as a means of validating their Dispensational eschatology models, has led them into a trap. Within the headlines of the news are some obscure "prophecies" from various sources that are unconfirmed or non-Christian in nature. Because these "prophecies" have hit the news, they become fodder for Evangelicals to validate their belief system. That's not a very good thing, for them, because what they don't realise is that they are right now in the process of painting themselves into a very small corner. It is a corner from which they will not escape without having to eventually disavow their Dispenastional belief system, and quite probably lose a whole lot of followers in the process. I am deeply concerned about the faith of these Christians, and while I see the coming years as an opportunity for Catholics to introduce sound religion to them, I fear that a great many will instead walk away from religion entirely.
For background on how the Evangelical end-times belief system usually works, if you are unfamiliar with it, please see my article on The Rapture and why I don't believe in it, then come back and read this article.
Here is where the trouble begins. Two events have come together in the headlines of the news, and the third is about to make a conjunction. All of these events have great meaning to Evangelicals, and I believe it will be impossible for them to ignore. The first event is astronomical in nature. Over the next two years (2014-2015) there will be four blood moons which will all coincide with major Jewish feasts. A blood moon is a lunar eclipse, which turns the moon blood red for a brief period of time during the height of the eclipse. These blood moons occur on the Jewish Passovers on April 15, 2014, and April 4, 2015, and the Feasts of Tabernacles on Oct. 8, 2014, and Sept. 28, 2015. Okay, now there are two things I want to say about this. First, while this is quite an occurrence, and may have some significant meaning to the Jewish people, particularly those in Israel/Palestine, it is not as big of a coincidence as one might think. The Jewish calendar, and by extension most Jewish feasts, are based on a lunar calendar. Most of these feasts, particularly those from a Mosaic source, are designed to coincide with full moons. They always coincide with full moons. Now it just so happens that it is inevitable that some of those full moons will end up becoming blood moons, simply because of the nature of the lunar and solar cycles. It is highly unusual for such blood moons to occur on four consecutive Jewish feasts like this, but it is predictable and quite natural, based on modern astronomical knowledge. Does this bid some kind of omen for the Jewish people, particularly those in Israel/Palestine? Only God knows the answer to that right now, and history will be the judge in the long run. I don't exclude this possibility, since the Jewish God (who is also the Christian God) is the God of nature, and he often uses natural things to send us supernatural messages. So we will just have to wait and see on that one. The phenomenon of the four blood moons may actually have some significant relevance but only time will tell. The problem here is not astronomy, nor the Jewish calendar, nor the possibility that God might use this natural event to send a supernatural message to his first covenant people -- the Jews. The problem comes with the way the Evangelical narrative interprets these events. I will elaborate below.
The second event has to do with last year's resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the conclave election of Pope Francis, along with the many controversial statements he has made since then. As I said above, Evangelicals reach out to headlines in the news to validate their Dispensational belief system about the end times. When Pope Benedict XVI announced his coming resignation on February 11, 2013, the world was shocked. Equally shocking was the two lightning bolts that struck the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica that night in a thunderstorm that swept over Rome. Now the fact that lightning struck the Vatican is not unusual in and of itself. The dome of Saint Peter's is one of the highest structures in Rome, and it is fitted with a lightning rod at the top as most tall buildings are. Lighting strikes the dome of Saint Peter's quite often actually, as one would expect with any high structure fitted with lightning rod. The Empire State Building in New York City is struck by lightning constantly. So is the Washington Monument in Washington DC, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and so forth. The list goes on and on. So it's not unusual for lightning to strike Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, however, it could be said that this might possibly be a sign from God, considering the day in which it happened, and the shocking news that came from the Chair of Peter that day. Again, God is the God of nature, and he can (and does) sometimes use natural things to send us supernatural messages. If this is a message from God, it remains to be seen what it means, but the problem is not that Evangelicals think this might have meaning. The problem comes with the way the Evangelical narrative interprets these events. I will elaborate below.
The third event has not yet happened, but it will happen very soon. It has to do with the death of Ariel Sharon, the former prime minister of Israel. Mr. Sharon had a severe stroke on January 4, 2006. He has been in a coma ever since. As of today (January 2, 2014) he is still alive, but recent news reports tell us he is going into kidney failure. Now with modern dialysis techniques, Mr. Sharon can still be kept alive for a very long time. However, because of his advance age, and seemingly hopeless medical condition, it is likely that dialysis will be decided against, making his death a very near thing. Why is this important? Because if you happen to be a certain kind of Orthodox Jew, or an Evangelical Protestant who subscribes to Dispensationalism, this could be a very important prophetic signal in world history. As it turns out, a certain popular rabbi in Israel/Palestine, who is regarded by many to be a prophet, has made a several predictions that many of his followers swear by, and two predictions most recently that have turned the Orthodox Jewish world in Israel/Palestine upside-down.
Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri died on January 28, 2006 at the age of 108. He was probably the most popular rabbi in Israel/Palestine. Before his death he made two startling predictions. The first was that he had seen the Messiah in dreams and that he knew who the Messiah is. He said the Messiah is in Israel/Palestine right now, and that he will be revealed, shortly, after the death of Ariel Sharon. Now remember, Ariel Sharon had a crippling stroke within just a few weeks of this rabbi's death, and everyone at that time thought his death was eminent. Then, the rabbi said he had written the name of the Messiah in code, and placed it in a sealed envelope, to be opened one year after his death. The note reads as follows...
Concerning the letter abbreviation of the Messiah’s name, He will lift the people and prove that his word and law are valid.
This I have signed in the month of mercy,The name of the Messiah is interpreted from the Hebrew sentence...
He will lift the people and prove that his word and law are valid.From this sentence a single name is decoded, the name יהושוע, or Yehoshua, or "Joshua" from Hebrew to English directly, commonly translated from Hebrew, to Greek, to English as "Jesus." It would appear the rabbi understood the profound implication of this name, and what it would mean to his followers and the world, which is why he ordered that it not be revealed until one year after his death. Was Rabbi Kaduri a secret Christian? That is highly speculative. Rabbi Kaduri was an expert on the Talmud, which is in extreme opposition to the Christian message that Jesus of Nazereth is the promised Messiah. He was also a Kabbalist, meaning he practised Jewish occultism and numerology. Still, this has led many Evangelical Dispensationalists to believe Rabbi Kaduri predicted the second coming of Jesus Christ, sometime "soon" after the death of Ariel Sharon. I know this sounds fantastic, but you have to understand, Evangelicals who subscribe to Dispensationalism, and nearly all of them do, look for validation of their Dispesationalist belief system in the headlines of the news. A few of them were cued in on this alleged prophecy since 2006, but now that Ariel Sharon is nearing death, and as his passing hits the headlines of the news, we can expect Evangelicals to focus in on this alleged prophecy like a laser beam. This is because if validates their belief that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will happen very soon (within a few years probably), and the astronomical sign of the four blood moons coincides with this likelihood.
Yarim Ha’Am Veyokhiakh Shedvaro Vetorato Omdim
ירים העם ויוכיח שדברו ותורתו עומדים
Yet there is more. Remember the resignation of Benedict XVI, followed by the election of Francis to the papacy? Well, a growing number of Evangelicals have also latched on to another alleged prophecy that made headlines in the news during 2013. It is the "Prophecy of the Popes" allegedly given by Saint Malachy back in the 12th century. I have written extensively on the problems with this alleged prophecy in three articles: here, here and here. These articles have become ridiculously popular on the Internet, receiving over a hundred hits a day, from people all over the world wondering if Pope Francis might be the fulfilment of this alleged prophecy and perhaps even the prophesied Antichrist himself. There my friends is the rub. Because you see, that is exactly how many Evangelicals are interpreting this alleged "Prophecy of the Popes." It fits right into their Dispensational narrative and an old Protestant teaching, from Martin Luther himself, that the pope is the Antichrist.
What we have, is the conjunction of three historical events that play into the Evangelical narrative quite nicely, from their point of view. What we can expect over the next few years, starting immediately after Ariel Sharon's death, is a radically increased intensity of end times hysteria coming from Evangelical America. We will hear it on the radio, see it from television preachers, and our Evangelical friends will be getting a steady dose of it regularly from their churches. The Second Coming of Christ is about to come -- so they will say. He will arrive any day to "Rapture" his Church, and you better not be "left behind." The four blood moons herald his coming, and Pope Francis is the prophesied Antichrist -- or at least the Antichrist's false prophet. Those who follow him (meaning all Catholics) will go straight to Hell. They will shout at us to "Repent!" and "Leave the Whore of Babylon" before it's too late. If you think they were loud and obnoxious in previous years, you haven't seen anything yet. The next few years will be the culmination of everything they've been waiting decades for. Catholic parents need to prepare their older children (teenagers and young adults) for this, because I promise you, the hard sell that will be put on them over the next few years will be like nothing we've ever seen before. I am certain that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of young Catholics will leave the Church over fears that the Evangelical narrative might be right.
Now, knowledgeable Catholics, who are practical and orthodox, know full well that the Second Coming of Christ will eventually happen someday. We know, that this will be a great and glorious event, and we should look forward to it in a positive way, without fear or paranoia. At the same time however, he know that this can only happen at a time when he is not expected, and we know it will be a supernatural event witnessed in the heavens, so that everyone will see. We know it will be accompanied by the resurrection of the dead, and the rising of our bodies to meet him in the air. We know there is no "secret Rapture" and the Second Coming is a singular event, not separated by a space of time as Dispensationalism teaches. We know that there is supposed to be a last great Antichrist eventually, and that the Church will follow our Lord in martyrdom before his Second Coming. We also know, that in spite of all the so-called "signs" and "warnings" that many Evangelicals claim to herald his coming immediately, they are probably wrong, and this is probably not it.
The truth is, Evangelicals have a horrible track record of predicting the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The whole world knows it, and I'll not go into that litany here.
While the natural phenomenon of the four consecutive blood moons is interesting, we will just have to wait and see what that means, if anything. If it means anything to anyone, I suspect it has more meaning for the Jews living in Israel/Palestine. All signs and wonders regarding the heavens seem to centre around the Holy Land, at least that has usually been the case historically speaking. Usually blood moons are seen as omens of bad fortune, war and a sign of judgement. These however all pertained to the Jewish people, particularly those living in the Holy Land. Who knows what, if anything, this next set of blood moons are a sign of. History will be the judge of that.
As for the so-called "Prophecy of the Popes," I have dealt with that soundly here, here and here. I'll not go into that again, except to say that Evangelicals are taking a big risk by plucking alleged Catholic prophecies out of history that no Catholic bishop has ever verified and most Catholics think is a forgery. Strike one for the Evangelicals. Furthermore, they even misinterpret the alleged prophecy, as there is absolutely nothing in there which suggest that this pope (or any pope) is the Antichrist. Quite the opposite actually, the alleged prophecy very plainly states that this current pope is supposed to be a good guy -- a great pope -- who will "nourish the sheep" in times of great distress. Even if the prophecy is true (which is doubtful), it only speaks great things of the pope and of the Catholic Church. Strike two for the Evangelicals.
Now for the Evangelical strike three. Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri had many conversations with his grandson (Rabbi Yosef Kaduri) concerning his dreams and visions of the alleged coming Messiah. These are recorded on his website as follows...
“It is hard for many good people in the society to understand the person of the Messiah. The leadership and order of a Messiah of flesh and blood is hard to accept for many in the nation. As leader, the Messiah will not hold any office, but will be among the people and use the media to communicate. His reign will be pure and without personal or political desire. During his dominion, only righteousness and truth will reign.
“Will all believe in the Messiah right away? No, in the beginning some of us will believe in him and some not. It will be easier for non-religious people to follow the Messiah than for Orthodox people.
“The revelation of the Messiah will be fulfilled in two stages: First, he will actively confirm his position as Messiah without knowing himself that he is the Messiah. Then he will reveal himself to some Jews, not necessarily to wise Torah scholars. It can be even simple people. Only then he will reveal himself to the whole nation. The people will wonder and say: ‘What, that’s the Messiah?’ Many have known his name but have not believed that he is the Messiah.”
This revelation may lead some Evangelicals to say: "Ah-hah! We now know this 'Joshua' or 'Jesus' prophesied by Rabbi Kaduri must be the Antichrist then, who just happens to have the same name as Jesus of Nazereth." Okay, I'll give the Evangelicals a brownie point on that, if they decide to go that route, because at least they're finally starting to think in a somewhat orthodox manner. The writings of the Church Fathers have always suggested that the final Antichrist will come from among the Jewish people and in the area of the Holy Land. Very well, but does that mean this supposed "Joshua" or "Jesus" that is to come from the Holy Land soon is THE final Antichrist of Biblical prophecy? That is all highly speculative to say the least, and I'm going to venture to say "probably not." Biblically speaking, any person who claims to be the Jewish Messiah (Christ), who is not Jesus of Nazereth, is an antichrist (small "a"). That is the very definition of the word. The prefix "anti" does not mean opposite. It means "impostor." To say "antichrist" is to say "impostor-christ." So anyone who comes out saying "I am the promised Jewish Messiah" is an impostor, and therefore an antichrist, because we know the real Messiah (Christ) already came 2,000 years ago. Given the volatile situation in Israel/Palestine at this time, and given the prophecies already made by Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri, I have no doubt that some guy named "Joshua" or "Jesus," living in the Holy Land, may try to do a self-fulfilment. Why not? All the ingredients are there. All it takes is somebody with enough ego to give it a shot. Yet is this the prophesied final Antichrist the Bible speaks of? I am going to say "probably not." For the Scriptures, and the writings of the Church Fathers, tell us that the final Antichrist will be a great and powerful man, who will not only lead the Jewish people, but also deceive the entire world. Honestly, I don't see how any Jewish man, living in Israel, during this epic of world history, could have enough power to actually pull that off. Maybe that could happen 100 years from now, maybe even 50 years from now (if things change very quickly), but not this year, not next year, and not in any year in the near future. Seriously, the majority of the world includes the Muslim world you know. It also includes the Christian world, and the Secular world, and the Communist world. I just don't see all the ingredients in place. Maybe I'm wrong about that. Maybe it is possible that some guy in Israel could rise up soon and pull this off, but frankly, I'm not buying it just yet. I'll believe it when I see it. If the Evangelicals want to cling to this prophecy of Rabbi Kaduri as a foreshadowing of Antichrist, then I'll give them that. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. Only history can decide that. One thing is certain however, there is nothing in Rabbi Kaduri's alleged prophecies that point to Jesus Christ having already returned to Israel, and nothing suggests he is claiming (as Christians do) that Jesus Christ will soon return to earth from the sky. The Evangelicals are going out on a limb with this one, and I have a feeling that within a few years or so, they will regret it.
So what of the pope? It is a fundamental teaching of historical Protestantism, going back to Martin Luther himself, that the pope is the Biblical Antichrist, or is at least associated with the Antichrist in some way. To come to this conclusion, Luther did a lot of speculative Scripture twisting, and he ignored some 1,500 years of Church history and tradition. That's fine, he went to his grave believing that nonsense, and he can have it. Most Lutherans now reject this claim, only a small minority (here in America) still subscribe to it. (I am speaking of the Missouri and Wisconsin synod Lutherans.) What is particularly sad is that while most of Luther's followers have seen the silliness of Luther's papal-Antichrist cabal, and have since rejected it, an increasingly large number of other Protestants (mainly stemming from the denominational outgrowth of the English Reformation) have not only subscribed to it, but elaborated upon it with ridiculous detail. I have demonstrated on this blog and in my book, Catholicism for Protestants, beyond the shadow of a doubt, using the Bible alone (Luther's own standard), that it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for this pope, or any pope, to be the prophesied Biblical Antichrist, or be associated with the Antichrist in any way. The silence I receive from Protestants after making this simple Biblical argument is deafening...
QUESTION: Is the pope the Antichrist?
ANSWER: While this question may seem ridiculous to many people, you might be surprised to discover just how many Protestants actually believe it, or are at least suspicious of it. The notion comes from the first Protestant reformer himself – Martin Luther – in the sixteenth century, who asserted that the office of the papacy is the Antichrist. That's not to say any particular pope, but the office of the papacy itself. So when German Protestants began to mix with English Protestants in the United States during the nineteenth century, you can imagine what an explosive combination this created. As new American-style Protestant denominations were formed, the office of the papacy went from being the Antichrist on a purely philosophical level, to the actual incarnation of evil itself!
This notion has become very popular among some Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal groups in the United States, and is a bit humorous when you really stop and think about it. Before we start levelling the accusation of "Antichrist" at anybody, or any office, it might help to actually understand what the Bible has to say about it. After all, the whole idea of "Antichrist" is a Biblical concept.
So what does the Bible say about the Antichrist? Well, for starters, the Bible tells us that the "spirit of antichrist" was alive and well even during the Apostolic age (1st John 2:18). It also tells us that in order to be antichrist in any way, one must deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Jewish Messiah (1st John 2:22). One must also deny that God the Son came to earth in the form of flesh and blood (1st John 4:3; 2nd John 1:7). These are the only four times the word "antichrist" appears in the Scriptures. So based on the Biblical definition, to be an antichrist (or even THE Antichrist) one must deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah and one must deny that God the Son came to earth in the form of human flesh. Sorry, that's just the Biblical definition, and since the term "Antichrist" is a Biblical term, just like the term "Christ" itself, it has no real meaning outside this Biblical definition.
Now since every pope since the time of St. Peter has affirmed that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic Son of God, that sort of disqualifies every pope in history from being an antichrist. Of course, the office of the papacy itself was literally founded on Saint Peter's affirmation that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messianic Son of God (Matthew 16:15-19), so that disqualifies the papal office from being antichrist. Since the pope literally teaches, and his office is literally founded upon, the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic Son of God, it is literally impossible (in every Biblical sense) for the pope, or his papal office, to be the Antichrist in any way. Again, sorry, but the Bible speaks for itself here. To assert that the pope or the papacy is somehow, in any way, the Antichrist, is to completely deny the plain and clear teaching of the Bible on this matter. Now, if some people want to go ahead and call the pope the Antichrist anyway, then they can go ahead, but in doing so, the rest of us need to understand they are directly contradicting the Bible when they do this.
From CATHOLICISM FOR PROTESTANTS by Shane SchaetzelSo get ready folks, the next few years are going to be a wild ride. Protestant anti-Catholicism is not dead yet. In fact, I'm predicting that over the next few years it will rear it's ugly head (particularly in America) in a way not seen since the early 1800s with the "Know-Nothing Party." This time however, there will be no secrets. It will be "out and proud," like some other anti-Catholic movements that have become popular in recent years. The venom that will be spewed against the pope, and the Catholic Church, will be of greater volume and intensity than anything in recent memory. They will not espouse hatred toward Catholic people. (These people are not haters. They're just paranoid.) Rather, they will espouse love and compassion for "poor Catholic souls" who in their view must be liberated from the "Great Whore of Babylon" which is the Catholic Church, and the "Antichrist" or "False Prophet" which is the pope. I suspect that more than a few Catholics will succumb to this rhetoric. Please take care to make sure nobody from your family does.
By using events from the news to validate their Dispensational belief system about the end-times, a whole lot of Evangelicals are painting themselves into a corner, from which they will not get out without eventually denying some of their time held beliefs. In the end, the crisis of faith will be on their part, and quite possibly more severe than any crisis of faith they can bring upon Catholics. Some Evangelicals will just drop Dispensationalism entirely, and when they do, we can expect them to become more like traditional Protestants. A good number of them will not be able to tolerate this. What was taught as gospel truth for so long, to no longer be true, will be too much for them to handle. Many of these folks will simply cease to believe all together and wander into apostasy. All we Catholics can do is respond with good sound teaching, especially on eschatology as well as the identity of the Catholic Church as the "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). In this we can hope, indeed we can pray, that some of them will come to know the truth and join us in the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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