How Many Right Ways Can There Be?
Vol: 20 Issue: 4 Friday, March 4, 2016
In 1939, the world was holding its collective breath in anticipation of what was shaping up to be another world war. “World war” means something different North Americans than it does to the rest of the world.
For North Americans, “world war” meant, at worst, conscription, rationing, and blackouts. For everybody else, it meant air raids, occupation forces, destroyed cities, refugee camps, reprisals and death on wholesale levels, up close and personal.
But even from the perspective of North America, the prospect of another world war must have seemed like end-of-the-world stuff. The US was still suffering from a decade-long Depression – without the benefit of social programs, welfare, food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid etc.
The veterans of the last war were in their late thirties to early fifties. Having witnessed the horrors of the European battlefields last time around when weaponry was relatively primitive, the horrors to come must have looked very much like what we might anticipate the Tribulation to look like.
By 1939 the Nazi persecution of the Jews was well-known; the infamous Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass) had occurred the year before. Those Jews that managed to escape to the West shared what they witnessed first-hand.
In Germany, schoolchildren said grace before meals to their Fuhrer and asked his blessing on them before bedtime.
“Fuehrer, my fuehrer, bequeathed to me by the Lord protect and preserve me as long as I live…” –Excerpt from a prayer children said to Hitler in his public schools
The Fuhrer governed over a system symbolized by the swastika – a broken cross — that gave special economic status to Party members who swore an oath of allegiance to the Fuhrer.
Under that system, persons could be excluded from normal social and financial intercourse for not following Party rules, refusing to join the Party, speaking out against the Fuhrer, or simply for being Jews.
In 1939, the whole world was teetering on the brink – the League of Nations, designed to prevent a repeat of the Great War, ended up helping to shape the alliances of the one looming on the horizon.
Hitler’s vision was of a revival of “New Order” for a “Thousand Year Reich” modeled after the old Roman Empire. He partnered with Benito Mussonlini, dictator of Rome.
A concordat is an agreement between the Pope and a sovereign state on matters relating to the Roman Catholic Church – in essence, a limited partnership between the Church and state. It was signed in 1933 by Nazi Vice Chancellor Fritz Von Papen and Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli on behalf of Pope Pius XI.
In 1939, Eugenio Pacelli was elevated to become Pope Pius XII. So by 1939 the Vatican, political Rome and Nazi Germany were all bound by one form of treaty alliance or another. The Soviets had just inked the Molotov-von Ribbentrop Pact in August, 1939.
So here is the Big Picture in summary as it appeared at the time:
In 1939, it certainly looked as if Hitler’s hegemony would encompass the whole world. His empire was modeled after that of Rome and at its height, encompassed all its territory.
Hitler was partnered with Rome — and with the Vatican based on a treaty with the sitting Pope and had just concluded a non-aggression pact with Gog-Magog and had embarked on a systematic extermination of the Jews.
Some Jews had begun returning to their homeland in Palestine since 1917 in fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones.
From the perspective of Bible prophecy as it would have appeared in 1939, Hitler was a good fit for the antichrist and Mussolini/Pius XII — a sort of hybrid political/religious beast. Jews and Bible Christians were being rounded up and put into camps.
There was again a Jewish presence in Israel, albeit under foreign occupation (as it was in AD 70) a Gog Magog connection, a European dictator with a god complex, heavily into the occult and clearly demonically empowered, the specific involvement of Rome . . .
In 1939, one could easily have made the case that either the Tribulation was about to start — or we are already in the Tribulation now.
How is it any different today?
I could fill a week’s worth of column space just listing all the historical similarities between the present state of world affairs and conditions as they existing in 1939.
Does that mean that we could be as far off the mark as somebody in 1939 would be in seeing Hitler as the antichrist and WWII as the Tribulation? That is what a lot of scoffers like to argue.
“Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they have from the beginning of Creation.”
In other words, “We’ve heard all this before . . . what about Hitler and Mussolini? What is different this time?”
It’s a fair question. I’ve made a pretty convincing case for Hitler by making Bible prophecy fit current events (as they were then) — but notice that I didn’t need to twist either one in the process.
That’s what makes understanding the framework of Bible prophecy so important. Outside the framework of Dispensationalist systematic theology, close counts.
When close counts, it becomes possible to reinterpret Bible prophecy until it fits current events.
But working within the Dispensationalist framework, there are least seven reasons why Hitler could not have been the antichrist and World War II could NOT have been the Tribulation.
- Global Annihilation Wasn’t Yet Possible: In Matthew 24:22, Jesus says that “unless that time (the Tribulation) be cut short, there should be no flesh saved.” Even though we had split the atom by late 1945, the technology necessary to annihilate all flesh was still twenty years away.
- There was no Israel: The Bible confidently predicts the existence of a recognized state of Israel, known as “Israel” which is reclaimed from the desert by Jews drawn from the four corners of the earth. In 1939, some Jews lived under British rule in the Palestinian Mandate.
- The Bible predicts the revival of Rome by peaceful means: Daniel says of the antichrist that he will “by peace shall destroy many” Hitler’s unification of Europe by force did not qualify.
- World-wide instant communication was not possible. The Bible says that when Jesus returns, every eye shall see Him. When the two witnesses lay dead in the streets of Jerusalem, their images will be broadcast world-wide. When they are restored to life three and a half days later, the whole world will witness that event, as well.
- The Gospel was not yet preached into all the world. In 1939 there remained many places so isolated that they had never heard of civilization, let alone Jesus. The Gospelstill has not been preached in all the world – there remain dozens of indigenous tribesworld-wide that have yet to make contact with the outside world.
- There was no Covenant: The Prophet Daniel predicts the antichrist will confirm a seven year peace ‘covenant’ between Israel and ‘the many.’ In order to confirm an agreement, first there must be an agreement to confirm. In 1939, there was no covenant and as noted, there was no Israel.
In September 1993, Israel signed the Oslo Agreement with the Palestinians. It outlined a land-for-peace process that was supposed to culminate with an agreement on the final status of Jerusalem by September 2000, exactly seven years later. Instead, Yasser Arafat abrogated the deal and in September 2000 he called for a new intifada, quickly dubbed by Israel as “The Oslo War.”
- There was no expectation of Christ’s Coming: The Bible says that when the events prophesied for the last generation begin to come to pass, that generation will recognize that their redemption draws near. There was no sense of messianic expectation in 1939. In 2011, the discussion transcends all barriers; Christians are looking for the Rapture, Muslims are looking for the Mahdi, the Messianic movement in Israel has never been stronger. Even movies and popular music reflect the expectation that the end is near.
There is a reason why I study Bible prophecy within the framework of Dispensationalism and it is the reason that I teach it as the only logical way to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
Dispensationalism demands literal interpretation unless the text clearly indicates otherwise. It demands that Bible prophecy follow the Bible’s systematic outline, dividing history according to Dispensation, rather than according to current events. Paul wrote to his disciple, Timothy;
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
Obviously, if Paul admonished Timothy to rightly divide the Word of Truth, it also reveals two axiomatic truths. First it is possible to divide it wrongly. And secondly, it confirms the Word is “divided” to begin with.
If it is divided, and if it is possible to get the divisions wrong, then it would seem that there IS a right way. And if there is a right way, then there can only be ONE right way.
Do you really think there can be several right ways? For anything?
One doesn’t need to adopt Dispensationalism to be saved. One needn’t be a Dispensationalist to be a Christian or to study the Word of God.
But if one wants to have a grasp of unfolding Bible prophecy and where Bible prophecy shapes current events, rather than the other way around, then there must be a discernible, logical flow.
The Bible divides it by dispensation. Without that division, Bible prophecy becomes little more than a confusing jumble of heads, horns and beasts.
And when it comes to figuring out what it all might mean, your guess is as good as mine.
Featured Commentary: The Dangers of Premillennialism ~ Alf Cengia