Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Matt 24 watch, 275: Ben Carson vs the "Christo-fascist, right-wing theocratic fundy fanatics and would-be murderous crusaders, hastening the apocalypse" blood libel

"Blood libel" is a very strong term, but sometimes it is all too sadly appropriate, as an incident with Ben Carson in a Sharyl Attkisson interview (as reported by WND) reveals:
. . . Ben Carson, who’s coming in second in polls for the Republican candidate for president, told investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson during an SBG “Frontline” interview he thought the apocalypse could be right around the corner.

“Do you think we’re at the end of days?” Attkisson asked the retired neurosurgeon, as she cited current  events and “what’s in the Bible.”

“You could guess that we are getting closer to that,” Carson responded, the Hill reported. “You do have people that have a belief system that sees this apocalyptic phenomenon occurring and that they’re a part of it. [They] would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons if they could gain possession of them.” . . . . Carson went on: “I think we have a chance to certainly ameliorate the situation. I would always be shooting for peace. I wouldn’t just take a fatalistic view of things.”
Why did Carson (a Seventh Day Adventist) feel it necessary to broach such a seemingly irrelevant point?

WND's Cheryl Chumley gives a little context:
[Carson's] words seemed more aimed at the type of scenario envisioned by radical Islamists and ISIS terrorists who want to hasten the end of times by ushering in world-wide jihad, than at the more Christian-based descriptions found in the biblical books of Revelation and Daniel . . .
We now have to reckon with a strange cluster of issues, in an intensely polarised atmosphere in which many of the secularised or "modernist" have formed the almost fixed notion that Bible-believing Christians are Christo-fascist, right-wing "fundamentalist" would-be theocratic tyrants and terrorists directly parallel to Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Boko Haram, and ISIS etc, so the most innocuous things we say will be utterly warped into an ugly, slanderous caricature.

Yes, in the minds of many of those who have been deeply indoctrinated by common themes in the media, schools, books and even some pulpits, Bible-believing Christians are:
[a]  the full moral equivalent of Adolf Hitler's National Socialist German Labour/Workers' Party (and that expansion of what "Nazi" means is already a clue of just how far off-base the "right-wing theocratic Christo-fascist fundies" stereotype is . . . as in, Socialist Workers' parties are self-consciously of the ideological left . . . ),
[b] where in too many atheistical rants or even assertions in college classes etc, Hitler is portrayed as a Christian acting out of the teachings of the Christian church (often, with ill-advised antisemitic rants by Martin Luther thrown in to accelerate the rhetorical conflagration),and/or 
[c] the equivalent to Bin Laden's plane-hijacking, World Trade Centre attacking murderous thugs. Where also,
[d] long, one-sided litanies  of the sins of Christendom, the alleged utterly despicable evil of the Bible and that bronze age, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, war-mongering sky-god Jehovah are also tossed unto the bonfire intended to utterly alienate people from the gospel, the Christian faith, God and the church as positive agents of godly reformation and blessed transformation.
Such patent lies and/or bigotry verging on outright willful hate are too often taken for granted, or are boldly said without a sense of shame over such outrageous slander, bigotry, stereotyping rooted in false accusations and improper invidious associations, leading to scapegoating. 

And, as the saddening developments at Umpqua showed, already crazed fanatics  are distilling from this toxic rhetorical and agit-prop brew, the notion that to confess being a Christian is to be deserving of death.

That is how Christian martyr's blood -- spilled for the capital crime of confessing Jesus -- now cries up from the ground in Oregon, USA, by and large unheeded and willfully unrecognised as to significance. And more broadly, there is a veil of media understatement and silencing of the saddening reality that globally, for many years now, Christians have been perhaps the number one target for persecution and murder; for the thought-crime of confessing Christ.

Shades of Nero's cruel diversionary false accusation that it was Christian enemies of humanity who set fire to Rome on that fatal night of July 18, 64 AD, leading to the great fire that burned on to the 27th. 

Let us hear Tacitus, the great Roman Historian, in Annals, 15.44, as a warning on the matches that are being played with in our time:

. . . all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called "Chrestians" by the populace.

Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular.

Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

The Christians, as alleged haters of mankind, would be terrorists and theocratic tyrants who must be nipped in the bud before they get out of control. With, the snide suggestion, that such Christians would cause wars to hasten the end of this age.

That is what Ben Carson was rhetorically anticipating and responding to, in a context where the biblical concept of a Second Coming of Jesus in glory as Messiah, Lord and Eternal Judge is in view, as well as the run-up to such a culmination of history.

Let us refresh our memories, let us make it plain to those inclined to believe vicious slander, from the mouth of Jesus, just what the true Christian doctrine of the end of days is . . . and how it is being fulfilled as we speak:

Matt 24:As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 

 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 

All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. 10 And then many will fall away[a] and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 

13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. [ESV]

And again:
Acts 1:1  In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 

 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 

 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 

 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 

10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” [ESV]
So, in the very first Christian sermon, preached by Peter to the crowd that gathered in response to the descent of the Spirit -- ten days later, it is unsurprising that we read:
Ac 2:14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose [--> some were saying just that], since it is only the third hour of the day.[b] 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,

and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants[c] and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
    before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[d] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 

25 For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
    for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
    my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
    or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 

32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 

33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 

34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35     until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 

 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” [ESV]
Indeed, as he faced death at the demonically cruel hands of Nero, on the false accusation f terroristic, treasonous arson of Rome, Peter's parting words to the church echo the same themes:

2 Peter 1:13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body,[h] to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.

  15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 

17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[i] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 

19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.  

21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [ESV]
In short, the entire gospel, the entire career of the church from the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost and call to the gathered crowd that "this is that" which was foretold by Joel the prophet, is eschatological -- a phenomenon of the last days. Indeed, the Lord's Anointed One, the Messiah -- "Christ" is simply the Greek word for Anointed One -- is inherently a "Last Days" prophetic phenomenon in the timeline of Scripture. 

And, arguably, once the prophetic "seventy weeks" clock was set ticking in the days of Daniel, we have been in the Last Days . . . 2,500+ years and counting:

Dan 9:20 While I was speaking and praying [--> through a three week fasting and prayer], confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 

22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.

24 Seventy weeks[c] are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.[d] 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again[e] with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its[f] end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week,[g] and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” [ESV]
This has of course been a longstanding favourite theme of eschatological Bible teachers, and we may look at Clarence Larkin's famous chart [more detailed] as an example:

Where also, Larkin's theme of prophetic foreshortening or telescoping by seeing mountain-peaks but not foothills and valleys between them, is also relevant:

There are of course various theological perspectives (cf. discussion here) on what we are explicitly told is a veiled matter, so in the just linked I summarised some of the main views across time from Gruden's Systematic Theology:

A typical current "pre-trib, pre-mill" view is:

All of this is fascinating, doubtless, but it is not primary.

The scriptures make it clear that the chief prophetic event is the coming of Messiah, followed by the descent of the Spirit and the powerful witness of the gospel to the nations, calling them to repentance, faith, and discipleship under the teaching of Jesus:
Matt 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [ESV]
As the second recorded Christian Sermon -- also by Peter -- clearly teaches:
Ac 3:11 While he [the just healed beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple in Jerusalem -- yes, Islamist deniers, in Jerusalem, on Temple Mount] clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. 

12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: 

“Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[b] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate [--> the actual authority responsible for the execution], when he had decided to release him [--> but was extorted by the Jerusalem elites]. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you [--> via rent a crowd], 15 and you killed the Author of life [--> guilt by enabling behaviour], whom God raised from the dead. 

To this we are witnesses [--> the 500]. 

 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[c] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 

 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago . .  .” [ESV]
In short, if anything is to "hasten" the Second Advent, it is mass revivals marked by sincere penitence in the face of the gospel and our sins, including our enabling behaviour in the face of manifest injustice.

Where, patently, just government is to be desired but is often thwarted by cynical, manipulative, corrupt elites of all races or creeds and by equally corrupt enabling mob behaviour in the teeth of the challenge of justice.

So, it turns out that just government and the implications of corrupt elites and people are a key example of the sins that discipleship demands our repentance from. This is amplified in the words of the other apostle judicially murdered by Nero, Paul:
Eph 4:17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 

 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 

20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[f] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. [ESV]
It is therefore utterly unsurprising to see that the gospel message, peacefully but fearlessly preached in the power of the Spirit, generally leads to a revival AND a riot. The former, as many who are sick of their sins, turn in penitence under the force of the call to repent, so that as more and more turn to Christ, there is a trend to fill all things with Christ's grace, blessing and purity. 

As, may be summarised by using Wallnau's seven mountains visionary summary:

Of course, one man's revival is another man's rebuke.

So, it is unsurprising that something that calls for positive transformation of community life under God's grace, will also trigger hostility and polarisation, soon to be seen in demonically motivated, slander and bigotry driven riots.

Of which Nero's mass murder of Christians, in many cases using them as living torches at his garden parties -- you burn our city, we burn you, we can hear in cynical excuse for such cruelties . . . -- is the capital example to the point that both forms of the numerical symbol (666 and 616) for the demonic end of days Antichrist-dictator are codings for Nero Caesar:

So, our choice is, will we be a part of the revival, or the riot?

The ghost of Nero stands in bloody warning of where the latter ends.

But, are we listening?

That is what Ben Carson, by courageously standing up in warning, is pointing to.

 Let me remind us of the problem of a march of stubborn folly determined to pursue business as usual in the teeth of warning-signs of our times:

Will we listen, before it is too late? END