Beware the False Prophet

W. F. Bellais II

Once again we have had to deal with false prophets. Saturday, May 21, according to a radio preacher, the world as we know it ended, but there is no evidence that it happened. Yes, terrifying and fatal storms ravaged the Midwest that day and the following day a city in southwest Missouri came under the power of nature and felt her anger. But, no, there is no evidence that the believers were raptured and that Judgment Day is at hand.

Jesus continually warned his followers about these people. He told them that they would predict all sorts of things and use fear to hold them in their sway. Jesus said you will see all sorts of calamities and you will experience terrible things, but none of that will give you a clue about the time God will establish the heavenly kingdom on earth. Christian sects have used the end times or second coming as a device to gain power and control. This effort can be traced all the way to the first century of the Church and it is a disgrace. False prophets crucify Jesus over and over and take away the joy of being a disciple and one who has found completeness of life in Jesus Christ.

Of course Christians are not the only ones who have spoken of end times. We are
now aware of the Mayan calendar, which ends on December 21, 2012. I think the Mayans just ran out of space on their big stone calendar. Further, December 21 is Saint Thomas Day in the Christian Liturgical Calendar and it appropriate to be like the Apostle Thomas and “doubt.”

The Hopi have a tale of end times, but it has never been recorded except by word of mouth. You know how that works if you ever played the “Gossip Game.”

The Book of Revelation is a source of the data false prophets use to predict the “End Times.” However, the Book of Revelation is a document of its own time. All of it can be attributed to the events of the day and the experiences the first century Christians were having under the Roman Emperor Domitian. They were remembering the persecution of Christians under Nero and saw a connection between that time and their own current dilemma.  Also, the evidence is not clear about who actually wrote this letter to the seven churches of Asia (now in Turkey). The style and grammatical construction of the letter, this revelation of the apocalypse, does not seem to be the same style and composition as the Gospel according to John and the three letters attributed John in the New Testament.

In order to give them currency, all of these prophecies, the Mayan Calendar, the Hopi legend, and the Book of Revelation, require modern readers or hearers to add their own data and experiences to them. Further, to use the Bible as a means of calculating the age of the earth and humanity flies in the face of the scientific data that is being collected daily.

The Bible is not a history of humanity; it is the story of people who have encountered God and they kept a record of that encounter. The Bible stories of ancient Israel and the first century Church are just that; stories. All around them mythology and idolatry prevailed. The early Chapters of the Book of Genesis, for example, are repeated in other ancient cultures of the Middle East and Mesopotamia and it took centuries if not millennia for the Hebrew people, the Israelites, to sort all that out. Those people of the ancient Middle East were attempting to understand their world and in so doing encountered the God of the universe; but even after that encounter they misunderstood. If they did not understand the message of God, how can we? The universe, God, and the future remain a mystery for us to live through and as the Apostle Paul wrote, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Certainly, all sorts of disasters can happen. North America is the newest part of our planet. Because of that much of the continent is built over an active thermal layer that can erupt at any time; note the geysers at Yellowstone and the thermal energy being put to use in the southwest. What should we do about that? The best solution is to understand that we have no control over such things. I lived through the Alaska 9.2 earthquake in 1964; it occurred on Good Friday; that seemed ominous, but the only thing that changed in my life was that I felt a little shaky at times, otherwise life went on.

False prophets distract us from the truth of our faith. In the Gospel according to John Jesus asks the question of his disciples, “Do you believe in God?” (John 14:1). I can imagine that they all shook their heads in the affirmative. Then he says, “If so, believe in me.” He did not instruct his disciples to go about scaring people into believing in him, he instructed them to open their hearts to the love and knowledge of God. How does he tell them to do that? He says (I am paraphrasing here), “I am the door, the way to that knowledge, and the God I am telling you about cannot be known through fear and false ideas.” Then he goes on to tell them that he has been teaching them the Truth with a capital T. Further that Truth is the way to life and life in abundance.

Jesusdid not teach by yelling and frightening people. Instead he taught that in him you see the reality of God. From that we can also understand that the reality of God can be seen in each of us. Further, he promised them that all of his disciples in that room where he ate the Passover feast for the last time would see him glorified by God. He meant that the reality of God’s love, God’s realm or governance, would be seen in him by his willingness to face evil straight on and then defeat it by his sacrifice.

Thus the promise of faith in the God that Jesus knows and preaches is not death but instead life in abundance. The understanding of the abundant life did not include becoming powerful and rich but did include having a sense of well-being. That sense of well-being comes from knowing that we are not biological accidents or simply just another organism living in the atmosphere of this planet but are the children of God and brothers and sisters by adoption to Jesus.

The world as we know it may very likely come to some end. Humanity may destroy itself; God knows we have tried hard to do that. But regardless of the
potential outcome our obligation is to love as God and Jesus love each other and as Christ loves us. Therefore, our duty as followers of Jesus is to live as life truly matters and to work hard to assure that all of humanity has the opportunity to live life without fear, hunger, or disease. In other words, we do not need to heed the false prophets that do not care about humanity. And while the false prophets carry on preaching death and exclusion, always remember that Jesus’ promise is life and that he is the way to the Truth and to that life.

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