The Bible is an amazing book. Without peer or parallel, the writing includes history, science, poetry, prophecy, and literature. A genre of the Bible that has gotten more attention recently is the prophecies specific to the end of time, the Apocalypse. The Bible portrays the End Times as a period of technological advancement, and the world described sounds eerily familiar. Whereas most of the Scriptures require a historical context for understanding, the Apocalyptic verse could be current news headlines. As the hour grows late, the setting aligns to our world.
What was not possible a few years ago scientifically seems to be within reach today. For instance, there is a description in Revelation where the Antichrist kills the Two Witnesses in the streets of Jerusalem.
“For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 11:9-10, ESV).
Now, we can conceive of satellite technology so that everyone on the earth can simultaneously watch events in real time (think about the Olympics, the World Cup, or embedded correspondents in war-torn areas). The prophet John saw the scene in a vision, but he lived in the first century during the Roman Empire. Messages were carried on horseback and graphics were recorded in paintings and frescos. Today, my brother can stand anywhere in the world and use his cell phone to look through the cameras posted around his house in real time.
Though John witnessed the events in the vision and recorded them faithfully, he had no concept of how the images would be displayed across the world. He did not understand that those devices would be screens mounted on walls or in everyone’s hands. So the description is written in terms that the prophet understood. For over 1900 years, the Church looked at this passage as some kind of magic produced by the Antichrist, which is not a bad guess, considering the man will be able to do counterfeit miracles, signs, and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9). However, notice the passage does not seem strange or impossible in our modern world—just part of everyday life.
Another example of technology that appears to have been magic at the time was the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of in Revelation. “And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain” (Revelation 13:15, ESV). The preceding verses of chapter thirteen reference a man known as the False Prophet who records his powers and actions. When I was born in 1977, both cloning and artificial intelligence were exclusively the purviews of science fiction. They are not perfected processes even today, but both are in the experimentation stage in our world. Remember Dolly the sheep? She was cloned over twenty-two years ago.
In the verse above, the False Prophet either empowers a machine with artificial intelligence or clones the Antichrist so that the new creature can hunt down those who do not worship the beast. It depends on the use of the word ‘image’ to understand what the False Prophet is doing in the passage. The image can mean ‘likeness’ or ‘inanimate object,’ so the contextual image makes a difference. The point is not to decide which method the man uses but to simply say that when I was born, neither process was scientifically available. Now, we can name two technological advances that put the Scriptures within a reach of possibility. Who is to say one or both will not have a decisive breakthrough tomorrow?
The idea of hunting down those who will not worship is an interesting one. About a month ago, my wife and I were discussing Christmas present ideas for my children. I wear my phone on my belt, but I do not buy much online. We batted some ideas around but could not really settle on anything that night. The next day, every advertisement on my phone was geared toward the toys/equipment we had discussed for the children. Scary. Our phones listened to us, and if the device can pick out keywords to guide and target advertising, then it can spy on your conversations in general.
One set of verses of great interest to me has been the ‘strong delusion’ mentioned at the end of the passage of the description of the Antichrist. “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness,” (2 Thess. 2:11-12, ESV). The ‘strong delusion’ is linked to people ‘who did not believe truth’ and ‘had pleasure in unrighteousness.’ Interesting. They had access to Truth but did not believe it or were disinterested. So it is not a question of ignorance or lack of information. Also, the second condition is not just people who commit unrighteousness even in belated sorrow or those who have addictions but people who find ‘pleasure’ in doing wrong.
A couple of days ago, I saw a YouTube video about a NASA engineer who made a glitter bomb to get back at people for stealing packages off his porch. It was funny, but I noticed everybody I know was talking about it. It was universally what we all saw on our phones for that day. If you think about it, FaceBook, Twitter, and Google are essentially controlled by three men. Even if you add in YouTube, Instagram, SnapChat, and other popular social media, then you might get to a dozen people who are trendsetting and controlling news and information to the entire planet. Maybe they organically let videos and information trend? Or maybe not?
When has such a small cabal of people ever controlled information for the entire globe? The internet has all the combined information of human history at the touch of the fingertips, but it contains much more junk. Distractions. Delusions. ‘Truth’ is there, but it is much more entertaining to watch and listen to the ‘unrighteousness’ and drama of the world. I may sound like an alarmist, but who actually believes leaving control of information in the hands of a dozen or fewer people while we are carrying spy equipment on our person is a good idea?
I challenge you to watch your fellow humans for a day. At red lights, people grab their phones to get those few seconds of viewing. Walking into stores, their heads are bowed over their devices, scared to miss something. Sitting and waiting, they watch their screens for every possible second. In restaurants, people sit at the same table, never speaking or looking away from their phones. The iPad is one of the best babysitters I have ever seen, and children gladly take the electronic nanny from their parents. There is no longer time to process thoughts and meditate because they must consume ever-increasing amounts of information, humor, and videos. People thinking for themselves has become history.
I am not a date-setter for our Lord’s return, but repeatedly, the prophet said things like ‘He who has an ear, let him hear’ or ‘This calls for wisdom’ or ‘If anyone has insight.’ When I read about the time of Noah (pre-flood), I have to use my imagination to understand and view the world the Bible describes. When I read about the life of Jesus, I can rely on historical accounts of the Roman Imperial period in Judea for context. But the descriptions of the world in Revelation are not so foreign to me. The End Times writers have described our world. The setting aligns.
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