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Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Bright and Sudden Cognition (Part II)

                                                           I Had Already Been Warned

But I had already been warned. Not even a good four years before this, I had been warned by friends, 'If you read the Bible too much, you'll go crazy.' What did they mean? I did not know. And they did not elaborate. And as for me, I had to read the Bible. The end was going to be soon and I was learning more and more and pieces were coming together. I found the Bible to be entirely intriguing. It seemed fascinating to be living in “such a time as this.” I never knew what they meant until this astonishing information came together for me. In the Synoptic Gospels of Luke and Matthew Jesus was helping the Judæans understand the seriousness and the scope of their culpability in the deaths of the prophets and saints of God of old. Strangely, though, I had read these verses and passages many times before without actually thinking Jesus was talking to his own people during those days about something that was going to happen in their lifetime. It never occurred to me that their lifetime was obviously a very long time before my lifetime and current events. And this string of information was telling me that “Babylon” could not possibly be any 'One World Church' let alone the Roman Catholic Church! This information was telling me Babylon could only be first century Jerusalem. And that fact was immensely troubling to me. I had to press further to see where such an incredible idea would lead.

Research and Confirmation in the days, weeks and months that followed, gave myself time, perspective and circumspection to get over the initial shock of that fateful day. In about a week I devised a plan to get to the bottom of what had apparently happened, not knowing where anything would lead. And then, over a period of six months of intensive Bible study and note-taking a coherent picture began to emerge. I had accidentally tapped into facts long dormant and long forgotten. Obscure,yet staring anybody that ever reads the New Testament right in the face! These staggering realizations blew my mind by recalibrating the Bible and its prophecies into a whole new historical setting. This, in turn, changed my appraisal of the Second Coming, and end of the world, presenting these anew in an entirely different social and historical setting and outlook.

                                                     A Metaphor of this Discovery

It was like getting a super-sized puzzle for Christmas. But the box with the picture of the puzzle was missing. And let's say the puzzle also took a number of years to put together. And let's also imagine that all the while someone you trusted to know what they were talking about kept urging and encouraging you to believe the picture that would emerge from this puzzle would be thus and so—and you imagined it to be thus and so. And you kept imagining and working on it. You thought about it in every waking hour and dreamed about it in your sleep at night. Cherished thoughts. Happy thoughts.

This is what I am moving towards (you think to yourself). For you, this is reality. For you, this is history. For you, this is what it is all about. And for you, this is what the future holds. And then one day—suddenly—enough pieces finally came together and—bam—it is not at all what they said it would be! On the contrary, the picture you behold is completely different. You see constants that are stumbled over. You see constraints that seem to appear out of nowhere. You see details and elements which have been blithely disregarded—all in order to make parts of the picture 'serviceable' for presumptive and highly plausible, but ultimately improbable futurist notions, theories and dogmas.
     So you step away from these studies confused,astonished,unnerved,disoriented. You start asking thoughtful questions. You ask others to look at the puzzle (which by this time you have finished). Some won't say what they see, but you can see the realization in their eyes. I firmly believe that others, studying the Scriptures intensely, had gotten a glimpse of the same thing, but retreated, out of fear, thinking they had gone astray or crazy. But for me, there was nowhere to turn, no place to go and no way to go back. I took courage, went out and purchased a notebook and began research on the Bible world and milieu I was later to learn was called The Second Jewish Commonwealth. Six months later I obtained a copy of Josephus' Complete Works. This book contains The Antiquities of the Jews and The Jewish War. And within its pages, as I had already begun to strongly suspect, the historical situation of the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world most likely related to the Jew's now belated civilization and not what has been long been imagined (in various guises) in ecclesiastical traditions. And—sure enough, among the many astonishing accounts was this one:—

“Such prodigies had happened, as this nation, which is superstitious enough in its own way, would not agree to expiate by the ceremonies of the Roman religion, nor would they atone the gods by sacrifices and vows, as these used to do on the like occasions. Armies were seen to fight in the sky, and their armor looked of a bright light color, and the Temple shone with sudden flashes of fire out of the clouds. The doors of the Temple were opened on a sudden, and a voice greater than human was heard, that the gods were retiring, and at the same time there was a great motion perceived as if they were going out of it, which some esteemed to be causes of terror. The greater part had a firm belief that it was contained in the old sacerdotal books, that at this very time the east would prevail, and that some that came out of Judea should obtain the empire of the world. . .” (Josephus Complete Works, Appendix Dissertation 3 Chapter 13 See also Josephus' Wars of the Jews 6.5.3)

Jesus' indictment against Jerusalem, (See Figure 1) and the New Testament's uniform expectation of the Second Coming in the lifetime of the first Christians and these accounts of aerial war over Herod's Temple, a voice “greater than human and sudden movement of spirits exiting the doors of the Temple match exactly what was “most assuredly believed” among the Christians in antiquity. And the entire New Testament bares this out. And this has stupendous and staggering implications!
     It was because of these findings that, by 1983, I had completely abandoned the Medieval hodge-podge of anti-Catholic theological and apocalyptic rhetoric and misappropiated proof-texts. Most of the misunderstandig that led the first Protestant Christians to imagine the Roman Catholic Church was Babylon the Great are is epitomized in the works of Alexander Hyslop's book 'The Two Babylons.' And along with it went out Hal Lindsey and John Walvoord's many current events proof-texts. I came away with a revised picture of the cogent, continuous and unified aims and goals of salvation history and Bible prophecy.

     The first round of re-learning brought me all the way up to the end of the Jewish world in A.D.70, (and I thought that was overwhelming). But then (as if all that was not enough) I found myself standing on the threshold of Revelation 20. Looking around at the scenary (for it was a place very unfamiliar to me) I began to wonder intensely “What does this mean?” and “How does this fit into what has already transpired?” And, “Does this represent now and is there yet to be another “final” end? this newly acquired understanding was crowned by an astonishing fact: the re-establishment of the State of Israel in the summer of 1948 was not the first time Israel was able to regain her sovereignty and statehood since A.D.70—it was, in fact, the second time. And when was that? The first time was in the spring of A.D.132 and then it was as a result of Rabbi Joseph Ben Akiva's fatal proclamation of Simeion Bar Kokhba to be Israel's long awaited "king messiah" come at last. And Bar Kokhba's massive, misguided, and disastrous attempt to turn the hands of time back to the belated Temple era, religious polity and practices which were abruptly extinguished in A.D.70. But this time, with an army of 585,000 soldiers. Not short of weapons and arms, there was ample help from sympathetic Gentile nations, including Persia. We are told that the Jews came very close to beating and actually destroying the Roman empire and realizing their Messianic ambitions. But it was not to be. After a gargantuan effort (which had surprising initial successes) a brutal and loosing war lasted three and a half years before it came to a disastrous conclusion, in the fall of A.D.135.

I then learned to my utter astonishment, that the earliest Christians had originally believed the Old Testament had prophesied of both destructions of Jerusalem (A.D.66-70 and A.D.132-135). Thus, this second great war (not the first) because of its aims and significance and loss, was considered the Triumph of Christianity in antiquity, by default. In other words, when the Judæans could not win back what they had recently forfeited in A.D.70 (the Temple, the sacrifices, the oblation—in a word, the restoration of their world) it was a sure sign, a message sent by the Deity, vindicating Christian claims for Jesus of Nazareth. But that message is, incidentally, completely undercut and sabotaged by the 'current events' approach. Why? Because it would lead one to believe the apocalypse is either in abeyance or postponed and yet remains to be accomplished in a near or distant futurity. But if Jerusalem and Babylon are really one and the same city and the events expected by the announced by Christ and reconfirmed by the Apostles and believed by the entire first century Church really came to pass, as expected, then an understanding of the end of the world can never be the same. Because any fair and honest appraisal of the testimony of Jesus must also take into account what the extant history of those contemporary years tell us came to fruition.

                                                                  My Religious Upbringing

     I was raised in a small Christian sect, headquartered in Waycross, Georgia, called 'the First Born Church of the Living God.' Begun in 1913 by a covenant and charter by 13 Christian bishops, our religious beliefs included: “. . .the Second Coming of Christ, His thousand-year reign on the earth with the saints, both eternal and everlasting life and the resurrection of the righteous dead.” Growing up, I had not the faintest idea about all the complexities of what believing and being a Christian entailed. I did not know how old or young this Faith or Way was. I knew nothing of its enigmatic and mysterious past. I knew nothing of its Semitic, Hebrew and Judæan roots. Nor did I know of past dangers, perils and sorrows and bitter controversies experienced between opposing sides in a vanished world. But I familiar with the logic behind what we believed was roughly along the lines of God's switching from 'Plan A' (Israel) to 'Plan B' (the Church).
     According to this line of reasoning, (which is completely false in light of the New Testament's claims for why Christ left his riches and heaven and became a Suffering Servant for our salvation) in the first century, Israel allegedly refused Christ's “kingdom offer,” and, objecting to other aspects of his person and message, by Roman hands had him crucified. According to this explanation, then, the crucifixion of Christ was not exactly what God had in mind: the kingdom being set up at Christ's first coming was. The kingdom was then postponed and from that interruption, the prospect of the Second Coming (out of sheer necessity) came into being. And so (it is believed) at a future time (and one soon to us), events will come about that will ultimately convince Israel that Jesus isChrist, and then, basically, God will revert back to 'Plan A' again with the kingdom, a Jerusalem centered kingship of Jesus with a Temple cult lasting exactly one thousand years. At the end of this period Satan was to be released from the bottomless pit, allowed to instigate a final rebellion which would garner a staggering following. This final sedition would be Divinely put down, a final resurrection and judgment would take place, the earth would be utterly destroyed, a new one would be created and eternity would ensue after that. This was the basic story-line I remember being told.
     In 1969 it was clear to me that we believed Jesus was now, after all this time, coming back on the clouds for us very, very soon. This idea was preached vehemently, assurance and conviction. Then, at that very time, the debut of the interracial singing group Andraé Crouch & the Disciples helped cement, in lyrics and in melodies, a powerful sense of devotion, expectation and motivation that lent a feeling of
“rightness” that all Christians, in unison, black or white and of all denominational persuasions, were expecting Jesus to come back “any day now.”

Songs like It Won't Be Long, told us—

“It won't be long,
Till we'll be leaving here
It won't be long,
We'll be going home.
Count the years as months,
Count the months as weeks,
Count the weeks as days—
Any day now,
(We'll be going)
We'll be going Home.
It won't be long. It won't be long.”

     We were told that everyone who was living a life pleasing to God was going to disappear into thin air and re-appear in the clouds with Jesus and all the saints who had ever lived. We obtained this promise from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. We were told this was the long belated Marriage of Christ to his Bride, the Church described in Matthew 25:1-13; 2 Corinthians 11:1-2; Ephesians 5:25-27; 2 Thessalonians 2:1 and Revelation 19:7. It was explained that God loved the Church as a collective, a bride (if you like). And so (it is said) what God the Father intended to do at the time of Christ, he postponed and was only now, because of the advent of the statehood of Israel in 1947, about to carry out. All these concept
were new and fascinating to me. Curious about all these things, I remember picking up the Bible and reading it. At one point, I recall coming across Philippians 4:4-5, where the Apostle Paul wrote these words:
“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand."
     Here I was, a 9 year old boy (and I had just learned how to read) and I took note of it: “The Lord is at hand.” It did not make sense to me that Paul could say that so long ago.  And yet, even at that young age, it seemed terrifying t me to see something in the Bible that my prove the aspiraions of my church to be amiss.  You see, a large part of our believing in God and the Bible was that we maintained that the troubles of our times was the main proof that the Bible was right. We did not attend to archeology and Greek and context and exegesis and hermeneutics and history. Those considerations were as far away and foreign to us as imagining life on a distant planet in a remote galaxy. But we did not need to doubt or questionfantastic accounts in the Bible. Why doubt past events when events predicted by the Bible were happening right here and now before our very own eyes? So then, there was obviously no need for anything more than noting the inexorable direction and content of contemporary news! So by 1970 a new literary sensation, advocating just that approach, was making the rounds: Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth.

     Before this I had never really thought about or even heard of a Bible prophecy book. In Lindsey's small and easy to read account, he again held up the birth of the nation of Israel in 1947 as the pivotal sign that guaranteed for us that the New Testament's promises of this “Rapture,” was absolutely and certainly going to happen any day, without warning. It would be followed by an unimaginable seven year tribulation and then the Second Coming. Nobody wanted to be left behind, so everyone was encouraged to “Be ready.” The book was electrifying—as evidenced by the fact that it has now sold more than 30 million copies. But Lindsey was not the only author who shaped my early ideas about what eschatology and apocalyptics was supposed to be about. Other books, namely Alexander Hyslop's “The Two Babylons” and Fox's Book of Christian Martyrs helped beef up the idea of Roman Empire-Catholicentric “Babylon the Great”and interpretive scheme of the Book of Revelation by demonstrating the many ways in which pagan influences, early on, had gained an entry into Christian beliefs, practices, traditions and customs.

     Additionally, my Jehovah's Witness acquaintances firmly believed and warned that the end of the world was set to happen sometime in the autumn of 1975. Being ignorant of the reasons why, I went down to a local Christian bookstore and found a book titled, Thirty Years a Watchtower Slave. And at the city library I checked out a book called Armageddon Around the Corner. And yet, what I did not realize then (but do now) is that Watchtower, Pentecostal and Evangelical premises about Bible prophecy, the Second Coming and the end of the world are based on remarkably similar premises (if different dates). How so? They all encourage everyone to continue to look at current events as proof that everything the Bible said would happen is indeed happening—now. Ok. It was easy enough to do, but it is also inevitable to began to realize that wars and rumors of wars, and famines, earthquakes and pestilences and general mayhem are actually nothing new in human history. And, as if to drive this point home, 1975 came and went and what Jehovah's Witnesses had been bragging about for nine years came to absolutely nothing but embarrassment. Ditto for Evangelicals in the years 1981, 1988 and 2000.
     For other Christians, their understanding of eschatology is so ambiguous and conceived to be so far into the future as to seem irrelevant and superfluous to even discuss, let alone expect. None of these parties takes any comfort in what the New Testament seems to say about the Second Coming at face value because it knows of no “thief in the night return of the Lord shorn of the original Christians' lifetime.
So regardless of which group it is, disappointments and disillusionment have happened and will continue to happen across denominational and sectarian lines. And it is for basically the same reasons: the premises are deeply flawed. This treatise is my small contribution to all Christians, the People of God—or whoever double-checks it, verifies it and can accept it as “truths we hold to be self evident.” As such it is my hope it will edify, not puff up, enrich and not enervate. I believe what you are about to
encounter will give you an understanding of the Second Coming and the end of the world that closely resembles the logic and expectations behind ancient Christian thinking. And if you are not a Christian, this book has something for you too. It is written in the hopes that you will be able to more accurately appraise of what the church really is and you may put their trust in Jesus and become a Christian on the witness of this great Trinitarian world religion's original paradigm and premises.
Please join me on this very exciting exploration. Here I present reappraisals about a familiar subject from a perspective that does justice to the concept of "audience relevance."  This approach yields stunning realizations when rescued from 'current events' revisionism and when framed in its nascent period—a most auspicious and haunting and anomalous time in Jewish salvation history. Here is the beginning of a journey to a unique and tragic civilization. Here we get a look at a vanished world. Here the setting of the rise of Christianity, the greatest revolution in the history of the human race, can be comprehended in its highest, deepest and broadest sense. Understanding the end of the world is all about how various and seemingly dissonant texts and cryptic expressions makes sense. And understanding the end of the world is about non-cyclic long-term events which led, by the time of the arrival of the First Advent of our Lord, to short-term orchestration of events which brought a speedy fruition of the apocalyptic promises of Jesus Christ, the risen, exalted and triumphant Son of God.

Mark E. Mountjoy
Summer 2010


  1. Hello Mr. Mountjoy,

    This is Charles the guy from the bus stop Denver/Commerce City. Read your bio. and some of your blogs like I said I would look forward to seeing you again.


  2. Hello Charles,

    Thanks for stopping by! What do you think about the Babylon the Great City--According to the Bible post? I wrote it in 1982 and have gotten favorable response to it. Going to re-publish it as a tract soon. These ideas are along the lines of Realized Eschatology. Are you familiar with these concepts. Alright. Talk soon.