Okay, So Why Isn’t This Taken Literally?

I have been a long-time observer of Dispensationist Christianity and its various end-times teachings crafted around a fascinating editing of different passages from Ezekiel, Daniel, Matthew and Revelation. My mother, for some ungodly reason (she is not a believer in any sense of the word) took me to the movie The Late Great Planet Earth when it first came out in 1979, and I suspect that event more than any others sparked an interest.

Dispensationism is the default setting for non-denominational Christianity in the United States, so much so that belief in a particular fulfillment of biblical prophesy, and not confessing the Apostles or Nicene Creeds, are what it means to be Christian for many Americans. (It was the Christianity I was exposed to in high school, for example.) In fact, I think it would be safe to say that dispensationism is a confessional identity.

One of the things I find amusing is that, as they edit together various bits and pieces of “prophetic” scripture to tell the story of Israel’s physical regathering and coming war with the Soviet Union The European Union Iraq Iran _____________ (fill in the blank; it keeps changing), they take some things very literally, some things very figuratively (days and weeks in Daniel actually meaning years), and many things they simply ignore. All things, however, point not to events more than 2,000 years ago, but events today. And, oddly enough, political and historical events American believers in dispensationism always seem to be on the right side of. Hmmm…..

Anyway, I was spending some quality time with Ezekiel today, because I haven’t before, and came across this fascinating end of one particular series of commands God gives to Ezekiel regarding the fate of Judah. It’s chapter 12, and God commands Ezekiel to “prepare for yourself an exile’s baggage, and go into exile in their sight.” The goal is that the people, especially the rulers, of Judah may see Ezekiel hauling his worldly goods around, ask him what he’s doing, and he will tell them what God is going to do — “I am a sign for you: as I have done, so shall it be done to them.” Exile is coming, war is coming, famine is coming, and it is in exile and war and famine that Israel will be chastened for its sins.

And then it gets interesting at the end of chapter 12:

[26] And the words of the Lord came to me: [27] Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, ‘The vision that he sees is for many days from now, and he prophesies of times far off.’ [28] Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord God: None of my words will be delayed any longer, but the word that I speak will be performed, declares the Lord God.”

Not 2,000 from now. But today. Sure, these few verses only apply to the oracle of Ezekiel walking around with his luggage. But you know, the next time I have to argue with a dispensationist who uses uses creatively edited scripture to make a point, I’m going to do some creative editing myself.

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