Monthly Archives: August 2012

Observations Taken From Plutarch’s “Lives”

I have always been an avid reader, ever since I was a child and first learned to read. While my tastes in literature have changed considerably over my lifetime, and still is rather varied, the past several years I have been reading, usually for the first time, some of literature’s classics; in particular, I have been reading quite a bit from the Classical period of the Greeks and the Romans. A lot of this has been driven by my interest in ancient history, but partly it’s because there is a lot of things that I never got around to reading for one reason or another.

For the past several weeks I have been reading with great interest The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, written by the Greek author Plutarch. The copy that I own is the complete work, which runs some 876 pages in hardback (I also own a paperback copy, but it is a much abridged version featuring only the most prominent persons), and was published as part of the Great Books of the Western World series first published by Encyclopedia Britannica in 1952. (This series of books covers most of the last 2,400 years and a wide variety of subjects; I highly recommend it if you can find them.)

Plutarch was a Greek author from the small town of Chaeronea, somewhat to the northwest of Athens, and he lived from around 46-120 AD. He studied philosophy and history at Athens and while he was reputed to be a good philosopher, his true gift was writing about history. His Lives concerns itself with the Greeks from early times to well into the period of their subjugation to Rome, and with the Romans from the founding of the city in the Ninth Century BC to the early Imperial period. Plutarch was an excellent scholar and a gifted writer with a keen insight into human nature; he utilized all of the written and verbal sources available to him, and whenever there were differences of opinion concerning certain events or people he was diligent in listing them and presenting the opposing opinions for the reader to decide upon.

Rather than writing a review of his work, which I am sure has been extensively done in the past by better scholars and writers than myself, what I want to discuss in this post are some of the observations that I have made during the course of my reading.

The first of my observations is that the ancient Greeks and Romans who were remembered the most fondly and received the most favorable treatment by Plutarch were those who were the most virtuous, not necessarily those who conquered the most territory or won the most battles. Those men (and women) who practiced kindness, justice, honesty, generosity and temperance in the way they lived were held in the highest esteem, unless of course they were surrounded by greedy, drunken debaucherers and the ruthless, in which case they were generally hated by most of the people around them. The persons who led the most virtuous lives were held up as examples to their fellow citizens in hopes that more people would emulate their virtues, but human nature being what it is, they tended to be the exceptions rather than the rule.

Secondly, I was struck by how many of these great people, Plutarch included, expressed a belief in God as being the supreme being higher in stature and power than any of the pagan gods. Whenever God was mentioned it was always with a sense of respect and reverence, which to me shows that Paul was right in Romans 1:18-20 when he said that since the earliest times God had made his presence known through Creation and nature, and then a little later in Romans 2:14-15 when he stated that humanity had God’s laws imprinted in their consciences to be followed or ignored. (Socrates in particular, though he was not included in Plutarch’s writings, had a keen sense of God and His laws, which probably has a lot to do with why he was forced to kill himself, but that is another tale entirely.)

Next, and this is something that I had discovered long ago from reading about ancient history, people were no better or worse in ancient times than they are today, and by this I mean the common people. There were many people who lived their lives temperately, justly and honestly, who were content to live simple lives in humility. There were also people who lived by avarice and greed, who would steal from anyone they could if it gave them an advantage, who would lie to cheat honest men, who allowed their greed and ambitions to lead them into all sorts of evil. Then just as now, the people wanted security and a secure source of food, and they weren’t afraid to work hard for what they got or to fight when their country called them to service. But the people were also easily inflamed and swayed by the clever words of the politicians, and often seditions and revolts against the commonwealth were demanded by the masses as a result of somebody else’s political designs.

And fourthly, Plutarch gives example after example of how factions and internal squabbling ruined cities and realms. At least part if not most of the lives of nearly every person he wrote about was spent dealing with one faction or another, each with its own agenda. Except for during times of anarchy, and even during the better times of freedom and democracy, the policies of the realm involved was always dictated by the wealthy, who used everything from gifted orators to outright bribery and pandering to further their aims. Sometimes the city or nation was blessed with a strong, just leader who was able to thwart the designs of the greedy and ambitious, but for a great deal of time the leaders were mediocre and easily swayed by riches. When great men would arise and challenge the existing power elite, they were nearly always plotted against, lied about, charged with crimes they did not commit, and often either exiled or outright murdered. And while the elite paid lip service to their religious beliefs and principles, they generally just used religion as a way to impress the populace and sway public opinion through offering games and entertainments in the name of some god or another.

In the long run, things today are no different no matter how often we are told that they are. Western society is still governed by a power elite who use rhetoric, entertainments and lies to sway public opinion to fit their aims. There is still greed, avarice, debauchery, lies, plotting and factious infighting. There are also still those who are just, kind and honest, who are content to live within their means and who find the pursuit of wealth for its own sake odious, but the past few years it seems that they are becoming the minority. In fact, when I compare the last few decades of the Roman Republic with Western society, especially here in the U.S., I see parallels that are too striking to be ignored; that bodes ill for our immediate future, but as Plutarch often said, that is a subject best left for another time.

So, for anyone with the inclination and the patience for giving Plutarch a read, I strongly recommend him. Not only is his work very informative on the two cultures that Western civilization is built upon, but one can also gain a number of insights into the present and why some things are the way they are. I hope that you have enjoyed reading this, dear reader, and as always I look forward to hearing from you.

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Filed under Ancient History, Books, Faith in the 21st Century

A Brief Note…

This is aimed at those of my Christian brothers and sisters who may have read my recent post regarding the Rapture. Since I posted that article I have had the gnawing thought that it may have caused division or disharmony among you, and I want you to know that was not my intent. I believe that causing divisions among believers is a bad thing; the extreme divisiveness within Christianity has diluted our witness and encouraged our detractors ever since the days of the Apostles, to the point where whole wars have been fought between branches of the Christian faith. Those of us who believe in the Gospel and the Bible should recall that we are all members of one body, and even though we may have different opinions on what are really trivial matters, we should not allow those differences to estrange us from each other. “A house divided cannot stand”, and the only reason that Christianity’s divisions did not destroy us over the past 2,000 years is because God is still using us to reach out to others.

So, my dear friends, if my previous post caused you to be distressed or vexed in any way, I beg your indulgence and forgiveness, for that was not my intention. I still stand by every word that I wrote, but I want you to know that I have had many close brothers and sisters who fervently believed that Christ would fetch us out of the world at the beginning of the Tribulation, and we were nearly always able to agree to disagree. Frankly, I would rather that they were right! I have sounded the trumpet of the watchman as described in Ezekiel 33, and I will leave it at that. The important thing is that we love each other in the Lord and continue to allow ourselves to be used by God in these perilous times.

‘Nuff said. Let’s move on now…

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Filed under Faith in the 21st Century, Future Events and Prophecies

Regarding the Rapture

Okay folks, this is going to be a post that may alienate me from some of my Christian friends, but it is a subject that has been heavy on my heart for the past couple of weeks and so I feel compelled to write about it. Besides, I would rather speak the truth and be reviled than repeat a lie and be loved. So here goes…

One of the most looked for and talked about events in New Testament prophecy is when Christ returns to Earth and gathers His believers to him. There have been many books written on the subject, countless sermons preached about it and even a number of films based on it. It is a subject that has been discussed and prayed for over the last 2,000 years. Yet, it is an event that seems to be largely misunderstood, and least when it comes to the timing of it. So we will look at the two major positions on the subject (there are others that are of negligible importance and we’ll skip those for the sake of brevity – I get long-winded enough on my own, thank you!) and then I will weigh in with my opinion and express my fears concerning one of those theories. I will leave to you, dear reader, to make up your own mind as to which position you will take.

I do want to take a moment to say that I consider this subject to be of secondary importance overall, and if it weren’t for the serious reservations I have about one of these positions I would not write about it at all. The really important thing is that Jesus Christ is the son of God sent into the world to pay the price of our sins, and what matters the most is whether or not we believe that and live accordingly. But with so many people in Christianity, at least here in the U.S., being focused on the timing of this wonderful event nearly to the point of obsession, I feel that it needs to be addressed. Those of you out there who do not consider yourself Christians are welcome to skip this post if you please, but I hope that you don’t.

Here’s the basic scenario: seven years of intense tribulation, during which the ruthless dictator know as the Anti-Christ will be revealed, are followed by the return of Christ in power and glory to claim His throne on Earth and start a thousand-year rule, followed by a brief rebellion led by Satan, followed by the Great Resurrection when all of humanity will be raised to face their final judgement. At some point around the time of Christ’s return He has promised that those who have kept faith with Him shall be either raised from the dead or changed into Immortal beings. There are two primary Scriptures that describe this. The first is Luke 21:27-28: “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Also in Matthew 24:30-31: “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” So Christ returns in power and glory and gathers His believers to himself before He descends to earth.

Now this is where the doctrine of that gathering, known for well over a century as “the Rapture”, diverges into two schools of thought regarding the timing of that blessed event.

The first one, which has the much longer history, is that the gathering of Christ’s believers will occur after the nightmare of the seven years of tribulation and before the Lord actually sets foot on the earth. This is what the early church believed and what was believed by Christians who gave thought to such things for over 1800 years and which is still believed correct by many today. This is the position held by a number of churches and teachers, and the position that I hold. The second position concerning the timing states that Christ will swoop in and gather His believers at the beginning of the tribulation, keep them with him in heaven for seven years, and then bring them back to Earth with Him when He comes to claim His throne. A great many Christians believe in this scenario, particularly among the Evangelical movement in America, and are counting on it to deliver them from the turmoil and bloodshed of the tribulation.

Let’s look at the second scenario first, which historically is the younger of the two positions. The idea that Christ would come down and catch up his church first arose in the 1830s, based on a book written by John Nelson Darby in 1827. The idea slowly gained ground throughout the 1800s and was included in the Schofield Reference Bible, first published in 1909, and continued its slow growth among American Christians until John Walvoord, a theologian at Dallas Theological Seminary, published his book The Rapture Question in 1957. Then in the early 1970s the idea took off when Hal Lindsey published his famous book The Late, Great Planet Earth, where he studied and expounded upon the prophecies concerning the end times (remember, in the early 70s we were deep in the Cold War and the threat of global extinction was taken very seriously). Since then there have been many theologians, pastors and writers who have espoused a pre-tribulation Rapture.

This scenario is built upon primarily two Scriptures, 1st Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1st Thessalonians 4:14-17. In 1st Corinthians 15, Paul wrote: “Listen, I will tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” Then in 1st Thessalonians he stated: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” Pre-tribulationists also refer to 1st Thessalonians 5:9: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ”.

Those Christians who adhere to a post-tribulational view of this gathering refer to the same verses from the Bible, as they show beyond a doubt that when Christ returns He will gather his believers, both dead and alive, to Him upon his return to this pitiable planet. But they take the words of the Lord and Paul at face value. As shown in the Scriptures from Matthew and Luke, this gathering will occur when Christ is descending to the earth in power and glory, visible to everyone – “all the nations of the earth will mourn”. This is not something that happens in secret. And in 1st Corinthians 15 Paul even states the time of this gathering – “at the last trumpet”, not at the time of one of the other trumpets described as being blown throughout the book of the Revelation, but at the last one. So the post-tribulational view is built upon the fact that Jesus and Paul knew what they were talking about.

(Okay, I know that in a previous post I said that I try to avoid lengthy quotes from the Bible, but on this particular subject I felt that it was important to give the Scriptural basis for these teachings.)

Now I will start doing a bit of opining, so forgive me, dear reader. For starters, I tend to be rather 1st century in my beliefs regarding God and Christ, so perhaps I am naturally inclined toward the position held by the early church, but I figure that they were quite a lot closer to the source than anyone today and therefore they have a clearer picture of what Jesus and Paul taught than those of us two millenia later. Besides, much of what Christianity practices and believes today is built upon 2,000 years of other people’s commentary and interpretation of the Scriptures just as Judaism in the time of Christ was largely based on rabbinical commentary over the previous 1,000 years, and we saw what the Lord thought of that. Secondly, the fact that Christ clearly said that the gathering would happen when He was coming in power and glory, plus Paul’s statement that it would occur at the last trumpet, pretty much says it all as far as when it would happen. Next, it seems just a bit presumptuous to assume that Christ would whisk His believers away so that they didn’t have to endure the kind of suffering and persecution that nearly every other generation of Christian has had to endure (especially during the time of the Romans and their barbarian successors); after all, it is through suffering and persecutions that the impurities in the church are burned away just as gold must pass through fire to remove the dross. And finally, I see a great danger in counting so much on being taken away before the tribulation because if you believe strongly that you will not be here when the Anti-Christ begins his reign of terror, then you are more likely to not recognize that person for who he is and will fall into his trap. I am convinced that since he will proclaim himself as being Christ he will be someone who claims to be a Christian, and Christians who aren’t supposed to be here at that time are likely to become his followers; but the Anti-Christ is a subject that belongs in a different post at another time.

So I believe in a gathering of believers at the end of the horrors of the tribulation. Do I like thinking about what will have to be endured before I am safe with the Lord? Of course not. Do I wish to be put in a concentration camp or killed for refusing to bow down to the great dictator to come? No, but I would do so willingly for I would know that my sufferings would be on behalf of Him who suffered so much on my behalf. I would rather be wrong on this issue and be prepared for the worst than believe in a false hope and be deceived, for when the Beast comes he will be a great deceiver, to the point where Paul warned that he could even deceive the elect, meaning Christians. But I also learned long ago to let the Word of God speak for itself, and this is what it says to me. Even in my view we as Christians will still be kept from the hour of wrath, one because we have salvation through Christ, and second because God can rain a whole lot of judgement down on this earth during the time that we are joining with the Lord in the clouds.

I hope that this post hasn’t been too tedious or odious to you, dear reader, but these things need to be said. I look forward to any comments or questions and will answer all to the best of my meager ability.

Peace and love to you all!

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Filed under Faith in the 21st Century, Future Events and Prophecies

Mental Illness is Not a Crime

In the wake of the Colorado shooting the subject of mental illness has seeped into the news once again, so naturally I decided to air an opinion or two on the subject. (There’s no doubt in my mind that the kid that shot all of those people is mentally ill; most of the lone wolf killers have one form of mental illness or another, even if they are “just” sociopaths. But I want to head off any attempts that may be coming down the pike to categorize all or most mentally ill people as psychotic killers just waiting for an opportunity to open fire.)

According to National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) roughly 26% of adult Americans suffer from one kind of mental illness or another (there are many, and NIMH’s website gives a good overview of what they are and what the symptoms are), and one-quarter of those, or 6% of the general population of adults, deal with mental conditions that can cause serious disruptions of their daily lives. That translates into approximately 57 million Americans with some form of mental illness and 10 to 12 million whose mental illness disrupts what most people consider normal lives and relegates them to the shadowy worlds of institutions and homelessness. That’s a lot of people affected, and these are just the cases that they know about.

There are many causes for mental illness and the majority of them have nothing to do with drugs, although most people with dependency problems have some kind of mental illness that is most likely undiagnosed. (One last point on the subject of substance abuse and mental illness is that while most addicts have undiagnosed mental illnesses and are self-medicating whether they know it or not, substance abuse has been proven to make an existing mental illness worse. I just wanted to be clear on that!) The two leading factors that cause mental illness are genetics and environment. When it comes to genetics, a great many mental illnesses, especially the most serious ones, are inherited from one or both parents; basically, the parental genes combine to cause chemical imbalances in the brain or just plain “faulty wiring” as I call it. With environment, mental illnesses can stem from growing up in abusive homes (probably the most famous case being that of Sybil and her multiple personalities), or from an excess of stress over an extended period of time as I addressed in my post on ethnic violence a couple of weeks back. A third theory, which is basically mine as I don’t hear much about it from anywhere else, is that the high percentages of mental illness in this country are at least partly caused by the excess of electromagnetic fields which surround us every moment of our lives; even excluding those poor folks who happen to live underneath high tension power lines, just the radiant energy from everything from radio signals to GPS to WiFi to cell towers is a source of EM energy that the human brain was never intended to be submersed in. And no, I have no empirical data to back this up, but it does make sense, which is why this theory can be filed under “Dave’s Theories on Everything”!

So we have a huge problem, but how many answers do we have? Not many that are worth the time and money spent on them. The current mental health system in the United States is overburdened, so most facilities are forced to operate under the “let’s get them back out the door as quickly as we can” method. Medications can help alleviate symptoms, and there are always new and improved medicines coming out, but there are nearly always side effects that are almost as bad as the illness they are treating, and treating a patient with just medications, at least for that 6% with serious problems, is more of a band-aid solution as there is little counseling available to help them deal with their core issues or even just help them cope with day-to-day living. Part of the problem is that most insurances, even the government programs like Medicaid and Medicare, provide very little in the way of psychiatric treatment. Those of us who are veterans probably get the best care as there are some very dedicated psychiatrists working in the VA system. But I want it to be known that there are some very dedicated people out there in the mental health profession who work very hard to help people mired in an overburdened mental health system. I have a good friend who works at a state hospital under difficult conditions who gives it her all every day, and I wish that there were a lot more out there like her.

I guess that my main point is that no one wakes up one morning and decides, “Hey, I think I’ll become schizophrenic today!” No one chooses to be Bi-polar or schizoaffective or to have multiple personalities. People with mental illnesses have an illness. They have a disease just like people who have cancer or Hepatitus-C or flesh-eating bacteria. Mental illnesses are diseases that affect the most sensitive of organs, the human brain. While their behavior may be hard to understand or even bizarre at times, it is the disease that is causing them to do that. Am I being too soft on mentally ill people? Some of you might think so, but I don’t. If someone like that kid in Colorado goes out and commits a crime because they are mentally ill there still have to be consequences, but there also has to be some effort at treating their illness. Don’t just stuff them into some hellhole like Bedlam and forget about them. Put them in prison (which most prisons are staffed to provide at least some mental health care) or an institution for the criminally insane if their crime justifies that. But whatever you do, don’t put all mentally ill people in the same category as that kid from Colorado. It is not a crime to be mentally ill, nor should it ever be.

So the next time you run across someone who clearly suffers from a mental illness, don’t make fun of them or think that they are just slackers. The mentally ill live each and every day in their own private hell and don’t need anyone’s help at feeling worthless and broken. The mentally ill are human beings who need help, who need friends and need love and understanding, not scorn and derision.

Besides, for all you know, someday you could be one of them.

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Filed under Mental Illness

The Present Earthquake Danger to Oregon and Washington

Yesterday on the blog The Extinction Protocol (also here on WordPress), Alvin posted on article relating a new study by the geologists at Oregon State University stating that the likelihood of a massive earthquake occuring in the Cascadia Subduction Zone off of the coast of Coos Bay has gone up to 40% over the next fifty years (more on this estimation a little later). The article was very interesting and can be found at http://theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/study-highlights-growing-risk-for-large-magnitude-earthquake-for-nw-pacific-coast/ ; also, if you scroll down through the comments you will find another link posted by a lady named Donna which leads to a 50 minute video of a state seismologist presenting the hazards to the Multnomah County commissioners in Septmeber of 2010. In the OSU report they state that the likely magnitude of this massive quake would be in the 8.7-9.2 range, which would put it on an even footing with the massive quake in Japan last year and the one in Chile in early 2010.

During the course of the study the scientists state that the southern end of the CSZ ruptures more frequently than the northern, which means that the area from Crescent City, California up to Newport, Oregon is at the greatest risk. A quake of this magnitude would devastate many communities and destroy the infrastructure, making relief efforts extremely difficult. Has this report been carried by the local TV news or newspapers? Not yet. Why? Because the authorities don’t want to alarm the public and because the public prefers to turn a blind eye to the danger, just as it does (for the most part) with volcanoes, even though Mt. Saint Helens gave us a pretty noticeable indication of that dannger back in 1980.

Let’s take a quick look at why this threat exists before I start opining excessively. A subduction zone is a geological area where one of the large tectonic plates of solid rock that we live on is riding over the top of another plate; in this case, the vast North American plate is riding over the top of the much smaller Juan de Fuca plate. As the upper plate rides over the top of the lower one friction builds as the rocks hang up on each other, until it reaches the point where the rocks snap under the strain and an earthquake occurs as the manifestation of the shock waves from that snap. The Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) lies about 50-75 miles off of the coasts of Oregon and Washington, and was actually only discovered within the last 25 years or so. The CSZ is why the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest are one long string of volcanoes, because as the Juan de Fuca plate is pushed ever deeper it begins to melt, and as it does the resulting magma wells up to the surface and forms our beautiful but dangerous volcanoes.

The OSU study has concluded that the southern end of the CSZ has earthquakes more frequently than the northern, and so they issued their warning that a quake measuring roughly 9.0 has a 40% chance of occuring there over the next fifty years. Now here is where I start taking issue with these “probabilities”. The geologists who study earthquake zones for a living know that quakes are likely to happen in certain areas, but they always couch their predictions in terms of percentages over a half-century or more for two reasons: first, the government doesn’t want to start a panic or mass-migration out of the endangered area, and secondly, the seismologists don’t want to be more specific in their predictions because if they are wrong then they will lose professional credibility and possibly funding.

So let’s look at the historical facts. The CSZ produces massive quakes in the 8.0-9.0+ range about once every 245 years, and the seismologists have verified that through the geologic record (massive quakes leave a lot of signs of their passage if you know what to look for). The last massive quake occured in early 1700 when a 600 mile stretch of the CSZ ruptured, and this quake is still remembered among the Native Americans living in western Oregon. This means that based on the average provided above, the CSZ is roughly 65 years overdue for a massive quake. While 65 years is practically a blink of the eye in geologic time, events that occur at fairly regular intervals don’t like changing their patterns much and therefore tend to stay regular. Personally, I usually double the numbers in a predicted probability, which means we are looking at an 80% probability in the next 25 years, and when a fault is overdue for a major rupture all bets are off.

A magnitude 9.0 quake along the central Oregon coast will shake the entire western half of Oregon for up to five minutes, and shake it hard. This means that bridges will collapse, roads will become impassable from either buckling or landslides, the electricity and communications systems will go down, and many older buildings built of brick and mortar will collapse. Highways 101 and I5 will most likely be unusable except in some locations; it is believed that Highway 101 will virtually cease to exist. And as an added bonus, the quake would generate a tsunami on a scale similar to the one in Japan, which would wipe all of those low-lying towns and developments right off of the map. Watch some of the Japanese tsunami videos on Youtube to get an idea of what to expect.

So are we prepared here in the Northwest? No. As I said above, most people here would rather ignore the threat than take even the most rudimentary precautions. While our building codes in Oregon have slowly begun to require that new constructions have at least some earthquake-resistant features, most of this state was built before the CSZ was even discovered. There are emergency planners and first responders who are taking the threat seriously, but any meaningful improvements that could be made can’t simply because there is no money available to make them. And then there is public complacency to deal with, and I frankly think that the public will fatalistically keep looking the other way until the ground begins to shake.

And it will shake, and sooner rather than later. I constantly monitor the USGS earthquake and volcano hazards maps (available at http://www.usgs.gov) and there have been spurts of activity along the whole Cascadia Subduction Zone in recent months. Just in the past few days there were a half-dozen small to moderate quakes all in the same spot about twenty miles off of the coast of southern Oregon, roughly between Brookings and Gold Beach and right in the danger zone.

I want you to know that I am not being an alarmist, but the danger is very real. All I ask of my friends from Northern California to Washington State is that you look at these links and become aware of what is literally happening under our feet. Even just a few basic precautions like storing fresh water and coming up with a family plan of what to do and where to go when Oregon’s Big One hits can make a world of difference. And if you live in a low-lying area along the coast, as soon as the quake hits head for high ground, for the tsunami would arrive only about 20-30 minutes after the shaking stops – or even less.

And don’t try to surf the tsunami, surfer dudes and dudettes – it never ends well.

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Filed under Future Events and Prophecies, In the News

Nebuchadnezzar Slept, Perchance to Dream

A long time ago King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream that greatly disturbed him. Lately that dream and the interpretation of it has been on my mind a lot, and I’ve learned that when God puts something in my heart (or, if you prefer, my mind fixates on something), it’s best just to get it out. So let’s take a look at that famous dream and the interpretation of it, because there are a couple of things regarding that dream that I’ve figured out.

Just for a brief bit of historical background, Nebuchadnezzar II became king of Babylon after the death of his father, Nabopolassar, who had successfully defeated the Assyrians and won Babylonian independence. Nebuchadnezzar had turned his military ambitions loose against Egypt and in 597 BC captured Jerusalem, deposed its king and installed a puppet ruler, and deported many Jews, particularly nobles, back to Babylon. (Ten years later Jerusalem rebelled and Nebuchadnezzar returned, seized the city and destroyed it, enslaved the Jewish people and deported nearly all of them back to Babylon, beginning the period that the Jews refer to as the Captivity.)

One night the king had a dream that disturbed him, and when he called his court “wise men” in he demanded that they tell him the dream and interpret it. None of them could, and as he started to put them all to death for this failure (being an advisor to a king in the old days was definitely risky business!) one of the Jewish princes named Daniel heard about the dream problem and came forward to meet Nebuchadnezzar’s demands.

Daniel had been a young prince at court in Jerusalem when Nebuchadnezzar seized Jerusalem the first time, and he had been deported with the other nobles and made a “house guest” at the Babylonian court, which was common in those days; when a king conquered someone else’s kingdom he would commonly install the other guy’s nobles in his court, partly to keep an eye on them and partly to show off. Anyway, Daniel got an audience with Nebuchadnezzar, accurately told him the dream and interpreted it, and as a result of his efforts he was given a “high position” and the king “lavished many gifts on him”. Not bad for a young captive prince!

Now, to the dream.

The following description of the dream is from Daniel 2:31-35: “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue – an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.” Now that’s what I call a dream!

Daniel then went on to explain the dream to the king. First he told Nebuchadnezzar that he, as king, was the head of gold. Daniel continues in 2:39-45: “After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron – for iron breaks and smashes everything – and as iron breaks things to pieces, it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay. In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands – a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.”

Let’s look at Daniel’s interpretation and see if he got it right.

The Neo-Babylonian empire, as represented by the head of gold, was conquered not long after this by the expanding Persian empire, represented by the chest and arms of silver. Persia ruled over the entire Middle East until it was defeated and conquered by Alexander the Great between 325 and 321 BC (which was appropriately represented by the belly and thighs of bronze since the Greeks used a lot of bronze for weapons and armor). Alexander’s empire was divided after his death, and most of the remaining portions of it were not finally subjugated until the Romans came along. (I think that it is very appropriate that Rome is represented by the legs of iron since Roman power was built upon the “iron” legs of its ever-marching legions.) So far, this is all a standard interpretation of the dream in accordance with history.

But after this the interpretation gets a bit cloudy. Most churches teach that the feet and toes of iron mixed with clay will be the collection of kingdoms led by the Anti-Christ in the Last Days, and up to that point I agree. But it is usually taught that there will be ten of those kingdoms, probably inspired by fixating on the toes and also by comparing this with Revelation 13, which describes the Beast coming our of the sea with ten horns representing kingdoms. But if you look at Daniel’s interpretation, they are feet and toes of clay and iron, which indicates two power blocs made up of many parts, “some strong” and “some brittle”. To me, unless Daniel had told us how many pices of iron and clay there were, which he didn’t, there is no way to count how many kingdoms will be involved. Also, how could the feet and toes be some form of Rome when Rome fell almost 2,000 years ago?

Okay, Dave, what’s your version of this?

For starters, I believe that Rome in this vision is intended to signify Roman civilization, which never really fell. “What?” you ask incredulously. Nope, it never really fell. If you think about it, all of the different tribes and nations that invaded and settled in the Roman empire assimilated into the existing society, blending their own uniqueness with Roman civilization without destroying the latter. There was also the continuity provided by the church in Rome, which was well established by the time of the last emperor. Roman culture and civilization survived even through the Dark Ages. When Charlemagne went to Rome he had the Pope crown him Emperor of Rome. There was the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages. Our laws are all based on Roman law, at least here in the States. Our governments are based to some extent on the style of government of the late Roman Republic. Even our governmental architecture and that of our most sacred monuments are mostly based on Roman models. So, Western Civilization is indeed an extension of Rome, which explains how Rome has survived into the present and will survive until Christ returns. Or at least partly survive.

I believe, for a lot of reasons, that the feet and toes of iron mixed with clay represent two power blocs in the Last Days, and that both of them will be extensions of the old Roman civilization. It is possible that this is the European Union and North America, but it is also possible that this will prove to be the EU and the English-speaking nations along with the bloc headed by the Russians (don’t forget that Russia has been dominated by the Eastern Orthodox church for centuries and that much of Russia’s ideas about government and its architecture were borrowed from the west, so even Russia could qualify as an extension of Rome). It’s still a bit early to tell, but something or someone keeps telling me that I’m right. And this organization will survive in some form until the Second Coming because that is when the big boulder will smash the heritage of all of the kingdoms represented by the statue into pieces.

Oh, and my other insight into this is that the whole episode of the 2,600 year old dream proves that you don’t have to be some kind of holy person to have prophetic visions or dreams. Nebuchadnezzar was a debaucherous tyrant when he had his dream and he stayed one until he died. Yet he still had this very powerful and accurate prophetic dream.

I hope that you were able to follow all of this, dear reader, for I have an analytical mind and sometimes I analyze things into the ground. And I hope that this helps whoever it was meant to help. Anyone who has any ideas or questions on this can leave a comment or even email me at the address on the page “Contact Me”; I’m always happy to have a good discussion and I’m not so set in my ways yet that I can’t see and even accept other viewpoints.

At least now I’ve got this out of my system…until next time.

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