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Can anyone get it right?

September 6, 2014

As predicted, a conspiracy for global control had finally managed to bring all nations under a single government. According to the same prophecies, God would soon destroy that evil empire and set up his heavenly kingdom on earth. Believers’ anticipation was high and many looked for clues on how and when this would happen.

This isn’t about an apocalyptic scenario in the future, but a description of the period in which Jesus of Nazareth was born. Roman power, with whom the Hebrew nation had even made strategic alliances before, had become crushingly absolute. Many were now hoping that the messiah would come quickly and usher in the promised final deliverance.

Jesus of Nazareth, however, did not meet their expectations so, instead of hailing him as a savior, they crucified him as a fraud and a criminal. Now we say that even that was prophesied, exactly as it happened, but nobody would have believed it then. None would have dared to interpret prophecies the way that Christians do today. Could it happen again? Not the crucifixion, but being so wrong in the interpretation of Scripture?

It took a while, even for Christians, to reassess previous interpretations and realize that God had not worked according to expectations. It was the Apostle Paul who helped them come to terms with a new understanding of the prophetic message. As Christians laid aside their previous mindsets, there came also a new understanding of God and his relation to humans.

Though differently than expected, for early believers the Messiah had come indeed. His kingdom, however, had only come in part, as a spiritual reality within. The final fulfilment of all prophecies, with a down to earth materialization of it, was to come next.

Christians believed that this would happen very soon, no doubt within their lifetime. Many were the times in which they thought “this must be it” but, time after time, they were disappointed. Each time they were forced to get back to the drawing board and re-figure things out. Various apocalypses and epistles were written for this very purpose, for the need to reinterpret and comfort those who felt disappointed by repeated delays.

Roman emperors had often been identified as the noted Antichrist until, in the fourth century, something unexpected happened. Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and, again, there came a need to reinterpret. A new perspective gained wide acceptance, which said that the prophecies would no longer be fulfilled by the destruction of the evil empire, but by its conversion. The kingdoms of this world were thus becoming the kingdom of God and the imperial church represented Christ atop His holy mountain. The millennial era had begun, or so they thought.

Reality was unkind and the illusion could not last. New interpretations soon emerged and the middle ages were rife with apocalyptic anticipations. Each new age developed its particular adaptation, sometimes merely replacing old names with more current ones.

Throughout history there were many Antichrists. Many emperors, popes, heretics and world leaders were believed to fit the job description. As the world moved towards the modern era, the Napoleonic period was a particularly interesting one, with many absolutely convinced that he was it. The colonizing of the New World had happened also under intense millenarist expectations. All major wars were accompanied by eschatological interpretations, including the two world wars. Perhaps it’s the last of these, WW2, which deserves some attention.

The period preceding WW2 had seen a proliferation of conspiracy theories. Communism, Zionism, bankers, Free Masons, Nazis, the British Empire and others were part of some conspiracy. Much was published by those claiming to understand these “hidden truths”, each suggesting a different solution. Sadly, the Nazi crusade to free the world from the chains of conspiracies, proved to be more deleterious than the supposed problem.

I also had a keen interest in conspiracy theories, but a passion for history as well, and the more I studied it the more I learned. Noting the scarce reliability of my conspiracy information, a renowned expert on secret societies, once posed me an intriguing question. If indeed there were plots by people of such power, he asked, wouldn’t they be the first to disseminate misleading information about themselves? How could I then trust what popular books and websites divulged?

I knew I needed to do some serious research and not be limited by my previous mindset. It is not that everything I knew before was wrong, but I gradually came to understand how subject to religious and political manipulation all such theories were. It’s not even that they were necessarily false, as they usually contained some revealing insights, but it was the way in which facts and ideas got woven together, that created misleading conclusions.

History, again, gives us the needed framework. It has always been the nature of every business, country, religious or political power, to conspire for its success and against its competitors. History is nothing but a continued succession of such conspiracies, big and small, and today it isn’t any different. Some conspiracies are fairly obvious, while others are less so, but there is nothing new about any of them.

In the struggle for geopolitical interest, for international business, banking, oil and resources, true intents are seldom revealed. Only those at the top understand the intricacies of it, while the vast majority can barely grasp its immediate surroundings, if that. That’s why the masses are usually offered a limited version of the truth. Usually, it’s a far nobler and congenial explanation of the decisions their leaders had to take behind closed doors. Just as children cannot understand the adult world, neither can the crowds understand the dynamics of human society. That’s why there is always a public version of facts, and a truer and fuller one, but what’s new with that?

After all weren’t economic and geopolitical interest the true causes beyond the global conflicts of the last century? But which soldier marched to war truly understanding what he was fighting for? Which government ever told its people of its more subtle geopolitical conniving? The masses simply couldn’t understand “higher” politics and so they were stirred by nobler motivations, such as freedom, democracy, human rights, God, etc. What’s changed with that?

Communism was a conspiracy, and so were Nazism and Fascism, as well as the British empire and the rising American power. Zionism, though it had no country, was the conspiracy of a group of people who hoped to get one. They too had geopolitical interests and obtained their long awaited country after the WW2 holocaust.

Nazism and Fascism, for all their “noble” ambitions, were wiped out. Zionism and Communism paid a heavy price but gained more than they had bargained for. The one who profited most, however, was the USA, who became the new global empire, while the UK lost both, influence and colonies.

On the world stage, the Zionist–American alliance became a winner. Its new crusade to reclaim the holy land, however, was the harbinger of later problems. Islamic fundamentalism, for example, was partly in response to Judeo-Christian fundamentalism fuelling Israel-American policy in the middle-east.

This time it wasn’t the Pope who had ordered a crusade, but “Christian” USA. Still influenced by its millenarist perception, now fused with Zionist aspirations, a new eschatology had come into being. This American phenomenon, also known as Christian Zionism, viewed the foundation of the state of Israel, its various wars and the taking of Jerusalem, as fulfilled prophecy. It was all part of the final coming together of the Kingdom of God on earth, and the US had a divine call to help it come about. Everything was interpreted in Biblical terms, with the Arabs being as the philistines of old, Israel’s army as David against Goliath, etc.

As always, also this interpretation met with disappointment. Though many Americans are still influenced by such a perception, many have since realized that modern Israel is no more the kingdom of God than the Roman Empire was. Many Jews as well have since changed opinion and are questioning previous justifications for war. The whole country of Israel is, in fact, divided in its view of the past and hopes for the future.

Although Zionism didn’t have any particular interest in religion, it did use whatever it could to motivate people towards the establishment of the new country. The fear of further anti-Semitism, not unfounded, along with religious fundamentalism, were an extra boost in these early stages. Those leaving Europe and the USA, to go live in a semi-desert country amongst hostile people, were more willing to do so if empowered by the thought of contributing to a prophetic restoration of the kingdom of David and Solomon.

Israeli archaeologists soon started digging for proofs of the Biblical accounts. It seemed necessary, at the time, to demonstrate their legitimate right to the territories, as if decreed by God himself. At first it appeared as if everything they dug up confirmed their biblical history, a fact highly publicized by Christians as well. As the political fervour subsided, however, more professional work was done and it turned out that some discoveries weren’t what they had been made up to be. To the dismay of most fundamentalists, Jewish and Christian alike, archaeologists have since unearthed more doubts than confirmations.

Many Jews and Christians have since lost enthusiasm for an eschatology so closely linked to the holy land. A more realistic approach has arisen and undoubtedly new interpretations will follow.

Conspiracy theories and prophetic expectations have thus been with us for a long time. They pass and change, along with political and cultural shifts. Today’s theories differ only in their adaptations to today’s geopolitical landscape and innovations. Apart from that they have no better chance at accuracy than the previous ones.

So it’s best to take a lesson from history, where things never went according to expectations, where conspiracy theorists and prophecy buffs never got it right. More often than not, they even betted on the wrong side so, if we wish not to repeat the same mistakes, to crucify saviours and hail impostors, we better not bet on anything except God’s love for everyone, even the conspirators.

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