By Norman S. Edwards
From SVM – Fall 2011
I have a couple of questions for your consideration that were never properly addressed by [my church] that I know of.
How is it that the world will have gone through uprisings (Matt 24:7), martyrdoms (Matt 24:9); famines (Rev 6:6), plagues (Rev 6:8), a massive earthquake darkening the sun, a meteor shower (Rev 6:12-13), a third of trees being burned (Rev 8:7), comet strike (Rev 8:8) and not be expecting the Second Coming? If you read Matthew 24:38-39 there will be some place on this earth where people seem completely oblivious to what has gone on. The Second Coming will be totally unexpected to these people (Matt 24:43). There will still be governments functioning (Rev 17:12-13) and even capable of fighting a war (Dan 11:40). I don’t understand the paradox.
My second question is a lot simpler. How was John the Baptist able to escape Herod’s edict that all children under the age of two be killed?
I realize that you are a busy man and that you most likely won’t be able to give a direct answer but I hope you will consider what I have asked.
Thank you. Sincerely, Raymond ChandlerJohn, Vancouver, Wash
These are very good questions. Here we go:
I have wondered about this myself at times, but answered it in my own mind based upon further study. First, and simply, without revelation by the Holy Spirit, it is difficult to know which things in revelation are literal, and which are symbolic. Christ interprets the symbols in Chapter 1—the seven lampstands and seven stars in heaven as seven churches on earth and their angels. Almost all prophetic interpreters agree that the various beasts in Revelation are kingdoms. But are the items you mention literal or symbolic?
Regardless of whether they are literal or symbolic, we need to understand human capacity to ignore the clear signs of the times and to keep on going as we always have. One can read the history of the judges and kings in the Bible and find that the people would go on sinning while their kingdom fell apart—not heeding their prophets or catastrophic events. The same thing happened when Jerusalem fell in 70 A.D.—Josephus records much detail.
Even in the last century, governments killed about 262 million of their own people, out of a total world population of about 6 billion—about 4% of the world population (http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/20TH.HTM). Yet this was rarely ever a top item in the news—except in the places where the people were being killed. If this amount of killing increased 5-fold, both from man-made sources and natural disasters, would the world reaction be any different? Even if hundreds of millions die from natural disasters, if scientists say that they were caused by sunspots or global warming, will not most people accept it? Won’t most people reject the idea that it is a judgment of God? Most of those people who are still alive will keep on going—and if they have the resources, will keep on partying!
The Bible does not say how John was spared from Herod’s mass murder, but there are some very good hints. Zechariah received a revelation from an angel to know that John would be born (Luke 1:11), so he may well have received additional revelations as Joseph did to know how to protect the baby John (Matt 2:13-15). B) God is good at protecting babies in danger and does not always do it the same way: He had Moses kept at home for three months, then sent him to Pharaoh’s daughter’s house (Exodus 2:1-10). He had Joash hidden away by his nurse in the temple for six years (2 Kings 11:1-3).
Herod only killed the babies in “Bethlehem and its districts” but John’s parents lived in a city in the “Hill Country of Judah” (Luke 1:39- 40). The Bible does not say which city, but it could have been outside Herod’s killing zone. John was six months older than Jesus (Luke 1:36). The story of their mothers, Mary and Elizabeth, visiting together (Luke 1:39-56) occurs before Jesus’ family fled to Egypt (Matthew 2); That is why Herod was looking for babies up to age two , rather than just newborns. There is some chance that John was old enough to escape. But more likely John “was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Luke 1:80). Zechariah and Elizabeth, whether divinely instructed or not, probably hid him from Herod. Finally, because both were “well advanced in years”, Herod’s soldiers were probably not looking for babies of men and women in their 50s or 60s.
Thanks again for the question. I had not looked into this latter issue before and learned more about what the Scripture says.-Norm