Saturday, March 01, 2014

Where is the battle of Armageddon?

To my knowledge, modern dispensationalists generally concede that the Bible routinely depicts the future in terms of the past. The futuristic depictions are anachronistic in the sense that they tend to project the ancient setting into the far future. Take depictions of eschatological warfare, with their archaic military technology. Astute dispensationlists don't think Armegedon will be actually be fought with archers, charioteers, and warhorses. 

Rather, that's a divine accommodation. Depicting eschatological warfare in terms of futuristic military technology would be unintelligible to the historical audience. So a modern reader should make allowance for that fact. We should mentally update the depictions. Precisely because they think prophecy is realistic, they also think the terms of fulfillment should be in keeping with technological progress. 

I suppose you could try to get around this by postulating one of those post-apocalyptic scenarios in which the power grid was destroyed, so that civilization reverts to a preindustrial stage. That, however, mixes two different approaches. Advanced military technology resulting in the destruction a hitch society. It's not consistently archaic.

If, however, prophecy is temporally accommodated to the parochial outlook of the original audience, that raises the question of whether prophecy is spatially accommodated to the parochial outlook of the original audience. If it depicts time in provincial terms, does it depict place in provincial terms? Indeed, spatial accommodation would be a kind of temporal accommodation. 

Take an eschatological battle that's set in the Mideast. Take, for instance, the fate of the Antichrist in Daniel:

40 “At the time of the end, the king of the south shall attack him, but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen, and with many ships. And he shall come into countries and shall overflow and pass through. 41 He shall come into the glorious land. And tens of thousands shall fall, but these shall be delivered out of his hand: Edom and Moab and the main part of the Ammonites. 42 He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 He shall become ruler of the treasures of gold and of silver, and all the precious things of Egypt, and the Libyans and the Cushites shall follow in his train. 44 But news from the east and the north shall alarm him, and he shall go out with great fury to destroy and devote many to destruction. 45 And he shall pitch his palatial tents between the sea and the glorious holy mountain. Yet he shall come to his end, with none to help him (11:40-45).
If we don't think he's actually defeated by chariots and warhorses, or ancient people-groups and defunct empires, then why assume the geography is unaccommodated to the purview of the original audience? 
Suppose it really takes place in North America? But because the original audience didn't have a mental map of the New World, the battle is depicted closer to home. A settling familiar to ancient Jews. What if it's really urban warfare in a modern metropolis (complete with skyscrapers) rather than a desert battlefield? 
Let's take an extreme example. Christian settlers named some American towns after Biblical sites, viz. Bethel, Canaan, Carmel, Hebron, Jericho, Jordan, Lebanon, Moab, Mount Hermon, Mount Zion, Ninevah, Salem, Shiloh, Tyre. 
When Bible prophecy refers to a Biblical place-name, how does a dispensationalist know if that's referring to the original site or its North American counterpart? After all, futuristic prophecy anticipates future developments. Why not future designations? 

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