From time to time, the public becomes worked up about the idea of buying survival gear. People hear about some sort of upcoming crisis, then stampede to survivalist web sites or stores. Having stocked up on batteries, freeze-dried food, and other essentials, the people wait as the crisis fails to materialize. While it’s wise to have extra food, dynamo emergency radios, and lanterns on hand in the event of severe weather, overstocking just wastes money.
I was guilty of being spooked into buying survival equipment from a certain company in 1986. The house church I attended believed that the mark of the beast was coming soon and we needed to be prepared to survive on the run. With that in mind, I bought such things as a pocket-sized stove, reflective plastic for ground cover, an emergency tent, a dynamo-powered flashlight, canteen, and the like. I also used a waterproof video 8 cassette holder to keep wooden matches in. Then I bought an old suitcase from a thrift shop and put all of my gear into it.
Decades later, my equipment remains unused and collecting dust in my basement. No mark of the beast was imposed, as many people believe will happen, and I’ve never needed to flee into the wilderness.
I mention all this because many people misread passages in The Revelation of John the Divine, the last book in the Bible. As Hank Hanegraaff of The Bible Answer Man radio show points out, this epistle was written to a first century audience who were familiar with Old Testament prophetic language. When the verses speak of the sun being darkened and the moon not giving her light, they don’t refer to literal diminishing of light from the sky. When Babylon fell, the same apocalyptic language was written by prophets before the event. Being familiar with the Old Testament, John’s readers automatically understood what he meant.
Hank also made a good point about the number of the beast. In those days, the letters in names had numerical value. I forget exactly how the Greeks and Hebrews assigned these values to letters but the letters in Nero’s name came out as Six, threescore, and six. It would also be unfair for John to expect that first-century Christians could work out the identity of a twenty-first century antichrist. The words “soon” and “shortly” in Revelation really meant that the time was soon and the events would shortly happen.
Now that I know that the great tribulation happened in 70 A.D., I no longer worry about some future time when Christians can’t buy unless they receive some sort of tattoo or chip implanted in their hands or foreheads. That language refers to the deeds and decisions of unbelievers. I therefore have no fear of needing to stock up against such a future time of privation. I have extra food on hand but not as a precaution against this mark of the beast idea. I can give some to people in need or use it myself in case I can’t get out to buy groceries.
The most important thing we all must do is to trust God and his wisdom. Like a good father, he supplies what we need. Not trusting him is the same as insulting his holy nature. Things may look frightening to us at the time but the Lord always works something out in the end.
In my How I Was Razed book, I wrote about how that cult church had me so worried about the end times. God led me out of that legalistic congregation to a liberating knowledge of his Word and character. I feel so much happier now that I know the truth. Read more about my testimony at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm.