In the barrage of emails received so far this week, was one from a publicist promoting a new self-published book about biblical prophecy found in “the Books of Daniel and Revelations,” as the publicist put it.

(My astute friend Mark Parnell once noted that those who refer to the last book of the Bible as “Revelations” tend to shop at “Wal-Marts,” “K-Marts” and “Kroger’s” too. Lots of extra “S’s” to go around.)

A Houston welder named Melvin Winfrey is the author of The Beast That Was, And Is Not, And Yet Is.

He explains: “This book is about these four great beasts that came up out of the sea or out of the earth. It tells how they will leave a path of destruction upon the earth, upon mankind. This destruction will cause great suffering, such that men have never witnessed before. We are watching the first beast now, the lion with the eagle’s wings.”

According to the publicist, Winfrey’s take on Bible’s prophecy “ties into today’s social and political events” and “gives readers details about what’s coming in the last days.”

The four beasts mentioned in Revelation, he claims, represent major political powers in the world today — including the U.S. and Russia.

While not questioning the writer’s sincerity, it seems the calendar just went back to the 1970s (or most any other point in history when someone was predicting the Second Coming) when Hal Lindsey attached every aspect of apocalyptic literature to a modern-day events. The Cold War was his primary eschatological playground.

As a senior religion and philosophy major in late ’70s, I foolishly asked Berry College professor and superb biblical scholar Dr. Jorge Gonzalez to guide me through an independent study of the Book of Revelation. Instead of cracking any end-times codes, I spent the entire term researching the setting in which the text was originally produced.

I verified none of Hal Lindsey’s connections between Magog and Russia, but by the end of term could have given a tour of Patmos. Dr. Gonzalez had method to his madness: the Book was not written primarily or exclusively for us.

After grilling me during one of our weekly meetings in his office, he explained it (in my paraphrase) like this: “Can you imagine the kind of persecution these early Christians were experiencing when John wrote this book? The very future of the Christian faith was at risk. Does it seem reasonable in such a context that John would receive this divine revelation so we would know how the world is going to end in the 1970s? If the book is primarily about what is happening to us today, then the early Christians could have just put it on a shelf until we came along.”

I got his point: “Its not primarily about us!” However, the lessons of faith under pressure apply to all generations of believers.

So I’ll pass on this latest end-times explanation even though Winfrey, according to his publicist, “states that the religious figures today, most specifically in the Baptist and Pentecostal denominations, are not spreading the true word of God.”

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