Unexpected Turbulence

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Clouds Below, What’s Ahead?
Unexpected Turbulence, Audio Version

Back in the day, in the old pre-flight advisory safety announcements, an airline spokesperson (usually a bored stewardess rehashing a memorized script, intercom in hand) would advise passengers to please wear their seatbelts “in case of unexpected turbulence.” I would often tighten my seatbelt a bit at that point. Unexpected turbulence might occur. I had been told. Have my readers/listeners noticed that the phrase “unexpected turbulence” has been replaced with the words “rough air”? Personally, I prefer the original phrase — unexpected turbulence to rough air. Ruff hair. I’m having a ruff hair day.   

Speaking of which, years ago I worked with a man named Rob. His name, I have tweaked. Rob’s job required that he travel from city to city across a large country in Asia. To traverse the long distances involved, Rob had the option of traveling by train or by plane. To save himself time, Rob would choose to fly, when possible. Rob thus became a frequent flyer, flying frequently over and across a very large country in Asia, one that shall go unspecified. But if you would like to know which one, imagine how someone from Boston might say the word diner. The country rhymes with that. People from Boston often drop the letter r.  

One of Rob’s flights (in the country that kinda rhymes with diner) suddenly got very, very violently bumpy. Without much, if any, warning, the plane flew into some incredibly rough air. Unexpected turbulence… it occurred. Many people on board the flight were not wearing their seatbelts. Human pinball — that’s the description I believe Rob used. People were thrown around the inside of the airplane. People were bouncing off the ceiling of the plane. People got seriously hurt. Rob, however, did have his seatbelt on, probably because he was used to hearing the same old boring, rehashed precautionary announcement. Rob was not hurt, just shaken. By virtue of listening to the same message repeatedly, Rob had been habituated into safety, into wearing his seatbelt. 

To repeat, he had heard the same precautionary announcement, over and over, ad nauseam. He had been habituated, even tediously so, into proper practice. Therefore, when unexpected turbulence came, he was ready, without even knowing it. In the moment it mattered most, he was ready. Although he was very alarmed, he was unharmed, unlike many of his fellow passengers. 

Regarding the very perilous period before his second coming, Jesus emphasized to his listeners the importance of informed readiness: “See, I have told you beforehand.” If you want to know the context of his statement, go read Matthew 24:25 and the surrounding verses. Here’s the same precautionary statement, translated a bit differently: “Behold, I have told you in advance.”

Be Vigilant

We have been told in advance. Expect unexpected turbulence. Be prepared. Be ready. It will come when you’re not expecting it. He will come when we’re not expecting him. All of which is alarming to hear, and ought to prompt some questions, such as: How do I expect the unexpected? How can I be prepared? How can I get ready? How can I protect others around me? What should I do?

Here, let me help you tighten your seat belt. First, you should read the safety instructions provided. They’re easily within reach. All you need to do is take the time to read them. Also, listen to the flight attendants, even if they are boring and mumbling their way through the same old message. They went through extensive training on this — at least they should have. Plus, you usually can tell if they know what they’re talking about. Above all, pay attention to the pilot. He knows what’s going on. He knows what’s up ahead, even when we don’t. You can even call upon him. Unlike a lot of other pilots, he’s truly the very best. And he’s quite willing to hear you and respond to you.

Just so you know, I do have some training as a flight attendant. I cannot see what’s ahead like the pilot can; but I will tell you — from experience and from what I’ve learned — that it feels like we’re already hitting some rough air, some turbulence. It could get worse. I hope I’m wrong. But I think you ought to know. Buckle up, just to be safe.    

Oh, and keep a wary eye on the leader of the country that kinda rhymes with diner. He is behaving a lot like Decius did. See my previous post if this confuses you.

Everything Written Here Is…

Monday, April 20th, 2020

Audio Option

Everything you read here is indubitably awesome.

Yes, that’s right. It’s undeniably, irrefutably, in-doo-buh-tah-blee AWESOME, squared. Maybe even cubed. Awesome times itself and again.

Someone sent me a text. Someone very helpfully said that my last post was slightly less than understandable. It could have been, should have been shorter. Perhaps I should get to the point quicker. Too much yada, yada. Readers might lose interest. I would not want that; would I?

Someone said that. Someone knows who he is.

I suppose. I suppose someone made a good point. And I should heed that good point.

So today I will try to keep it short and simple. How am I doing, so far?

In Revelation 11:1-14, the protagonist is the Church. The antagonist is the Beast who rises from the abyss. The Beast conquers and kills the Church in the public square; but after a few days the Church is resurrected and brought to heaven in a cloud. Again, the Beast from the abyss conquers and kills the Church; but shortly thereafter the Church is resurrected and brought to heaven in a cloud.

Some of you reading this post or the previous post will not be convinced that the Church is actually the protagonist in this chapter, so I feel the need to try and convince you. I think it’s important that I convince you, because I think we are seeing at least partial fulfillment of this passage in our day. It is happening now. The Church is being attacked. The Church is being conquered. The Church is being killed and left mute and lifeless in the public square. We are living in a day and time of intensifying attacks and persecution. It is in the news, all too frequently. Need I cite some examples? North Korea comes to mind. China comes to mind. But there are more subtle examples, too, much closer to home.

However, if you miss the multi-faceted referential symbolism of Revelation 11 (not to mention the referential symbolism of the rest of the book), you will not be able to connect the dots. You will not make the correct connections. You will not recognize that what it describes is, at least to some extent, occurring right now. It’s happening now, now, now — not later.

The key is to accept my contention that this must be understood as referential symbolism. You need to let go of the literal impulse. No, it’s not literal. It’s referential. And it’s symbolism. In this short section, the Church is depicted symbolically four or five different ways. First, the Church is the Temple of God (an Old Testament reference). Then the Church’s boundaries are expanded slightly to become the Holy City (another Old Testament reference). Then it morphs into God’s Two Witnesses (a New Testament reference), who are also Two Olive Trees, and also Two Lampstands (an Old Testament Reference). Though four or five symbols are used, the primary symbol and reference for the Church here is the Two Witnesses. These witnesses are attacked, conquered, killed, and resurrected, then exalted. That is what happens. We can expect it. It should not take us by surprise.

I tried to explain the symbolism and point out some of the references in my previous post entitled The Two Witnesses. But that post is a bit wordy, convoluted, and tires the reader. So I’ll just ask you to provisionally consider the possibility that I’m not wrong.

If I’m not wrong, it means that you should be on your toes. If I’m not wrong, it means that you should be making the most of these days, as witnesses for Christ. If I’m not wrong, it means that you should be counting the cost, because it is very costly for our brothers and sisters in Christ in many locations.

Yes, I know: scare mongers have thought the same thing for years and years, centuries and centuries. “The End is Near. The End is Near. The End is Near.” Over and over. But no, it never really was near. So why should anyone listen if I cry wolf yet again?

Quite Possibly.

Well, to start, someday someone will be right. Someday, the end actually will be near. Jesus said so. Paul said so. The Book of Revelation says so. If you take the authority of the Bible seriously, then you have to be open to the possibility that someday the end will be near. It’s gonna happen.

Beyond that, I’ll borrow a very contemporary analogy. We are facing a global pandemic. When I say that, I want you to think both of the Coronavirus and the persecution of faithful Christians. Just like the spread of the Coronavirus (which was once just a seemingly far-off epidemic), so the persecution of devout, confessing Christians is increasing worldwide. Persecution has become a global plague, an international affair. While we might not yet be at the point where persecution is coordinated and executed by a single political entity (that is, a final Antichrist or Beast from the abyss), it could come more quickly than we expect. It could foreseeably happen in the near future. Just know that intense and coordinated political persecution of Christians is already happening in many countries. The more widespread and coordinated it becomes, the closer we are to the actual end. That’s how I read Revelation 11. Please consider the possibility that I might not be wrong.