“For men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt. The more stupid the man, the larger his stock of adamantine assurances, the heavier his load of faith.”
― H.L. Mencken, H.L. Mencken on Religion
“The country and culture commonly known as ‘America’ had had a badly split personality all through its history. Its overt laws were almost always puritanical for a people whose covert behavior tended to be Rabelaisian; its major religions were all Apollonian in varying degrees—its religious revivals were often hysterical in a fashion almost Dionysian.”
― Robert A. Heinlein,
The Holy Spirit craves your attendance at Revival
Conducted by Messrs Plunkett and Figg.
Come as you are. Leave, a New Creation.
The torpid summer of 1925 was long, the latter because of the former. Revivalists Zadok Plunkett and B. D. Figg had announced their arrival months in advance. Anticipating crowds proportional to their reputation, they had also arranged the construction of a tabernacle on the old Parsons farm just south of Crispin Creek near the Broad Street bridge. The creek had been a popular venue for total immersion baptism since Agincourt’s founding in 1853 and it was about to be chastened again by a full ten days of refiner’s fire.
The Tabernacle was a ramshackle affair, mostly built of second-hand material donated in the spirit of expiation — contributions of labor and construction supplies toward the implied atonement for sin — despite how “Romish” the idea would have seemed if explained that way. Indulgences, after all, were a fundamental reason for the Reformation in the first place. Weeks before Plunkett & Figg’s appearance, wagon upon wagon deposited planks and posts in orderly heaps graded by size and quality for service to the Lord. Foursquare trumps fussy every time.
The revivalists had sent a drawing of the structure they required: fifty feet wide by one hundred feet long, with sides that could open for overflow crowds and, more likely, air movement on a stifling July night. The tabernacle had to be constructed in three weeks, serve for one, and then be dismantled, leaving the site as it had been. Did Plunkett and Figg know Sir Joseph Paxton? [If you know the conditions required for construction of the Crystal Palace, you’ll understand the reference.] But first a word about religious complexity.
Black & White or Shades of Grey
Bush 43 got some very bad advice or none at all on the eve of the Iraqi invasion. Quite aside from the botched intelligence on WMDs (which was either wrong or purposely spun that way), there was the matter of Islam and Bush’s sense that it is a monolith: the confrontation was a classic us vs. them, Christian “good guys” versus the purported evils of a religious faith other than Christianity, in this case, one with both oil resources and the weapons to defend them. It’s difficult to believe the Pentagon honestly believed Islam was one unified belief system. At minimum we should have understood the religious politics of the Middle East, where either Shi’a or Sunni dominate in each country — one is always an oppressed minority — and that Shi’a and Sunni are divided on a fundamental question of lineage with the Prophet. They not only disagree, they have been willing to shed blood over the question. Read Karen Armstrong’s Islam: a short history published in 2000 and readily available from Barnes & Noble by our military leaders in the Pentagon. If they’d read it, we’d have had some inkling of the can of whoop-ass that was about to open.
It’s far more complicated than that, for in addition to Shi’a and Sunni, and there are also Sufis (mystical Islam) and the Wahhabi sect, and very likely several other subsets of which I, as a secular Westerner, am ignorant. Karen Armstrong’s point in her 2000 introductory treatment of a complex topic was to draw a parallel with Christianity’s own Reformation and Counter-Reformation of the Sixteenth century: Islam has simply not undergone its own Reformation. And the more significant difference between that prospect and the Christian experience has been weaponry: ours occurred with the rough equivalent of bows and arrows, whereas today’s religious battles could be waged with nuclear warheads.
I only mention this as an aside for further discussion of the movement of the Holy Spirit across the land during the 1920s, when there were similar religious distinctions in the Evangelical movement that we often fail to note. Nuances that may be lost on the outside observer like myself but which were overlooked by Believers in the Arms of the Holy Spirit.
The Book of Revelation
|Eschatological Topic||Futurist belief||Preterist belief||Historicist belief|
|Futurists typically anticipate a future period of time when Bible prophecies will be fulfilled.||Preterists typically argue that most (Partial Preterism), or all (Full Preterism) Bible prophecies were fulfilled during the earthly ministry of Jesus and the generation immediately proceeding it, concluding with the siege and destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.||Historicists typically understand the prophecies to be continuous from the times of the prophets to the present day and beyond.|
|Various interpretations of a literal number of 144,000, including: 144,000 Evangelical Jews at the end of the world, or 144,000 Christians at the end of the world.||A symbolic number signifying the saved, representing completeness, perfection (The number of Israel; 12, squared, and multiplied by 1,000 = 144,000). This symbolises God’s Holy Army, redeemed, purified and complete.||A symbolic number representing the saved who are able to stand through the events of 6:17.|
|Locusts released from the Abyss
|A demonic host released upon the earth at the end of the world.||A demonic host released upon Israel during the siege of Jerusalem 66-70 AD.||The Muslim Arab hordes that overran North Africa, the Near East, and Spain during the 6th to 8th centuries.|
|Large Army from the Euphrates, an army of ‘myriads of myriads’
|Futurists frequently translate and interpret the Greek phrase ‘myriads of myriads’ as meaning a ‘double myriad’, from which they develop the figure of 200 million. Futurists frequently assign this army of 200 million to China, which they believe will attack Israel in future. Many Bibles employ a Futurist interpretation of the original Greek when they adopt the figure of 200 million.||Preterists hold to the original Greek description of a large army consisting of ‘myriads of myriads’, as a reference to the large pagan army, which would attack Israel during the Siege of Jerusalem from 66-70 AD. The source of this pagan army from beyond the Euphrates is a symbolic reference to Israel’s history of being attacked and judged by pagan armies from beyond the Euphrates. Some of the Roman units employed during the siege of Jerusalem were assigned from this area.||The Muslim Arab hordes that overran North Africa, the Near East, and Spain during the 6th to 8th centuries.|
|‘The Two Witnesses’
|Two people who will preach in Jerusalem at the end of the world.||The two witnesses and their miracles symbolise the ministries of Moses and Elijah, who in turn symbolise ‘The Law’ and ‘The Prophets’, the Old Testament witnesses to the righteousness of God.||The two witnesses (AKA “two olive trees” and “two candlesticks”) are the Old and New Testaments.|
|A literal 1260 days (3.5 years) at the end of the world during which Jerusalem is controlled by pagan nations.||A literal 1260 days (3.5 years) which occurred ‘at the end of the world’ in 70 AD when the apostate worship at the temple in Jerusalem was decisively destroyed at the hands of the pagan Roman armies following a 3.5 year Roman campaign in Judea and Samaria. The ‘Two Witnesses’ appeared to be dead for 3.5 years during the siege of Jerusalem, but were miraculously resurrected as the Early Church.||1260 days = forty and two months (vs. 11:2) = a time, times and the dividing of time (Dan 7:25). 1260 years during which the two witnesses are clothed in sackcloth, typically understood to represent the time from 538 to 1798 A.D., the time of Papal authority over the Christian church.|
|‘The Woman and the Dragon’
|A future conflict between the State of Israel and Satan.||Symbolic of the Old Covenant Church, the nation of Israel (Woman) giving birth to the Christ child. Satan was determined to destroy the Christ child. The Woman (the early church), fled Jerusalem before its destruction in 70 AD.||The Dragon represents Satan and any earthly power he uses. The woman represents God’s true church before and after Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. The Woman flees to the desert away from the dominant power of the 1260 years.|
|‘The Beast out of the Sea’
|The future empire of the Anti-Christ, persecuting Christians||The Roman Empire, persecuting the early church during the rule of Nero. The sea symbolising the Mediterranean and the nations of the Roman Empire.||The Beast is the earthly power supported by the Dragon (Satan). It is the Papal power during the same 42 months mentioned above.|
|‘The Beast out of the Earth’
‘The False Prophet’
|The future empire of the Anti-Christ, persecuting Christians.||The apostate rulers of the Jewish people, who joined in union with the Roman Empire to persecute the early church.||The first is the U.S.A. The second is a future religio-political power in which everyone is forced by the first power to receive the mark of the beast.|
|‘The Number of the Beast, 666’
|The number identifying the future empire of the Anti-Christ, persecuting Christians.||The Roman Empire, persecuting the early church. A number symbolising an apostate ruler as King Solomon was, who collected 666 talents of gold annually. Also, in Hebrew calculations the total sum of Emperor Nero’s name, ‘Nero Caesar’, equated to 666.
|cryptogram of one of the names of the pope – the False Prophet: Vicarius Filii Dei, v and u = 5, i = 1, l = 50, c = 100, d = 500|
|A future literal battle at Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley, Israel.||Megiddo is utilised as a symbol of God’s complete victory over His enemies. The battle of Armageddon occurred 2000 years ago when God used the pagan armies of Rome to comprehensively destroy the apostate worship at the temple in Jerusalem.
|A symbolic name concerning the ongoing battle between Jesus and Satan.|
The Great Harlot
|Futurists compose various interpretations for the identity of ‘Mystery Babylon’ such as the USA, or the UN.||The corrupted city of Jerusalem, who united with pagan nations of the world in their idolatrous practices and participated in persecuting the faithful Old Covenant priests and prophets, and the early church of the New Covenant.
|A virtuous woman represents God’s true church. A whore represents an apostate church. Typically, Mystery Babylonis understood to be the esoteric apostasies, and Great harlot is understood to be the popular apostasies. Both types of apostasies are already at work, ensnaring the unwary.|
|The Thousand Years
|The Millennium is a literal, future 1,000 year reign of Christ following the destruction of God’s enemies.||The Millennium is the current, ongoing rise of God’s Kingdom. The Millennium is a symbolic time frame, not a literal time frame. Preterists believe the Millennium has been ongoing since the earthly ministry and ascension of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, and is ongoing today.
|The time period between Christ’s Second Advent and the rapture of all the righteous, both living and formerly dead, from off earth and the third Advent which brings the New Jerusalem and the saints to the planet. While the saved are gone the planet is inhabited only by Satan and his hosts, for all the wicked are dead.|
|The Rapture is a future removal of the faithful Christian church from earth before the ‘Great Tribulation’||Preterists generally recognise a future ‘Second Coming’ of Christ, as described in Acts 1:11 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. However, they distinguish this from Revelation 4:1 which is construed by Futurists as describing a ‘Rapture’ event that is separate from the ‘Second Coming’.|
|‘The Great Tribulation’
|The ‘Great Tribulation’ is a future period of God’s judgement on earth immediately following ‘The Rapture’ of the faithful Church to heaven.||The ‘Great Tribulation’ occurred two thousand years ago when apostate Israel was judged and destroyed by God, culminating in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem at the hands of the pagan armies of the Roman Empire. The early Church was delivered from this period of judgement because it heeded the warning of Jesus in Matthew 24:16 to flee Jerusalem when it saw the pagan armies of Rome approaching.||The Great Tribulation was a period of persecution for the Church for 1260 years from 538 to 1798 AD at the hands of papal authorities.|
|‘The Abomination that causes desolation’
|The Abomination that causes desolation is a future system of idolatrous worship based at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.||The Abomination that causes desolation was the pagan armies of Rome destroying the apostate system of worship at the Temple in Jerusalem two thousand years ago.|
|‘Gog and Magog invasion’
|Ezekiel 38 refers to a future invasion of Israel by Russia and its allies, resulting in a miraculous deliverance by God.||Ezekiel 38 refers to the Maccabees miraculous defeat of the Seleucids in the second century B.C. As Chilton notes, ‘The word chief is, in the Hebrew, rosh, and according to this view, it does not pertain to Russia.|
For some True Believers, these theological distinctions are fighting words. So I wonder how smoothly the Plunkett & Figg revival may have gone.