In the original book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, author L. Frank Baum describes the beauty of the hometown of the wizard, the Emerald City. The city is so named because everywhere you look everything is emerald-colored. Pull together all the beauty of the Judy Garland film and imagine it all tinted green. Not only the walls of the buildings, but the various confections, clothing, and even people and animals. It is all made possible because upon entering the city you are fitted with a pair of emerald-colored glasses that are locked on behind your head.
Even the Wicked Witch herself looks normal in the Emerald City. Afterall everyone in town would appear to have skin of different hues of green. Spotting the witch among the crowd would be decidedly more difficult, but not impossible. What then happens with “prophecy-colored glasses”?
Overexposure of Prophecy
Similarly overexposure and overemphasis on one concept from the Bible can truly alter one’s perception of the story of Scripture. One such volume, Tim LaHaye’s Prophecy Study Bible, focuses on the prophetic aspects of the Bible, particularly as it relates to the End Times. Just as visitors to the Emerald City were locked into seeing their world in a particular way, so readers of this study Bible and with that particular perspective we risk changing the very nature of the revealed word of God.
Tim LaHaye, of “Left Behind” infamy, is a dispensationalist and one person at that. Most reliable Study Bibles (such as the ESV Study Bible) are a joint effort of a group of biblical scholars and professors. Simply the fact that all the notes have been written by one person gives this volume a level of unreliability.
Dispensationalism is a relatively new perspective (mid-1800s) on the teaching of the Bible, which is often recognized by its teaching on the Rapture. However, it also has a very skewed interpretation of prophecies for the people of Israel where rather than seeing Christianity as a part of the same covenant of God, it teaches that those prophecies must have fulfillment in the nation of Israel itself.
This changes perspective on foreign affairs and the current Israeli state. George W. Bush is a dispensationalist and saw his work in protecting the state of Israel as essential in seeing the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. What would he have done had he seen the prophecies regarding Israel finding their fulfillment in the Christian church? Many have criticized Christians in political power acting on their religious beliefs, and it certainly can do damage when those beliefs are not in line with the teaching of Scripture.
End Times and All Time
What happens also when we make the entire Bible about the End Times is that we miss what is for our time, and more importantly what is for all time. The Bible is not primarily a book about what is to come, but about who has come: namely God in the form of a human being. The Old Testament points forward to Jesus and the New Testament points back to him. Much of prophecy has been fulfilled in the life and work of Jesus Christ. His advent into the world declared the hope that God has bestowed on his people and the inclusion of all nations as his people.