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We humans are very symbol oriented beings and we see symbols everywhere. Take a car, for example. In America today, a person’s car is viewed as a symbol of them. We feel embarrassed to drive around in some beater because we think it makes us look bad. Should it really matter what kind of machine we’re using to get from here to there? No, but once we turn cars into symbols, we start attaching all kinds of extra meaning to them. A man with a clean, expensive car is considered more impressive than a man with an old, dirty car. In America, if you want to fool people into thinking you’re a lot tougher and more confident than you really are, then you buy some loud monstrosity and go roaring around town trying to look fearsome. Symbols are powerful, and we use them to try and hide our weaknesses, climb social ladders, and impress the people we care about. But symbols also increase our vulnerability to attack. In America, it’s much easier to get away with assaulting someone’s car than it is to assault them directly. Cars can’t speak up and say who it was that smashed their windows out with a bat in the dead of night. Because we choose to turn material things into symbols of ourselves, those symbols give people handy targets to go after when they want to express their personal hatred for us.
We find this same principle at work whenever God sets up symbols of Himself among us. It was because the mighty Yahweh associated Himself with the Ark of the Covenant that the Philistines were so excited to capture the Ark in battle. And as Israeli soldiers watched their God’s box being hauled away by their human enemies, they felt as if Yahweh Himself was abandoning them. Was He? Of course not. Yahweh can hardly be confined to some wooden box, but the Ark was such a powerful symbol of Him in the minds of the Jews that the whole nation was traumatized by the Ark being captured (see Revere Yahweh or Die).
In ancient Israel, Yahweh created symbols for Himself out of both material objects and humans. Like the Ark, Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem became a very powerful symbol of Yahweh’s Presence with His people. So when the Temple was burned down, people who really cared about Yahweh were deeply upset. Once you associate the power of your God with some irrelevant factor like the size and glitz of a manmade building, the destruction of that building makes it feel like your God has been crippled. But the events we’re citing here were the exception, not the rule. Far more often, symbols of God were used by humans as a means of expressing their personal hatred for God Himself. Long before Yahweh took down His own Temple, the Jews were stuffing that Temple full of grotesque idols to false gods. We humans can’t attack God directly, so when we want to make it clear how much we hate Him, we go after the symbols of Him that are in our midst. In the Bible we read about Jewish kings locking up the Temple in Jerusalem so that no one could worship Yahweh there. We read about the Jews filling the land Yahweh gave them with temples to false gods which they worshiped with far more enthusiasm than they worshiped Him. So how does God respond to this kind of symbol warfare? When the high priest Aaron crafted a golden calf god in the wilderness and announced that that lifeless lump of metal was really the deity who had rescued the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, did Yahweh just shrug and say, “The humans are just joking around”? No, Yahweh responded to the cow god as the hateful rejection of Him that it was. The same thing happened centuries later when a Jewish king named Jeroboam created two golden cow gods and credited them for rescuing the Israelites from bondage. When we play these games with symbols, our Creators always get the message, and They judge us according to our soul attitudes towards Them.
We humans are no match for the Gods who created all things. We also can’t find a way to physically access Them, so when we want to express some strong sentiment towards Them, symbols become extremely important to us. Symbols seem to give us a tangible connection to our Gods, but once we get our hands on them, what do we do? It depends. Some of us plant loving kisses on crosses, Bibles, and portraits of Jesus. Others of us are burning Bibles, bombing churches, and spreading derogatory pictures of Jesus all over the internet. Interacting with symbols gives us a way to publicize our feelings about God. Stop allowing Nativity scenes to be put out in public. Take down that copy of the Ten Commandments. Say “Happy Holidays,” not “Merry Christmas.” This is how symbol warfare works, but while we’re busy celebrating which pastor we just sued or which Christian business we just bankrupted, are we really gaining ground? Are we really triumphing over God? Is it even possible to triumph over Beings who are holding our atoms together? Not hardly.
Here’s the thing about symbol warfare: it’s a two way street. When we try to attack our Gods through symbols, They often retaliate along those same channels. And because our Gods know us better than we even know ourselves, They know how to hit us where it will hurt the most. We find examples of Yahweh nailing people through symbols all throughout the Bible. When people publicly spurned Yahweh, He often arranged for them to be publicly spurned. In ancient Jewish society, coming down with leprosy ruined your life, and we find several accounts of Yahweh instantly striking people with leprosy as a retaliation for some snarky thing they did to Him. We also find Him destroying property, killing loved ones, and inflicting snarky individuals with a wide variety of ailments. But symbol warfare isn’t limited to individuals trying to throw mud in God’s face. Often whole nations get into the game, and when this is the case, God often retaliates by dishing up nationwide crises.
The ancient Egyptians were feeling pretty cocky about the supremacy of their gods, and they weren’t about to let the Hebrew slaves leave the land to go worship some Yahweh Fellow. Yahweh responded by spanking the Egyptian gods with ten plagues which made them look like impotent dolts. Later on, when the Jews in the Promised Land were reveling in evil and totally blowing off everything that Yahweh told them to do, Yahweh incited the tribes to war against each other so that thousands of Jews were slaughtered. The carnage became so bad that the entire tribe of Benjamin was nearly wiped out (see Anarchy in Israel). Yahweh knew how much pride the Jews took in their tribal clans, and He knew what a terrible thing the annihilation of one whole tribe would be to them. Because the Jews were trying to stick it to God, He came right back at them with a crisis that they were totally unprepared for.
Throughout most of the Old Testament, we find whole nations attacking God through symbols, and Yahweh attacking back through symbols. What makes a nation feel secure? A strong economy, a strong military, peace on her borders. In the Old Testament, what methods does Yahweh use to spank nations who are defying Him? He wrecks their economies, He cripples their militaries, and He has them be constantly raided by other nations.
The Temple in Jerusalem was the largest material symbol of Yahweh that the Jews had access to. So when they went out of their way to desecrate it, what did Yahweh do? He took down not only the Temple, but He also leveled Jerusalem, because the city of Jerusalem was the pride and joy of Israel. Then He had the Jews physically hauled away from their homeland and forced to live as slaves in other lands. This is how it works when you try to spite God by attacking stuff that people associate with Him: He attacks your stuff, and suddenly you find yourself devastated and heartbroken with no way of fixing the damage.
SYMBOLS IN THE END TIMES
Symbol warfare is going to be a prominent theme during the end times. Every nation on the planet is guilty of trying to spurn the true Gods through the symbols available to them. During the end times, we’re going to see those same Gods suddenly lashing back at us in symbolic ways. Why is it important for you to understand the mechanics of symbol warfare? Because to stay on the right side of God’s wrath during this period, you need to be avoiding snarky soul attitudes. When the Holy Spirit nails some physical thing or person which your own nation clings to as a powerful symbol of security, hope, and safety, you’re going to be upset. We humans are very sensitive to symbols—far more so than we consciously recognize.
Consider what the American response would be to God suddenly taking out Wall Street? Suppose one day the whole thing is mysteriously shut down and every computer in the place undergoes a total memory wipe? Suddenly trading isn’t just put on hold—it’s no longer possible. How hard do you think it is for God Almighty to trash the American economy? It’s not hard at all. And when God is the One going after us, do you think we’re going to save the day with the data we saved on our flash drives? When God does a memory wipe, it’s a thorough thing. And when an epic amount of critical financial data is lost, what is going to happen to all of that confidence we’re rooting in the American economy?
Or take the American obsession with animals. God says that human life is the most precious element of this creation and should be treated with great respect. Once God hands us this kind of value system, that system becomes a symbol which we can use to express our hatred for Him. Since God says that humans should be viewed as far more precious than the creatures of earth, we punish people for upsetting endangered species while we zealously defend those who want to butcher human babies before they even leave the womb. We dress up our dogs in human clothes and refer to mere animals as our sons and daughters. We put framed pics of our “granddogs” on our desks at work. We publicly exalt our beasts as superior to human beings by posting human bashing snark on Facebook like, “In my experience, dogs are far more loyal than humans.” We Christians are just as guilty as everyone else on this one, and we know it. And yet of all people, we should know better than to think we can publicly mock God’s standards like this without consequences. Since we’re using our pets to flaunt our disrespect for God, how right it would be if He were to attack us back along those same channels. Suppose one day Americans wake up to discover that all of the pets they are treating as better than humans have been turned into maggot infested corpses? As the whole nation goes into a panic trying to figure out what kind of disease could act so fast on so many animals at once, what is going to happen to those symbols we were using to publicly flaunt our disrespect for God? Suddenly we’re setting fire to them in a desperate attempt to stop the spread of whatever heinous plague it is that He’s unleashed on us. God getting us to destroy our own weapons of symbol warfare—you have to appreciate the irony of that one.
Look around at the society you live in. What kinds of symbols are your people using to express their spiritual rebellion towards God? What are the symbols of security that your nation depends on? Who are your country’s most powerful leaders? Who are the world’s most influential personalities? The Catholic pope is a pretty famous guy. The leaders of heavy hitters like America and China get far more attention than the rulers of some small island nation. Do you think that the Gods who run this world don’t know how to hit us where it hurts? Of course They do, and yet we insist on warring against Them. Not only are we flaunting our hatred for Them, many of us have recently been putting a lot of effort into stepping up our anti-God efforts. Well, bring it on. We might as well give it the best we’ve got, because our days of playing offense are rapidly coming to a close. Once the end times begin, we’re going to be forced to pour all of our resources into defense as we try in vain to hold off an Enemy who we can’t see, track, or anticipate.
When you’re running out of body bags and trying to keep mass amounts of carnage out of public waterways, you just don’t have the time to sit around burning Christian Bibles. When you’re having to write off large sections of major cities as unsalvageable because the wreckage is too extreme, you just won’t have time to sit around posting videos of yourself blaspheming the Holy Spirit on YouTube. When it’s your girlfriend who is dying under the pile of rubble or it’s your kid who is dying from some hideous plague, suddenly you’re going to be begging God to help you—the same God who you just couldn’t be bothered with respecting before. Whenever we humans try to war against our own Creators, the outcome is always the same: we end up horrifically defeated while They walk away from the battlefield without the slightest scratch.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t feel the least bit threatened by us publicly cursing Him. Jesus isn’t up in Heaven crying because we keep cranking out theatrical productions which openly mock His Person. Our Gods simply don’t depend on us to prop up Their esteem or make Them feel valid, but we depend on Them for everything. When we set Bibles and churches on fire, our Gods are not adversely affected. But when They light us on fire, we end up hideously maimed and writhing in anguish. How stupid are we to war against three Beings who have all of the power on Their side? You need to decide now that you’re not going to side with the idiot majority who think that it’s possible to take God on and win. When God gets around to spanking your nation in the end times, you need to be one of the few people who He isn’t ticked at because you are embracing the soul attitudes of reverence, submission, dependency and trust.
Symbol warfare is going to be a major theme in the end times, and God will be hitting key symbols all over the globe. Individuals have symbols. Families have symbols. Neighborhoods have symbols. Cities have symbols. Nations have symbols. The Church has symbols. God knows what we care about, and we all know how we’ve responded to the things He says He cares about. So when He suddenly kicks this ongoing symbol war of ours up to a much higher level, how are you going to respond? Are you going to start griping and whining about how mean He’s being? Are you going to start with the bossy prayers? Or are you going to remember that a Christian is supposed to be siding with God instead of turning against Him at every available opportunity? Now is the time to decide where your loyalties are going to lie. God’s patience with His kids’ usual betrayal is going to be a lot shorter during this period. Consider yourself forewarned.
Destruction in the End Times: Respecting Ownership
Preparing for the End Times: The Law vs. God’s Prophet
Preparing for the End Times: Releasing Our Loved Ones
Your End Times Faith Crisis: Staying Aligned with a Scary God
Preparing for the End Times: Serving without Limits