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Sunday, July 6th 2014

22:11

Yezidi and the Rapture

  • STATE OF EXISTENCE: a little sick today

Yezidi ManBruno Corduan, my father, who is eighty-eight years old and lives in Germany, has just set out on a new phase of his life and ministry. Over the next few days, he's leaving the retirement community in which he and my mother have lived for about twenty years (she passed away about four years ago), and is moving to the city of Neuwied, located on the Rhine. A Mennonite church there has asked him to come and be a part of the ministry to Middle Eastern refugees. In particular, he will work with the Yezidi, a Kurdish group that is at home primarily in Iraq and Turkey and has established a rather sizeable refugee community in Germany.

Yezidi WomanThe Yezidi are largely unknown in the United States. (Please be aware of the many different spellings of names associated with them.) They are an IndoEuropean group with their own dialect, a different culture from their neighbors, and a religion that defies any kind of pigeon-holing. Their present form is due to a reformer named Shaykh Adi (107?-1160), but there is virtually no reliable information concerning its earlier phases (assuming that it had one or more). However, there is an enormous amount of speculation that passes itself off as factual, but strikes me as patently improbable if not impossible. Since clarifying the debate here would require my writing more on this topic than I should right now, please allow me to make a few dogmatic assertions that I promise I will defend some other time. (So could you, by the way, if you just looked at the core of the religion in a short summary, rather than at clearly accidental resemblances to other belief systems on its fringe.)

The religion of the Yezidi is not:

--derived from Zoroastrianism (though they may share some roots), the Wikipedia claim notwithstanding;

--derived from Islam (though it could not help but be influenced by Islamic practices and terminology once Islam surrounded it);

--the original monotheistic religion of the world, going back four thousand years, from which all other monotheistic religions are derived.

It is presently:

--a monotheistic religion, in which God is remote, and in which governance of the world has been given over to seven archangels, the chief of whom is called Tawûsê Melek. He is iconographically represented by a peacock. Since I'm trying not to overextend this short description I will just declare that he is not the devil, although Yezidi have frequently been extremely misunderstood to the point of being called devil-worshippers by outsiders;

--a religion in which there is no devil; all events occurring in the world are said to be under the control of Tawûsê Melek;

--a religion that maximizes an emphasis on ritual and moral purity (though it is not dualistic);

--a religion that does not proselytize;

--a religion that only sanctions marriage within a person's social layer, of which there are three. Viz., the society is, anthropologically speaking, endogamous.

German readers will, of course, recognize the Yezidi from Karl May's books, Durch die Wüste and Durchs wilde Kurdistan. His descriptions are clearly based on the reports of people who had actually visited the Yezidi and studied their beliefs and practices. They are quite accurate.

I may go into more detailed descriptions if there should be interest, and once I have done some more studies. In the meantime, please pray for my dad, who is stepping out in faith, or, as he would say, whom God has pulled out while all he can do is to obey by faith.

Luke 17

Can we talk about this passage without getting into a debate about the "secret rapture"? I'll try to minimize it here because that's not really the focus. Just to clarify the term for those readers whose tradition does not include Dispensationalism and the Scofield Bible: Many evangelical theologians believe that prior to Christ's second coming in glory there will be a seven-year period of tribulation, a part of which is described in the book of Revelation. At the onset of this heptad, all of the people who are true believers in Christ will be snatched up to heaven. They will suddenly be gone, and the people who are left are unbelievers and the Israelites, the latter of whom will now be converted to faith in Christ. Midway through this period (i.e. after 3 1/2 years), Anti-Christ will disclose himself, rule the world, and persecute the Jews who have now become Christians.

The tribulation will end when Christ returns publicly after the seven-year period and establishes his thousand-year reign on earth. Christians who hold to this scheme interpret this passage ("one taken, another one left") as referring to the rapture (one taken up to heaven, another one left on earth). Christians who don't share this belief tend to assign this passage an immediate fulfillment during the destruction caused by the Romans in AD 70 and possibly also a future dimension ("telescoping"), whereby "taken" then becomes being killed or harmed by the invaders.

The point of the passage is, of course, not to give us details about the end times, but 1) to encourage Christians to anticipate Christ's return and the judgment on unbelievers that is entailed by it and 2) to warn non-Christians of the suddenness of judgment.

Jesus used two illustrations to make his point: the judgment by means of the flood during Noah's time and the judgment on Gomorrah. Note that in neither case is the cause for judgment mentioned; we already know that people are sinful. The idea is that the people were obtuse to the idea that there would ever be a judgment on their sin. People in Noah's day were eating, drinking, getting married--all good things. Again, in Gomorrah the residents were eating and drinking, buying and selling, building and planting--again all good things. But the routine of life put them into a stupor so that they did not think that their other actions, which were not so good, would ever be judged. Jesus then went on to illustrate the suddenness of the judgment and the fact that there would no longer be an escape for those who had ignored God all along.

The disciples' response to this picturesque portrayal may strike us as a little bit slow. "Where, Lord?" they asked. I would suggest, though, that what they had just heard was rather overwhelming, and they returned to the point that they had understood, namely, the earlier one when Jesus had told them not to run "here" or "there" to find God's kingdom.

Jesus answered them with the enigmatic statement that the vultures will indicate the location of the corpse. Oh, how commentators of the past have attempted to discover symbolism in that sentence! I don't know whether there is a consensus now, but many interpreters believe that Jesus was actually merely citing a proverb or a common figure of speech meaning, "When it's here, you'll recognize it."

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