January 28, 2013

France: No Decoding Necessary

The frenzy surrounding the “end of the world” prophecies for December 21, 2012, created an ideal context for presenting the simple truth of Christ.

  • “Mystery Mountain”

    On December 21, 2012, people gathered in the tiny village of Bugarach in the south of France to witness the End of the World supposedly prophesized by the Mayans.

It didn’t happen. The world didn’t end on December 21st, 2012. The Mayans were wrong, or more likely, they were badly misinterpreted by modern-day prophecy hunters. And the little village of Bugarach in the south of France, too small even for a “boulangerie” with its 198 citizens, didn’t have any aliens come to meet the “faithful” on the local mountain peak. No comets struck the earth. And no supposed “Bible Code” messages came to pass.

Most French people just dismissed the “end-of-the-world” frenzy as silly. But there was enough interest in the media and among many folks to spark the idea of finding a way to present the Christian view of the subject. TEAM-France missionary Tom Blanchard may not know much about comets or “mystery mountains” or Mayans; but he does know the Hebrew Bible. So colleagues arranged for Tom to give public conferences in Carcassonne and Albertville, France, and in Geneva, Switzerland, on the supposed “Hidden Bible Codes.”

The purpose was twofold. First, to explain away the “mysteries” of how alleged experts manipulate the biblical text to make “prophecies” appear. The Hebrew text is presented in a grid/matrix, with equidistant letters surrounded by squares, circles, and diamonds – the “secret message.” These “decoded” texts have prophesied everything from the Wright brothers, to Hitler, to the attacks on the Twin Towers, and now, the End of the World. But the only “secret” is using computer power and trial and error until the desired words “happen” to fall into place. Any large book could be used to generate that kind of “prophecy.” There are even examples from Melville’s Moby Dick, which supposedly predicted the tragic death of Lady Diana. Just keep the computer running, and sooner or later, one can find anything.

The other purpose of the conference was to present what the Bible does say about the end of the world. No secret code or super computer is needed to grasp the real message of Scripture. It is clear and lucid. The “end of the world” is certainly coming, for every individual and for humanity as a whole. No one knows that date, either for one’s personal meeting with God or for the majestic return of King Jesus from heaven. But the Gospel message of God’s mercy, grace, and salvation is for all. The pre-Christmas season was a perfect time to explain who Jesus is, why He came, and what He did to save us.

All three conferences had good attendance by European standards, from 60 to more than 100 people, Christians and non-Christians. Some showed up thanks to a link on Google after searching for “End of the World.” The Geneva conference especially had a wide variety of internationals, with good conversations afterwards. Several attendees want to learn more about the Bible.

The straightforward message of the Bible may not seem as exotic or as esoteric as a “decoded secret message,” supposedly hidden ages ago and now revealed. But the simple truth of God’s Word is still powerful enough to open hearts and transform lives.

-Written by Tom Blanchard, TEAM missionary in France