By Charlie Johnston
Back when I made my critical error in interpreting rescue as an event rather than a process, a fellow with some heft in the Church in America contacted me. While the man was very skeptical of all prophetic claims, he took the time to tell me not to be discouraged: that what I had accomplished was to shed myself of the prophecy chasers – and what would remain would be serious people ready for serious work.
When I began writing of these present times 10 years ago I was not so modest as to want to change people’s minds. I was intent on changing people’s mindsets. One of the things that most agitated me with the old site was that many people paid far too much attention to my frothy pronouncements while putting short shrift to the weightier matters. There was no independent need for me to speak of the storm that was coming on the world; that was coming whether I spoke about it or not. The primary – really the sole – reason I spoke about it at all was so that, once it had come, people who paid attention would believe me when I said it was not the end, but a renewal. My weighty stuff was how to deal with what was ahead for us – and setting this up was how I dealt with establishing credibility for when it would genuinely be needed.
Alas, many people took the frothier stuff I spoke of and kicked the rest to the curb, despite me repeatedly telling them not to and repeatedly telling them I would err on at least one thing. I constantly told people not to become hoarders, but to be prudent and trust in God to show them the way as events unfolded. My Archbishop generously acknowledged that I tried to steer people away from the frothy stuff in his letter barring me from speaking on Catholic property in Denver but mounting no other restrictions, but rightly noted that, even so, many readers came for the sizzle. After I made my interpretive error on the rescue, some people complained that they had spent their entire life savings on preparations because of me. I was both irritated and unconcerned: they ignored that I repeatedly warned them NOT to do that because they were trying to outwit God – and implicitly insisted they had a better human plan to prepare than anything God could come up with.
Of late, I have been inundated with notes from people helpfully explaining to me how I have gone off the rails because I do not interpret things – and particularly prophecy – precisely as they do. Some fault me for being insufficiently submissive to the Pope, even in areas where he has no authority. Others suggest I am an apologist for papal and clerical abuse. Some suggest that, though I am well-meaning, I am too caught up in the Novus Ordo to understand what is really going on. Almost all quote some snippet of prophecy – approved or unapproved – to justify their conflicting claims. Some even claim I have become a tool of the devil.
We have a very serious year ahead of us. If we are to weather it well it is time to put away childish things. I thought a way to help bring a sobering perspective would be to offer a very simplified primer on the interpretation of prophecy. I have mentioned before that I had seven years where I interpreted wrong every single time as I was being trained. People have accused me of many things, but few – even of my most committed opponents – have ever accused me of being dumb. One would think that, given that, when I recount that I got it wrong every time for some seven years, people might think, whoa, this stuff must be much trickier than it looks. But no, almost all continue along on their merry way making interpretations that are the equivalent of a child’s stick figure drawing that gets stuck on the refrigerator, convinced that they are the Rembrandt of prophetic interpretation. If you actually knew what you were doing, you would approach the subject with far more fear and trembling, knowing how fraught with peril even the simplest, seemingly most straight-forward approved prophecies are. Let’s go through a basic look at what you must assess before venturing any opinion.
First you must judge whether the prophecy is literal or metaphorical. Despite the reality that a good 85% of accomplished prophecies have been metaphorical, most amateur prophetic interpreters account everything to be literal. If our lifespans were 2,000 years, there would still be people waiting for the temple to be torn down and raised again in three days – refusing to accept that Jesus was speaking of His own death and resurrection in a way that could NOT be understood until He accomplished it.
In making this assessment you must then contemplate deeply the interplay between time and eternity. When did the fallen angels fall? Revelation 12 says it is after the appearance of the woman cloaked with the sun. Yet the devil tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden, so it must have been before creation itself. The dark angels fell before creation, are falling now, and will fall again. Eternity is always NOW. It is a great mystery – but it impacts our interpretations dramatically and makes our little timelines vapid. Many things that are perfectly literal in eternity seem metaphorical in time. I have no doubt that the disciples who stayed with Jesus after He proclaimed they must eat His body and drink His blood to have life within them thought surely He was speaking metaphorically in some way they could not yet understand. Those who left thought He was speaking literally – and that His teaching was cannibalism. Amazingly, He was speaking literally, but in a way no one could imagine at the time. It was fully literal in eternity but still seems metaphorical here in time.
Then you must take into account the layering effect. God loves to foreshadow His decrees – and to progressively unveil them to us. So they may well be both metaphorical and literal. The tearing down and raising of the temple was accomplished with Christ’s resurrection, but then was mirrored by the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and the rise of Christianity.
Next you must look whether the prophecy is absolute or conditional. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah dealt primarily with absolute prophecies – but these were primarily proclamations of milestone events in salvation history, the virgin birth, the suffering servant. He is the only Old Testament prophet whose prophecies all proved out correct, surely the best prophetic interpreter ever. Even so, it took almost half a millennium for them all to prove out, so no one in his lifetime knew he batted 1.000. Many prophets made conditional prophecies – warnings of great chastisements unless the people repented. Perhaps the most famous of these was Jonah’s warning to the Ninevites: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” It didn’t sound conditional, but the people of Nineveh repented en masse – and were spared destruction. Poor Jonah, who was a reluctant prophet to begin with, sulked because the Ninevites’ repentance made him appear to be a false prophet. Yet it was Jonah’s prophecy which was the instrument that led to their repentance. Without it, they would have been destroyed. At the end of the short book of Jonah, God taught the prophet that mercy can and should be the fruit of prophecy – and he was unjust to sulk.
While some prophecies can be mitigated entirely, others that are true can only partially be mitigated. After assessing whether a prophecy is more likely absolute or conditional, one must assess whether it can fully be mitigated or only partially mitigated.
God uses the ruts our minds so easily fall into to lead us into deceiving ourselves. Often a prophet will speak of an invasion – and amateurs always interpret that negatively. But an invasion can be one of conquest and oppression or of liberation. Existing conceptual predispositions will lead you into error every time.
I believe the Lord and His heralds speak to me directly – and I believe He did me a great favor by letting me fall into errant interpretation for seven years straight. It led me to discover my predispositions and assumptions and burn them out, so that I might hear with open ears. On actual prophecies, both those approved and those un-condemned, I put them through rigorous examination with the above being the beginning of the process. By the time I am done, I have at least six or seven potential interpretations – sometimes as many as a dozen – and then make a judgment on what is most likely. Even with this rigorous process, at least 30% of the time (probably more like 40%), a true prophecy is fulfilled in a way I still did not anticipate.
In this life each of us has a different capacity for knowledge. Some have the capacity of a shot glass while others have the capacity of a large fish tank. Yet the wisdom of God is greater than all the oceans. What hubris to think we can begin to contain that in the little vessels of our intellect! If, then, it is so overwhelming whether we are shot glass or fish tank, what good is human knowledge at all? St. Thomas Aquinas, the angelic doctor, proclaimed everything he had written as so much straw after being drawn into the mystical presence of Christ near the end of his life. It is a rare time when I disagreed with him. If he had previously believed his insights were worthy of heaven, he was guilty of a hubris that this mystical vision rescued him from. But his insights were profoundly useful in helping us, his fellows, to approach the throne of heaven more surely. That, in fact, is the sole purpose of human wisdom. If we direct it to that end we are useful servants in Our Lord’s hands. If we use it to try to dominate our fellows, we abuse and squander it – and are in deadly danger of forfeiting our salvation in the process.
At the end of my seven years of interpretive futility, my angel (so I believe) explained to me that the purpose of prophecy is NOT so that we know the mind of God. That is not possible. Rather, it is to give us markers, so that when certain temporal events happen we will look deeper into the spiritual reality behind them. If we use it in that light it is a profoundly useful guide for us along our way. Ah, but a great sorrow is that so many people, erecting an expected spectacle in their own minds, are so busy looking for that spectacle of their own interpretation that they completely miss the fulfillment of a prophecy.
The pious friends of Job thought they were defending God. Yet in the end. God was so angry with their false portrait of Him that He would not even accept their prayers – and demanded that they ask Job to pray for them, instead, for Job had spoken rightly of God. He would accept Job’s prayers for the forgiveness of these friends who thought they were pious, but were downright slanderous in their false image of God. Do not make the mistake of Job’s friends.
Let us apply these criteria to my interpretation of the Third Secret of Fatima, which I wrote and sent to my Priests two days after the secret was released. This interpretation was NOT given to me. It is entirely mine, knitted from the entirety of my peculiar life experiences. Yet after it was done, my angel told me that, in future ages, this would become one of the Church’s most cherished historical documents. In the interactions I believe I have with heavenly beings, I usually get correction. It is generally kind, but always reminds me of how painfully slow I am. It was nice to get outright validation on this occasion.
I identified Pope John Paul II as the Pope in the secret. It is literal from the eternal standpoint. A soul lost to heaven is a terrible tragedy in eternity, much greater than a life lost in this temporal plane. The attacks against this Pope are figurative here, but entirely literal there. St. John Paul retrofitted the Barque of Peter to encounter and endure the storm. That his work should come under siege is a great offense. One must look now to where the assault is coming from. Much of it is coming from within the Church. These are among the soldiers firing at this sainted Pope. Some think we must never criticize a sitting Pope lest, in this secular and pagan age, we trigger the mere physical attack that pure literalists think the secret speaks of. But if my interpretation is correct – and I stand by it – then to remain silent amidst internal offenses and abuse is to empower the very soldiers attacking the faith.
What, then, if the abuses and the general pagan mentality of the age sparks a physical attack against the Vatican? That is, what if the layering effect comes into play? Well, would that destroy the Church? It is a failure of faith to believe such a thing possible, for Christ said the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. Could it be that such an attack might serve to wipe away those who assault the faith from the inside? It would not be the first time God has used outside unbelievers to visit His chastisement on His own. Could it cause an open schism? Very possibly – but we have been in implicit schism for almost a century. Could a schism be God’s winnowing fan – separating the wheat from the chaff? Might there be controversy as to who is Pope for a time? There already has been such controversy – and it is by no means the first time that such a controversy has roiled the Church. Has God not used such previous controversies as a winnowing fan? Of course He has!
Ours is to come to knowledge of what is legitimate authority – and then obey it. But it is also our duty to understand what is retained as the legitimate prudential responsibility of the laity – and then exercise it. There are those who want a formulaic submission to everything a Bishop or Priest says, down to his March Madness picks. Then there are those who, because of real abuses, would overthrow everything and make their own way. We are called to walk a knife’s edge, to follow what Christ directed, to obey legitimate authority legitimately exercised that we may hearten and fortify the hierarchy that is committed to Christ, while exercising our prudential responsibility with full fidelity to Scripture and the Magisterium.
My friends, it is going to be a tough year, more brutally tough than you can imagine yet. But it is also going to be an incredibly joyful year when the first signs of the Lord’s plan of renewal will visibly take shape. I call on you to cast away childish things and all vanity. They will lead you to perdition. The Next Right Step is the only way forward in these times, trusting that God will illuminate your way with each step.
If you only have one potential interpretation of an approved prophecy, even if it proves correct it would be because of the ‘blind hog’ rule, not because of your interpretive prowess. If you were wise, you would approach all prophecy with humility, fear and trembling, knowing how little of the great ocean of God’s knowledge you can contain in your little vessel at your best.
But fear not. God reads hearts. If you are of genuine humility and good will, you will still make plenty of mistakes, but God will lead you, correct you, and justify you provided you take full responsibility for your errors. If, instead, you seek to prove you are a giant among men and that your mighty prowess gives you leave to rule them, God will run you aground on the shoals of your hubris.
We have entered what I believe will be one of the most pivotal years in salvation history. It grieved me for a time to lose the prophecy chasers. But oh, what a blessing it has been to work with the very serious people who remain! We are going to be confounded, puzzled, and frightened many times this year at the violent roar of the wind and waves around us. We will be tempted to retreat into some formulaic means of protecting ourselves. But all those winds and waves are just the devil’s froth. Keep your eyes on Jesus, take the next right step, and He will use you to transform the world – in His way, not yours.
If communication goes out for any length of time, meet outside your local Church at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings. Tell friends at Church now in case you can’t then. CORAC teams will be out looking for people to gather in and work with.
Find me on Twitter at @Charlie62394802
The Corps of Renewal and Charity (CORAC)
18208 Preston Rd., Ste. D9-552
Dallas, Texas 75252