What’s going on? There is a creeping irrationality that’s becoming a new norm. It is seen in politics, education, religion and a society gone wild in commercialized frenzy. Remember the last “Black Friday,” with legions of crazed zealots charging their local shopping malls in search of cheap possessions? Christians often comment that the old stability – commonly known as “common sense” – has all but disappeared.
One is reminded of the poet Robert Frost who, many years ago, commented upon the societies of the World War I and II era. He said, “A civilized society is one which tolerates eccentricity to the point of doubtful sanity.” Truly, we have become civilized, in the secular sense of that word.
A first-grade boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; grade-schoolers expelled for bringing aspirin for headaches, or mouthwash to use after lunch. Yet in middle-school, there have been cases in which pregnant teenagers were denied the right to notify their parents, when counseled to have an abortion.
At every level of society, lying, prevarication, deception and mendacity have become acceptable behavior. Politicians do it routinely. The new rule: It’s okay to lie. Today, even the “good guys” lie. Of course, politicians have lied for decades – for centuries. But there’s something a little different now. They actually think they’re telling the truth. And they really seem to believe that spending trillions of dollars will somehow put more money into the public coffers! Insane!
Across the world, swelling waves of street demonstrators spread a mixture of fire and hatred, demanding support by their respective governments. But having engaged in decades of obsessive socialism, those regimes are bankrupt. Cycles of violence will continue to increase, leading to totalitarian governments.
Then there’s the music business. Back in the sixties, the Beatles (despite their preoccupation with Eastern Religion, drugs and spiritualist experimentation) were the picture of innocence. Their schoolboy suits, pleasant melodies and well-groomed manner covered the roots of a movement that has become full-fledged debauchery. Rock is pornographic madness. Rap is an endless stream of profanity and blasphemy. Recently, a music star addressed the current President as “God … and my Lord and Savior.” Sadly, he probably didn’t know any better. But perhaps he did, and was driven by an almost psychotic fixation upon the idea that God has become a human being.
The movies have become careening mélange of fast cuts, cursing, gunfire, when they’re not engaged in the steady propagation of anti-social culture and sexual mayhem.
Television brings all of the above into virtually every home on Earth.
Intelligence and intellectual discipline has been distilled into a never-ending barrage of new electronics: Tablets, phones, gaming and texting are the new measure of culture. True education is no longer needed – you can look it up. In his hot hand, a third-grader has as many electronic facts at his fingertips as a college professor, and he knows it.
Respect for social discipline has almost disappeared. Worst of all, society is breaking down into tribal territories and well-guarded boundaries.
The result: Gang warfare, drug wars and a hard-rock mentality have permeated the new generations, producing social instability … or worse. Drive-by shooting or mass murders by crazed gunmen are now almost a common phenomenon. Society has become crazed … ragingly insane.
But the ultimate insanity is seen in the Middle East. There, 350 million brothers of Islam, in the passionate heat of their “Arab Spring,” dream their psychotic dream of a world dominated by clerics roaming the streets to wield social control through sharia law. Power-mad fanaticism is being welcomed as “peace.”
In the context of the foregoing paragraphs, there is a fascinating term, used only twice in the Greek New Testament. It is calepoV, spelled in English as chalepos, and pronounced with an initial “k”, as in kalepos.
In this study, we shall look at both instances of its usage. In combination, they reveal a prophetic truth that is at once exciting and foreboding. At first glance its two usages, in two very different contexts, seem unrelated. But in combination, they bring us a remarkable prophetic insight.
The first time this term is encountered, it is found in the context of a familiar episode related in the Gospel of Matthew. It is the centerpiece of a series of seemingly unrelated events. But in fact, they are woven around a common theme.
As the scene opens, Jesus had healed many people. When the word spread, a crowd gathered, at which time Jesus commands His disciples to prepare a boat, so that they could sail to the east side of the Sea of Galilee. As they departed, Jesus announced that from this point on, His home would be defined, not by a specific place, like his home town, but by His ministry, which would expand into the world. The sea and the boat become a metaphor for that ministry.
In the following narrative, pay particular attention to the word, “fierce,” which is represented by chalepos:
“Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side. And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way. And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time? And there was a good way off from them an herd of many swine feeding. So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine. And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters. And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils. And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts” (Matt. 8:18-34).
In this account, the events on and around the Sea of Galilee can be likened to the human drama of the whole world. They offer a microcosm of faith, family and the service of discipleship in a world gone mad. They center about the person of the One who, Himself, is the center of all creation.
In the narrative above, as the people begin to find out about Him, Jesus is in demand. In the midst of this growing excitement, a scribe rashly professes his intention to be an unwavering disciple. Jesus informs him that there will be no security in the endeavor.
Another disciple wishes to take care of family business … the funeral of his father. Jesus informs him that such business is of the world, not of his calling as a disciple.
Departing from the commotion of the crowd, they enter the boat and the sea (May we say, the world?). Like the sea of humanity, it is stirred up by winds and weather, themselves metaphors of conflict on the spiritual level. By extension, it depicts the troubled condition of the whole world. His disciples fear for their lives in the maelstrom, but Jesus calms them, with a reminder that they must hold to their faith in all circumstances. Then, he demonstrates to them that He is in control of the tempest.
On the east side of the sea, Jesus makes landfall in an unclean land, symbolized by demonic possession and the dominance of swineherds, eking out a living in an unclean world. Both these conditions are typical of humankind living in sin, which finally rejected Christ.
And so it was with the Gergesenes. After Jesus cast demons out of two possessed men, the people begged Him to leave. And no wonder, In Mark’s account of this incident, we learn that about two thousand swine were drowned! In any event, their reaction was totally inappropriate.
In the other accounts of this incident, we are also told that the possessed men displayed supernatural strength, and were controlled by many demons. They broke chains and fetters; no one could control them.
This brings us to the use of that term mentioned above. Here, in Matthew’s account, demon-possessed men are called, “fierce.” This is a translation of the Greek term chalepos [calepoV], meaning “violent.” It is coupled with a modifier, “exceeding fierce.” This term suggests more than violence, reaching even to the level of uncontrolled, raging and brutal insanity.
And here, we come face-to-face with the world, driven by an inner darkness, out of control and furiously rejecting the message of Christ. The east bank of the sea offers a compact view of the depraved world. For those who have eyes to see, it displays a blatant truth. Jesus’ followers were fishermen, not swineherds.
Chalepos also carries the meaning of ferocity. In the social context, it indicates uncivilized behavior, ranging all the way to savagery.
This was the scene on that ancient day when Christ sailed the sea of Galilee. On one side, tumultuous crowds sought His blessing. On the sea, winds and waves buffeted His disciples. Upon their landing, they came to a world gone mad, subsisting in a state of spiritual depravity.
The Far Future
This brings us to the second use of chalepos. And here, its application is plain and simple. It sets the tone of a prophecy given to Timothy by Paul … his final epistle, written to Timothy just before his death. It is written from a cold Roman cell. Winter is coming. Paul has been convicted by Caesar – confined as the leader of an illegal religion. The prison setting portrays the long, cold winter night that lies ahead for Christianity as a social and cultural force.
His epistle is an exhortation and warning to the young pastor, who may not have developed deep insight into that which lies ahead. Its tone is solemn and thoughtful, befitting the difficulties that Paul knows will define the future. Pay particular attention to the word, “perilous,” noting that the subject revolves around “the snare of the devil,” and the subsequent effect he has upon the world:
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was” (II Tim. 2:24 – 3:9).
Here again, we find the Greek word chalepos, this time translated as “perilous.” As used in Matthew, it described the actions of men possessed by demons. They were out of their minds, uncontrollable and violent. And here, in Paul’s word of prophecy to Timothy, we find exactly the same meaning!
This time, however, it does not merely apply to two men on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. As Paul envisions the world of the latter days, he sees that it is characterized by the same insanity.
Paul urges the young preacher, Timothy, to exercise a quiet strength in his daily ministry. He emphasizes the importance of teaching the strong doctrines of Christianity. He knows that only correct and thorough doctrinal teaching offers the strength to withstand the coming social subversion that the devil and his followers will bring upon the world.
That world is symbolized in the book of Matthew by Galilee’s eastern shore … the swineherd culture and the demoniacs who raged among them. Paul’s letter says that it will become a reality. Of course, he was correct. The past two thousand years have brought a cavalcade of narcissistic, vain, despotic, blasphemous, criminal usurpers to leadership in every country of the world.
Though the last three or four centuries have brought enlightenment to the West, darkness is quickly closing in upon the last vestiges of Christian influence. Europe has reverted to paganism, as a tiny minority of Christians holds on for dear life. Radical Islam is fast becoming the dominant force there.
Godlessness is sweeping across the United States. The result is just as Paul’s words foretold. The worldwide web – the Internet – is a bubbling porridge of mixed information. Though amazingly useful, with a potential for great good (particularly in the spread of the Gospel), evil has, in fact overtaken it. The electronic culture is now dominated by pornography, corruption, thievery and crass commercialism that threatens to undermine the last vestiges of civilized behavior. The mind of this generation is all but enslaved to its seduction.
In the outside world, it is even worse. The sordid underbelly of culture crawls with serial killers, drug pushers, sexual predators and a wide variety of self-serving criminals who will resort to any means to enhance their own wealth. Increasingly, we are seeing the emergence of behavior that, only a few short years ago, would have been unheard of … simply beyond belief.
And then there is the world of public communications. For the Christian, television has become all but un-viewable. Radio is becoming lewd and coarse, as the public debate of issues devolves into endless harangues, diatribes and rants, sometimes touching upon subjects that send one racing for the volume control, lest the ears of the children be subjected to corrupt and perverse notions that were once confined to the conversations of social outcasts.
Public life has, itself, become a parade of insanity. Think of the last few elections. Both nationally and locally, they increasingly seem to be dominated by money and demagoguery – emotional speech without a thread of logic. Think back; have you recently heard a public figure make a statement that you found simply insane? Where is the voice of logic and rational ideas? To argue from fact is to be found lacking in compassion.
Raging criticism among political factions has reached an uncivilized level. Radical Islam is promoted as a “religion of peace,” even as it assaults Judaism and Christianity at every level. It rejects the stability demonstrated in the constitutional democracy that brought Western civilization to the highest levels of achievement in history.
Increasingly, the godless ones scheme to save the world through the application of various social programs that will reshape society through a global bureaucracy. To apply more of the strategies that caused the initial problem is simply insane. And almost two thousand years ago, Paul accurately predicted it.