Tags

, ,

In my previous post, I presented arguments in favor of identifying the United States of America with the prophetic entity called “Babylon the Great” in Revelation 17:1–19:5. The foremost objection to this identification among pretribulationists is the theological position known as the doctrine of the imminence of the rapture, or “imminence” for short. The name for this doctrine is somewhat confusing, because whereas the English word “imminent” means “impending” or “about to happen,” the theological doctrine of imminence teaches that the rapture may or may not be about to happen. Essentially, it is an assertion that nothing specific or certain can be known about the development of God’s prophetic program before the rapture happens. Those who believe in imminence would object just as strongly to an assertion that the rapture will in fact happen in the near future as they would to an assertion that the rapture will not happen in the near future. In other words, the doctrine of imminence ironically rejects the assertion that the rapture is truly imminent.

According to the doctrine of imminence, it is never possible to know before the rapture whether one is living in the end times, because that would imply that one could have at least a general idea of when the rapture will occur. Adherents of the doctrine of imminence reject, for example, assertions that the modern state of Israel has prophetic significance, and that the digitization of currency has prophetic significance. With regard to Babylon the Great, some might say that the United States could be Babylon the Great if the rapture were to occur soon; however, it is impossible to know for sure, since the rapture could occur thousands of years in the future.

Thus, the problem raised by the doctrine of imminence is not just whether Babylon the Great is to be identified with the United States, but whether any prophetic entity or event may be identified with a contemporary entity or event. This objection has nothing to do with the exegesis of Revelation 17–18, but rather concerns the exegesis of texts throughout the New Testament and the implications of a theological system. In the discussion which follows here, it will be shown that there are serious exegetical and theological problems with the doctrine of imminence, and that this doctrine should be rejected by pretribulationists.

Texts purported to teach imminence

Space will permit only a brief survey of the texts held by some to teach imminence. One category of such texts are those which state directly that Christ will come as a thief in the night, or that no man knows the day or the hour. Such statements are found in Matt 24:36, 42, 44, 50; 25:13; Mark 13:32-33, 35; Luke 12:40, 46; Acts 1:7; 2 Pet 3:10; 1 Thess 5:1-3; Rev 16:15. An exegetical analysis of these texts reveals that each is speaking of the second coming, and they are saying that Christ’s return in glory to judge the world and establish His kingdom will happen at a time when no one is expecting it to happen; therefore, professing believers living in the second half of the tribulation period must always be ready. Warnings regarding the second coming have the tone of, “Watch out, or you will perish!” (Matt 24:37–25:30; Mark 13:33-37; Luke 12:35-48; 21:34-36; 1 Thess 5:1-3; 2 Pet 3:10; Rev 16:15). Such a tone would not suit a passage describing the rapture, since Christ will not destroy the unbelieving world when He comes for the church—unbelievers will still be able to repent afterward. Thus, Christians are not commanded to be on the alert for the rapture. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 5:10 states that all Christians will be safely raised at the rapture, regardless of spiritual lethargy or watchfulness. Christians are to live righteously, of course, but for other reasons.

A second category of texts includes Romans 13:12 (“the day has drawn near”), James 5:8 (“the coming of the Lord has drawn near”), James 5:9 (“the Judge stands before the doors”), and 1 Peter 4:7 (“the end of all things has drawn near”). An analysis of the terms used (“the day,” “the end of all things”) and the context (judgment) shows that these verses refer to the second advent, not to the rapture. Regardless, a statement of imminence would have to be worded like the group of verses cited in the previous paragraph, e.g., “You cannot know when the Lord will return” or “The Lord’s coming will take you by surprise.” The “coming of the Lord has drawn near” group of passages are to be interpreted in the same way as parallel passages in the Gospels. When John and Jesus said, “the kingdom has drawn near,” they meant that the offer of the kingdom has drawn near, not that the kingdom would in fact be established immediately (Matt 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; Mark 1:15; cf. Luke 19:11). This has been true throughout the Church Age, since any generation of Jews that accepts Jesus as the Messiah will see the second coming (cf. Acts 3:19; Rom 11:25).

Other passages that are cited as “proof” of imminence do not directly state the doctrine and need not be read to imply it. Some of these passages refer to the second advent, since entering the kingdom is viewed in the New Testament as the goal of all believers. For example, “the appearing of the glory of . . . Jesus Christ” (Tit 2:13; cf. Matt 24:30; 2 Tim 4:1) cannot refer to the rapture; and there are many events in our own lives that we eagerly anticipate even while knowing that those events cannot occur immediately (cf. 1 Cor 1:7; 2 Pet 3:12). With regard to some other passages, serious problems would be created if they were read as statements of imminence. For example, if it is argued that Paul used the pronoun “we” in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 (“we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord”) because he believed the rapture would occur in his lifetime, he was simply wrong, and the Scripture is in error. If, on the other hand, the statement “we who are alive” is read simply as a generic reference to the living, there is no problem; but if read over-literally, it would be an assertion that both Paul and the Thessalonian believers will in fact be alive when the Lord returns, when in fact they all died nearly two thousand years ago.

Exegetical problems with imminence

A major exegetical problem for the doctrine of imminence is that the New Testament contains many prophecies, and the rapture could not have occurred before those prophecies were fulfilled. Some examples are the revelation that Paul would have a great ministry in Corinth (Acts 18:9-11); Agabus’ prophecy of a famine (Acts 11:28); the various prophecies that Paul would be bound in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-23; 21:11); and the prophecy that Paul would go to Rome and stand before Caesar (Acts 23:11). Peter was told that he would die when he was old—implying that the rapture could not occur before his martyrdom (John 21:18-19; 2 Pet 1:14). Paul, too, knew that he had to die and was also told of other things that he had to do and suffer (2 Tim 4:6-7; cf. Acts 9:15-16; 16:9-10; 22:21; 1 Cor 4:9; Phil 1:20-26). So how could Paul (supposedly) write in his epistles that the rapture was imminent, if he knew it was not? Walvoord suggested that Paul had not yet been told of his death when he wrote and had not heard the prophecy of Peter’s death, so that as far as he knew, the rapture could occur at any time (John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979], 202.) This explanation, like all other claims that the apostles told believers that the rapture could happen at any time, is problematic under the doctrine of inspiration. The Bible is the Word of God, not the word of man, and, as such, contains no errors. If the Holy Spirit allowed Paul to write an uninformed opinion on this issue—and to present it not as his own opinion, but as biblical truth—how could we know that he did not make other mistakes as well? The Holy Spirit knew that the rapture was not imminent in the first century; He knew and knows when the rapture will occur, and therefore He could not have said that He expected the rapture to occur in the first century, for He cannot lie (Tit 1:2; Heb 6:18).

In addition to the prophecies about Paul and Peter and others, many specific prophecies were also given to the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation 2–3, and it is evident from what is written to these churches that the rapture could not happen for some time after the date of writing. Most of the passages which are supposed to prove the imminence of the rapture were written before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and the destruction of Jerusalem was prophesied in Daniel 9:26 to occur before the coming of the antichrist. The destruction of Jerusalem was also prophesied by Jesus (Matt 22:7; 24:2; Luke 19:43-44). Even the Old Testament prophesied that Jerusalem would exist as a Jewish population center throughout the tribulation period (Zech 12; 14:2), so the prophecies of Jerusalem’s destruction also imply that Jerusalem would be rebuilt and reoccupied by the Jews before the tribulation period. Daniel 9:27 explicitly requires the existence of a Jewish state in Israel and a Jewish temple in Jerusalem at the start of the tribulation period, following the destruction of Jerusalem after the rejection of the Messiah (Dan 9:26). All of the New Testament books from Matthew to 2 Peter were written before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. With so many prophecies of Jerusalem’s destruction, including the prophecies by Jesus, surely the apostles would not have been so ignorant as to think that the rapture could occur before that event, nor would the Holy Spirit have allowed them to say so.

Jesus himself indicated that He would not return immediately after His ascension. In Acts 1:8, He told His disciples, “you will be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” He also said, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt 28:18-20; cf. Luke 24:47). Although the Great Commission does not end with the rapture (cf. Matt 28:20, “even until the end of the world”), it was obviously directed first to the church and therefore could not have been obeyed had the rapture occurred shortly after Pentecost, for it would take time to evangelize the whole world (cf. Matt 13:37-39; Acts 2:39). Indeed, the entire point of the parables Jesus spoke in Matthew 13 is that there will be a considerable gap of time between the offer of the messianic kingdom at the first advent and the coming of the kingdom at the second advent. During this interim period, the membership of the kingdom is being formed as the gospel of the kingdom is proclaimed. These parables are designed to address a question that would have arisen after the previous chapter (Matthew 12), namely, what happens to God’s kingdom program when the Messiah is rejected? The answer is that the kingdom will still come, but not immediately. In the parable of the mustard seed (Matt 13:31-32; Mark 4:30-32), the image of the great tree with birds nesting in it shows that the church will become global, and that the age will not end until it has reached a point of maturity. The parable of the wheat and the tares, the parable of the seed which grows and ripens, and the parable the leaven also show that the age will not end until it has come to maturity (Matt 13:24-43; Mark 4:26-29; cf. Luke 13:18-29, which is in the context of the salvation of the nations). These all imply a significant interim period. The parable of the nobleman who goes on a long journey (Luke 19:11-27) teaches the same thing, and Luke says Jesus told that parable because the disciples “supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (Luke 19:11). The parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price show that it will cost you everything in this life to gain the kingdom, again implying that the kingdom is not immediate (Matt 13:44-46; cf. Mark 8:34-38). Jesus’ statement, “And lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the world” (Matt 28:20) also suggests that the world would not end for some time to come. Jesus’ final instructions to the disciples before His death in Luke 22:35-37 are to prepare for opposition and a long journey.

In the Gospels, even the demons expressed knowledge that the time of their final punishment was not yet at hand (Matt 8:29), and Revelation 12:12 says Satan will know when his time is short. In Philippians 1:20-26, Paul discusses his struggle between death and life, which one he would prefer. He says, “I am torn between the two” (Phil 1:23) that is, between death and life. He does not mention a third option, for Paul apparently did not consider it possible that he could be raptured at the moment he was writing. Paul also says the apostles are “as men doomed to death” (1 Cor 4:9), not mentioning the rapture (remember that John 21:22-23 does not say that John would not die). In Revelation 2:10, Christ commands the church in Smyrna to be “faithful unto death,” implying that they would not be taken to heaven alive in the rapture. The popular phrase “if the Lord tarries” is not found in the New Testament, while the phrase “if the Lord wills” occurs several times (Acts 18:21; 1 Cor 4:19; 16:7; Heb 6:3; James 4:15). In John 21:22, Jesus says, “If I want him to tarry until I come, what is that to you?” This shows that Jesus would not be coming immediately: it is John who has to tarry if he is to have a possibility of being raptured.

Besides the prophecies already noted which directly predict specific events during the Church Age, there are also numerous prophecies which describe the world of the tribulation period in terms that were incapable of fulfillment before modern times, proving that the rapture could not have been imminent throughout church history. In many cases, these prophecies show that the world still today has not yet matured to the state in which it is found at the beginning of the tribulation period, though it is getting closer.  (For more details, see this post.) For example, when John wrote the book of Revelation, there were approximately 250 million people in the entire world, yet he describes a fully mechanized army of 200 million in Revelation 9:16-19. Even during World War II, there were never more than 50 million men in uniform in all the armed forces of the world combined. Today the manpower for an army of 200 million is available in Asia, but the Asian countries do not possess the vast quantity of tanks and other equipment necessary to arm such a force. Thus, the sixth trumpet judgment of Revelation 9:13-21 was incapable of fulfillment before the global population boom of modern times, and even today the nations of Asia are not capable of equipping an army of 200 million men.

Prophecies of the tribulation period also include clear indications of an instantaneous global communications system, which did not exist until very recently. For example, how could people everywhere on the earth immediately hear the news of the deaths of the two witnesses and look at their dead bodies lying on the street, if not through modern digital communications (Rev 11:9-10)? A global communications system that includes a system of electronic financial transactions is also indicated by prophecies of the worldwide implementation of the mark of the beast, without which no one can buy or sell (Rev 13:16-18). Although the technology for such a system exists today, there are still many underdeveloped parts of the world that currently lack the infrastructure to require all financial transactions to be processed electronically, and there are currently many different electronic payment systems and currencies.

Significantly for the present article, the prophecy of a single entity, Babylon the Great, making all the nations of the world wealthy and corrupting them all with its value system demands the existence of a highly developed system of global exchange that has only recently come into being, by means of modern modes of transportation and communication.

Some pretribulationists posit a gap of indeterminate length between the rapture and the tribulation period in an attempt to avoid the problem of the world not currently being in the state in which it is found at the start of the tribulation period. However, according to Daniel 9:24-27, the prophetic clock of God’s timetable for Israel stopped when the Jewish people refused to accept Christ as their King, crucifying Him instead. The church is a parenthesis in God’s program for Israel, a non-national people of God that will move the nation of Israel to jealousy and repentance (Rom 11:11). The prophetic clock starts ticking again when the church is removed from the earth at the rapture, and the nation of Israel resumes its role as the principal people of God on earth (cf. Rom 11:25-27). Daniel 9:27 reveals that God’s program for Israel takes seven years to finish before the complete fulfillment of the promises to the nation of Israel in the messianic kingdom. In other words, when the church is removed, its role is immediately restored to Israel—there is no other candidate to replace the church in God’s program—and there are only seven years left in God’s program for Israel before the promise of the messianic kingdom is fulfilled. Thus, there is no gap between the rapture and the start of the tribulation period.

Theological problems with imminence

The doctrine of imminence is a crucial issue because it determines a whole system of interpretation of prophetic passages. Specifically, imminence dictates a sort of eschatological “agnosticism” (for lack of a better term), i.e., an eschatological non-knowing. The teaching that we cannot know when the rapture will occur results in an insistence upon interpreting prophecy vaguely enough so as to make the return of Christ at any moment theoretically possible. Imminence cannot accept any interpretation which would imply that certain events must yet happen before the rapture. But imminence also asserts that the return of Christ could be hundreds or thousands of years away, meaning that interpretations which apply prophecy specifically to the current world situation cannot be put forward with dogmatism. Nor is there any need to know these details if they will not affect the lives of believers during the Church Age. Thus, imminence sets a method of interpretation which results in broad agreement on some general doctrines of eschatology, but which cannot hope to explain any of the specifics or details, since these would necessarily be restricted to a certain period of time; imminence cannot even allow for positive identification of prophesied events, countries, and persons prior to the rapture. This is a serious problem, because prophetic passages are quite clearly specific and detailed; they contain numerous references to specific places, persons, conditions, regions, and countries in the world of the end times—above all, Israel. In order to maintain the position that the rapture could happen at any moment, some prophetic passages must be interpreted in a figurative or idealized manner in order to allow for a range of interpretations; or, the reality of the current world situation must itself be twisted, with pastors and popular writers alike claiming that the everything is now in place for the tribulation to begin, only to be proved wrong again and again.

The generalized nature of an imminence-based eschatology has contributed much to the state of mass confusion in evangelical eschatology. Since few details are inherent in this eschatological system, interpretations of the details cannot be standardized and interlocked among prophetic passages, or even made coherent. Those within this system are free to develop their own views of the details, drawing upon sundry evangelical authors, popular entertainment, conjecture, or almost anything else, to form their own opinions. Often interpreters blend various things they have heard. They are able to do this because there is nothing about an imminence-based eschatology which constrains or discourages them from holding widely divergent views on specific prophetic passages. This problem is not limited to laymen: scholars who put forth imminence-based interpretations are also unable to agree on the details. In fact, the lack of order in popular eschatology and the numerous varieties of views are chiefly characteristic of premillennial dispensationalism. Something is wrong. The state of confusion in premillennialism is a direct result of its failure to understand the rapture properly. This is indicated by the fact that many of the disputes within premillennialism are about the rapture, and new theories about the rapture continue to be put forward by premillennialists.

Because imminence results in an unclear and uncertain interpretation of prophecy, the doctrine of imminence is foreign to premillennialism. Clarity and certainty on prophetic issues is central to the premillennial outlook. Imminence hinders these aims, for it mandates a figurative or generalized interpretation of certain passages when the literal interpretation would be too specific or problematic for the doctrine of imminence—a method that is at odds with the literal hermeneutic. Unlike parables, which are intended only as illustrations of a principle, each detail of a prophetic vision carries a literal significance. In fact, the language of prophecy is the most precise in all the Bible. Consider how every prophecy that has been fulfilled has been fulfilled literally and in every specific detail (e.g., Dan 2:31-33, 36-40; 7:1-7, 17; 11:2-35). There is absolutely no indication that eschatological prophecies were meant only to communicate generic truths, so that they could fit any of many possible world situations. Prophecies have specific referents, and they are meant to be specific enough so that they will fit one, and only one, recognizable fulfillment. Only pagan oracles were designed to fit a broad spectrum of outcomes, since the pagan prophets did not know what would happen in the future. If biblical prophecy really is not precise enough and detailed enough to allow the positive identification of its referents before all is fulfilled, then it may well be questioned whether biblical prophecy is prophecy at all, for apparently it has no specific content and could just as easily describe any of a large number of possible outcomes, with no way to verify its accuracy. But if prophecy is prophecy, then the claim made by imminence that prophetic referents cannot be identified in the last days is a denial of the perspicuity of Scripture, since it claims that the descriptions of eschatological entities in prophecy are so vague that they could plausibly be applied to any world situation at any time throughout the entire Church Age.

The Bible does not teach that believers will not be able to recognize the end times when they come. In fact, the detail of biblical prophecy suggests exactly the opposite. A clear indication that we are living in the end times is that Israel is regathered and established in the land, and has now been self-governing for nearly 75 years and in full possession of Jerusalem since 1967. The modern state of Israel, with Satan’s vehement opposition to it and God’s unmistakable establishment of it in the face of Satan’s attacks, shows that God’s program is driving towards a conclusion in our time. Nevertheless, because of the doctrine of imminence, dispensationalism, which has developed a coherent theology of Israel past and Israel future, struggles to understand Israel present. Imminence cannot even allow for the possibility that there could be prophecies of Israel’s pretribulational restoration to the land. Many pretribulationists claim on the basis of imminence that the modern state of Israel may not have any prophetic significance whatsoever—it could be destroyed, and the nation could be scattered and regathered again prior to the tribulation period. This is then sometimes used as justification for political opposition or indifference to the state of Israel. Thus, those who hold to imminence can never present a cogent perspective on what God is doing in our time, and their failure has serious practical ramifications due to the profound eschatological significance of contemporary events. Imminence denies that the direction of history in the present day is knowable, or even that there is a biblical framework for understanding the modern state of Israel. Yet one of the major reasons why God gave prophecy is so that believers who are living in the end times would know what is going on in the world and what will happen next, and can plan accordingly (cf. Dan 12:8-10; Rev 22:10).

Conclusion

In some minds, it will be wholly legitimate to dismiss all the exegetical evidence for the identification of the United States with Babylon the Great, and to dismiss all the exegetical problems with alternative views of Babylon the Great, on the basis of the doctrine of imminence. This objection essentially says, “That view cannot be right because it contradicts my theology.” However, a better approach is to say, “Part of my theology cannot be right, because it does not fit the Bible.” Imminence is a carryover from amillennialism, in which there is no clearly defined endgame—Jesus returns arbitrarily at some point in history, without any particular event to prompt His return. Imminence is also based, in part, on the failure to distinguish clearly enough between the rapture and the second coming, resulting in the misidentification of many passages which refer to the second coming as rapture passages.

Imminence has handcuffed pretribulational interpreters, resulting in an eschatological agnosticism. Speculation runs rampant, because no one can know for sure what will happen next, and no one can positively identify any prophetic entity. But such a view cannot give a coherent account of Revelation 17–18. The description of Babylon the Great is far too specific to not be able to identify the entity described—the greatest superpower in the history of the world—before the start of the tribulation period. Attempts to preserve the doctrine of imminence by interpreting Babylon the Great as a false religious system (Revelation 17) and the antichrist’s empire (Revelation 18) are impossible on a literal reading of the book of Revelation.

Those who say that there could be a great worldwide revival or population loss or economic depression, or that Israel could be dispersed again in the Church Age, and that the rapture might not happen for two thousand more years, fail to understand the direction of history. History is not cyclical, endlessly repeating events without meaning; rather, the world is heading toward a goal, in accordance with God’s sovereign plan. Further, the world of today (Israel in the land, a great superpower corrupting the world and making all the nations wealthy, an alliance uniting all of Europe, digital currency, etc.) matches the description of the world of the end times in biblical prophecy far too precisely to doubt the conclusion that we are in fact living in the eschaton.

Some people mock those who recognize the fulfillment of biblical prophecy in their own time, pointing out that all such claimed fulfillments in church history proved to be wrong. Of course all attempts before modern times to match eschatological prophecy with the interpreter’s own time were a miserable failure, for the last days had not yet arrived. Yet when those attempted identifications are examined, it is obvious that they are all very stretched, and in no way does the prophecy literally resemble the purported fulfillment. It is not fair, therefore, to say that someone who correlates prophetic entities with entities in the world today is doing exactly the same thing as failed interpreters of prophecy from generations gone by. In fact, it stands to reason that as the tribulation period draws near, entities described in prophecy will come into existence in the world. I would argue that at any point in the history of the church, the best way to try to understand eschatological prophecy is to compare the current state of the world with the state of the world in the tribulation period in order to see if the tribulation period is near. If one is not living close in time to the tribulation period, then it will not be possible to make positive identifications of prophetic entities. The history of the interpretation of biblical prophecy proves that prophecy cannot be understood unless it is contextualized in the world in which the fulfillment will occur. Yet imminence denies the very possibility of contextualization. Interpreters who hold to imminence and who interpret prophecy in a manner consistent with that doctrine can only suggest generalized and very uncertain eschatological interpretations, resulting in confusion and speculation, due to the assertion that biblical prophecy cannot be related with certainty to the world in which we live.

On the other hand, some Bible teachers try to artificially make the Bible fit the current state of affairs in the world in order to make it sound as if the rapture could occur today and the tribulation could begin immediately, with the world stage already fully set. Indeed, virtually all premillennialists who have rejected the aspect of the doctrine of imminence which claims that nothing can be known about the timing of the rapture before it happens, nevertheless hold that the rapture could occur at any moment, and distort both prophecy and contemporary political events to make this seem possible. The argument of this essay is that both the view that the rapture could occur today, as well as the view that the rapture could occur thousands of years from now, must be rejected. Although the present world is to be identified with the world of the end times, it is clear that a number of changes must still occur in the world prior to the start of the tribulation period. These are not changes that can occur instantaneously, but are rather things that will require an extended period of time to unfold. Predicting such changes is not artificially fitting the Bible into the current geopolitical situation, since I am arguing that the final state of the age has not yet been reached. Further, these predictions would seem highly implausible and speculative apart from the prophetic Word. Consider the following: (1) The United States will lead the world in the mass murder of evangelical, Bible-believing Christians (Rev 17:6; 18:20, 24; 19:2). (2) The whole world will use a single digital currency and/or electronic payment system, which will be controlled by the United States (Zech 5:5-11; cf. Rev 13:16-17; 17:18). (3) Israel will achieve full peace with the Arab world and will voluntarily disarm (Ezek 38:8, 11-12). (4) Forty or so nations in Europe will be consolidated into a confederation of ten (Dan 7:7-8, 23-24). (5) A Jewish temple will be built in Jerusalem, where the Dome of the Rock now stands (Dan 9:27; 2 Thess 2:4). (6) There will be fully mechanized armies in East, South, and Southeast Asia with a combined strength of two hundred million men (Rev 9:13-21). These six very specific predictions can hardly be described as fitting the Bible into the current state of world affairs or as following conventional wisdom. But conventional wisdom is seldom an accurate guide to the future, for the course of history turns on radical and unusual developments—often stemming from apparently minor causes—that conventional wisdom can never foresee. Conventional wisdom only sees current trends and current knowledge, and cannot foresee the forces that will interject change into history. Scripture, on the other hand, has given believers a description of the key entities in the world of the end times, so that we can understand the direction of events in the present time, as eschatological events begin to unfold. The rejection of the doctrine of imminence is necessary to understand the eschatological significance of present events.

Both the previous post and this one are part of a chapter in a commentary on the book of Revelation that I am writing. That chapter can be downloaded here. Support for this work is appreciated; see the About page to make a donation.