From The Cross in the End-Times
The contention made by pretribulation proponents today that because the Bible is rich in prophetic content we should therefore be readily capable of accurately interpreting end-times prophecy ahead of time is in my opinion an over-reach of horizontally conventional thinking. The notion that we can piece together all of end-times prophesies in a highly detailed sequential chain of events, fundamental to the pretribulation program, should at the very least be approached with some amount of healthy questioning based upon the brief arguments made above.
The best current projection of upcoming events can only be partially accurate because all of the end-times information is not in yet. Human intellect combined with an assessment of current events can only take us so far at this point in time. As frustrating as this may be to human intellectual pride and hubris, we still need to exercise faith regarding our full understanding of upcoming biblical end-times prophecies. We will need Holy Spirit revelation according to the Joel 2:28-29 verses to illuminate more fully the whole end-times picture. We will need Spirit-filled Christians having the gift of prophecy to contribute additional details according to God’s will and timing, with a “thus sayeth the Lord” quality of authority to back up their pronouncements, over and above mere human intellectual, scholarly opinion.
In Revelation 10:4, God actually instructs John to “Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.” This clearly indicates that God is not telling us absolutely everything through the current biblical end-times prophetic revelation.
During the preceding decades 10 A.D. and 20 A.D. leading up to the start of the ministry of Jesus Christ, there were many Jews living in Israel who had difficulty reconciling the two prevalent views of the coming Messiah as presented in the Old Testament. Some verses portrayed a political king who would free the nation of Israel from its enemies (Isa. 11:10-12; Jer. 23:5-8; Ezek. 37:21-28), and some prophetic verses portrayed the Messiah as someone who would suffer (Isa. 53). Combined within a single advent, these two views seemed on the surface to be in contradiction. They needed the actual events to occur to clarify their meaning.
Some Jews, as they listened to John the Baptist preach by the river Jordan, said to themselves that something momentous was in the making, and that they would wait and see how events would unfold. Yet no one anticipated that God Himself, through His Son Jesus Christ, would sacrifice His human body through Roman crucifixion as atonement for our sins. This took everyone by surprise. This is why Jesus lightly criticized the two disciples on the road to Emmaus by saying “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” (Lk. 24:25-26).
In hindsight, all of the Old Testament “types” and prophecies made perfect sense in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even the brutally honest and pride humbling thought of God having to sacrifice Himself on our account, through His crucifixion for our sins, only made clear sense looking back in hindsight. The sheer blindness of self-inflated pride would have prevented mankind from seeing beforehand our great need for God’s help.
If those Jews, pondering these events as they unfolded, kept an open mind and open heart, God eventually revealed the full truth about the nature and person of the Messiah. Not only did people like the apostles and disciples come to finally understand the events of the cross and the resurrection (in hindsight), but people like Nicodemus the Pharisee and Joseph of Arimathaea also were probably rewarded with full salvation faith (although not recorded in scripture) after the resurrection of Jesus. These two men, like many in Israel, partially grasped the importance of the life of Jesus of Nazareth in-the-moment, as evidenced by their timely and inspired procurement of His body from the cross and the subsequent preparation of an honorable burial for Jesus. Thousands of people were converted to faith in Jesus at Pentecost (Acts 2:41), after the crucifixion and resurrection.
All of the truths and information about the upcoming end-times events are contained within the pages of the Bible that we hold in our hands and can study every day (excepting the upcoming Joel 2:28-29 dreams, visions, and prophecies). Like the Jews of the first century leading up to the ministry of Jesus, the problem is that we do not yet fully understand the prophetic verses that point forward toward the future.
Mark 15:29-30 records the amazing (in hindsight) failure of the people to comprehend the meaning of what Jesus had said prior to His crucifixion:
29 And they that passed by railed at him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days,
30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross.
Jesus was in the process of destroying the temple that was His body, at the precise moment these people were taunting Him, because they had no conception of what was happening. They had no idea that when He referred to the destruction and rebuilding of the temple a few days previous to His crucifixion, that He was speaking about His own bodily death and resurrection.
The meaning of His words was locked up within an understanding of His fulfillment of age-old scriptures as the atoning Lamb of God sacrifice for sin. It took people looking backward in hindsight, including the disciples, to get this right. The same thing may be true in our day, as we attempt to look forward and figure out with precision the upcoming events of the last days. We may not put all of the pieces perfectly together either as we attempt to construct a preview of end-of–time events.
Jeremiah 23:5-6 reads: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.” This important prophetic verse clearly applies to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Messiah and our Savior. But it shows how mistaken we can be when we apply prophetic verses to the wrong time period. Jesus did not “execute justice and righteousness in the earth” in the immediate political and social sense. Jesus was crowned with thorns and crucified by the religious and civil authorities.
The timing of this verse is critical to its correct application. This Jeremiah verse applies not to the first advent of Christ in the first century A.D., but to His second advent at the end of the ages. How would anyone know this beforehand without further clarifying information? We understand this verse today only through the benefit of hindsight. Scholarly erudition before the actual events unfolded in first century Jerusalem tragically fell short of a clear understanding of these prophetic Jeremiah scriptures.
The themes contained within the biblical narrative stories of faith are not about worldly conventional pursuits of normalcy in full possession of all of the future facts upfront. These narrative stories are risk-filled adventures into the partially unknown in tentative faith and trust in the competency and foresight of God, often in the middle of life-and-death circumstances balanced on the edge of a precipice. The uniquely biblical “journey of faith” is a God-composed, divinely inspired enterprise aimed way above our individual self-interests involving self-sacrifice for the eventual good of others and ourselves beyond anything humans could or would invent.