Arguments over eschatology often culminate when one party says to the other, “Brother, just read the Bible.” For whatever reason the person who says this usually believes that this statement scores him an automatic point. I agree that the Bible must be our ultimate source when we are discussing doctrines, however, how a person reads the Bible then becomes a very important matter.
There are some Christians who claim to be strict literal interpreters of the Scripture and yet how they define literal is very selective in deed. One of the areas where supposed literal interpreters of the Bible like to play carefree with the facts is in that area of Biblical interpretation that deals with time. A few examples should illustrate what I mean.
- The early chapters of Genesis can be embarrassing when compared with the discoveries of modern science, so we will place a gap of indeterminate length between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
- Jesus only seemed to say that he would be “coming soon.” Soon is not a term that has anything to do with length of time, but means that His coming could be at “any moment.” So soon in reality means immanent.
- In Daniel’s vision of the “70 Weeks,” the time table that the text brings us is long since over with, but the “strict literalists” again find a gap of indeterminate length between the 69th and 70th week.
- This generation in Matthew 24:34 does not mean. this generation it means…and there is a long list of corrections to what Jesus said so that are able to save Jesus from an embarrassing “false prophecy.”
Hal Lindsey begins his “Late Great Planet Earth.” with a comparison between Biblical Prophets and other so called predictors of the future. The # 1 criteria he lists is that the prophet of God must be 100% correct. If they are not, then they are not a Biblical prophet. He then shows how famed astrologist Jeanne Dixon fails the test of a true prophet. I am in no way defending Jeanne Dixon, but Hal seems to be operating with a stacked deck.
If I predicted that the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series next year, and I staked my entire reputation on that prediction, who would let me get away with inserting a gap of indeterminate length between my prediction and the someday future fulfillment? I don’t think anyone would let me have a pass and yet many of the “most respected” voices of Biblical prophecy want us to believe this is the way the Bible is written.
I do know there are difficult passages in the Bible that are not always the easiest to interpret, however, when the Bible speaks in terms of time, we don’t have to make excuses for the supposed mistakes. It is amazing, when we let the Bible actually mean what it says, how much clarity there is.
One of the scenarios I listed above is Daniel’s 70 weeks. I have read all kinds of fascinating and inventive scenarios regarding Daniel’s 70 weeks. But what is at the heart of all of them is the idea that in order for Biblical Prophecy to be fulfilled accurately one of those Gaps of indeterminate length must be inserted between the 69th and 70th week. Rather than strengthening one’s belief in Biblical prophecy such an interpretive scheme actually undermines one’s believe in the clear meaning of the text.
The events spoken of in the vision of Daniel’s 70 weeks were all fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I will write about this a little bit more in my next entry.