Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Introduction to Eschatology: Forewarned?

Last time I said that prophecy doesn't typically forewarn us. In fact, the goal of prophecy is not prospective but retrospective: you don't truly appreciate it until after the fact. Let's review a scripture from last time:

John 14:29 "I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe."

See the point? He doesn't forewarn them so they will prepare, much less to satisfy their curiosity. He tells them so that when it catches them napping and they finally wake up, they will be encouraged to believe.

This is also why Jesus predicted Peter's denial: not to forewarn him, because it was going to happen anyway, but to encourage him after the fact with the knowledge that Jesus had known about it all along. Let's get the context:

Luke 22:31-32 "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you [all of you--the disciples] as wheat. But I have prayed for you [individually], Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

Then Peter says he won't fail Jesus and gets the denial prophecy. But the idea was that when he had failed, he could look back at this and realize that Jesus had known and prayed for him, so he could turn back and strengthen the others. This is the typical pattern.

I sometimes call Luke "the hidden Gospel" because it consistently presents the hiddenness of prophecy: prophecy usually is not meant to be understood beforehand. Thus, we may wonder why the disciples didn't understand about Jesus' death and resurrection when he kept predicting it, but Luke explains:

Luke 9:45 But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

Luke 18:34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

Similarly, the disciples going to Emmaus met Jesus after his resurrection,

Luke 24:16 but they were kept from recognizing him.

And when the disciples helped blatantly fulfill prophecy, they didn't get it at the time. We read in John 12:16,

At first his disciples did not understand all this [=the triumphal entry]. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him.

I've heard a lot of people claim that the disciples knew their actions in getting the donkey, etc., fulfilled prophecy. Untrue: you don't get prophecy in advance. This is why the modern End-times Prophecy industry is dead wrong. It hasn't happened yet, so we don't get it. God won't let us understand beforehand, just as he kept the disciples from figuring it out before the fact.

Bear in mind that the prophecy experts of Jesus' time knew all about the coming of the Messiah, and they still thought Jesus was a fake! Why? Because they already had all the answers, so they weren't really trusting God:

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding...

Next time we'll look at why it's reasonable to study prophecy even though we know we won't get it in advance.

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