By Mike Edwards
Many claim dogmatically that the Bible predicts future events such as what is happening in Israel currently and the end-times when Jesus returns down to earth. I am no biblical scholar, but many who makes such claims fail to recognize that biblical experts don’t agree on the meaning of many passages that may or may not relate to future events. We all must admit there is no consensus of beliefs about prophecies in the Bible. I trust more those who admit their interpretation of ancient literature (Bible) could be wrong.
Why our views on prophecy matter!
It is hard for people to take God seriously if future events supposedly made according to the Bible keep not coming true. Secondly, prophecies that aren’t conditional on how people respond to God assumes God doesn’t respect the freedom to change. God didn’t force anyone to kill Jesus. They could have accepted Jesus’ message. Finally, believing the world is coming to an end and somehow God is going to rescue you in the sky can lead to passivity. We mustn’t wait on God to “fix” things by coming again. We must do all we can for the next generation!
Prophecies may only be warning about future possibilities
I have written here why God can’t know the future, thus prophecies aren’t likely claiming what definitely will happen in the future. One can assume most prophecies are conditional because God changes if people will repent of their evil ways. God’s nature requires most prophecies predicated on human actions being conditional. For example, in the Old Testament Jonah advised Ninevah they would be destroyed in 40 days, but then God relented because the Ninevites turn from their evil ways. Admittedly, some prophecies many suggest what God intends to do that doesn’t impact human freedom — God can promise an afterlife after death.
In the New Testament Jesus predicted Peter would deny Him three times but Jesus also prayed Peter’s faith would not fail (Lk. 22: 32–34). Predictions stated to be from God can be conditional. A professor may observe a student and warn they will fail their class but hoping the student avoids such failure. Keep in mind the future is not totally unpredictable for humans much less God. A skilled physician can predict the death of a seemingly healthy individual because of symptoms that escape the untrained eye. Remember, God’s Spirit is present everywhere, thus God’s knowledge is unimaginably extensive.
What about OT predictions about Jesus the Messiah?
The most talked about prophecies in the Old Testament (OT) is the forthcoming of the Messiah Jesus and their subsequent death. But Jesus prayed to God that He might be spared of dying on the Cross (Mt. 26:39). Such a prayer seems meaningless unless Jesus’ life could have been spared. God changes their mind if people change. Psalm 22 is said to predict Jesus’ life and crucifixion. These passages could also be referring to sufferings known by the writer in OT times such as King David. NT writers can use past historical passages to illustrate Jesus’ current life and crucifixion.
What about “end times” mentioned in the Bible?
There is much talk of biblical prophecies coming to pass because of what is going on between Israel and Hamas. Is God coming again (rapture/tribulation/Armageddon) to destroy this world as we know it and set up God’s reign? There is some biblical evidence that the end times mentioned refer to what happened in the first century, thus having been fulfilled:
- If the Bible teaches God is coming again to destroy the world in the future, why did Jesus tell his audience that supposed predictions about the world ending (maybe not a physical ending) would happen in their lifetime: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass way until all these things have happened” (Mt. 24:34)?” Jesus said to his audience when asked about the last days: “watch out that no one deceives you….you will hear of wars and rumors of war (Mt. 24:4–6). Why would Jesus use such language if the world was going to end 2000 years and counting?
- The Apostle Paul assured his audience they have not missed the “day of the Lord” (2 Thess. 2:1–12). Why was Paul’s audience fearful they could miss the coming of Jesus if such a coming is supposedly a rapture-removing, visible, world-ending coming? Only a non-visible, spiritual coming of Jesus could possibly be missed. The disciples did not think of Jesus’ coming as being visible as they ask: “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age” (Mt. 24:3). Besides, Peter writes to his readers in the first century that “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Pe. 4:7).
Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like He can be contacted by email at: email@example.com