TRUTH OR DECEPTION?
Understanding the Prophetic Way
Mention to someone the word "prophecy" and immediately their mind will conjure up a stereotype -- prophecy is, they will tell you, foretelling the future. It is, however, as anyone who has studied the Bible deeply will tell you, far more than that. Prophecy quite typically is symbolic, and deliberately so, so that only the initiated understand its meaning. And perhaps one of the best biblical examples of this kind of prophecy is the Book of Revelation which even today Christian scholars and laymen are still trying to understand.
I know many people who, interpreting a prophecy or a revelation in one particular way, react angrily by accusing the prophet of "deception" when they have misinterpreted it. As far as they are concerned, if a revelation is not clear and immediately understood, then there is something wrong with the prophet who is in some way trying to deceive them. Unfortunately for them, they have misunderstood not only the prophets but the prophetic way.
Only for Earnest Seekers
Truth yields itself only to those who are earnestly seeking for it. In Jesus' day and since there have been many people who have believed that Christians are cannibals. Taking literally Jesus' command to "eat His flesh" and "drink His blood" they have misunderstood the prophetic method. Nicodemus misunderstood too, taking Jesus' teaching that a man needed to be reborn again as literal rather than symbolic.
But perhaps the greatest confusion that has resulted concerning the prophetic method concerns the Old Testament's predictions of the coming of the Messiah. To this day millions of Jews are still looking for a Messiah and have not recognised the prophecies concerning Jesus Christ. For the Old Testament blends two events together in its prophecies -- both the First and Second Comings -- the one spiritual (the establishment of His Messianic Community or Church) and the other temporal (the establishment of Zion and the political Theocracy). Why, one might argue, are these two events not more cleatly separated so as to be obvious to everyone and so avoid misinterpretation, misunderstaning and confusion? The answer is to separate out the pure in heart from those who are not.
A Purposeful Gift
All prophecy and revelation has a purpose -- to save souls. Prophecy does not exist simply to titilate people's curiosity about the future. God's prophets are not magicians or wizzards. They are ministers of salvation with a rather special calling to get the pure in heart to search for, and respond appropriately to, the truth. God has much that He wishes to teach mankind but He cannot teach indiscriminately. He must, in order to prevent the holy being "trampled by swine", conceal the deeper mysteries from all by those who are willing to pray the price to know them. God is, as one theologican put it, "bashful". And for this reason He remains hidden and invisible to all but the pure in heart -- to all those who really want to know Him and to invest time, effort, prayer, and study to discover the nature of the Most High One.
As everyone who is married know, for any relationship to thrive, effort and time must be invested. The wise man will not reveal his inmost self indiscriminately to any Tom, Dick, or Harry, but to friends whom he can trust. As anyone who has had a confidant who has subsequently betrayed him knows, it is a wise man who is remains concealed to those who would wish him harm. But to those who are full of love and who are trustworthy, he makes himself transparent. This is true of the marriage relationship as it is true of the relationship between God and His people, which also is a marriage relationship. And the same is true of the prophetic word: For those who are pure in heart, the prophetic word opens itself effortlesly; but for those who are not pure, the Word remains (as one preacher once remarked) "as brass".
God's Concealed Mystery
It is in this way that God conceals His mystery from the unrighteous and wicked. There were many in Jesus's day who thought that John the Baptist and Jesus were the re-incarnated Elijah "come back from the dead". Even though reincarnation is not a biblical doctrine, the unrighteous and unenlightened misunderstood scriptural revelations and propehcies that said "Elijah" would return. Only those who possessed the Holy Spirit understood that John the Baptist came in the spirit or ministry of Elijah, as Elisha did before him and not as some supposedly reincarnated being.
In the New Covenant Church prophetic revelation follows very much the same lines. Much is concealed that is not visible to any but those who are pure in heart and enlightened. Much has been misunderstood. Many have left the Church with erroneous views not only of the revelatory method but also the prophetic method and have blamed their lack of understanding on the revelators and prophets. It will likely always be like this.
This page was created on 16 October 1997
Last updated on 20 February 1998
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