Thursday, February 23, 2017

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Date-Setting Madness

For centuries many have tried to predict the date of Yeshua’s return, often with disastrous results. We had the infamous William Miller movement of the 1800’s (of which I am strongly urged to write/preach more about). We endured 8/8/88. Then we panicked before the Y2K scenario. Don’t forget the update to the 8/88 prediction for 2007 (N.B.: original prediction was 1948+40 = 1998, updated prediction 1967+40 = 2007). Now we have to suffer through 2012 and 2015. I am seriously tempted to run a betting pool similar to college hoops pools for “March Madness.” Does the prophetic madness of God’s people ever end?

Yeshua made it quite clear that the timing of his return was not known by us mere mortals. A few examples from Scripture demonstrate this rather clearly.

When Yeshua was about to ascend into heaven after his resurrection, his students asked him: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6)?” (N.B.: It was customary to see the Messiah’s appearance as a king, hence the expected ascendancy of Israel.) The divine response: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority (Acts 1:7).” Interestingly, Yeshua then discusses with his students the need to be witness of the gospel rather than be obsessed with his return (oh I could go there but I will remain on point).

Yeshua was consistent on this concept of not setting dates for his return. Yeshua declares, “concerning the day or hour no one knows, not even the angles in heaven nor the Son but only the Father (Mark 13:32).” Matthew 25:13 echoes the same point. Why else would Yeshua command us to “watch” if we knew the exact time of his appearing?

But wait a moment … stop the presses … there is a “new” theory going around that claims the phrase “knows the day nor the hour” is a Hebrew idiom. What is the evidence of this? Sadly, the “evidence” I have found to date is that calling this an idiom allows people to say what they want to say. And that is the entire problem; people do not know how to handle the Word of God accurately (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

An idiom is a word or phrase where the meaning is different from appearances. For example, we say that “Albert is cool.” That might mean (a) my temperature is below ambient, or (b) I am trendy or popular. The word cool itself is not an idiom, but the context dictates important clues for the use of an idiom. For example, “Albert is really cool because he refused to wear a jacket” could go either way (option a or b). But if the author articulates that I did not wear a jacket because I wanted to break the status quo (I did attend Catholic school after all), we can surmise that the author likely meant option (b) above. If the author states that my temperature was 97 degrees, we can surmise the author meant physiological temperature, and hence meaning (a). Context matters, even for idioms.

What do we find if we look at the context of this so-called idiom in the gospels? If you read the rest of the passages in the gospels, the context is clear and unchanged: the timing of Yeshua’s return is not known. The parables Yeshua tells makes it clear that his intended meaning behind “day and hour” is not an idiom or code. The final nail in the coffin is that Paul carries on this interpretation of not knowing in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2. The fact that the precise timing of the return of the Lord is unknown could not be clearer.

We could go on but the point is set: don’t set dates because nothing good can come from this.

The truth is that prophecy is not as “simple” as many claim it to be. Whenever I hear someone offer a “key” to prophecy I get very nervous. Many of the mainline false religions of our day got their start in unfounded prophetic interpretations.

One caveat: don’t take this warning as a caution against Biblical prophecyin general. Prophecy is after all, in Scripture. But the deal here is not to go beyond what is written and please don’t be so puffed up to think you have all the answers. Such presumption and arrogance is unbecoming of a disciple of Yeshua.

Times like this the “date setters” should be thankful that we do not live in a theocracy as did ancient Israel. False prophets were those who predicted things that did not come true, and the penalty was death (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). Ouch.

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