Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, January 8, 2023
Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,
Why Study Bible Prophecy?
by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: I mention in this RR a few reasons the Believer should study Bible prophecy. Since entire books and countless articles have been written on this subject, my few paragraphs only scratch the surface.
SIDELIGHT: I frequently see two related words– prophecy and prophesy– incorrectly used. If you know the difference, please skip this sidelight.
● Prophecy, a noun, is pronounced PRAH-feh-see.
● Prophesy, a verb, is pronounced PRAH-feh-sai (or, prah-feh-SAI).
● Used in a sentence: “Chosen servants of God (prophets) hear from the Ruach ha-Kodesh and PROPHESY [verb] future events; they write what they hear in a PROPHECY [noun], so that others may read God’s message.” END sidelight.
PROPHECY– GOD’S MESSAGE TO US FOR OUR TIME: What a mess the world is in! If God slept, would He lose sleep over what is happening? No. God is always awake (Psalm 121:4): Behold, the Keeper of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. An always-awake, in-control God has known what is happening today since creation. He knows that the past and present– and, importantly, the future– world events are on schedule and are properly progressing toward the end, as He has always known would happen. See 2 Peter 1:21: For no prophecy was ever brought forth by human will; rather, people spoke from God as they were moved by the Ruach ha-Kodesh.
Adonai has known– and revealed through Bible book authors and Yeshua– the past, present, and future, even from the beginning:
● Isaiah 46:9-10: [God said] “Remember the former things of old. For I am God– there is no other. I am God, and there is none like Me– declaring the end from the beginning, from ancient time, what is yet to come, saying, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will accomplish all that I please.’”
● Isaiah 42:9: [Adonai said] “Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things before they spring forth, I announce them to you.”
● Ecclesiastes 1:9: What has been is what will be, and what has been done will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.
● Amos 3:7: [Adonai said to Bnei Yisrael] “For the Lord Adonai, will do nothing, unless He has revealed His counsel to His servants the prophets.”
● Matthew 5:17: [Yeshua said] “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.”
How can God know the past, present, and future? Knowing the future seems impossible to us. The human mind cannot understand knowing something that has not yet happened. Adonai‘s intellect is infinitely superior to the human intellect (Isaiah 55:8-9): [Adonai said] “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways.” It is a declaration of Adonai. “For as the heavens are higher than earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
We cannot even begin to imagine how God can do some things He does. A dog has intellect, even though limited. Your intellect far surpasses a dog’s intellect, just as God’s intellect far surpasses your intellect. If a dog watches you get in your automobile and drive away, can the dog learn to drive? Of course not. A human can learn to drive, but a dog can never learn to drive.
Understanding an eternal God is beyond the human mind’s ability to grasp. Eternity past (no beginning) and eternity future (no ending) are impossible concepts for the human mind. The human mind can somewhat understand eternity future (no end), but eternity past (no beginning) is something that cannot be understood. We are conditioned to think everything must have a beginning.
It helps me to visualize a parade and compare it to the passage of time. If I stand on a sidewalk and watch a parade, I see only part of the parade’s bands and floats passing down the street:
● I see the parade immediately in front of me (which represents the present, and is covered by news reports and personal observations);
● I can remember the portion of the parade that just passed (which represents the past, and is covered in history books and personal memories); and
● I can hear and anticipate some of the bands down the street which have not yet passed in front of me (which represents the future, and is covered by prophecy).
I can never see the entire “parade” at one time (that is, I cannot fully understand the passage of time), because my vantage point is limited.
God, though, views the “parade” (the passage of time), not on the “sidewalk” where I must stand, but from on high. He sees the entire “parade” (the passage of time) from the beginning to the end (from the past to the future).
The Apostle Peter assured us of the importance and reliability of prophecy found in Scriptures (2 Peter 1:19-21):Furthermore, we have the reliable prophetic word. You do well by paying attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all understand this: no prophecy of Scripture comes about from a person’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever brought forth by human will; rather, people spoke from God as they were moved by the Ruach ha-Kodesh.
SOME REASONS TO STUDY PROPHECY: Study Bible prophecy carefully. Adonai has sent us a letter (Holy Scriptures) to explain the past and the present but, more importantly, to prepare us for the future.
If you believe the Holy Bible is God’s Word, you must believe that prophecy is important to God. For example:
● Approximately 28 percent of all Scripture verses deal with prophecy. Would God “waste” so much of His letter to us by dictating prophecy, if there is no purpose in our reading it?
● Prophecies are liberally strewn throughout the Tanakh and the B’rit Chadashah. Two books are almost exclusively prophetic in nature– the Book of Daniel (written in ca 536-530 BC) and The Revelation (written in ca AD 90-96).
● The Tanakh is usually divided into three portions– the Torah (Law), the Nevi’im (Prophets), and the Ketuvim (Writings).
● Yeshua figures prominently in Bible prophecy. Modifying slightly a quote from Augustine: “The Tanakh is Yeshua concealed; the B’rit Chadashah is Yeshua revealed.” There are 937 Scripture references in the Tanakh found in the B’rit Chadashah. One reason for Yeshua’s birth is that He fulfilled all the prophecies written about HaMashiach in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.
● The Apostle Paul was thankful for Messianic prophecies which preceded his arrival in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:13): For this reason, we also thank God constantly that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it truly is– the word of God, which does its work in you who believe. Incidentally, there are 400 Messianic prophecies– prophecies written before Yeshua’s birth– concerning His birth, life, and death. Yeshua carefully fulfilled all Messianic prophecies (except for those related to His second coming, which can only be fulfilled at a future date).
● Professor and theologian J. Barton Payne lists 1,817 prophecies in the Bible. Prophecies include the establishment of God’s Covenant people in His Covenant Land; exile of but return to the Covenant land of God’s Covenant people on three separate occasions; warning against mistreatment of His Covenant people; the birth, life, and death of the Messiah; the end of time; the future eternal life; and many other topics.
● Bible prophecies are amazingly detailed and explain (complement) prophecies made by different prophets at different times. There is a remarkably consistent narrative of time written by different authors over many centuries.
● More than half of Bible prophecies have already been fulfilled. As we near the end of time, we see how prophecies that were previously not understood can now be understood. For example (see Revelation, chapter 11), the Antichrist will kill the Two Witnesses, and their bodies will lie in disrespect and contempt on a Jerusalem street for three and one-half days, while the whole world watches and rejoices. For nearly two-thousand years, Bible readers must have wondered, “How can all people of the world travel to Jerusalem in just a few days?” We now know. “The world” will watch from their homes through satellite television.
● To my knowledge, no prophecy has ever been in error. (Some prophecies have yet to be fulfilled because it is not time for them to be fulfilled.)
● Examples of fulfilled prophecies include, among many others: the first coming of the Messiah, the appointment of the Messiah to be the Savior of the world, prophecies against specific people (such as Jezebel), prophecies about Israel, exile of God’s people to Babylon, destruction of the Second Temple, rise and fall of nations, and so forth.
● Examples of unfulfilled (yet-to-be-fulfilled) prophecies include, among many others: the second coming of the Messiah, the resurrection or rapture of Believers to eternal life in glory, the resurrection of unbelievers to eternal life in punishment, the millennial reign of the Messiah, the restoration of Israel, the creation of a new earth and new heaven, descent of New Jerusalem to the renewed earth, and so forth.
● Some prophecies have double fulfillment– a fulfillment near the time it was made and another fulfillment centuries later. For example: Isaiah 7:14 prophesied the birth of a child and served as a sign for King Ahaz, but it also pointed forward to the virgin birth of another Child, Yeshua (Matthew 1:22–23). Also, some students feel that Yeshua’s teaching in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) was partially fulfilled in the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, but will be more fully fulfilled in the last days.
REASONS TO STUDY PROPHECY: Although there are many reasons to study prophecy, Bradley Matson ( https://www.gracegospelpress.org/7-reasons-to-study-bible-prophecy/ ) discusses seven reasons the Believer should study prophecy. Being lazy, I will use his reasons in this RR:
● First reason: Prophecy is revealed by God. The first verse in The Revelation reads (Revelation 1:1a): The revelation of Yeshua the Messiah, which God gave Him to show to His servants the things that must soon take place…. In the Bible’s text, “Revelation” translates the Greek Ἀποκάλυψις (transliterated, Apokalypsis), which means “a revealing or disclosure.”
The Apostle Paul charged Timothy with the importance of studying ALL Scripture, not just the easy parts (2 Timothy 3:16-17): All Scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for restoration, and for training in righteousness, so that the person belonging to God may be capable, fully equipped for every good deed. “All” translates the Greek πᾶσα (pasa) and means exactly that– “all.” “Inspiration” translates the Greek θεόπνευστος (theopneustos), and literally means “God-breathed” or “God inspired.” When we study Scriptures, it is God “breathing out” or talking directly to us.
Look at Paul’s defense of ALL Scripture further. Scripture teaches us (we know what God’s requires of us), reproves us (orients us to the reality of being a child of God), restores us (sets our hearts on the path to righteousness), and trains us (teaches us God’s will for our lives). All of this study makes us better ambassadors for the Messiah and equips us to perform good deeds. Sadly, many pastors refuse to teach/ preach any part of the Bible related to prophecy.
● Second reason: More than one-fourth (approximately 28 percent) of the Bible is prophetic in nature. I have previously mentioned this, but if God believes prophecy is so important that He dictated this much of His letter to us in prophesying the future, who are we– whether a religious leader or a congregant– to tell Him we are not interested in studying what He has to tell us?
● Third reason: God’s reputation– His believability, His credibility– is staked on the accuracy of His prophecy. Prophetic utterances can be found in other religions, but never-failing prophecies are found only in the sacred Judeo-Christian book (the Holy Bible). A prophet’s true calling as a servant of God may be tested (Deuteronomy 18:20-22): [Adonai said] “’But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My Name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods– that prophet will die.’ Now should you say in your heart, ‘How would we recognize the word that Adonai has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in Adonai’s Name and the word does not happen or come true, that is a word that Adonai has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously– do not be afraid of him.” I have known religious folk who see themselves as prophets. They seem to have a “word from God” for every person they meet. Some of these “prophecies” are easily proven to be in error. We should avoid such “prophets” now, since we do not follow Deuteronomy 18:20 and put false prophets to death. See also Isaiah 41:21-29, in which God states His ability to declare future events is a primary evidence of His deity.
● Fourth reason: Knowing where we are in God’s plan enables us to cooperate with Him. By studying and understanding God’s master plan for us, as revealed in prophecy, we can cooperate more fully with His desires for us. Of seven congregation types addressed by Yeshua in chapters 2 and 3 of The Revelation, only the last two congregation types are in active existence today. We should strive to build Shomair Yisrael on the model of the congregation at Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13), not the congregation modeled after Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22). End-time prophecy clearly warns Believers not to cooperate in any manner with the Antichrist’s regime. Taking the Mark of the Beast or worshiping the Unholy Trinity will condemn a person’s soul to eternity in Hell (Revelation 14:9-11): And another angel, a third one, followed them, saying in a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast [the Antichrist] and his image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he shall also drink the wine of God’s fury, poured full strength into the cup of His wrath. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone before the holy angels and before the Lamb [Yeshua]. The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. Those who worship the beast and its image and those who receive the mark of his name have no rest day or night.”
● Fifth reason: Prophecy reveals God’s character. Without the finality of Scriptures, which describe the end, we are left with a woefully inadequate view of God’s character. If we are unaware of how God intends to close the drama here on planet Earth, then we may conclude that God is somehow okay with what is going on in the world today. Reading the Bible stripped of end-time prophecies is like seeing a murder mystery stage play and leaving before seeing the third act. Was the murder committed by the butler? The jealous lover? The selfish son? And so forth.
The world is a mess and seems to be spinning dangerously out of control. But, wait! God is in control. He has a plan for the world, and we are on schedule for fulfilling that plan! The Apostle Paul, quoting Adonai in Deuteronomy 32:35, wrote (Romans 2:19): Never take your own revenge, loved ones, but give room for God’s wrath– for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,” says Adonai. Putin, Xinping, Hitler, Tse Tung, et cetera– all of the evil men and women of history– may escape punishment in this life for their many crimes against humanity, but a sinner’s Hell surely awaits them after death.
You are probably dismayed, as am I, about what is happening in America today. In the Tanakh, we read the dilemma facing the prophet Habakkuk. His country’s citizens– God’s Chosen People– were rejecting God in favor of idolatrous worship and immorality. Now, change the time period from Habakkuk’s time (610-605 BC) to our time (AD 2023); change the country from Judah to the United States of America; and change the sinners from Jews to Americans. The story, in Habakkuk’s time, is the same as the story, now.
Shortly after Habakkuk committed his prophecies to a scroll, his beloved country was invaded and laid waste by the Babylonians. Can we learn from prophecy that America is in grave danger of being defeated by a foreign power? (China is a prime suspect.) Nothing is written in Scriptures– no declaration from Adonai– that guarantees permanency for America. America’s Founding Fathers had concerns and doubts whether “we the people” would be able to keep this republic– this experiment in democratic governance– alive. In my opinion, we the American people are being betrayed by those we depend upon to keep our liberties alive (federal government, various federal agencies, the media, etc.).
● Sixth reason: Prophecy gives understanding and patience in trials. A Believer facing trials may ask, “Why me?…. What did I do to deserve this?” A Scriptural (prophetic) understanding of reality and the time in which we live should lead the Believer never to expect a life without trials and tribulation. There is no promise in the Bible that Believers will avoid sorrow, pain, suffering, sickness, persecution, and death in this earthly life. To the contrary, Believers are warned to expect persecution and martyrdom, with no special relief in this life. Those things are warned for Believers (see Philippians1:29). All of Yeshua’s disciples (except Judas, who apparently committed suicide, and John, who died an old man although after torture and imprisonment) died horrible deaths. Read some of the horrors faced by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 1:12-30.
LENGTHY SIDELIGHT: It is possible to skip around (cherry-pick) Bible verses to concoct almost any message we want. The Apostle Paul taught there was one– only one– gospel (2 Corinthians11:3-4): But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds might be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion and purity to the Messiah. For if someone comes and proclaims… a different “good news” that you did not accept, you put up with that well enough! And (Galatians 1:8-9): But even if we… should announce any “good news” to you other than what we have proclaimed to you, let that person be cursed! As we have said before, so I now repeat: if anyone proclaims to you “good news” other than what you received, let that person be under a curse! (Many translations use “gospel,” rather than “good news.” The TLV uses the literal Greek word, here, of “good news.” In the Greek, Paul wrote εὐαγγέλιον [euangelion], which translates to “good news” or “good message.”)
Since retirement, I have time to watch more (too much?) television. I am amazed at the variety of “God’s Word” coming across the air waves. The “prosperity gospel” is an egregious example. Well-polished spokespersons assure me that if I will “plant my seed of faith” (one-thousand dollars), I will become the recipient of fine clothes, automobiles, and houses (as God has blessed them), that any disease I may have will be cured, and that my debts will vanish. A famous televangelist, apparently the wealthiest among many wealthy televangelists, is said to have a net worth exceeding 750-million dollars.
God apparently works cheaply. He apparently can be bought or bribed for only one-thousand dollars. It is appropriate to contribute to spreading the Gospel, but contribute only to good causes (such as Shomair Yisrael), rather than embarrassingly rich televangelists. Some of these people, who rake in huge sums of money from poor people, may be haunted by this passage (Matthew 7:21-23): [Yeshua said] “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’” END sidelight.
Students of prophecy understand Paul’s teaching to the congregation in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Such students understand “falling asleep” (dying) in Yeshua and the promise, the blessed hope of resurrection and eternal life.
● Seventh reason: Prophecy puts the Gospel at the forefront. Prophecy accentuates the Gospel message– a person is saved by grace alone. Works, although important for rewards, cannot secure God’s grace. Bible prophecy helps us understand two things: (1) We must stop loving this world (1 John 2:15-17): Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world– the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the boasting of life– is not from the Father but from the world. The world is passing away along with its desire, but the one who does the will of God abides forever. (2) We must fix our eyes on Yeshua HaMashiach, the Initiator (Author in some translations) and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1c-2): …Let us run with endurance the race set before us, focusing on Yeshua, the initiator and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame; and He has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Prophecy helps put the Gospel message in perspective, by realizing what is ahead for the unrepentant sinner and how we can receive God’s pardon.
I add one more thing. If you plan to drive to, say, Los Angeles, you will do well to provide yourself with navigational aids (maps, etc.). If you leave your driveway and just start turning down different roads as you come to them, without any direction, you may not make it to Los Angeles. You will be lost and confused. If you wander through life without God’s direction, you will remain lost and confused. Prophecy is God’s gift to you– your “roadmap” for the future. By studying prophecy, you will understand where you are now and what is ahead of you. Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 8-Jan-2023 15th of Tevet, 5783
Ex 1:1-17 2 Sa 20 Ps 92-93 Lk 12:35-59 (Gal 2)