Friday, February 4, 2011

When shall these things come to pass?

According to Harold Camping, Jesus will rapture his church on May 21, 2011. That event, according to premillinial dispensationalists will touch off a seven year Great Tribulation which will be followed by the return of Christ and his 1,000 year earthly reign. Many who have thankfully tuned out the foolishness of Mr. Camping have nevertheless fallen prey to "newspaper eschatology" - the practice of reading biblical prophecy into current events. This became especially popular among evangelicals in the 1970's with the popularity of men like Hal Lindsay and his Late Great Planet Earth. But is this a proper way to read biblical prophecy?

Old Testament scholar Richard Pratt wrote an outstanding article in 1993 addressing this very issue. Are we able to observe current events and make accurate predictions concerning the last days?

Pratt writes:
The last half of our century has witnessed an explosion of interest in what biblical prophecies say about our future. Record sales of Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth (3 million), and John Walvoord’s Armageddon: Oil and the Middle East Crisis (1.4 million),1 indicate that many English speaking evangelicals read the Bible to find out what will happen in the future and how current events fit within that chronological framework.

Recent events have only encouraged enthusiasm for this hermeneutic. Moral decay in western culture has raised fears of cataclysmic divine retribution. Political troubles in various parts of the world have been interpreted as the initial stages of history’s grand finale. As a result, evangelicals have developed nothing less than a monomania in the interpretation of biblical prophecy. More than anything else, they try to discover God’s plan for the future and what role events today play within that divine program.

Our study will challenge this widespread hermeneutical orientation by exploring the role of historical contingencies intervening between Old Testament predictions and their fulfillments. As we will see, events taking place after predictions often directed the course of history in ways not anticipated by prophetic announcements. Sometimes future events conformed to a prophet’s words; sometimes they did not. For this reason, neither prophets nor their listeners knew precisely what eventualities to expect. If this proposal is correct, it indicates that the emphasis of many contemporary interpreters is misplaced, and that we must find other hermeneutical interests in biblical prophecy.
Read the entire article HERE.

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