Dec 11, 2007

The Devil Is In the Details

By Jack Kinsella

The new NIE consensus opinion that Iran abandoned its active quest to build nuclear weapons four years ago, whether accurate or not, brings back to the forefront of discussion the two main principles of accurately understanding Bible prophecy.

The first is the scholar’s adage warning of the dangers in interpreting Bible prophecy by the light of current events, instead of the other way around.

We’ll discuss that in greater detail in a moment.

The second is summarized by the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans; “Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” (Romans 3:4)

Bible prophecy tells us what to expect, but not exactly what to look for. That is an important distinction. God accomplishes His will according to His plan, not ours.

For example, for centuries, students of Bible prophecy knew to expect the existence of a physical nation called “Israel” but they didn’t know what to look for until it happened.

God tells us the “end from the beginning, and from the ancient times the things that are not yet done,” (Isaiah 46:10) but He doesn’t always reveal the exact mechanism by which He intends to accomplish it.

For a better example, let’s use Hal Lindsey’s 1969 book, “The Late, Great Planet Earth.” If these ARE the last days, as Hal argued in 1969, then from the Bible Hal knew he could expect three specific geopolitical events -- events that no secular analyst could possibly have predicted at the time.

First, there must be the development of a single, European super state that would eventually attain superpower status.

In 1969, the idea of Europe unification was decades away, if ever. But since Bible prophecy demanded the existence of a revived Roman Empire, if these were the last days, a European super state would have to come into existence.

But the Bible didn’t give details of how that would come about – only that it would, so in 1969, that was all Hal had to work with.

Second, the Bible makes no mention of a vast, Soviet superpower overshadowing Europe, but rather, the other way around. If these were indeed the last days, Hal argued, then the Soviet Union must decrease so that revived Rome could increase.

Third, since there is no reference to the existence of a Western superpower resembling the United States overshadowing revived Rome, somehow, America must decrease so that revived Rome could increase.

Hal couldn't know the exact details of how it would all happen -- only that they must happen-- if these are indeed the last days.

In 1969, at the height of the Cold War, the most likely scenario to accomplish these three events was a war between the United States and Russia that would leave Europe intact to pick up the pieces.

That scenario was perfectly consistent with both probability and Bible prophecy, but it turned out to be the wrong one.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the Berlin Wall came down, and Europe reunified, critics were quick to call Hal a ‘false prophet’ because he got some of the details of ‘how’ wrong.

To this day, that is still the first criticism leveled at him. In so doing, the critics missed the ‘what’ part, which he got right -- and more importantly, its significance.

The point Hal was making in 1969 was this: IF this is the generation that will see the return of Christ, those three things would happen. None existed in 1969 -- but in 2007, two of them are history, and the third, the decline of the US as a global superpower, is already well advanced.

Does that mean Hal Lindsey is a prophet? No. Prophecy comes from the Bible. Hal merely cited examples that demonstrated that global current events were all trending in the Bible’s predicted direction. They still are.

What it proves is that this is the generation that will see the return of Christ.

From his vantage point forty years ago, Hal Lindsey (and everyone else in 1969) might have been wrong on a few details of how things would come together, but history continues to prove him 100% right on what the Bible said would develop as a result.

The point, than as now, was this: “If this IS the generation of His return, somehow, some way, God will bring about the predicted end results." Beyond that, the best any human can do is take the Bible's predicted results and work backwards to try and figure out how.

Everybody was so busy nit-picking Hal’s details back then that they missed the point the book was written to make. Many still do.

The point was, and is, that the prophetic time clock has begun the final countdown.

Among the list of old sayings that become 'old sayings' because they are universally true is "the devil is in the details." Once one makes their stand on their interpretation of the details, rather than the Bible's Big Picture, one becomes most vulnerable to his attack.

Every year, somebody stakes their reputation on their interpretation of the details, calculating using various formulas, the exact date of the Rapture. Others will argue all day regarding their interpretation of the timing of the Rapture. What gets lost in it all the hubbub and argument is the Rapture itself.

Or those who will argue all day that they know the identity of the antichrist. They are interpreting the Bible to fit current events. It is the Bible that is infallible -- current events are only current until things change.

The devil is in the details.

When it comes to Iran, the Bible says that Persia participates in a subordinate leadership role as part of the larger Gog-Magog alliance. That alliance, for reasons not entirely clear, eventually embarks on a surprise invasion of Israel at a time when Israel is “dwelling at peace” as a “land of unwalled villages.”

When events began to suggest an impending war between Israel and Iran, it was tempting to look for ways to make that war fit into Ezekiel’s scenario.

In addition, we have the developing trends that are moving Russia rapidly back into the arms of a new authoritarian dictatorship to consider. Coupled with Russia’s traditional ties with the same nations Ezekiel predicted will eventually be part of the Gog-Magog alliance, it is easy to speculate on how God will bring about His will.

But no matter what, in order for Persia to participate in an invasion of Israel, it is clear that Persia and Israel must both be there at the time, precluding an imminent Iranian-Israeli nuclear war.

As to the imminence of the Gog-Magog invasion, Israel is not a land of unwalled villages and it is not dwelling at peace.

I’ve tried to be careful, but I know I’ve succumbed to the temptation to mold current events to fit Bible prophecy -- especially when it comes to connecting the current Iranian crisis.

The fact of the matter is neither I nor anyone else has a crystal ball or some secret spiritual knowledge not available to anyone willing to crack a Bible and do a little research.

The best anyone can honestly offer is an educated guess on the details -- guided by prayer and based on the Bible's certain foreknowledge of the outcome – but neither the source of that foreknowledge nor the predicted outcome are a secret.

It’s all right there in the pages of Scripture.

Bible prophecy wasn’t given to this generation for the purpose of amazing our friends by playing The Amazing Kreskin.

That was never the point.

Prophecy was given to this generation to impart a sense of urgency to the lost, and to provide evidences for the Church that, no matter how confusing things look at any given moment, the ultimate outcome is assured.

That is the ultimate reason for the study of Bible prophecy. To credibly articulate the lateness of the hour, demonstrate the certainty of the judgment to follow, and share the good news that God has made Provision for our pardon.

Even if the exact path sometimes seems murky, the outline of the predicted destination grows clearer with each changing event.

And it is the destination that is important, not so much the details of how God intends to get us there. We are to watch for the signs of His return and to shout the warning.

Regarding pet interpretations and nit-picking details, well, God has made provision for that, too.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:6-7)