By Nathan Jones
How can some people believe Bible prophecy isn't valid?
On Friday, September 27, 2013, I was interviewed on The God Solution Show with Nate Herbst which airs on KDUR 91.9 and 93.9 in Durango, Colorado. Nate's show is special because he's the only Christian program on a totally secular station. With such a fantastic opportunity to share the Gospel with an unbelieving audience, he focuses on apologetics which defend the Christian faith. I came on to share one of the best defenses for why we can trust the Bible as God's word and place our faith in it — fulfilled Bible prophecy.
Only a Literary Style?
Nate Herbst: I want to tell you a little story to get us started here. It happened a few weeks ago. I was talking to a student who had a pastor from the area speak to their class. The pastor said something along the lines of, "Prophecy in the Bible is not really prophetic; it's nothing more than a literary style." The student asked me, "What do you think about that statement?" I replied, "I think this is modern naturalism in academia, and this is the historical-critical method run amuck. When we see prophecy in Scripture and the historical cooperation of those prophecies, well it just blows my mind that anyone would shrug that knowledge off as no big deal."
So, what's going on here when we hear even Christians saying prophecy is not really prophetic, but a literary style?
Nathan Jones: The thinking behind making such a statement usually is because they don't believe the Bible at all anyway. They'll claim the Bible is Man's search for God, rather than God's gift to us about what is going on with His plan. And so, what they'll do is they'll kind of dissect the Bible apart in different ways.
One of those ways is just to discount it. They will say, "Well, the Bible has got to be all historical, or it's all got to be literary, or it's got to be all poetic." They forget that the Bible is made up of 66 different books which the Lord inspired, and each author wrote based on their own way of how they are wired. Some of the authors were poets like King David. Some were historians like Samuel. Some were prophetic like the prophets Isaiah and Daniel. Each of these people wrote based on their own ability and their own literary style.
God being the author of everything is the master of all literary styles. When you read the Bible, you will see all the literary styles utilized throughout the 66 books that comprise what we today call the Bible. So, to say that where there's apocalyptic literature that it's all got to be just symbolic, or that prophecy is just a literary device (and true it is that as well, though it's one of the many devices used in Bible prophecy), you cannot just discount prophesy and say, "Apocalyptic writing is all symbolism." Bible prophecy utilizes many genres of literary devices, and not just symbolism.
Usually the people who discount the prophetic word in the Bible are already liberal theologically, and so they discount the Bible as being God's Word anyway. They'll say, "It's a good book and it makes us feel good and gives us kind of an understanding of truths." But, they don't believe it as the literal Word of God.
We have an axiom here at Lamb & Lion Ministries: "If the plan sense makes sense, look for no other sense, otherwise you'll end up with nonsense." That's got to be the axiom that guides us all as we interpret the Bible.
Nate Herbst: Absolutely! Over and over and over I've said that taking your presuppositions and importing them into your conclusions is begging for questions. It's the logically fallacy. And yet, it's the method we see in modern academia over and over and over again. I think it derives from what you just described with some of the liberal perspectives: "I don't believe the Bible is true from the start, so I'm going to read whatever I want into these prophecies." Such thinking just blows my mind!
It's shocking that somebody could shrug fulfilled Bible prophecies off. You'll see that these prophecies cannot be ignored. These are incredible! You just couldn't come to any other conclusion other than that this is God Himself speaking to us through His word the Bible.
The Growing Interest in Prophecy
Nate Herbst: We've talked a little bit about the "shrug it off" mentality, but that's not where everybody is at. Some people have an incredible interest in Bible prophecy, so why the interest in prophecy today?
Nathan Jones: I think the interest in prophecy today stems from the fact that, especially outside of the Church with what we call a secular audience, they are looking at the world around us and they are realizing that something is wrong. Something is not making sense. What's with all these natural disasters? Why does it look like World War 3 is always looming? What's with the impending economic collapses? We live in these scary, scary times, and people want answers to what this is all about.
Lamb & Lion Ministries is constantly having people come to our website at lamblion.com to read our articles and watch our TV show because they want the answers to what's going on in the world. They can sense something big is on the horizon. They can feel it in the air that something big is about to happen.
We Christians know what's coming up, because God gives us that information. That's the wonderful thing about God, in that whatever He does, He always lets us know ahead of time what He plans on doing. Now, He might not give us all the intricate details that we want, but He gives again that big picture view of what's coming up in the future. I believe that people can sense that.
Like you said, Nate, there are some in the Church who deny Bible prophecy altogether. They are called Preterists. They believe that all prophecy was fulfilled back when Jerusalem and the Temple in Israel was destroyed in 70 AD, and that's because they believe so strongly in the Church Era, which is the time that we live in now, that they can't picture the times changing. Sometimes these Preterists don't even want to picture the times changing, for like the ancient Pharisees, they are so happy getting all the attention they get from the people. Pastors don't want to give up that attention, because when Jesus returns, I tell you, Brother, all of us pastors are going to be out of work! The Lord will be here and people will go directly to Him and learn from Him. Sure, we'll help administrate Jesus' kingdom and all, but it won't be the same as today.
The Church Age that we live in now is coming to an end soon and the Lord is coming back, and that also is scary for some people. In response, they just discount the fact. But, the rest of the world is realizing that something big is on the horizon, and they have questions.
Nate Herbst: Absolutely. Every time people look at the news, they are forced to come face-to-face with some of those thoughts and ideas about the future. Talking to students on college campuses, I've seen that there is a wondering and curiosity about what's coming up.
In the third part of the God Solution interview, Nate and I demonstrate how fulfilled prophecy proves that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.