Lou: Talking about fulfilled prophecies reminds me of a question one of our listeners wrote out very nicely for us. He says, “What answer might I give my neighbor who believes that Israel will once again become a great nation? There are many unfulfilled promises to Israel. He believes that these promises have yet to be fulfilled, and he bases his beliefs on Jeremiah 31:35-36; Isaiah 2:2-5; Romans 11, and Isaiah 31. And this neighbor does not accept these promises in the Old Testament as conditional, ending when Christ died. He says, ‘God will keep His promises to Abraham.’” Here’s someone who thinks that the things that are happening to the country of Israel must be tied in with the events we are talking about.
Graham: Well, what I like is his selection of verses. They are all excellent verses. And if one were to lay those side by side, all of them express some qualifications. For example, in Romans Paul says, “Not all the physical descendants of Abraham are real Israelites; only the children of the promise” (Rom 9:6-8). And Isaiah says that though the children be “as the sand of the sea for multitude, only a remnant will be saved” (Isa 10:22), because only a remnant will respond. And Jeremiah says; “Only those who have My law written in the heart will be My loyal children” (Jer 31:33).
Every one of those biblical writers suggests that many of Abraham’s physical children will not be among God’s loyal people. Paul, for example, says that only those whose hearts are circumcised, will be regarded as true Israelites (Rom 2:26-29). So I think if one were to look carefully at the passages listed there, one would have the answer. I would not look to what’s happening in Israel today as a fulfillment of prophecy. God is looking at the state of Israel today as He looks at all the other people in the world; if they trust Him, all will be well.
Lou: You mentioned that the coming of Christ, in one sense, has been near for centuries. Do you think this delay of His coming has caught God by surprise?
Graham: Your comment makes me remember the statement, “My Lord delayeth His coming” (Matt 24:48; Luke 12:45). It’s thought to be a bad thing to say. But in the story, the Lord did delay His coming. What was bad was not the delay itself, but that the servant in the story began misbehaving as the Lord delayed His coming. The Lord has in mercy delayed His coming. The Bible foresees this many, many times. One of these is Jesus’ story of the ten girls waiting for a wedding (Matt 25:1-13). The bridegroom delayed, and they all slept, even the saintly five. Another example is the text about the four winds being held back (Rev 7:1-3). They are held until an angel stands and says, “There shall be no more delay” (Rev 10:6). Second Peter 3 not only predicts a delay, but explains the delay. The Bible very clearly prepares us for delay, but we must not misunderstand it. God hasn’t been caught by surprise.
Lou: As I mentioned earlier, I have noticed that you sometimes speak about “early adventist believers,” with a small “a.” I guess I’m so used to seeing it with a large “A” I was wondering what you meant.
Graham: I deliberately use a little “a” because there are many other “adventists” besides Seventh-day Adventists. We’ve been rather possessive about that name. But there are many “adventists” in other denominations, adventists in the sense that they are anticipating the Advent. So “adventist” with a little “a” is not referring to a denomination.
Lou: You and I are both Adventists with a big “A.” That is, we belong to a church that wants to emphasize the return of Christ by including that truth in its name. You grew up, as I did, with our dads talking about the End being near. I can remember as a small boy reading that magazine your father edited so capably for many years, Signs of the Times. And I just can’t help but ask you this question. With all of that background, do you still believe that the End is near? Do you really think Jesus is coming soon?
Graham: I asked my father that. I heard him preach the nearness of the End for fifty-five years. When I was a small boy, I used to go around England with my father, and I would sing and read the Scriptures. He would preach on the nearness of the End. He always preached on the nearness of the End. So just before he died, I asked him, “Do you still believe it after all these years?” He said, “had I seen and known all the things we’ve seen and learned these last few years, I would have preached it with much greater vigor.” So Dad was absolutely convinced. But it is also true that God is waiting, as we could count on Him to do. God’s waiting is even evidence of the Good News; He is willing to wait even though He’s so eager to terminate things.
Lou: I had the privilege of being your father’s pastor for a couple of years up there in Mountain View, and I was always blessed by his vigorous conviction and confidence in the soon coming of Christ. And I came to the conclusion that your father and my father were looking for the return of Someone they loved deeply and trusted most profoundly.
Graham: Even my grandfather was the same. He died at ninety-five, still confident in Jesus’ soon return. So I’ve grown up hearing about the nearness of the End all my life.
Lou: They were not just looking for something to happen; they were looking for Someone they wanted to come.
Graham: You can tell that the Uncle Arthur who wrote Bedtime Stories obviously liked God.