Sunday Laws and Bible Prophecy (2): How God Works in the World

Unfulfilled prophecy has been the bane of prophetic interpreters for millennia. Even Seventh-day Adventists have a somewhat checkered history with it, as the Great Disappointment indicates. When we talk about Sunday laws in the final events of earth’s history, we are dealing with unfulfilled prophecy. There is a prophetic prediction. The fulfillment has not yet come. So you are dealing with an unfulfilled prophecy. You are projecting from the words of the prophecy to an expected outcome. But history is littered with attempts to do just that, most of which turned out to be false.

So how can or should one be able to speak with confidence about an unfulfilled prophecy? The answer seems obvious once you mention it. You assess the likely outcome of an unfulfilled prophecy on the basis of fulfilled prophecy in the Bible. As you visit the fulfilled prophecies of the Bible you begin to get a sense of how God works in the world, how He moves from prediction to fulfillment, how His earlier actions project what His later actions will be like. Fulfilled prophecy gives us the needed perspective to make educated judgments about unfulfilled prophecy. I have reported on my study of fulfilled prophecy in the book What the Bible Says About the End-Time and in an updated and shortened summary in chapter 2 of my book The Deep Things of God. I will summarize the principles I discovered in that study here, with a brief proof text or two for each principle. The more detailed argument can be found in the above books. But here I will summarize just enough to address the topic at hand.

Principle One (1): God is consistent. This principle should not be controversial. If God is God, one would expect a certain consistency in His words and actions. What God says, He will do. What He does, He tends to repeat. Prophecy is grounded in God’s consistency. Because He is consistent, we anticipate that He will do what He says and repeat what He does. God’s words project how He will act in the future. God’s previous actions project how He will act in the future. Prophecy exists because God can be counted on to do what He says. But this principle needs to be balanced by a second one.

Principle Two (2): God is not always predictable. While God is consistent, sometimes He surprises us. Because God is God, we cannot expect to fully fathom His words and actions. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways are higher than our ways (Isa 55:8-9). There is a consistency in God’s actions between creation, the Flood and the Exodus, for example. But careful analysis shows that God does not repeat every detail of the earlier actions in the later actions. Fulfilled prophecy also shows that God does not always fulfill every detail of an earlier pattern or prophecy. So a certain amount of sanctified caution is called for in assessing unfulfilled prophecy. “How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways. For who has known the mind of the Lord. . .” (Rom 11:33-34, ESV). The Spirit of God is like the wind, “You cannot tell where it is coming from or where it is going” (John 3:8, NIV). To suggest that God’s consistency requires that He fulfill our understanding of every word and detail of a prophecy is to have failed to observe the actual data of Scripture. When we assert that we have mastered the details of the future on the basis of prophecy, we have opened ourselves up to disappointment and even self-deception.

Principle Three (3): God is creative. God is not limited to the words and actions of the past. The antitype doesn’t simply carry out the type in a point by point correspondence. God can transcend what He has done before, adding new elements not discernable from the prophecy or God’s prior actions. In Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV) it says, “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” This passage is in the context of God’s promise to repeat the Exodus experience in Israel’s future deliverance from Babylon. But He is clear that the fulfillment will not be limited to a repeat of the historical details of the Exodus. God will transcend the Exodus by adding unexpected new aspects to the fulfillment. Taken together, these three principles should caution us not to be overly certain of every detail of a divine prediction before the fulfillment arrives. Let God be God!

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