Dear Associates, Students and Friends:
The article this month is titled “When Prophecies ‘Fail’” and it follows on from last month’s article on Haggai 1 regarding the nature of prophecy and disappointment with prophecies not coming to pass. Underlying the article is this question for us today: if biblical prophecies did not occur when they were expected, why should we believe the Bible about prophecies in our future? Dr. Martin explains that God informs His people as to His intentions in their lives, punishing and rewarding them when appropriate. This month’s article focuses on the national level of Israel and specifically Judah. 2
God’s opinion is quite severe as to false prophets; see Deuteronomy 13:1–5. Moses gives guidelines on what to look for regarding prophecies that fail to come to pass:
“And if you say in your heart, How shall we know the word which YHWH has not spoken? When a prophet speaks in the name of YHWH, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which YHWH has not spoken, but the prophet has spoken it presumptuously [with arrogance]: you shall not be afraid of him.”
In 1 John 4:1 we are told to test every spirit so we may prevent being led astray by false prophets. However, remember that God changed His mind after Isaiah predicted that King Hezekiah would die soon, but Hezekiah did not die because he earnestly prayed to God. Hezekiah was granted 15 more years of life for God’s own sake and that of King David (2 Kings 20:1–11; Isaiah 38:1–6). God also changed His mind after Jonah prophesied and preached to the Assyrians, and that evil city repented of their sins and evils (Jonah chapter 3; Matthew 12:41). Other examples could be given where God altered His plans for either punishments or rewards upon His people Israel, Judah, and those of His ekklesia.
So, one reason a prophecy seemingly “fails” is because God changes or alters His own prophecy or the timeline for that prophecy. Or, the conditions of the prophecy may not be fully or properly understood. It is always wise to be aware that God reserves to Himself direct control over the fulfillment of His prophecies (Acts 1:7). He does not delegate that responsibility to men. Nevertheless, we are always to discern the signs of the times (Matthew 16:1, 24:36–51; Luke 17:20–37; 1 Thessalonians 5:1).
This prophetic discernment was not done properly in the 1st century AD when messianic expectation was at its height. See Dr. Martin’s article “The Expectation of Christ’s Second Coming in Apostolic Times” at http://askelm.com/prophecy/p790201.htm for the reasons why Christ was expected to return in the 1st century. In fact, the apostles’ expectation of His return in their lifetimes is a prime example of a failure to understand key prophecies associated with Christ’s return. Instead of Christ’s return, the revelation of the Mystery of God was given.
At this moment you and I are waiting for Christ’s return and for the fulfillment of major prophecies in the Old and New Testaments. It was just this kind of supposed delay that led directly to the development of the New Testament as shown in Dr. Martin’s book Restoring the Original Bible. 3 In fact, there has been no delay at all.
The apostle Paul talked about prophecy. His comment was that prophecies will indeed “fail,” but he meant it in the sense that they would be fulfilled and no longer be as important as they are to us today:
“Charity [love] never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.”
1 Corinthians 13:8–9
Love is lasting while the other things: prophecies, tongues, knowledge, all these are transitory and will be accomplished, fulfilled, and no longer necessary, while love will endure, particularly God’s love for us. While love never fails, at a time in the future prophecies will no longer be necessary. They will have all been fulfilled.
John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” Let us express our gratitude to you by living to maintain and continue the research, work, and words of Dr. Ernest L. Martin as they help to open the Word of God to thousands and hopefully to millions of people around the world. We continue to do so with the ability that God has given us as our expression of thanks to you. We strive to live the words that we teach, as we learn together. We try to grow in grace and in knowledge, not for knowledge in general, but as Peter says, to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
We put to you the admonition of the apostle Paul with regard to what is, I trust, your relationship to God and Christ:
“As, then, you accepted Christ Jesus, the Lord, be walking in Him, having been rooted and being built up in Him, and being confirmed in the faith according as you were taught, superabounding in it with thanksgiving.
Beware that no one shall be despoiling you through philosophy and empty seduction, in accord with human tradition, in accord with the elements of the world, and not in accord with Christ, for in Him the entire complement of the Deity is dwelling bodily. And you are complete in Him, Who is the Head of every sovereignty and authority.”
Colossians 2:6–10 Concordant Version
You continue to be good friends to us through your prayers, communications, and financial support. To paraphrase poet/musician Lauryn Hill, everything we do is the result of our gratitude for what God has done for us. Thank you all.
David W. Sielaff
2 God’s intentions are made clear through His Word, the Bible, to the nations of the world throughout history, whether they realize it or not. His Word was always available to them, as they shall eventually understand. Communication, punishment, and reward also take place within the body of Christ, the ekklesia of God, with the smaller ekklesias prophesied of in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Communication, punishment, and reward take place even in our lives as sons and daughters of God (Hebrews 12:5–8), so we will learn lessons useful in the resurrection. The bulk of our reward will come in that resurrection.
The title of this month’s article came from a classic 1956 sociological study by Leon Festinger, Henry Reicken, and Stanley Schachter, When Prophecy Fails: A social and psychological study of a modern group that predicted the destruction of the world (London: Pinter & Martin, 2008 ). The focus of the study was an apocalyptic occult/UFO contact group that received messages about destruction of the world. The authors infiltrated and studied the group’s reactions when their prophecies of world destruction failed to occur.
Portland, OR: ASK Publications, 1994, 2004. See the particularly
relevant Chapter 13: “The Need for a New Testament” (http://www.askelm.com/restoring/res016.htm),
Chapter 14: “The Prophetic Environment of the First Century”
and Chapter 15: “The Book of Acts and New Testament History” (http://www.askelm.com/restoring/res020.htm).
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