Did God cloak His messages to believers in language that was deliberately misleading or did He say literally what He means?
The word of God is an awe-inspiring thing. By way of introduction, consider these descriptions of its nature and power:
“By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth”. Psalms 33:6 KJV (Emphasis added)
“12 For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 There is no creature that is hidden from his sight, but all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” Heb 4:12-13 (Emphasis added)
“For as the rain comes down and the snow from the sky, and doesn’t return there, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 so shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing I sent it to do.” Isa 55:10-11 WEB (Emphasis added)
The power of the word of God is beyond the comprehension of mortal men. It was the active agent in Creation, it has power to reveal all secrets and carries with it the intrinsic force required to accomplish the purposes for which God sent it. What man tries to do or could never do in the natural realm by his strength and wit, God accomplishes with a word.
God is so identified with His word that the two are indistinguishable:
“The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 WEB (Emphasis added)
Given its power, and the extent to which God is invested in His word, is it likely that He would speak a word carelessly or imprecisely? Would the living God, speaking a living word, include language that deliberately confused and misled believers? Though we see instances where the Lord used parables to deliver truth only to those with ears to hear, would he intentionally say one thing when He meant another? The answer is NO. In Holy Scripture, God literally says what He means, and means what He says.
Over centuries, in Satan’s efforts to exclude man from the wellspring of life, he managed to largely block man’s access to the word of God and convince him that only ‘holy men’ could understand or correctly interpret it.
Through the Dark Ages, holy scripture was only available to those ruling the apostate church, and religious services were conducted in languages foreign to those who sought God. Wicked men inserted themselves between God and man, almost completely blocking access to the Word.
The explosive power of the word of God was demonstrated in the Reformation, where the invention of the printing press suddenly made it widely available and godly men translated it into common languages. Through the power of the word of God, the Church came to life: It came to Life. Believers were no longer at the mercy of apostate men, dependent on them for crumbs from the word of God.
Throughout scripture, we see through the progress of God’s plan to reconcile mankind to Himself a continuous outreach and calling. This was eloquently demonstrated by our Lord Jesus when He said:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that kills the prophets, and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, like a hen gathers her own brood under her wings, and you refused!” Luke 13:34. WEB
The nature of our God as revealed in scripture is one of access to all those who choose to follow Him. His outreach extends to all mankind. His goal is that we will tabernacle with Him, see Him face to face, worship in His presence, and dwell with Him.
Seeing that God made this abundantly clear through His word, a person must then ask themselves why He would use language in His word that was vague, misleading or inaccurate? Why would He say one name when He meant another? It makes no sense…it’s silly.
In Matthew 13, we see a turning point in the ministry of Christ. Chapter 12 documents the rejection of the Kingdom and the blaspheming of the Holy Spirit by the Pharisees, which the Lord declared to them to be an unforgivable sin. Seemingly without missing a beat in chapter 13, the Lord begins teaching about the Church, His plan B, in parables.
That’s correct: Those parables in Matthew 13 are the point at which Jesus begins to lay out the mysteries of His Church to His disciples.* In his omniscience He knew that Israel would reject Him and the Kingdom at His first coming. Of course He did. There’s a lot more to God than meets the eye.
The Church was a mystery because it had never been revealed to any of the Old Testament prophets. How could it have been without effectively denying Israel the opportunity to accept what Jesus was offering them?
To preach it openly would have only added to the burden of judgment of those who had rejected the King and His Kingdom. Yet, Jesus had to let His disciples know about what He was doing and begin to prepare them for their roles as apostles, the foundational ministries of His Church.
This shift to teaching in parables was unexpected and confusing to the disciples. At the first opportunity, they approached the Lord in private and asked Him:
“10… “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 He answered them, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them. 12 For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesn’t have, from him will be taken away even that which he has. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they don’t see, and hearing, they don’t hear, neither do they understand.” Matt 13:10-13 WEB (Emphasis added)
To explain why the Lord was deliberately concealing the meaning of His teachings from hardened Israelites is another discussion, but He left no doubt of the nature of His teachings. Is there any reason to believe that God is similarly cloaking the Revelation of Jesus Christ in confusing symbolism or parables?
“This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things which must happen soon, which he sent and made known by his angel to his servant, John,” Rev 1:1 (Emphasis added)
The stated purpose here is to show His servants the things which must soon happen. Consider this: If I were planning to go to Chicago, and I wanted you to know that I was going to Chicago, would I write to you and tell you that I was going to New York? Would I expect you or anyone else to reinterpret what I wrote, or would I expect you to read what I wrote and believe it?
Here is the truth: God literally means what He says and says what He means. The Bible contains many instances of parables, signs, symbols, figurative language, types and antitypes, similes and metaphors, but these are always clearly delineated through the context in which they appear. To deny that this is true is to open the door to endless theorizing and speculation, making the interpretation of the word of God and Bible prophecy a complete guessing game.
There is no better example of this than the appearance of the name Babylon in Revelation and prophetic passages of the Old Testament. For centuries, armies of teachers promoting their pet theories have taught that Babylon actually refers to some other city, usually Rome. Lately, America, and frequently its commercial capitol, New York City, have become favorite targets to assume the role of Babylon in prophecy, at least among Americans.
Wouldn’t Daniel and the Hebrew children have been shocked to learn that they were actually living in New York City? New York City!!! Probably the most common reason for this is the fact that, though the city of Babylon plays a central role in end-time events, for thousands of years Babylon has lain in ruins.
Replacement theory, in which the Church replaces Israel as the target of prophecies and the promises of God, was born during the centuries of the diaspora, or dispersion, when Israel was scattered across the globe and there apparently was no Nation of Israel. Now, by the power of God, Israel is back, a nation among nations, poised to fulfill prophecy. Having failed to learn a lesson from that example, many still look for some enigmatic interpretation of the word of God about Babylon. Man’s efforts to make the prophetic picture fit in the face of seeming impossibilities is sadly nothing but unbelief.
It’s as if we constructed a Christian church atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in the same way that the Islamic Dome of the Rock mosque has been planted there on the site of God’s Temple.
An even more sinister motivation lurks behind the myriad perversions of scripture that have muddied the living water of Revelation, and that is that false teachers have deliberately sliced, diced, supplemented and repackaged the word of God to prove the lies that they are promoting. “Yeah, it says this, but it actually means that. Trust me.” Or, “The thunder, lightning and fire from the skies of Revelation is not sufficiently stimulating; it isn’t timely enough, so let’s apply it to America. Yeah, that’s the ticket.”
When you strip away the lies from lying liars, and read the words that are plainly there on the page, the clear, unmistakable voice of God can be heard.
The following passage focuses on Babylon, but the principle demonstrated applies wherever you see one name or entity substituted for another in theories of Bible prophecy:
“The Babylon is Rome view also fails to explain passages in the OT which designate Babylon as the place of final judgment. Identifying Babylon as Rome [or America] implies that God gave numerous prophecies utilizing a code name which would not obtain its true meaning until hundreds of years later. Thus, the prophecies given to the original recipients could not be understood using the normal meaning of terms with which they were familiar. Such a view violates the rules of historical-grammatical interpretation and turns the interpretation of prophetic passages into a guessing game.” Garland, Anthony. A Testimony of Jesus Christ – A Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Kindle Locations 20609-20613). SpiritAndTruth.org. Kindle Edition. (Emphasis and [comment] added)
Right there is the key; the process by which we must interpret the word of God. It is only a literal, historical, grammatical method of interpretation that will produce a correct understanding of the word of God. Once you open the door to the use of philosophy and allegory to interpret the word of God, you lose any assurance of accuracy.
It is unbelief that leads men to assume that when God said Babylon, He actually meant something else. They see no possibility for a literal City of Babylon in the scenario they have concocted of end-time events as a cataclysmic rush through a seven-year dash to the Kingdom, and no opportunity for its reconstruction.
A thoughtful reflection on the progress of God’s plan to redeem man will reveal that despite our impatience, God takes His time. To Him, a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day (2 Peter 3:8). Time seems to mean nothing to Him, though he is never a microsecond late to fulfill His promises and prophecies.
He knows that we see Him as slow. This was evidenced in more than one of the Lord’s parables that focused on a master who had gone away on some business and seemed to delay his return. This perception of the Lord as being slow has become prominent among believers in recent years as they have hopped from one ‘high-watch’ Rapture date to the next. God Himself created the prophetic timetable and, so far, every event thereon has occurred precisely when He said it would.
In His omniscience, He has not been delayed an instant by human failings or anything else. He will arrive at the exact moment that He foreknew before the foundations of the Earth and every other event on the prophetic agenda will ensue with chronological precision.
In all things spiritual, you must base what you believe and what you do on the infallible, immutable word of God. Realize that He was speaking to every believer in every age and did not fill His word with references they could not possibly understand. Dismiss your preconceptions and biases, surrender your pet theories, open your heart and listen to what the Spirit is speaking. Believe that He says exactly what He means, and means exactly what He says.
For a full explanation of Jesus’ teachings about His Church to the disciples check out:
“The Coming Kingdom: What Is the Kingdom and How Is Kingdom Now Theology Changing the Focus of the Church?”
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- Adapted from #5859240/Lefteris Papaulakis-adobe stock.com and #191744672/SeanPavonPhoto-adobe stock.com and original artwork
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- Don’t Mess With Israel by Greg Lauer @alittlestrength.com