It is amazing and somewhat disturbing to hear some so-called Bible experts speak so flippantly of either God’s ability, or willingness to keep His promises. In a new book entitled When Shall These Things Be? one of the contributing authors says "historical contingencies may prevent or alter the fulfillment of God’s promises." In other words, man’s rebellion can thwart God’s promises and prophecies.
The faithfulness of God is a foundational Bible truth. The Bible affirms that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). In ancient times, God challenged the prophets of the pagan gods to a duel. His challenge was, "show us things to come, that we may know that you are gods." (Isaiah 41:21-23). The issue was this, only God, true God, can tell the future. If the gods of the pagans could not accurately tell the future, they are not truly God. Furthermore, not only can God know and predict the future in scripture, He never tells lies about what was to happen, or when it was to happen! This was a lesson that Israel, like many people today, seemed not to learn.
In Ezekiel, Jehovah said the Day of the Lord against Jerusalem was near. The Babylonians were coming (Ezekiel 7). The people however, refused to believe that judgment was near. They rejected the imminence of the prophet’s predictions. (See Ezekiel 11). What was God’s response? Jehovah told them that when He said something was near, it was going to happen in their lifetime! (Ezekiel 12:21f). God was faithful to His promises, and when He spoke He expected man to believe Him.
It is lamentable that many today believe that God is not faithful, or even bound by His own Word to keep his promises. In a new book attempting to refute Covenant Eschatology, author Richard Pratt says “the contingency of human choice may influence the ways in which biblical prophecies are fulfilled.” (When Shall These Things Be? Keith Mathison Editor, P and R Publishing, 2004, p. 131). Although Pratt is not a dispensationalist, this is dispensational theology, and the millennialists will be thrilled to read these words! You can be certain that the dispensationalists will use these words against men such as Kenneth Gentry and other postmillennialists in the future.
The truth is that many of God’s promises were conditional (see Jeremiah 18). What this means is that if God threatened judgment, and the wicked repented, then the prophecies of judgment were not brought to bear. What was fulfilled was the blessing side of every prophecy! In other words, the prophecy did not fail! It was fulfilled, positively, just as the Lord said! God was always faithful to His promises, whether judgment or blessings. Man’s response did not nullify the prophecy, man’s response simply determined the nature of the fulfillment, whether by judgment, or by blessing.
Pratt tells us, "Jeremiah learned that true prophets often predicted things that did not come to pass." (Pratt, 131). This is patently untrue. Jonah is an excellent example. He proclaimed doom, yet, Nineveh’s repentance brought blessings instead of destruction. Jonah’s prophecy did not fail! God’s prediction was that if they did not repent, they would perish. If they would repent, they would be blessed. They repented, and were spared. Prophecy fulfilled! True prophets did not foretell things that did not come true. True prophets gave the options, repentance and blessing, or rebellion and destruction. Whichever choice the people made, God was faithful and fulfilled His prophecies.
In the Old Testament, Jehovah gave an unalterable rule for determining whether a person was actually a prophet. If his predictions came true, he was a true prophet. If his prophecies failed, the man was false. (See Deuteronomy 13 and 18). Yet, according to Pratt, as well as the millennialists, a man’s prophecies could fail to come to pass, and they could still be considered a true prophet! After all, it was not God’s fault that man was so disobedient as to prevent the fulfillment of God’s promises. This view of prophecy is a de facto abdication of the claim to the inspiration of the prophets. If a prophet’s predictions did not come to pass, according to Pratt, as well as the millennialists, all they had to do was to say that it was the disobedience of the people that prevented fulfillment. The onus was then removed from them, to the people, and to God.
In Pratt’s paradigm then, the prophet, no matter how many times his predictions failed, would always be vindicated / excused by the disobedience of the people. The bottom line is that in Pratt’s view, you could never know if a man was a true or false prophet, because in his view, failed prophecy had nothing to do with the vindication and confirmation of the prophet. This is certainly not the Biblical doctrine of prophecy.
In the New Testament Jesus even challenged those who questioned him to put him to the test. What Jesus said is not well received in today’s theological world, but they are his words nonetheless: "If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me, but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works." (John 10:37-38). Now here is a dilemma.
According to manys today, Jewish unbelief prevented Jesus from keeping his word to establish the kingdom. So, Jesus challenged his first century audience (and us), to believe him only if he did what he said he would do. However, he could not do what he said he would do because of their unbelief. Remember what Pratt has suggested: “historical contingencies” such as rebellion will prevent the fulfillment of prophecy. Therefore, since the Jews rejected Jesus, and his word, this prevented him from fulfilling his promises. However, since he could not keep his promises this means he is not to be accepted as the Son of God! Is that a manifestation God’s faithfulness?
In the 1970s Hal Lindsay, and other prophecy pundits said Christ was coming back in the 80s. By the way, Lindsay is now on record as calling himself a prophet. Edgar Whisenant said, "Only if the Bible is wrong, will the Lord not return in 1988." Jack Van Impe said the Rapture would definitely occur in 1999. John Hagee said the Rapture would be in March of 2004. All of these men claim to speak authoritatively for the God of the Bible. Yet, they have all failed, miserably. They are all false prophets! What is worse, these false prophets cause people to reject the God who is faithful, because of their false prophecies.
Only if God keeps His promises is He a God to be loved, believed, and obeyed. If the God of the Bible is no better at keeping His promises than the repeated failed prognostications of the men mentioned above, then He is not a God worth serving. And, if Christ’s apostles, supposedly inspired by the Spirit of Christ, failed in their predictions, then they are false prophets as well.
But God is faithful. He kept His word! Jesus didn’t fail, in any regard, to do what he said he would do. The apostles were not wrong. The Bible is not wrong.