Can All Prophecy Be Understood?

Q. I have been having a discussion related to end times with a pastor and he mentioned to me that he does not think all prophecy is meant to be understood and he referenced 1Co 13:9,12; and 1 Jn 3:2.

What is your position on this and is there any scripture to back up a competing position that it is all understandable? I would think the purpose of having it, and all scripture, is to provide us with some sort of knowledge about God. I agree that perhaps its not the full picture and God reserves some information. I’m not sure how to respond to his interpretations. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

A. In some seminaries, students are encouraged to think “outside the box” with respect to interpreting the Bible and are actually rewarded for coming up with new slants on things, especially prophecy. Since the context of references they use is often disregarded some very unique positions can emerge from this.

The passages your pastor friend used to justify his position presents a case in point. They were both meant to explain that some of the things that God has planned for us have not been revealed. For instance no one knows exactly how the New Jerusalem will be designed and what we’ll be doing there, because the Lord hasn’t told us.

In several places, like Isaiah 46:10 for example, God states in no uncertain terms that He makes known the end from the beginning. Isaiah 48:1-11 is another great example. That means He expects us to understand prophecy because He’s made it known to us as a way of proving Himself to us.

Jesus said the same thing about end times prophecy in Matt. 24:15. And several times He criticized the Jews for not recognizing Him from their prophecies, even saying that Jerusalem’s destruction and their subsequent blindness were due to their failure to understand the prophecies of His coming. (Luke 19:41-44)

In 1 Cor. 13:9-12 Paul was trying to make the point that we think all these spiritual gifts are so wonderful, but eventually they’ll be unnecessary because after we’re perfected we’ll all know everything. But love will never be unnecessary. He wasn’t saying that it’s impossible to understand prophecy, he was saying that we should keep our priorities straight, and loving each other is priority number 1.

Same with 1 John 3:2. There the idea is that we haven’t been told exactly what we’ll look like when we’re perfected, we just know that we’ll be like the Lord.

So neither of these references say that we shouldn’t expect to understand what we’ve been told, and the references I’ve cited say just the opposite. He holds us accountable to understand it.

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