Skip to comments.The Nonsense of "Plain Sense"
Posted on 01/14/2008 8:49:55 AM PST by topcat54
Ezekiel 38 and 39 has been interpreted in various ways over the centuries. The most popular view sees the prophecy as a depiction of a future battle that includes an alliance of mostly Islamic nations led by modern-day Russia in an attack on Israel. Chuck Missler writes in his book Prophecy 20/20 that “the apparent use of nuclear weapons has made this passage [Ezekiel 38 and 39] appear remarkably timely, and some suspect that it may be on our horizon.”1 Prophecy writers have made similar claims, of course without the reference to “nuclear weapons.” They claimed to hold the prophetic key to interpretation based on who the leading political power was in their day. In the fourth and fifth centuries, Gog was thought to refer to the Goths and Moors. In the seventh century, it was the Huns. By the eighth century, the Islamic empire was making a name for itself, so it was the logical candidate. By the tenth century, the Hungarians briefly replaced Islam. But by the sixteenth century, the Turks and Saracens seemed to fit the Gog and Magog profile with the Papacy thrown in for added prophetic juice. In the seventeenth century, Spain and Rome were the end-time bad guys.2 In the nineteenth century, Napoleon was Gog leading the forces of Magog-France.3 For most of the twentieth century, Communist Russia was the logical pick with its military power, its atheistic founding, and its designation of being “far north” of Israel.
History shows that when the headlines reflect a change in the political climate, the interpretation of the Bible changes with them. The failed interpretive history of Ezekiel 38 and 39 over the centuries is prime evidence that modern-day prophecy writers are not “profiling the future through the lens of Scripture” but through the ever-changing headlines of the evening news.4
A lot has to be read into the Bible in order to make Ezekiel 38 and 39 fit modern-day military realities that include technologically advanced jet fighters, “missiles,” and “atomic and explosive” weaponry. Those who claim to interpret the Bible literally have a problem on their hands. If someone like Tim LaHaye is true to his adoption of a “plain and common sense” literalism, then the Russian attack he and Jerry Jenkins describe in the first volume of Left Behind should be a literal representation of the actual battle events as they are depicted in Ezekiel. There should be a one-to-one correspondence between Ezekiel’s description of the battle and modern-day weaponry. This assessment is based on LaHaye’s own interpretive methodology:
The best guide to Bible study is “The Golden Rule of Biblical Interpretation.” To depart from this rule opens the student to all forms of confusion and sometimes even heresy.
When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense, but take every word at its primary, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context clearly indicate otherwise.5
Ron Rhodes follows an identical interpretive methodology. “Here is a basic rule of thumb for interpreting the Bible: When the plain sense of Scripture makes good sense, seek no other sense.”6 LaHaye insists that the interpreter is to “take every word at its primary, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context clearly indicate otherwise.” We learn from LaHaye that the prophecies found in Ezekiel 38 and 39 “are among the most specific and easy to understand in the prophetic word.”7 If this is true, then why does LaHaye and others who follow his interpretive methodology force a less than literal interpretation on Ezekiel’s two-chapter prophecy? As Joel Miller argues, “A better hermeneutic than ‘The Golden Rule of Biblical Interpretation’ is ‘Scripture Interprets Scripture Better than do Newspapers.’”8
Ezekiel 38 and 39 is not about an end-time battle with modern-day Russia, no matter how many prophecy books claim that it is. The battle described in these two chapters is fought with ancient weapons, and no amount of “plain sense” interpretation can get bows and arrows, clubs, shields, spears, and chariots to morph into missiles, jet planes, and atomic weapons.
For a more complete understanding for today’s article, we recommend you read Ezekiel 38-39.
2. Francis X. Gumerlock, The Day and the Hour: Christianity’s Perennial Fascination with Predicting the End of the World (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2000), 68.
3. T.R., “Commentary on Ezekiel’s Prophecy of Gog and Magog,” The Gentleman’s Magazine (October 1816), 307.
4. Gary DeMar, Islam and Russia in Prophecy: The Problem of Interpreting the Bible Through the Lens of History (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2005).
5. Tim LaHaye, No Fear of the Storm: Why Christians will Escape All the Tribulation (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1992), 240. No Fear of the Storm has been republished as Rapture Under Attack (1998).
6. Ron Rhodes, Northern Storm Rising: Russia, Iran, and the Emerging End-Times Military Coalition Against Israel (Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 20.
7. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, Are We Living in the End Times?: Current Events Foretold in Scripture . . . And What They Mean (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1999), 84.
8. Joel Miller, “Israel and End-Time Fiction” (April 5, 2002)
"For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled." (Luke 21:22)
If ancient prophets really could look into the future (and I believe they could) just how does Mr. Demar think they could “literally” describe technology which doesn’t exist yet and for which there were no words in the Greek or Hebrew languages?
We need to get away from end times and start making this country back into a Christian Nation before we are judged for being stupid..
The question is predicated on the notion that the prophets were interested in future events in a world technologically far advanced from their own. There is nothing in Bible, IMO, that warrants such an investigation. So, your question really cannot be answered with any true biblical insight. Any answer would be based on pure speculation.
And that is the failing hermeneutics of the futurist. They claim that swords and spears and horses is really all about tanks and supersonic airplanes and nuclear bombs, but there is nothing in the Bible that will support their opinion, so they just drone on about their own invented reality.
AMEN! It is good to look heaven-ward from time to time and long for our eternal home, but scripture clearly shows that Jesus wants to find us busy when He comes for us.
I see no such predicate in the statement either overt or implied. In fact I think prophecy is dictated by what God wants to disclose, not by "what the prophets are interested in." Having said that, I don't buy into headline chasers or date setters. But I often find them amusing.
Oh, come now. What exactly did you ask?
If ancient prophets really could look into the future (and I believe they could) just how does Mr. Demar think they could literally describe technology which doesnt exist yet and for which there were no words in the Greek or Hebrew languages?You're asking about the prophets. The prophets have spoken in the Scripture. What does the Scripture plainly tell us in this regard? Nothing. So how can anyone answer such a question without resorting to mere speculation?
Actually, I was asking about prophecy, of which the prophets are only the tools God uses to convey the same. Scripture plainly tells about about many of these prophecies. Some, it goes on to explicitly explain and interpet (Often by Angels; examples can be found in Daniel and Revelation), some can only be interpreted after sufficient historical revelation (as in some of Isaiah's prophecies). To the extent God provides them with the latter their time and culture certainly affects the words which will be used to communicate the prophecy.
By the tenth century, the Hungarians briefly replaced Islam.
nd its designation of being far north of Israel.
Again, M. Kline has an interesting discussion of the "far north" thing. He's quirky but worth a read.
Those who claim to interpret the Bible literally have a problem on their hands. If someone like Tim LaHaye is true to his adoption of a plain and common sense literalism, then the Russian attack he and Jerry Jenkins describe in the first volume of Left Behind should be a literal representation of the actual battle events as they are depicted in Ezekiel. There should be a one-to-one correspondence between Ezekiels description of the battle and modern-day weaponry.
and no amount of plain sense interpretation can get bows and arrows, clubs, shields, spears, and chariots to morph into missiles, jet planes, and atomic weapons.
I have heard such gyrations on this from Chuck Missler.
Amen. And that's exactly what the threads Topcat54 posts are saying.
"The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing." -- Proverbs 20:4