There seems to be a major increase in people claiming to have visions, locutions or various revelations by God, Jesus, Mary, various saints and angels that pertains to the future. While there is no doubt that God can do what He pleases, and can reveal information as He chooses, are there boundaries that even God Himself will not cross? This question is very relevant in today’s world, as there are multiple numbers of people, along with several ‘apparition’ sites that have popped up, and messages about the future abound. If there is not a methodological way in which to assess these happenings, it can cultivate a crisis of faith and cause doubts about what is real versus illusion.
As covered in the previous hermeneutics posting, the answer and backdrop must be Scripture. Since God is unchanging the messages He passes on must fit into the substance of his being and will for us as revealed through Scriptures. If this was not the case, confusion would reign, and His word would be in doubt. Now, there are those who have argued that God, in fact, has changed or modified prophecy in the Bible. While on the surface, this could be seen as truth in the few occasions in which this point is brought up. But if one does a diligent study of these passages, this assertion is proved to be untrue.
Case Study: Jonah and Nineveh
Many have attempted to use the story of Jonah and Nineveh as an example of God changing, or modifying prophecy. In the book of Jonah, the main proponent, Jonah, is commissioned by God to preach to Nineveh that total destruction of Nineveh will occur in 40 days. Upon the people’s repentance, God “changed his mind’ and called off the imminent judgment on Nineveh. On the surface, this seems to be a clear cut case of God changing or modifying prophecy and this has spurred on others to take it upon themselves to look for exceptions to Biblical principles. When this is done, it then places the expositor in a position of having ‘special knowledge’ and he becomes the sole arbiter of what is taught or what message is conveyed by God to the masses. The Bible does not covey or teach this.
The story of Jonah and Nineveh has two significant lessons. The first being Jonah’s reluctance and distain for the people of Nineveh, and by extension, his mission given by God. The second piece of this story, which is much more important, is the role of forgiveness and repentance, and the power it has. When taken in its full context, the book of Jonah paints a very complete picture of the nature of God, and how He views fallen man, and how we are given every opportunity and benefit of the doubt when it comes to the finality of Judgment.
Jonah was commanded by God to preach to the Ninevites that Nineveh and its inhabitants were to be destroyed in 40 days. Because the Ninevites were hostile to the Jews, and were a sinful lot, Jonah wanted to see them destroyed. Jonah as a Jew was not following the percepts of Judaism in presenting salvation to the gentiles. He was too busy condemning them, and not looking at his own behavior which was just as despicable in the eyes of God. Jonah took a human, not a divine look at the Ninevites, and it was not the message God wanted to convey to these people. This is why God was so harsh on Jonah, as he did everything humanly possible to disobey God’s command and not bring God’s message to Nineveh.
After spending time in the belly of the fish, Jonah ‘got it’ and followed through with his mission. What Jonah did not expect was the people in Nineveh, from the king on down, to put on ashes and sackcloth and repent of their evil. From this perspective, it looked like God ‘changed his mind’ when postponing judgment, and making Jonah look like a ‘liar’ However, had Jonah been more in touch with his own faith and understood the message of salvation, he would have rejoiced in seeing the Mercy of God being exercised on these sinful people. Instead Jonah could not get past his very human hatred of these people, and asked God for death, despite just experiencing the greatest evangelization ever recorded in the Bible.
Because Jonah was not plugged in to the Divine will of God, he was very confused and angry at God for not following through on his judgment of destroying Nineveh. What Jonah failed to realize is, that God was actually very consistent in keeping his word, that those who have a contrite heart will be renewed and forgiven. That is how God reacts to those who call on him for forgiveness. This judgment was not ‘changed, nor modified: it was postponed. The sad truth is Nineveh was destroyed as God prophesized about a century later due to the Ninevites falling back into the same pattern of sin.
So, it is God who stays consistent, and keeps perfect accountability with his words and actions. Being a prophet is a great privilege; but also carries great responsibility in that the one bringing the message must be working within the context of God’s will. But within this context also lies the premise that God is unchangeable and would not deceive the elect with contradictory statements or messages. Discernment is necessary and even Jesus taught that we are to test the spirits. And one way to know whether the message is from God is the consistency it has with the Word. There cannot be contradictions, and there are always accompanying signs that go along with prophecy.
It is possible for God to postpone judgment if man repents and is contrite. So when people have asked me whether I believe Revelation can be stopped, it is only on these grounds, that we repent and are contrite. But if we get to the point of filling our cup of iniquity, the great clock of Revelation will start, and we will go through all of the 14 events prophesized and in the order written. Revelation will not be modified nor changed as proven in the Bible, but can be postponed.
So, for those who have made claims that “God told me’ that parts of Revelation have been cancelled, or that certain events are trumpets outside of the revealed order, you are making false claims and need to cease and desist in your error. There are those who make these claims, and some have also claimed it came to them in a supernatural fashion, by spirit beings, dreams or locutions. Despite the supernatural means, which is very powerful and convincing, it still contradicts Scripture, and sows doubts about the Nature and integrity of God. These are the tools of the enemy, and when the enemy utilizes them, he causes chaos and confusion among the faithful. We’ve been warned that in the end times, delusions will be sent that would even deceive the elect if that were possible. Be on guard against these prophecies and teachings, test them, and do not be afraid to either challenge those making these claims, or just simply outright reject them. However, those that pass the Scripture test ought to be weighed with great gravity and acted upon.