In this lesson and the next two, we look at three ideas about the Bible. These ideas are important to the premillennial view of so-called “end times”. One might almost say that all the premillennial teaching hangs on these three views. In this lesson we consider the “newspaper Bible” idea.
Some interpreters of the Bible believe that Bible prophecy and our daily newspapers are both talking about the same events. They say that the major world events reported in our daily newspapers are also predicted in the Bible. "One only has to read a newspaper or listen to a newscast in order to see Bible prophecies being fulfilled" they will say.
To these interpreters, the 20th Century (and now the 21st) is the focus of Bible prophecy. They claim that there have been more prophecies fulfilled in the twentieth century than in any other time.
When the 20th century still had some decades to go, a paperback "The Late Great Planet Earth" appeared on the bookstands and sold by the millions. The second chapter said...
“The astonishing thing to those of us who have studied the prophetic scriptures is that we are watching the fulfillment of these prophecies in our time. Some of the future events that were predicted hundreds of years ago read like today’s newspaper.”
Hal Lindsey, 'The Late Great Planet Earth' 1970 Chapter 2
Hal Lindsey’s claim, and his application of scripture to the daily press of his time, proved to be wrong. Things did not turn out anything like Hal said they would. But his claims were not recognised as discredited; they were simply replaced by a new set of interpretations to fit another generation’s newspaper stories.
Before Hal Lindsey there were many other teachers with the same approach, and all had proved to be wrong.
Today, in the 21st century and a new millennium, a similar claim is being made. Only the newspapers and events have changed. Today’s claims too will turn out to be wrong. In the future, people likewise will claim that their daily newscasts are telling the fulfillment of Bible Prophecy, and that the end of the world will come in their time.
The repeated failure of this approach to the Bible should make everyone reject the "newspaper Bible" idea. By now people should have realised that the Bible is not a "newspaper Bible" at all, and people ought to be looking for a more sensible way to interpret prophecy.
To apply Old Testament prophecies correctly, we should go first to the New Testament writers, and see how they interpret prophecy for us. We should regard the prophecies they quote as the core prophecies, and use their method of interpretation as a guide or paradigm or pattern for understanding other prophecies.
There are dozens of places where New Testament writers apply Old Testament scriptures including key prophecies (See full list). The book of Hebrews alone is rich with examples. Yet modern prophecy gurus seem to ignore this treasure trove of the Bible’s own interpretation of itself.
The Bible itself indicates the times to which words of the prophets apply. Note the following examples...
Jesus said that his disciples were witnessing the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in their time, not we who read our daily newspapers or watch the news on telly.
"All the prophets and the law prophesied until John". This suggests that the people who heard John would witness the fulfillment of the prophets. The world did not have to wait until the printing presses disgorged our daily newspapers.
This tells us that God "spoke in times past to the patriarchs through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through his Son". This suggests that the prophets do not speak to us as they did to the fathers. What they predicted came true in Christ at the appointed time, so their predictions have, in these last days, become proofs of Christ, not expectations about him that only now are beginning to come true.
Peter clearly indicates that the prophets were looking toward the time of Christ and of the first Christians. They were not predicting specific events in our daily newspapers.
There are, of course, certain prophecies about things that would continually or repeatedly happen from the time of Christ onwards until he comes again. There are even a very few prophecies about events to occur on the world’s very last day, such as the resurrection of the dead and the judgment of all mankind.
However this does not change the basic fact: most of what the prophets have said in the Bible has long ago come to pass, and our daily newspapers are not the place to look. The "newspaper Bible" concept is wrong, and has proven itself wrong over and over again as people in each decade made assertions which the passing of time showed to be mistaken.