“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; And, also, upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit.” (Joel 2:28-29)
A biblically accurate starting premise in approaching the study of end-of-time prophetic future events is to recognize that God has purposely kept some portion of the information incomplete and obscure.
A thoughtful Bible student can approach this admittedly difficult subject of end-times prophecy with the beginning assumption that no person has it all figured out to the last detail, because no one can figure it all out, by God’s purposeful intention.
Even as Jesus is explaining in clear language His upcoming crucifixion and resurrection to the disciples, as fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies, Jesus knows they are not completely getting it.
Yet there is no record in the gospels of Jesus going back over this critical subject repeatedly four or five times, until the disciples understand perfectly. Jesus knows it will all make sense later in hindsight.
An argument can be made that the crucifixion itself is a product of the Pharisees and scribes tragically misreading the messianic prophecies as a direct result of faulty living…adversely fulfilling the very prophecies they thought they completely understood upfront.
If the messianic prophecies were crystal clear no one would have made the tragic mistake of crucifying Jesus of Nazareth.
God indeed has everything in the last-days planned out to the smallest detail. But by not revealing all of it for the present time, God keeps us engaged and in a state of watchfulness. Our personal relationship with Jesus Christ is always the underlying theme behind all of the works of God, including the subject of end-times prophecy in the Bible.
The amount and specificity of information that God reveals in scripture is always a function of what He is attempting to accomplish in dividing truth from error for us through real-life experiences in the present-moment. Some of the end-times biblical prophecies will only become clear after all of the events are over.
A second component of this idea of purposely incomplete prophetic revelation is the good wisdom of God in not revealing all of the fine details of His plans to the opposition upfront.
Telling Lucifer and the other fallen angels all of God’s strategic plans ahead of time, within the end-of-time prophetic scriptures contained in the Bible…would be counterproductive in the extreme.
This interpretation is consistent with the approach that God has taken with all Bible prophecy. Some element of hindsight is usually involved in putting all of the prophetic pieces of the puzzle together after-the-fact.
Once the fulfillment of a particular biblical prophecy has been locked into historical place by the occurrence of the actual events themselves in time, then the opportunity for spiritual opposition to fully anticipate the prophecy ahead of time…and possibly adversely alter the God-intended outcome…has safely passed.
For example, the Psalms 22 prophecies regarding the crucifixion were just vague and obscure enough so that the religious rulers in Jerusalem did not connect them in advance to Jesus of Nazareth, yet precise and specific enough to be clear in hindsight.
Psalms 22:16 reads: “…they pierced my hands and my feet.”
If God had given away more detailed information in this prophecy, such as the shape of a wooden cross, the use of five to seven-inch long metal spikes, and the piercing of the hands and feet as a slow and tortuous method of execution causing weakness through blood loss leading eventually to asphyxiation, then everyone would have been forewarned centuries beforehand of the divine intention hidden within this prophecy, through the well-known and widespread practice of Roman crucifixion.
The question can be asked, what would be the motivation for God to give away too much overly specific information in this prophecy? God would then have had to come up with another means for sacrificial atonement other than the cross of Christ, for mankind’s sins.
Jesus Christ shed His blood while hanging on a wooden cross…in sin atonement as the sacrificial Passover Lamb of God after the ancient pattern of the blood atonement given by God to the Levitical priesthood.
Too much information given away in Psalm 22:16 would have tipped-off the religious and civil authorities ahead of time, and spoiled Roman crucifixion as God’s totally unanticipated and unexpected method for Christ’s substitutional atonement.
God reveals just the right amount of information in Psalms 22:16 to accomplish His purposes. One of the true marvels of Psalm twenty-two is that David heard God’s voice accurately, and got the wording of each of these critical prophecies just right.
Micah 5:2 reads: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
Hosea 11:1 reads: “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”
Isaiah 11:1 reads: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”
The Apostle Matthew included in his gospel that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Mt. 2:1), returned to Israel from Egypt as a small child (Mt. 2:15), and grew up in Nazareth (Mt. 2:23). Matthew obtained this information from only three probable first-hand sources…Mary the mother of Jesus, or Jesus Himself after His resurrection, or James the half-brother of Jesus.
The chief priests and Pharisees prided themselves in knowing the prophetic scriptures pertaining to the Messiah, as witnessed by their indignant response to Nicodemus who had suggested to his colleagues that they give Jesus a fair-minded hearing:
“Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look; for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” (Jn. 7:52).
Yet, all these priests and Pharisees had to do to resolve this question of the birthplace of Jesus was to simply ask Mary the mother of Jesus, or to ask Jesus Himself. They did not ask this direct question because they had already made up their minds that Jesus was an unsuitable candidate according to their preconceived idea of what the promised Messiah would be like.
Again, these prophecies regarding the origin of Jesus Christ, authenticating His claim to be the Messiah, were just vague and obscure enough so that the religious rulers did not connect them to Jesus of Nazareth, yet precise and specific enough to be crystal clear in hindsight…as given to us by Matthew.
God did not foretell through a singular, composite verse in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and come out of Egypt and be called a Nazarene (as Matthew interpreted the prophet Isaiah’s 11:1 verse).
God did not combine these three verses together neatly in one location in the sacred text for the convenience and illumination of the readers. Thus combined they would have unmistakably pointed to Jesus of Nazareth as the only possible Messiah. God kept these verses separated in the Old Testament, so as to be purposely obscure to the religious leaders in Jerusalem in the first- century, yet crystal clear in hindsight when put together after-the-fact by Matthew.