Perhaps one of the weakest interpretations of scriptures ever employed by one of the weakest segments of the church comes from Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. In an attempt to declare that prophecy is something that has passed into the annals of history the following verse is misused and misinterpreted by many evangelicals and some denominations as well.
“Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.” (1Cor 13: 8) This verse is used to explain away any and all extra-biblical revelation but mostly to prove that prophecy has ceased.
Not only does the verse never mention exactly when revelations will cease but it includes one aspect of God’s provision that requires no extra-biblical revelation. That one aspect is always completely ignored and never spoken of by those who erroneously use this interpretation to quell the ongoing sovereign voice of God in a dying world. The word is obviously, “knowledge.” If all prophecy has ceased why, if taken in context, hasn’t all knowledge taken a final bow along with it? Why study scripture, why go to school, why read a book? It invokes the question: is your theologian smarter than a fifth grader?
To bolster the misguided notion that all prophecy has ceased, a verse that follows is often engaged. “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” (1Cor 13: 10) Those who insist prophecy has ceased have decided that it is the scripture that is “that which is perfect.” The Bible is used to test all extra biblical revelation but not to quash it; conversely, extra biblical revelation is used only to supplement the Bible but never to supplant it.
As a footnote, it might be good for the two prophets of Revelation chapter eleven, if the rapture did take place well before they started their prophetic ministry in the last three and a half years before Christ touches down on the earth. If the Christians were still here they would label them as false prophets and probably be the first to try to run them out of town.
Paul does not specifically state what “that which is perfect” is, so it falls to those that interpret this verse to tell us what he meant. Leaving mere interpretation this borders dangerously close to entering the realm of very bad exegesis commonly known as interpolation. To interpolate you must first extrapolate. Put simply, that is adding a meaning that is clearly not stated, as if it were. When it comes to the timing or historicity of a matter you are treading on dangerous ground. Some interpolation is in the realm of the understood and is reasonably defensible.
An example of a reasonable interpolation is found in Psalm 94: 9, where the Psalmist said “He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see?” This is where an additional question could be asked and the answer would be understood: he that made the mouth shall he not speak? This is an interpolation we can live with.
The added meaning put into the subject of prophecy is not the most dangerous aspect of this coddled and misused interpolation. Another far more serious danger is the chance of committing inadvertent blasphemy, an unforgivable sin if not repented. After watching devils being cast out of people the Pharisees (Religious leaders of the Jewish priesthood) decided that Christ was casting them out by the power of the devil. Jesus told them that if Satan were casting out his own demon subordinates his kingdom would be divided and thus it would ultimately fall. But the rebuke did not end there.
Next, Christ warned that to say something that came from God’s Holy Spirit was actually generated by the Devil was blasphemy, an unforgivable sin. In fact it is the only unforgivable sin ever described in all of scripture. Let’s not be harsh or accusatory but simply raise a hypothetical question. Even I don’t believe that everyone who claims to be prophesying is on the level. But above the abuses and nonsense is Christ’s very grave warning. If any of them are legitimately speaking in God’s stead and we label it demonically inspired, have we not just committed the sin of blasphemy? Wouldn’t it be far more reasonable to pray for some God given discernment to separate the nonsense from the truth rather than just blaspheme? I’ll let you answer that for yourself. (Mt 12: 31-32)
If we want to persist in this kind of weak interpretation we may as well carry our dead letter of the law viewpoint to the full extreme. The next time one of our preachers, who think prophecy has passed, says God spoke to his heart, then let’s get on our rebuke and tell that preacher a thing or two. Or if they prayed about something and “felt” God gave them a sure “feeling” about what to do, then shouldn’t we pack up and leave the church where they are ministering? Hey, isn’t that some kind of extra-biblical revelation? When will the believers see that in God’s sovereignty no one can shut his voice down, not now, not ever?
Then along comes one of the biggest ministries with its list of false and real preachers but right smack in the middle of their website is an ad complete with books, advice and anecdotal testimony of the benefits of owning gold and the security it promises in these days of economic woe. Some might notice the incongruity, but most will not. For me it is just a question of, what prophet of the economy gave them this insight. Who have they been listening to and just where in the Bible can they substantiate this idea of using gold to defer or substantially defray economic disaster?
Here’s a prophecy for the non-prophecy believing leaders of such ministries. Your gold will fail you when God calls for the economy to collapse. In the Psalms, and in the book of Ezekiel’s prophecy the term “staff of bread” is used to explain what happens when God calls for a nation to undergo extreme fiscal hardship. (Ps 105: 16 – Eze 4:16 – 5: 16) In the extreme degree of such judgments, it is not that no one can afford any bread, but rather there is no bread to be found. No amount of gold can buy nonexistent bread. This kind of judgment includes almost all staple items as well.
While we are guarding the flock against charlatans, wolves and false prophets what good is it if we allow the snake oil seller and the high sounding purveyors of false riches to fleece the flock under the banner of personal security? The wolves we let into the flock are no less dangerous than the false prophets that we so carefully work to keep out.
Television commercials featuring G. Gordon Liddy advising people to check out the pros and cons of investing in gold can be seen on the box at anytime night or day. Liddy, who spearheaded the break in at the Watergate complex in the seventies paid his debt to society by spending 52 months in federal slammers, is now telling us that gold is the thing. Liddy once traveled and appeared with the greatest advocate of the drug L.S.D., Mr. Timothy Leary. He has also hacked it up with the comedian, now working as a senator in Minnesota, Mr. Al Franken.
In his latest commercial he is found using a hair dryer to blow away a stack of money which he says is practically worthless because of inflation. He assures us that we should trade our green for gold as do many others who represent gold sellers.
In the rising multi-billion dollar precious metals market exactly what are these companies collecting from the public for their failsafe gold bullion, coins and specialties? Takes no genius does it, they are collecting inflated nearly worthless money! Ok, so let’s not call them false prophets but what shall we call them? You decide!
The eternal metal cannot make a way into eternity for you, and there is a kind of gold that can only be had through a broken heart and repentance toward God. In the meantime consider what James had to say about heaping gold together to meet hard times or the very last days of all time.
“Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.” (James 5: 1-3)
Copyright ©2011 Rev. Michael Bresciani