Author: Ron Graham
Jigsaw Puzzle Bible
—Is prophecy a jumble of pieces?
In this lesson we look at the second of three ideas basic to the premillennial view of so-called “end times”.
1 Prophecy Scattered in Small Bits
Hand in hand with the “newspaper” idea of the Bible, is the view that scripture is like a jigsaw puzzle. Again Hal lindsey is representative...
“The prophecies can be pieced together to make a coherent picture, even though the pieces are scattered in small bits throughout the Old and New Testaments”.
Hal Lindsey, 'The Late Great Planet Earth' 1970 (Chapter 4)
Notice the assumption that the Bible’s prophetic message is garbled, and we need to unscramble it —with perhaps just a hint that we need to enlist the services of a prophecy guru.
2 Here a Little, There a Little”
To justify this jigsaw puzzle approach to the Bible, premillennialists often quote Isaiah 28:10, "Here a little, there a little..." But this verse does not mean to say God’s revelation is all mixed up, but simply that it is progressive over a long period of history. It has come down to us piece by piece over a long period of history. But the pieces were not jumbled.
To illustrate, the Bible picture unfolded much as you might unroll a poster, or read a novel. The picture is revealed bit by bit, but forming a coherent image in what is unfolded. The poster unfolds to a complete picture, not jumbled bits and pieces. The novel might tell a little here, a little there, but eventually the author brings a coherent story together. The novel is not a jumble of bits and pieces.
In New Testament times, the unfolding was very far advanced. Paul claimed that he and his fellow apostles understood by clear revelation the mystery which was not fully understood by previous generations (Ephesians 3:5). Even if we conceded that the Old Testament prophecies were given as a jigsaw puzzle, then we would still have to say that in the New Testament they became a completely revealed and put-together picture.
So we do not need latter day teachers to assemble the picture for us. The New Testament writers did it long ago.
3 The Wrong Picture
Most jigsaw puzzles have a picture on the box —the same picture you are supposed to get when you put the puzzle together. So as you do the puzzle, you keep this picture in mind. Now if you happen by mistake to have the wrong picture, the puzzle is going to be more of a puzzle than it was meant to be. The problem with premillennialists is that they have the wrong picture in mind.
They claim that the Bible dwells more on Christ’s second coming than on his first coming. So they have in mind the time of the end, and of Christ's second coming, as the picture that Bible prophecies reveal. In fact the correct picture is of the time of Christ's first coming.
As a representative of this mistake, again we quote Hal Lindsey...
“One out of every twenty-five verses in the New Testament is related to the second coming of Christ, and the survival of mankind as well as the fulfillment of hundreds of unconditional promises especially made to the unbelieving remnant of the Jewish race are dependent an the second coming of Christ to this earth . As a matter of fact in the Old Testament there were more than 300 prophecies regarding Christ’s first coming (all of which were literally fulfilled) but more than 500 relating to His second coming. Many of these two different themes of prophecy were disclosed in the same sentence.”
Hal Lindsey, 'The Late Great Planet Earth' 1970 (Chapter 13)
That is wrong. New Testament writers take an opposite approach to the above. They interpret most Old Testament prophecies as applicable to Christ’s first coming, and, in only a very few cases, (eg Acts 24:14-15; 1Corinthians 15:54-55; 2Pet 3:2-4; Hebrews 10:37) do they extend their interpretations to the second coming.
To get the correct picture that prophecy presents, 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 interpret Old Testament prophecies. The book of Hebrews alone is rich with examples. And the emphasis is on the first coming of Christ, his death, resurrection, and ascension to the throne in heaven.
Here are just two examples of how the New Testament sees Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Christ's first coming, yet premillennialists apply them to his second coming...
Acts 4:26-31 quotes Psalm 2:2. "Why are the nations in an uproar and the people devising vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers gathered together against the Lord and his Anointed." This was applied to the persecution of Jesus when he came the first time, not to a future war or the time of his second coming.
Acts 2:30-36 Peter refers to 2nd Samuel 7:12-14. God tells David, "I will raise up your descendant after you, and establish the throne of his kingdom for ever." Peter applied this promise to Christ’s resurrection and ascension after his first coming.
Peter even claims that David himself "being a prophet looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of Christ". Peter did not say that the world must wait for this prophecy’s fulfillment until a future millennium after Christ’s second coming.
Prophecy is not a jigsaw puzzle at all, and when it is treated as such the picture that results is quite the wrong one.