FAQ: I am aware of dispensational truth, and understand that Jesus seemingly predicted some things that did not come to pass in the Gospels. But I am uncomfortable with the idea that Jesus was “wrong.” Can you help me take the right view of the things he said that did not happen, like when he said that some
I personally do not like to say, “Jesus Christ made a mistake” as if it was an active thing that he did. He spoke what he heard from God and what he knew from the Word. And it was the Word of God that indicated that he would come back very soon. See Isaiah 13:6; 29:17,18; 51:3-6; Zephaniah 1:7, 14-18; Ezekiel 30:3; Haggai 2:6-9; Joel 1:15; 2:1; 3:14; Obadiah 1:15. In the New Testament, see Romans 13:12; 16:20; 1 Corinthians 7:29; Philippians 4:5; James 5:8,9; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 John 2:18 and Revelation 1:1, 3; 22:6,20.
In his best understanding of the Word, Jesus spoke what it was clearly indicating. God had so completely hidden the Sacred Secret that there was just no indication, not even a hint, that anything like the Christian Church would occur. And the way God effectively hid it was to speak as if shortly after the Lord lived, died, and was resurrected, the Day of the Lord would come.
The prophets, starting about 800 BC, said that the Day of the Lord (not “the coming of Christ,” which would precede “the Day of the Lord”) was close at hand. Had they simply said Christ’s coming is near, then we could have written that off to the fact that they did not sort out his first and second comings, and it was only his first coming that was near (although, as it turned out, “near” never even happened for his first coming).
God had a secret agenda, however, and therefore Jesus Christ could speak only from what God had revealed. God made the prophecy conditional based on the revelation of the Sacred Secret, unbeknownst to anybody, including Jesus. In doing so, some prophecies of Christ (and Joel, and Isaiah, and others) did not come true the way they spoke them because God had not revealed his secret plan.
1 Corinthians 2:7 and 8
(7) No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
(8) None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Understanding the situation that way is different from saying, “Jesus was wrong.” True, his predictions did not come to pass, but neither did those of the prophets of old whose words are now Holy Writ. So is the Bible wrong, or is some prophecy conditional? The surprising fact that Jesus made definite predictions that did not come to pass invites us to look deeper into the things written to us in the Church Epistles, things that Jesus could not have known until they were revealed after the Day of Pentecost.
Without a dispensational framework to understand the dynamics of the situation and the profound implications of “the Sacred Secret,” the Word will appear to contradict itself again and again. But once we understand the unfolding nature of dispensational truth, the whole Bible fits together wonderfully. This also highlights the truth that Jesus Christ is not, and was not, God. As a man, he could do and say only what the Father revealed to him, no more and no less (cp. John 5:19-30).
Let me quote a friend from Dallas, Texas, who did a good job articulating an answer to this question:
“Jesus spoke what he believed to be true. He would have been totally correct in what he spoke, except that God intervened and inserted a little thing like “the age of grace.” This period of time was totally hidden in God, hidden “up His sleeve,” so to speak. Not even the Son of God knew about it. That doesn’t take anything away from Jesus. It just shows how important it was to God to keep it a secret from His enemies.”
The Old Testament and the Gospels reveal both the suffering and the glory of Jesus Christ. After his death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus expected the seven years of Tribulation, after which he would return to earth to enter his kingdom. That is what Scripture revealed, and that is what his apostles expected. In fact, they were somewhat anxious about it, as when they asked him in Acts 1:6b: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” What was his response in his resurrected body and with a bigger perspective? Acts 1:7b: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”
Nothing new was revealed until God gave him the revelation of The Sacred Secret, and he in turn revealed it to the Apostle Paul.
E.W. Bullinger says that in the teachings of Christ in Matthew 16:28, 24:34 and 35; Mark 13:30 and Luke 21:32, a conditional clause in the Greek text is present. In Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32, Jesus, in his next breath, reminds his followers that no one knows the day or the hour.
No one knows about that day or hour, even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
One problem is that so few Christians are handling this subject because most don’t understand that Jesus Christ was truly a man, the Son of God, and he had to take his lead from the Father. The Sacred Secret was revealed, slowly but surely, in its fullness to the Apostle Paul, not to Jesus in his earthly ministry before the Day of Pentecost.