What do you do when your wildest dreams are just that: wild dreams? How do you live when your great expectations are vaporized before your eyes? I’m thinking of the disciples watching their master dying on the cross when a short while before, 70 of them had gone to proclaim, at Jesus’ instruction, the arrival of the kingdom of heaven (Luke 10). How animated they must have been as they set off, their feet bearing the good news! Finally, Jesus was going to take His place as king and boot out the Romans!
Or was He????
Betrayed, bruised and battered, Jesus now hung humiliated on a cross. How bitter was the disciples’ disappointment; how agonizing their sorrow. Hadn’t they happily spread the message as they healed the sick and freed the demon-possessed? What then could they make of it all; was their message wrong? Was Jesus nothing more than a pretentious fraud?
A few days later, Jesus’ resurrection proved one thing: The disciples had spoken nothing but the truth… they just didn’t understand it. One of the disciples later wrote:
It was this salvation that the prophets searched for and investigated when they spoke of the grace that was prepared for you. They tried to find out when and how this would take place, for the Spirit of Christ inside them spoke clearly about Christ’s sufferings and glory to come. It was explained to them that they were not doing this for themselves, but for you–since what they spoke about you’ve now learned from those who shared the good news with you by the Holy Spirit that heaven sent. Even the angels are eager to find out about all this!
(1 Peter 1:10-12 FBV)
The prophets spoke of salvation but even they partially understood it and had to investigate the meaning. The prophets were students of their own prophecies. Daniel had to pray for an explanation and still didn’t understand everything his prophecies had to say. Alas, being a prophet provided no exemption from studying the Word. If anything, the prophets were the most industrious students of their own messages. Therefore, a prophet could quite easily be telling the truth and still not have a full understanding of it. Certain aspects of the prophecy may be fully understood in the future.
Today, October 22, 2016, is the 172nd anniversary of the Great Disappointment. This was the day when William Miller among others, waited in vain for the return of Christ. His understanding of Daniel 8:14 had led him (and other unconnected Bible students) to this belief. Some of his followers concluded that the calculations were correct but the expected event was wrong. These followers later organized themselves into the movement now known as The Seventh-day Adventist Church (https://telltheworld.adventist.org/). Miller himself never joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church but went to the grave unshaken in the conviction that his calculations were correct.
I am one of these people that dare to hold to the belief that something of cosmic importance happened on that day (although some say this was a face-saving move). I believe that one can be telling the truth and still not fully understand it. The implication of that belief in my life is that this all calls for humility and studiousness. It means I can never “arrive” – I must be eternally a student, sitting at Jesus’ feet and learning from Him and other students. I too, like the prophets of old, must search and investigate.