Many Christians misunderstand prophecy because they  misunderstand how God sees time. 

Our culture is dominated by narratives 

Perhaps, more than ever, our culture is dominated by narratives with narrative/story being the dominant way of structuring communication in media. And as we consume media more than any generation before us, the dominant narratives are structuring our perception of how the world operates. The Bible is also full of narratives, so this is nothing new. A narrative/story typically has a protagonist, a central person who drives the story forward through his action. The action moves forward along the path of contingent (subject to chance) causation (but obeying the laws of cause and effect). In effect, it has to be surprising but believable (to obey the laws of this physical universe).  

God is also a storyteller. But the first problem we have with prophecy is that God not us is the central character. It is His motivations and actionseven when it is a prophecy about usthat structure the narrative.

Aristotletime is linked to movement 

Aristotle’s idea about physical time being linked to movement has been verified by relativity theory: time is a dimension of the physical world & relative dependent on mass and speed. This concept of time is based on materialism and sees time as linear, leading often to an understanding that the things that happen first are the ones that cause the events that come after. This materialistic understanding of time affects us in a deep way because of our sensory experiences.  

Aristotelian understanding of time the succession of past, present & future. This understanding of time is firmly linked to materialism and brings causal projections in your mind. If you are dominated by the Aristotelian sense of time, your projections of future are often limited by your understanding of materialistic principles.  

For example, in this mindset, going from 1 to 2 to 3 or 4 might seem plausible, but going from 1 to 100 might seem implausible. So, for example when Jesus talks about 100-fold growth, we might expect this growth to go up from 1 to 2 to 4 to 8 and 16 at maximum over a period of time & obeying restrains of physical causality. 

Augustine: we perceive our past and future from the perspective of the present 

St. Augustine, one of the church fathers, had a very different view on time, which was based on eternity. This was a psychological understanding of time in which both the past and the future only exist in the presence of our mind. 

We can see the impact of this dynamic in our lives: when you are hope-filled, your future expectation is different than when you feel depressed. 

Also, your past achievements and failures will affect you differently based on how you feel right now. Ultimately, Augustine’s understanding of time is firmly rooted in eternity: God is the only one to whom the past, the present and the future are fully present all the time. 

That is because He is the originator of the physical universe to which our understanding of physical time is bound to. 

That is why He is able to shape the beginning from the end. That is why to God prophecy is current knowledge whereas to us is a prediction about future. 

But this fundamental difference in perspective also brings a fundamental difference to the way we and God see things and especially to the way we perceive what is effective and what is meaningful. 

For example, we know Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, but when it comes to the time He spent on earth, most of His time on earth He spent carrying wood. He was a carpenter’s son, and a Jewish boy was considered an adult when he was 12. So, from 12 to 30 He probably spent most of His time carrying and working with wood. And that was His last physical act, as He carried part of the cross to Calvary.  

One thing narrative does often is to summarise any long gaps of inactionwhich don’t move the central story forwardand the Bible also does that. That’s why the Gospel stories ignore long patches of Jesus’s life before His public ministry, as they don’t advance the salvation story. 

Time and your perception of prophecy 

Most of the time, a genuine personal prophecy often seems to fail before it is fulfilled. 

Prophecy is knowing God’s will. But prophecy does not yet mean that you will know God’s way. 

We make huge mistakes when we apply prophetic words through reasoning and not through prayer. When we do that, our starting premise might be correct, but our conclusions flawed because of our human reasoning. 

Often, to be able to see you must close your natural eyes and open your spiritual eyes.  

Fulfilling a spiritual vision is like being in an escape room where the only way to get out is to close your eyes, ears and other sensory experiences in order to to find the way out only by listening to the Word and the Spirit. 

We are often confused because we measure success by what we are getting when God measures success by what we can give away! 

Matthew 13:31-32 says
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches. 
With most fruit trees the leaves and the flowers come first and only then the fruit. But we wait for the fruit even before the leaves have appeared. 

Jesus says in John 12:24: 
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 
Why are we so shocked when Jesus does exactly what He said He will do and exactly the way He said He would do it? We wait for the fulfilment of the prophecy even before the seed has died. 

The narrow gate/the eye of the needle  

Paul writes in Corinthians 4:8-12,  
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 
Here Paul describes the narrow road which seems to compress everything out of his life. The eye of the needle/the narrow road is the place where nothing else but the power of God will work, where the life of Jesus is revealed. 

For a prophecy to be fulfilled, it often needs you to walk along the narrow road and through the eye of the needle, so that God becomes the protagonistthe main actorin us. That’s why the road to the fulfilment of prophecy is always so radically different than we expect, as it involves the replacement of the main actor. 

You can connect with Marko on Twitter @markojoensuu and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mpjoensuu/ or by visiting markojoensuu.com. 


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