An Unfulfilled Prophesy - an Article

You shall recognize him by the breaking of the bread. This is his trademark and the identifying sign. "The breaking up", or "the dividing into parts". This is how two of his Apostles recognized him. When he divided the bread into parts. Please remember this identifying aspect of Jesus while reading this article.

A prophesy is a statement regarding some future events. It may be inferred or it may be implicative. In the first case the person making a prophecy bases its content on some information gathered in the past (we call it an educated guess). In the second case the prophecy seems to be taken out of the blue, with no apparent support for the prophesy in the already known information.

When someone makes a prophecy of the first kind, everyone who hears it understands the meaning of it. For example, recently some scientists predicted future effects of the 'global warming'. We understand what they base the prophecy on, and we also understand what they mean when describing some predicted cataclysms.

The second type of prophesies is more complicated and difficult to understand. This is because the described realization of the prophecy may be seen as some poetic representation. We imagine the atmosphere of the predicted events, but we may err if we try to envision the specifics of its realization. For example look at one of the prophecies provided by Isaiah.

Isaiah 8.3
After that went I unto the Prophetess, that now had conceived and born a son. Then said the LORD to me: give him this name: Maherschalal hashbas, that is: (quick spoils; speedy plunder).

The name given to one of Isaiah's sons may be seen as a prophecy related to some future person. However, until we see that person and can observe how such name realizes itself in his life, we may err while interpreting the meaning of it. In fact the prophecy may as well imply that the person is going to be filled with the Spirit of God, and be very successful in gaining the followers. (At the same time it may mean something completely different)

There are other problems associated with prophecies. Most important is the ability to judge the validity of any statements issued by a person, based on the fulfillment of some of his or her prophecies. In fact if a person makes a prophetic statement and then, the prophecy fails to fulfill itself, we may disregard any other statements made by this person. In fact we may ignore that person all together as far as any consequences of his or her actions are concerned. Inversely, a fulfilled prophecy makes a person reliable in the eyes of beholders, and gives social status.

The above property is problematic when we realize that some prophecies are not understandable until the time of their fulfillment. If we do not comprehend the meaning of a prophecy, how are we supposed to know if the prophecy is already  fulfilled or not? Let us look at another example of prophecy which is of great interest to many. The prophecy related to the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Everyone would like to know some definite date by which Jesus is supposed to come to Earth. There is a prophecy in the Bible where such a date is indirectly suggested. The text is a part of the second letter of St. Peter:

2nd Peter 3.8-9
Dearly beloved be not ignorant of this one thing, how that one day is with the Lord, as a thousand year, and a thousand year as one day. The Lord is not slack to fulfill his promise as some men count slackness: but is patient to us ward and would have no man lost, but would receive all men to repentance.

There could be a number of ways the above citation may be interpreted. I would like to look at two completely different approaches to this text.

Firstly, one needs to observe that Peter wrote these words in response to some pressure coming from the fellow believers, who wanted some specifics related to the time of coming of Jesus. Thus, it should be expected that Peter would want to provide some concrete information that would satisfy them. However, at the same time, Peter was supposed to be able to establish (or bind) laws on earth and in heaven. Therefore, if Peter would say that Jesus is to come on Monday, then, (I suppose) Jesus would have to take this into account while coming.

The twenty first century

The simplest interpretation of the statement made by Peter is that we may count the thousands of years spoken about as literal time durations. Thus, after one thousand years, and then after another thousand, Jesus should come. That makes two thousand years after which one would expect the coming of our Lord. If you want to be even more specific we could take into account that exact moment of time when Peter was writing the text (or maybe when Jesus was crucified). That would shift the date by some forty or maybe thirty years. In other words, such prediction would put the date of the coming into the middle of the twenty first century.

Some time earlier

However, there is a possibility of looking at the Peter's words in a completely different manner. Suppose we stress the 'one day being a thousand years with the Lord' fragment. In such case when someone (and this includes Jesus himself) speaks about a 'day of the Lord', one may be speaking of a period of a thousand years. This unique period would represent something specific from the point of view of Jesus. That would be 'his day', that is a thousand years of his undivided dominance and ruling. Surely, such a thousand years has already happened in the past. What we could do is to take the prophecy spoken by Jesus himself, and see how well his own prediction would fit into the thousand years of his dominance.

Matthew 24.1-31
And Jesus went out and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him, for to show him the building of the temple.
Jesus said unto them: see you not all these things? Verily I say unto you: There shall not be here left one stone upon another, that shall not be destroyed.

The above relates to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple that happened in AD 70.

Matthew 24.3-10
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, his disciples came unto him secretly saying: Tell us, when this shall be? and what sign shall be of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
And Jesus answered, and said unto them: take heed that no man deceive you; For many shall come in my name saying: I am Christ: and shall deceive many. You shall hear of wars, and of the noise of wars, but see that you be not troubled, for all must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and realm against realm: and there shall be pestilence, and hunger, and earthquakes in all quarters. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they put you to trouble, and shall kill you, and you shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake: And then shall many fall, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one the other.

The above may be seen as a general statement, which may be associated with any difficult time in human history. The specific persecutions may be associated with the suffering of Christians in the ancient Rome, or equally well with the Roman persecution of the Jews in the following years. At those times the Romans had a talent for letting other peoples blood flow.

Matthew 24.11
And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many.

Again a general statement. Throughout the years, one may find those in numbers both within the Judaism as well as Christianity.

Matthew 24.12-13
And because iniquity shall have the upper hand, the love of many shall abate. But he that endures to the end shall be safe.

This statement suggests that the day of the Lord is to be a prolonged affair. "Endurance", and especially if it is to be sustained to "the end" does not sound like a one day event. If it is seen as involving generations, then it may be more in line with the questions presented to Peter in regard of the coming of the Lord. Evidently, the early Christians saw they lives as "enduring" some form of effort, and they were keen to learn about the day of their deliverance.

Matthew 24.14
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come.

This line may be seen as relating to the Apostles preaching the Gospel to the crowds after the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost:

Acts 2.5-11
There were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, which were of all nations under heaven. When this was noised about, the multitude came together  and were astounded, because that every man heard them speak his own tongue. They wondered all, and marveled saying among themselves: Look, are not all these which speak of Galilee? And how hear we every man his own tongue wherein we were born? Parthians, Medes, and Elamites and the inhabiters of Mesopotamia, of Jury, Capadocia,  Ponthus, and of Asia; Phrigia, Pamphlia, and of Egypt, and of the parts of Libia, which is beside Syrene; And strangers of Rome; Jews and Proselytes, Greeks and Arabians: We have heard them speak with our own tongues the great works of God.

The following verses refer to the desecration of the Temple performed by king Antiochus IV Epiphanes who did it in 167 BC, and the desecration and destruction of the Temple performed by the Romans:

Matthew 24.15
When you then shall see the abomination and desolation (spoken of by Daniel the prophet) stand in the holy place: whosoever reads it, let him understand it.

However, the Romans not only destroyed the Temple. They destroyed the nation, divided it, and forcibly resettled part of it away to Rome. The following citation may be seen as indicating this:

Matthew 24.40-41
Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left behind. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left behind.

Moreover, the struggle involved the tragic incident at the mountain of Masada, during the Jewish revolt between  AD 66-73.

Matthew 24.16-22
Then let them which be in Judea fly into the mountains. And let him which is on the housetop, not come down to take anything out of his house. Neither let him which is in the field, return back to fetch his clothes. Woe be in those days to them that are with child, and to them that give suck. But pray that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day. For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world to this time, nor shall be. Yes and except those days should be shortened, should no flesh be saved: But for the chosen's sake those days shall be shortened.

The above passage may be seen as relevant to both the Jews and the Christians. It attempts to describe the future war with the Romans and the chaos of the persecution. In fact the Romans killed a substantial part of the population, and divided it into subgroups. Some were killed, some may have tried to escape. The behavior of the Christians and the Jews may have differed, and the Romans may have treated them differently to some extend. In the time of stress the false deliverers from the oppression might have presented themselves.

Matthew 24.23-28
Then if any man shall say unto you: look, here is Christ, or there is Christ: believe it not: for there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets and shall give great signs and wonders. So greatly that if it were possible, even the chosen should be brought into error.  Take heed I have told you before. If they shall say unto you: look, he is in the desert, go not forth: look, he is in the secret places, believe not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shines unto the west: so shall the coming of the son of man be. For wheresoever a dead body is, even thither will the eagles resort.

The main point of the above citation is the immaterial presence of Christ. The reader instead of concentrating his attention on the aspect of false Christs needs to observe that the passage may suggest the presence of the Christ but not in the material form. The hole purpose of this passage is to suggest just that. When the day of the Lord comes he may as well come in the spiritual form, executing his judgments. In such a situation any person who is physically present on Earth may not make claims of being him.

Matthew 24.29
Immediately after the tribulations of those days, shall the sun be darkened: and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall move.

Up to this verse the description may be associated with the Jewish-Roman wars, the destruction of the Temple and the forced resettlement of the Jews and the Christian Jews to Rome. Some of them were to be left behind and some taken away (as other passages indicate clearly). However, the verse 29 begins a description of the period of the "day of the Lord". This is what is supposed to be happening during such time.

Now comes the prophetic ambiguity. There was a time when the Sun was associated with God. Sun, God, Light all of those terms could be used interchangeably. Moreover, these terms have been associated by John Evangelist with the Word. And thus, what we may read in this verse is, that during this time the "Word" is to be darkened, even to the point of prophesizing the resultant Dark Ages.

The above passage may be seen as indicating the Dark Ages in Europe. The lack of education, knowledge, poverty and analphabetism (illiteracy). Moreover, the governing structures would be undermined leaving some local chiefs and small realm kings ruling with reduced authority. All of that happened during the Middle Ages. To such an extend that we have only limited written records of that period of time. This was mainly due to the wide spread illiteracy and lack of education.

Matthew 24.30-31
And then shall appear the sign of the son of man in heaven. And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the son of man come in the clouds of heaven with power and great majesty: And he shall send his angels with the great voice of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his chosen from the four winds, and from the one end of the world to the other.

Now comes the most difficult part of the text. If the period of about one thousand years of Dark Ages represents the day of the Lord, then what is his sign which is to be visible at the end of such period?

One could try something like the following:
If the Sun may be associated with the Light then with God and then the Word, resulting in the darkness representing the general lack of education. Then the sign in heaven may be associated with the leadership of the Catholic Church. After all the Catholic Church is supposed to represent the heavenly Bride of Christ, and the Bishops are to represent the Apostles. Therefore one should look for a sign within the Church that could be interpreted as the "sign of man". What is that sign anyway? Let us look at another passage:

Matthew 25:31-33
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

One could find number of citations that could be used to illustrate this, but they all suggest that the "sign of man" is his ability to divide, and to separate into fractions.  Maybe this is a judgmental attribute of his person. If one asks about the character of Jesus, and of his trademark of sorts, one could say that he rules by dividing. He introduced divisions between Jews and Christians (early Christians consisted of Jews as well). He even divided his own followers on number of occasions, resulting in some leaving him. Therefore, if he was to give a sign of his presence, he would introduce a division in some place that would seem impossible to be divided at all.

Thus one needs to look for a sign of division within the Catholic Church that would culminate the period of the "Day of the Lord". In fact there is one such event which stands out as completely out of character within the Church. That is the duality of the Popes, or the Great Schism, when more than one Pope was present at a given time. That happened from the time of Clement VII who was elected as antipope in 1378. The Great Schism lasted till the year 1417.

One may recall that the Christian Faith has been established as the ruling religion within the Roman Empire in the year 391. Moreover, many scholars assume that the Middle Ages began at the time of about 350 AD. Therefore, after about a thousand years of darkness and domination of the Lord the sign of division has been provided.

So what do you expect to see?

As indicated at the beginning of this page, prophecies are quite complicated when you look at them in some detail. They may be fulfilled in a totally unexpected manner. They may witness about validity of the person making the prophecy as well. If you believe that the prophecies about the coming of the Lord are still not fulfilled then you put a question mark next to the names of the prophets making them. Thus, both Jesus and Peter may be suspect of not being genuine. Surely, after the predicted two thousands years Jesus may come in some spectacular manner (as many people expect) and in this way he may demonstrate his own truthfulness and that of Peter's as well. It is called Parousia in Greek.

On the other hand one may assume that the Middle Ages were in fact the realization of the coming of Jesus. He came in spirit (so none could find him in flash), but his rule was overwhelming, and indeed the darkness was quite remarkable. If this is the case then he has confirmed his truthfulness already and he does not need to do it again. One is supposed to believe in the prophets whose words came to fulfillment. It is called faith.

You shall recognize him by the breaking of the bread. This is his trademark and the identifying sign. "The breaking up", or "the dividing into parts". This is how two of his Apostles recognized him. When he divided the bread into parts.

Luke 24:35
Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.