Editorial – Preconceived Opinions

In Jesus’ day, the Jews had many preconceived opinions about how prophecy was going to be fulfilled. They clung so tenaciously to these preconceived opinions (many of which were hundreds of years old—venerable with age) that, when prophecy was fulfilled in a different way than their pre-conceived opinions, they rejected the evidence of fulfilled prophecy. This was one of the reasons for the rejection of Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. One of the Jews’ preconceived opinions was that nobody would be able to tell where the Messiah was from, another was that the Messiah would appear at the head of armies for their deliverance from the Romans. The irony of all this is that nobody really could explain where Jesus was from, because the virgin birth could not be explained then or now. They rejected it, and accused Jesus of being born of fornication; they were sure that they were right because Joseph had been engaged to Mary at the time that she became pregnant. The Messiah would have delivered them from the tyranny of the Romans if they had accepted Him, but not in the way that they pre-conceived this to happen. Notice how clearly this is stated in The Desire of Ages, 576: “If Jerusalem had known what it was her privilege to know, and had heeded the light which Heaven had sent her, she might have stood forth in the pride of prosperity, the queen of kingdoms, free in the strength of her God-given power. There would have been no armed soldiers standing at her gates, no Roman banners waving from her walls. The glorious destiny that might have blessed Jerusalem had she accepted her Redeemer rose before the Son of God. He saw that she might through Him have been healed of her grievous malady, liberated from bondage, and established as the mighty metropolis of the earth. From her walls the dove of peace would have gone forth to all nations. She would have been the world’s diadem of glory.” [Emphasis supplied.]

How much they missed because they clung tenaciously to their preconceived opinions! Is there any danger of that today? Do we have preconceived opinions about how prophecy is to be fulfilled? If prophecy is fulfilled in a completely different way, will we recognize it, or will we reject the light and go into darkness? It has been my observation for many years that misinterpretation of prophecy is usually based on reading something into the prophecy that it does not exactly say, based on preconceived opinions that are widely held. This has been a reason for the controversy over who and what the church is—is it exactly what the Bible says, no more and no less, or not? (The book of Ephesians tells us exactly who and what it is.) The same is true in regard to statements in the Spirit of Prophecy—many of these statements were given in a specific context and cannot be given a universal or restricted technical application. (See Ellen G. White Volume 6 The Later Elmshaven Years 1905–1915, by Arthur L. White, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Washington D.C., 1982, 384, 385.)

In future editorials we will look at some of these preconceived opinions by which we read things into inspired writings. We all need to ask ourselves the question, “Do I believe what the prophet actually wrote and no more, or do I believe what I think it means?”