Hidden Prophecies in the Psalms – Why I Wrote the Book – by J. R. Church – www.prophecyinthenews.com/articledetail.asp?Article_ID=229
It was September, 1983. I had just concluded a study of Psalm 102, which contains some fascinating prophetic implications. After producing a television program on the subject, my interest was stirred. "Perhaps there are other psalms," I thought, "which contain prophetic passages." My attention turned to Psalm 90. I felt that the psalm, which had been written by Moses, contained a fair amount of prophetic material. Little did I know at the time that this Mosaic psalm contains the very heart of the prophetic message that we would later discover.
Thinking it would make an appropriate study for our television program, Prophecy in the News, I began to pore over the verses and ponder their prophetic possibilities. However, I couldn’t seem to put the message together. I laid aside the material for a while and directed my thoughts elsewhere — hoping that when I returned to the study, my mind would be more organized. Later that day, I mentioned my frustration to Patricia Berry, research assistant.
"Patty," I said, "would you take a look at Psalm 90 and give me your assessment? There must be something prophetic there, but I can’t seem to put my finger on it."
A few days went by. Passing her desk one morning, I asked, "Did you come up with anything on Psalm 90?"
"No," she replied, "but I have something that might be of interest." Turning to Psalm 48, she asked, "Will you read verses 4 through 6?"
Pausing for a moment, I read, "For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marveled; they were troubled, and hasted away. Fear took hold upon them there, and pain, as of a woman in travail" (Ps. 48:4-6).
She asked, "Doesn’t that sound like the United Nations giving birth to the state of Israel?"
The description seemed obvious. The assembled "kings" could imply a group of representatives from various governments and the "woman in travail," sounds like it could refer to the rebirth of the state of Israel. After I acknowledged the prophetic implication of Patty’s find, she said, "Did you notice in which psalm that prophetic reference is made?"
I replied, "Psalm 48."
"Well," she reminded, "in what year did the United Nations give birth to the state of Israel?"
"Doesn’t it seem a bit more than just coincidence that the birth of Israel in 1948 should be described in Psalm 48?" she asked.
To which I whimsically replied, "Cute."
"Well," she continued to prod, "will you read a couple of verses in Psalm 17?"
By this time I had become intrigued. Turning to the psalm, I read, "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, … Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey, …" (Ps. 17:8,12).
"Doesn’t that," she asked, "sound like a description of the British general, Allenby, taking Jerusalem in 1917?"
I admitted, "It sure does!"
Allenby captured Jerusalem on behalf of Great Britain, the symbol of which is a lion (Ps. 17:12). The British commander had used airplanes to buzz the city, frightening the occupation forces into surrender. The "wings" (v. 8) might be a reference to those World War I biplanes.
The implications were intriguing! If Psalm 17 described an event that occurred in 1917; and Psalm 48 implied an event that happened in 1948; what about other psalms? Do they also allude to events that have befallen the Jewish people in this century?
I found a quiet place where I would not be disturbed. With my Bible in one hand and a yellow marking pen in the other, I studied the Psalms with an expectation never felt before.
As I embarked upon my new adventure, two potential problems had to be considered. First, I asked myself, "Am I trying to read into these verses something which is not there? Am I twisting Scripture in order to make it fit into a mold of my own making?" And secondly, "If I proceed past the psalm numbered according to the current year (1983), will I not be accused of setting dates?" These are two things, which I fear in my prophetic research ministry and try to avoid judiciously.
I have always held to traditional views. I do not know the future and cannot prognosticate. I could go no further than to say that the later psalms seem to set a trend for those events which the prophets say will come to pass.
Since publishing the first edition in 1986, I followed the progress of those psalms following Psalm 86 and am even more convinced today that the concept, which we first espoused has been confirmed! I am amazed that political and economic developments have conformed to the general prophetic theme set forth in the later psalms!
For example, the Leviticus section of the Psalms (73-89) implies both a discovery of the Ark of the Covenant and progress made toward restoration of the priesthood and temple liturgy. We learned that certain leading rabbis suggested that the Ark has been located. The tools of a future Temple have been prepared. Silver trumpets, vessels for carrying sacrificial blood, harps, a brazen laver (wash basin), lots for choosing a goat for sacrifice on the Day of Atonement, and more — some 90 tools needed for Temple worship have been designed and prepared!
I am convinced that Temple worship will be restored and that the Psalms allude to such an event. When? I cannot say. One does not try to put God in a box. He is sovereign! In God’s own good time, the prophecies in the Psalms will be fulfilled.
Furthermore, Asaph, Heman, and Ethan, writers of a large portion of the Leviticus section of the Psalms (73-89) were actually appointed to be prophets! The account is given in I Chronicles 25:
"Moreover, David and the captains of the host separated to the service of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun [Ethan], who should prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals …
"… under the hands of Asaph, which prophesied according to the order of the king.
"… under the hand of Jeduthun [Ethan], who prophesied with a harp, to give thanks and to praise the LORD.
"All these were the sons of Heman the king’s seer in the words of God, to lift up the horn" (I Chronicles 25:1-3,5).
Here is irrefutable proof that the writers of the Psalms were considered to be prophets — not just foretellers of Israel’s immediate future during the days of David’s reign, but seers who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, could foresee the return of Israel in the last days.
Psalm 91 vividly describes the 1991 war against Iraq. It contains such an uncanny view of scud missile attacks, that CNN, the New York Times, and Time Magazine reported that Psalm 91 had become the favorite talk among the soldiers during Operation Desert Storm.
Psalm 93 gives a remarkable view of the floods that occurred worldwide during 1993 — not only along the Mississippi, but in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. These record-breaking floods pointed up the incredible nature of the psalm. And Psalm 94 reflects upon the peace treaty signed between Israel and the PLO. I am convinced that our concept was correct!
Originally, it was with some degree of reluctance that I approached this subject, for fear of being labeled as a date setter. I do not wish to be classified in such a manner. On the other hand, if I had shelved this study on the uncanny twentieth century chronology apparent in the Psalms, I could have been remiss in my calling.
In Psalm 49 the Lord promised to open His "dark saying upon the harp." He implies that prophecies ("dark sayings") were hidden in Israel’s ancient songbook. The passage in Psalm 49:4 follows a description of the birth of Israel in Psalm 48, indicating that those "dark sayings" would not be discovered until after the return of the Jews to their homeland. We now live in that predicted era. The Jew has returned. We can only conclude that His "dark sayings" are thus being revealed.
Finally, following His resurrection, Christ appeared to the disciples in the upper room. His message points up the importance of what we now call "hidden prophecies" in the Psalms. He said, "… all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me" (Luke 24:44).
Here is a startling statement from the resurrected Savior. It is among the first subjects addressed by Christ after His return from the dead. He told the disciples that there are not only prophecies in the Law and Prophets, but in the Psalms as well. Therefore, Christians should not regard the Psalter as a mere collection of songs that reflect an ancient Jewish culture. Indeed, there are prophecies in those Psalms!
Our Prophetic View of the Psalms
If you are concerned about rightly dividing the Word of God, then you are involved with a subject biblical scholars call hermeneutics.
According to A. Berkely Mickelsen, author of INTERPRETING THE BIBLE, hermeneutics "designates both the science and art of interpretation. The Greek verb hermeneuo means ‘to interpret or explain.’ The Greek noun hermeneia means ‘interpretation.’ In both the Greek counterpart and the contemporary technical term, interpretation has to do with meaning."
So then, hermeneutics is simply interpretation — hopefully, correct interpretation. But in the matter of hermeneutics, there is one important question: Whose hermeneutics should be used?
More specifically, is there a system of hermeneutics that will legitimately interpret the prophecies in the Bible? And even more specifically, is there an interpretive system that will expound the prophecies in the Psalms? Guidelines must be found that will bring the confident assurance that Scripture is not being violated.
A few moments’ thought will bring to mind the paramount fact that everyone who enters into a system of ideas, brings with him a body of assumptions. One’s thoughts and expectations are inevitably colored by a lifetime of experience, teaching and emotions.
An excellent example of this fact is the way theologians of the early church age viewed the Old Testament. According to Bernard Ramm, in his book, PROTESTANT BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION, "The early Christian Fathers had as their Bible the Old Testament in Greek translation. This had been the Bible of Christ and the Apostles, judging from their citations of the Old Testament in the New. One of the most basic convictions of the early church was that the Old Testament was a Christian document."
Of course, the Old Testament has much to say to the church, but as we have entered into the latter days of the church age, it has become evident that the Old Testament is a Jewish document that speaks both of historical and future Israel. And as we shall see, it also speaks of present-day Israel.
As the fathers of the early church looked into the ancient Jewish books, they claimed to be able to look beneath the plain sense of the Word, and see hidden meanings in it that referred to the church. They claimed that they could see the church in the Jewish histories, personalities and commentaries. They disregarded the historical sense of the Torah and Tanach (i.e., Old Testament), using what has come to be called the "allegorical method" of interpretation.
Ramm writes, "Two things may be said for the allegorizing of the Fathers: (i) They were seeking to make the Old Testament a Christian document … (ii) They did emphasize the truths of the Gospel in their fancies."
But in the eyes of modern interpreters, the real effect of these early commentators was to forever discredit the allegorical method. That is, it became a violation of hermeneutics to look beneath the surface of the Word for secondary or hidden narratives that have spiritual or prophetic significance.
The question, then, is clear: Do we find stories in the Old Testament writings that, in addition to being historical accounts, are also chronicles of the future? Quite obviously, we do.
As told in Genesis, the life of Joseph is generally regarded as a portrait of the life of Christ. He was supremely loved by his father and hated by his brothers, who didn’t want him to reign over them. He was sent into slavery, living among the Gentiles in Egypt — a type of the world system — for 20 years. There, he came into rulership and took a Gentile bride. Finally, he revealed himself to his brothers, who acknowledged their wrong and pledged their faith to him.
His life literally becomes a story of the past, present and future of Israel and its relationship with the Messiah. It is not considered faulty interpretation to declare this truth. But whose system of hermeneutics placed the stamp and seal of approval on this obvious allegorical interpretation of Joseph’s life? The answer to this question is impossible to obtain, lying in the distant past, as one blessed believer’s spiritual eyes were opened to an astonishing and uplifting truth.
And what about other illustrious Old Testament characters? Does the life of Joshua say anything about the future? In the Hebrew, his name is basically the same as Christ’s. And remarkably, we find the ministry of Jesus Christ mirrored in the events of his life. What about the story of Ruth, the Gentile — and Boaz, the kinsman redeemer who took her as a bride? Again, we have a story that throws much light on the future history of Israel. More importantly, we gain great insight into the relationship between Israel, the wife of Jehovah, and the church, who is the bride of the greater Kinsman Redeemer.
And then there is Samuel, whose miracle birth to the barren Hannah brought to Israel one of its greatest prophets. His birth foreshadowed the virgin birth of Christ. In fact, the barren Sarah and Rachel also alluded to the future miracle birth of Abraham’s promised Messiah. These stories were prophecies to the spiritual eyes that could see it.
Then read about Solomon. Without a doubt, he is a type of Christ. As the royal son of David, he was a prophetic type of the greater son of the Davidic lineage.
The stories go on and on. The life and experiences of King David provide a wonderful overview of God’s plan for Israel. Many of the psalms form a kind of autobiography of his life. To be sure, they are historical accounts. But they are stories with a familiar ring, as once again today, Israel transitions toward its millennial position as head of the nations.
Is the Bible a living book? Hebrews 4:12 says it is: "For the word of God is quick [alive], and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Then why must we confine its teachings to the dusty past? Some forms of hermeneutics have done just that, saying in effect that Old Testament history must be seen as the fixed record of something long past. But faith in the God-breathed book must cry out that the whole Bible, not just its "prophetic" portion presents the story of God’s plan for Israel.
Are the past and present teachers of Israel wrong when they proclaim that the Psalms tell the prophetic story of Israel? They have said so for centuries — even before the coming of Christ. Before you renounce the hermeneutics of rabbinic allegory as useless, read it for yourself.
The Key to the Prophetic View
Psalm 22:1 offers us the key to understanding the prophetic nature of the Psalms. It is the familiar, "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?"
Even though the psalmist does not specifically say that the statement is a prophecy, which someday would be uttered by the Messiah, he nevertheless reflected the heart-cry of the one who would bear the sins of humanity. So it is throughout the Psalms. Each of those ancient songs reflects a similar prophetic view.
In each case, the psalmist pours forth the hopes and dreams, the desires and aspirations, the heartaches and frustrations of someone other than himself. Sometimes, as in the case of Psalm 22, it is the Messiah. But the psalmist also reflects the heartbeat of the Chosen People who would live in the last days — at the close of Israel’s long exile.
Jewish scholars said that David "caught a glimpse of the ultimate triumph and redemption of his people. He had the ability and genius to be stimulated and inspired so profoundly by events that he could soar above the boundaries of time; and sing of past, present, and future in the same breath, with the same words."
Since our publication of Hidden Prophecies in the Psalms in 1986, I have, from time to time, been roundly criticized by some Christian theologians who recoil in horror that I dare interpret the Psalms without following their preconceived ideas about hermeneutics. Some consider my prophetic interpretation as nigh unto heresy. It matters not that the prophetic message related in the Psalms is as plain as the nose on your face, my book is automatically rejected by some main-stream theologians as an "allegorical interpretation" — not worthy of serious consideration.
It seems I have used a method of interpretation unfamiliar to some modern-day scholars. But I am not alone in my view of the Psalms. A similar view is found in a nineteenth century book by F. W. Grant entitled, THE NUMERICAL STRUCTURE OF SCRIPTURE, first published in October of 1887.
Let’s review a few of the more startling statements by this nineteenth century theologian. He felt there was something special about the order of the Psalms. He believed that they were thoroughly prophetic. However, living before the turn of the century, he could not foresee how the prophecy implied in each psalm would eventually relate to events in each year of this century — numbered by its corresponding psalm. He expressed his view of the prophetic Psalms by using the description of a coastline lying in a fog. He wrote:
"I have often compared the view I had to what one might have of a line of coast lying in a fog, points sticking out here and there, sunny and attractive, and you are sure there is connecting land between, only you do not see it. I longed for this fog to rise, and took up the book to seek out more the connection of psalm with psalm, and thus, as I believed, the place and power of each."
I was pleased that this early theologian could see prophetic points of interest, even though he did not have the advantage of hindsight as we now have. His proverbial "fog" began to lift with the turn of the century — some 13 years after the publication of his book. We are convinced that the Psalms reflect the heartbeat of the Jew in his quest to return to the Promised Land. Furthermore, certain events along that road seem to be depicted in the Psalms. Each psalm appears to contain prophetic implications to events that occurred in the years of the twentieth century — reflected in the number of its corresponding psalm.
Grant felt that this numerical order in the Psalms had a special meaning, but he did not have the advantage of hindsight. He wrote:
"Here, then, is a new thought gained: the structure of the psalm has impressed upon it a number in harmony with its spiritual meaning. If this be a law of Scripture, how important to have reached this law!"
This numerical order in the Psalms had been observed by earlier theologians and caught the interest of F. W. Grant. He quoted Franz Delitzsch, a nineteenth century German theologian who, in turn, quoted Gregory of Nyssa, an earlier scholar, who expressed a frustration at trying to break the numerical code in the Psalms:
"‘Among the fathers,’ writes Delitzsch, ‘Gregory of Nyssa has attempted to show that the Psalter, in its five books, leads upward, as by five steps, to moral perfection; and down to the most recent times, attempts have been made to trace in the five books a gradation of principal thoughts, which run through the whole collection. We fear that in this direction investigation has set before itself an unattainable end.’"
Grant reported that this numerical order was referred to as a "gradation of principal thoughts." We now call it a chronological order! For example, the liberation of Jerusalem by the British in 1917 is reflected in Psalm 17. The holocaust that led to the slaughter of six million Jews from 1939 to 1945 is alluded to in Psalms 39-45. The successful quest for their homeland in 1946-47 may be observed in Psalms 46-47. The birth of Israel in 1948 can be readily seen in Psalm 48. In fact, at least each of the first 106 psalms shows the flow of events in each year — in chronological order!
F. W. Grant expressed his frustration with Delitzsch not pursuing this observation about the Psalms:
"The resemblance is fuller than Delitzsch makes it; but seeing so much, is it not a wonder to find him stop and look no further into the matter? He is on a track which would open the Psalms to him from end to end: what hinders him from pursuing it?"
I think the answer to Grant’s question can simply be found in the fact that these men did not have the privilege of hindsight as we have today. Nineteenth century scholarship could not see that the prophetic implication found, for example, in Psalm 48 would be fulfilled in 1948. But I am convinced that Grant was right on the edge of this concept, which we detected only after the prophecies in each of 83 psalms had come to pass. It is amazing to me that no one saw the prophetic design before our discovery in September of 1983. Grant wrote:
"I began to see that there was a methodical structure throughout, and that this had to do with the meaning of what was there."
This "gradation of principle thoughts" is no mere twisting of Scripture. The evidence is overwhelming that God had prewritten the chronology of the modern exodus of world Jewry in order to document its year-by-year fulfillment. It is the ultimate documentation of Jeremiah’s prophecy:
"Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
"But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers" (Jeremiah 16:14-15).
Jeremiah’s prophecy is more than just a return following the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century B.C. The prophet clearly describes Israel’s exile as worldwide. Furthermore, he especially takes note of the "land of the north." This can only be a reference to Jewish immigration from Russia over the past century. Also, Jeremiah implies that when the final exodus comes to pass, it will be so great, the exodus out of Egypt will pale in comparison.
The future final return of Israel was so important, God laid out the chronology of it in the Psalms. Furthermore, the Lord saw to it that this book ended up as the 19th book of the Bible. Therefore, book 19, psalm 48, reveals an event that came to pass in 1948! The Psalter is juxtapositioned as both the 19th book counting from Genesis and the 48th book counting back from Revelation. Its theme, the birth of Israel, came to pass in 1948! Some theologians may be willing to call that a coincidence, but I prefer to believe that there is a God in heaven superintending the whole episode.
Grant noted that the Psalms are not normally considered as prophetic. The Psalmist does not take the time to announce his psalm as a prophecy. Nevertheless, the prophetic implication is apparent. The prophetic nature in each psalm must be observed by "faith." Grant wrote:
"Take for example the twenty-second psalm. It is not a direct prediction, but the Spirit of God leading the Psalmist, in the expression of personal feelings, to go beyond himself, so as to become, whether consciously or not, the representative of One greater than himself. The psalm is thus left as a divine secret, a mystery to be unraveled by faith.
"But so also in many another psalm, in which not Messiah but a saint of the latter days is put before us in an exactly similar manner; so that the experiences, feelings, and exercises proper to the people of God then are found in the outpourings of the heart of an Asaph, a Heman, an Ethan, a son Korah, or even of David himself.
Grant continues: "The people so taken up is Israel — seen in sorrows which will come upon them in the great time of Jacob’s trouble, out of which he will be delivered and brought into lasting blessing."
It is important to note that just as Psalm 22 reflected the sorrow of the Messiah on the day of His suffering, these psalms also reflect the sorrow of Israel in the day of its suffering. Grant goes on to call the Psalms a view of Israel’s sorrow in the "great time of Jacob’s trouble." His concept agrees with what we have discovered in the Psalms. The prophetic nature is clear enough for us to conclude that we live in that special generation which will experience the biblical Tribulation Period.
Though F. W. Grant did not have the privilege of hindsight, he nevertheless concluded that Psalms 42-72 were prophecies of the suffering of Israel in the "last days." He wrote:
"The second book (Psalms 42-72) carries us on fully to the last days, and shows us their deliverance by Christ when in the sorrows of their final trial …"
Grant referred to the "final trial" of Israel. And it is important to note that the birth of the Jewish nation followed immediately on the heels of the suffering of the holocaust. Though he could not foresee the exact way in which the prophecy would be fulfilled, he was correct as to the prophetic implications that he observed.
F. W. Grant reaches his finest scholarship as he observes the prophetic implications of Psalms 101-106. He wrote:
"But the second division [101-106] has a deeper secret yet to tell: Jehovah and this Second Man are one!"
Grant refers to the Messiah when he speaks of this "Second Man." He notes that this is no mere man. He is deity:
"It is here that the amazing secret is discovered. This humbled Man is owned in His humiliation as Jehovah’s Fellow. ‘Of old hast Thou laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands: they shall perish, but Thou endurest!’
"How wonderful is this! and how great are its consequences! Creator and Redeemer are one: the hands that receive the government of the earth are almighty ones: there is an indefectible Head of blessing: God and man are brought how unutterably near!
"Thus the hundred and third psalm begins now its tale of grace and blessing; the hundred and fourth celebrates Jehovah — the Redeemer — as the Creator; the hundred and fifth is His appeal to Israel, and the final psalm (106) their confession and repentance."
Psalms 101-106 seem to represent the completion of the chronology alluded to in the Psalms. The first 106 psalms lead up to the final section (Psalms 107-150) and its confrontation with the Antichrist. Think of it! Grant was very close to understanding the prophetic significance of the Psalms!
Also, he knew that Psalms 107-150 alluded to Israel standing on the threshold of the Messiah’s kingdom. He wrote:
"And now the fifth book begins — Israel just ready to take possession of the land after their long dispersion.
"Of Psalm 107, at the beginning of the fifth book, he [Delitzsch] also says, ‘Now, just as in the book of Deuteronomy Israel stands on the threshold of the land of promise … so at the beginning of this fifth book of the Psalter we see Israel restored to the soil of its fatherland. There, it is the Israel redeemed out of Egypt; here, it is the Israel redeemed out of the land of the exile. There, the lawgiver once more admonishes Israel to yield the obedience of love to the law of Jehovah; here, the Psalmist calls upon Israel to show gratitude toward Him who has redeemed it from exile, and distress, and death.’"
If Rev. Grant were alive today, I think he would be delighted with the way the Psalter discloses a chronology of events in the twentieth century — year by year — as numbered by each succeeding psalm. That is not to say that the most significant prophetic fulfillment — the long awaited advent of the Messiah — must come to pass in the very year numbered by the psalm in which such a prophetic passage appears. Why not? Because this divine dream of Israel is offered in almost every psalm.
For example, Psalm 2:6 alludes to Christ’s kingdom being established on Mt. Zion. But when one reads the entire psalm, it becomes obvious that the earlier events alluded to in the psalm — leading up to the coronation of the King will necessarily require several years to develop, beginning with, "Why do the heathen rage?" Indeed, such political upheavals herein described were in force in 1902. That development is what the psalm foresees. What we see in the Psalms are the various events that ultimately lead up to His eventual appearance.
Psalm 19:5 alludes to a "bridegroom coming out of his chamber," but that does not mean Christ must come in 1919. Psalm 89:51 speaks of the "footsteps of thine anointed," but does not mean that He must appear in 1989. These passages simply imply that His coming is in view as these psalms take their place in the grand scheme. There are prophetic views in psalms 19 and 89 that were fulfilled in 1919 and 1989. The development of the Jewish state in this century is the overwhelming theme that must be considered.
There is no rapture date-setting intended, only the saga of Israel’s long exile ended, the return to their Promised Land, and the subsequent development toward the messianic kingdom. By the time we reach the last five psalms (146-150), God’s people break into shouting and singing, "hallelujah." Look for these themes as you read the Psalms. You will be encouraged.