Bible Secrets Revealed?: A Response to the New History Channel Series (Part 5)


This is the fifth installment of a series of posts reviewing the new History Channel series entitled Bible Secrets Revealed (for others installements, see here, here, here, and here).  I am now a few episodes behind due to (a) the holiday break, and (b) the fact that History Channel locked all their videos and restricted access.  Not sure why they did this, but I have finally found a way to view them online.

The latest episode is entitled, “Mysterious Prophecies,” and examines the role of prophets in the history of Israel and the Church.  Did these prophets really predict the future?  Were the prophecies true?  In particular, the documentary focuses on the prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah.

This episode raised a number of intriguing issues and was more balanced than some of the prior ones.  But, there are still some claims that need to be challenged.

1. Did the followers of Jesus misuse OT prophecies?  Bart Ehrman and other scholars claim in this documentary that the earliest followers of Jesus simply looked into the OT in a desperate attempt to find something that could point to Jesus.  Thus, the were just retroactively imposing their own messianic understanding onto OT passages that were never intended to be read this way.

Now, there is an element of truth in this reconstruction.  It is certainly true that the earliest followers of Jesus saw OT passages in a fresh, new way that they never had before.  They looked at the OT with a Christo-centric lens and made connections and links that they otherwise might not have made.

But, this does not mean their understanding of the OT was invalid.  The coming of Jesus opened up all sorts of new understandings of the OT–and there is nothing scandalous about this.  Moreover, it should be remembered that these messianic interpretations of the OT were not just due to the later disciples, but were initiated by Jesus himself who often claimed to be fulfilling the OT (e.g., Luke 4:21; 24:46), and even opened up the OT to his disciples in a fresh way (Luke 24:45).

2. Are promises of eternal life made up just to reduce present-day suffering?  The documentary presents the prophetic passages of the Bible, particularly the ones that promise reward and eternal life, as merely a psychological move to alleviate people’s suffering in the present.  These texts are not really prophecies, but a way to address people’s most basic need, namely to have hope in the midst of turbulent times.

The problem with this argument is that it confuses the result of these prophecies with the cause of these prophecies. The fact that prophecies may result in giving people hope in the midst of suffering, is not an adequate argument to prove that the prophecies are themselves caused by people’s need for hope. Indeed, this argument is dangerously close to Karl Marx’s maxim, “Religion is the opium of the masses.”  A skeptic is free to have this opinion about religion, but that cannot be substituted for an actual argument.

3. Was the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius the motivation for the book of Revelation?  One of the strangest suggestion of this documentary is that the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. was the impetus for John to write the book of Revelation.  However, there is virtually no compelling evidence for this connection.  Sure, Revelation refers to cataclysmic activities, but there is no reason in the text to think that John is referring to a volcanic eruption in his own day.  Rather, he is drawing on cataclysmic imagery from the Old Testament in books like Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and Isaiah.  In other words, the main influence on John’s writing is not the present but the past–he is influenced by the writings of Scripture.

4. Does 1 Thess 4:16-17 teach that there will be a “rapture”?  Curiously, a number of the scholars in this documentary argue that 1 Thess 4:16-17 teaches a “rapture,” namely that Jesus will come back and gather his people to him in heaven.  Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman argue that this “rapture” contradicts the book of Revelation which teaches that Jesus will not bring his people back to heaven but instead will bring a new heavens and a new earth, destroying his enemies at the same time.

However, it is not at all clear that 1 Thess 4:16-17 teaches a “rapture” where people are taken back up into heaven.  In fact, the text nowhere mentions going back to heaven.  Instead, it says that Jesus will “descend from heaven.”  Yes, the saints will “meet the Lord in the air” (v.17), but this is not Christ taking his saints back to heaven, but rather it is Christ gathering his elect to himself as he descends to bring final judgment.  Thus, there is no contradiction between 1 Thess 4:16-17 and the book of Revelation.

In the end, this particular episode of Bible Secrets Revealed is marked by a pretty consistent theme, namely an attempt to find a naturalistic explanation for the Bible’s supernatural claims.  OT prophecies, we are told, don’t really predict Christ; they are just texts which are manipulated by early Christians. Promises of eternal life, we are told, cannot really be trusted; these are just made up in order to placate the masses in the midst of their sufferings.  The trials and tribulations of Revelation, we are told, are not really going to happen; they are just the musings of a primitive man (John) who was frightened by a volcanic eruption.

The problem, of course, is that it is not at all clear that these naturalistic explanations are superior to the supernatural ones.  They are only persuasive to those who already hold to a naturalistic worldview from the start.



Bible Secrets Revealed?: A Response to the New History Channel Series (Part 5) — 6 Comments

  1. Who is not to say that Bart Ehrman is not making a desperate attempt to read into the past something that he is unable to prove, yet many will lap up his words as if they are fact & bring an intellectual sense of comfort & assurance as they follow his teachings.

    On the one hand Christianity is often criticised for its fear factor regarding a holy God & judgement then also for the comfort & peace it professes in Christ who told his disciples they would be mocked & ridiculed among other things. In the end Scripture reasons with us to look to the promises of God, responding in faith, many will reject this & seek to rationalise their existence through naturalistic means. This seems to be growing more main stream by the day with its slanted arguments, something also prophesied in Scripture.

  2. On point 3–(I haven’t taken the opportunity to watch any of the programs yet, so I’m asking based on your statement)–are they embracing that the book of Revelation is written close to the eruption of Vesuvius and by a real person named John?

    That seems to concede a lot of claims that more Bible-centered people would make regarding Revelation, and contradict a typical claim that the New Testament wasn’t written any time near the time of Jesus.

  3. 1. That could certainly apply as long as it includes the possibility that the message that Moses gave was meant for the ones in the latter days prophecy in De:4:30 than to the ones in the desert for 40 years. That would challenge the beliefs that are the explanation of what the OT means even though those conclusions were arrived at before all Scripture was available for examination.
    If they were interested in an accurate new look at prophecy they would list the Gospel of John and Revelation as being written by a disciple of John the Baptist and as such it should be an OT writing by the last Prophet called by God. That event began to unfold the prophecy that would result in the completion of the bruise to the heel from Ge:3:15 3 1/2 years later. It also meshes nicely with Daniel so that it is easy to show that Rome was in the brass and the 70 weeks of Daniel were completed by 3 1/2 years after the cross. Those changes alone alters about 90% of the most promoted doctrine of today, a 7 year trib.

    The two fulfillments I use as being most important is the slaughter of the children by Herod being the fulfillment of a prophecy given in Jeremiah 31 concerning where ‘the land of the enemy is’. For those children to come back they will have to be part of the Ezekiel 37 resurrection, it defines the enemy as being death rather than some gentile land. Coming from there is in the opening verses of that same chapter. The other one is the Apostles running away during the arrest in the garden as that is a fulfillment of the scattering in Zec:13. The cross is the event and the big change after that is completed by the 70th week ending 3 1/2 years later is in Acts:10. Gentile food was made clean moments before some Gentiles came to Peter to learn about God. That defines the ‘little ones’ as being Gentiles and the judgment that comes with learning about God is manifested when the 7th trump sounds. On that day the two witnesses are resurrected at noon, by 3pm all the 7 vials have been poured out and 2/3 of the planet has the population die in that time frame. 1/3 is left standing and they are the ‘remnant’ in Zec:14 which is the bulk of the passage that begins in the last few verses of the previous chapter.
    Any prophecy that can be applied to the bruise to the heel was completed and the wording in the 70 weeks prophecy should be viewed in that light and the change from brass to iron is when the 5th trump sound exactly 42 months before the two witnesses are resurrected. It is the 4 days the witnesses are dead that Satan and Co. have access to all of Jerusalem and it is only in that window that they can install the false throne that is the abomination mentioned in Matthew 24, Daniel 11 and Revelation 13.

    And beginning at Moses and all the prophets,
    he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

    Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God,
    or that is worshipped;
    so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God,
    shewing himself that he is God.

    And the LORD shall scatter you among the nations,
    and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen,
    whither the LORD shall lead you.
    And there ye shall serve gods,
    the work of men’s hands,
    wood and stone,
    which neither see,
    nor hear,
    nor eat,
    nor smell.
    But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God,
    thou shalt find him,
    if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
    When thou art in tribulation,
    and all these things are come upon thee,
    even in the latter days,
    if thou turn to the LORD thy God,
    and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
    (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;)
    he will not forsake thee,
    neither destroy thee,
    nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.

    2. This is a very small selection that points to all people who visit the grave also come back to an eternal life.

    If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus,
    what advantageth it me,
    if the dead rise not?
    let us eat and drink;
    for to morrow we die.

    Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead,
    how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
    But if there be no resurrection of the dead,
    then is Christ not risen:
    And if Christ be not risen,
    then is our preaching vain,
    and your faith is also vain.
    and we are found false witnesses of God;
    because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ:
    whom he raised not up,
    if so be that the dead rise not.
    For if the dead rise not,
    then is not Christ raised:
    And if Christ be not raised,
    your faith is vain;
    ye are yet in your sins.
    Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
    If in this life only we have hope in Christ,
    we are of all men most miserable.
    But now is Christ risen from the dead,
    and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
    For since by man came death,
    by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

    Jesus saith unto her,
    Thy brother shall rise again.
    Martha saith unto him,
    I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

    But man dieth,
    and wasteth away:
    man giveth up the ghost,
    and where is he?
    As the waters fail from the sea,
    and the flood decayeth and drieth up:
    So man lieth down,
    and riseth not:
    till the heavens be no more,
    they shall not awake,
    nor be raised out of their sleep.
    O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave,
    that thou wouldest keep me secret,
    until thy wrath be past,
    that thou wouldest appoint me a set time,
    and remember me!
    If a man die, shall he live again?
    all the days of my appointed time will I wait,
    till my change come.
    Thou shalt call,
    and I will answer thee:
    thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.

    Therefore prophesy and say unto them,
    Thus saith the Lord GOD;
    O my people,
    I will open your graves,
    and cause you to come up out of your graves,
    and bring you into the land of Israel.
    And ye shall know that I am the LORD,
    when I have opened your graves,
    O my people,
    and brought you up out of your graves,
    And shall put my spirit in you,
    and ye shall live,
    and I shall place you in your own land:
    then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it,
    and performed it,
    saith the LORD.

    And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel;
    and one king shall be king to them all:
    and they shall be no more two nations,
    neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all:
    Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols,
    nor with their detestable things,
    nor with any of their transgressions:
    but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces,
    wherein they have sinned,
    and will cleanse them:
    so shall they be my people,
    and I will be their God.
    And David my servant shall be king over them;
    and they all shall have one shepherd:
    they shall also walk in my judgments,
    and observe my statutes,
    and do them.
    And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant,
    wherein your fathers have dwelt;
    and they shall dwell therein,
    even they,
    and their children,
    and their children’s children for ever:
    and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.
    Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them;
    it shall be an everlasting covenant with them:
    and I will place them,
    and multiply them,
    and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
    My tabernacle also shall be with them:
    I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
    And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel,
    when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.

    There are many passages that point to death being part of events that will happen before all prophecy is fulfilled. Even the shutting down of the body because of old age is covered in some detail that points to that being the end of it all if resurrection from that same state is not possible. Grinders are teeth, the back is bent in oldage and eyes get dim, then there is the dreamless sleep that is death for all who have lived.

    In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble,
    and the strong men shall bow themselves,
    and the grinders cease because they are few,
    and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

    Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,
    do it with thy might;
    for there is no work,
    nor device,
    nor knowledge,
    nor wisdom,
    in the grave,
    whither thou goest.

    All go unto one place;
    all are of the dust,
    and all turn to dust again.

    Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was:
    and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

    Revelation is about the iron/clay kingdom, all of Rome’s 500 year reign over Jerusalem is in the verses below. She was the power when Luke:21;12-24 unfolded for the Apostles and as such she became the Gentile power and all other Gentile powers would be part of that same group that is part of the brass. The change for the world is when the 5th trumps sounds 3 1/2 years before the return. Jerusalem falls the day the two witnesses die 4 days before the return.

    And out of one of them came forth a little horn,
    which waxed exceeding great,
    toward the south,
    and toward the east,
    and toward the pleasant land.
    And it waxed great,
    even to the host of heaven;
    and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground,
    and stamped upon them.
    he magnified himself even to the prince of the host,
    and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away,
    and the place of his sanctuary was cast down.
    And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression,
    and it cast down the truth to the ground;
    and it practised,
    and prospered.

    The 7 letters in Revelation define the 14 relationships that God will use to judge people as far as being part of the 1,000 year reign, no Gentile is left out of that judgment.

    he cometh with clouds;
    and every eye shall see him,
    and they also which pierced him:
    and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.
    Even so,

    The rapture is defined as going to Heaven in a glorified and sinless body. The return has a number that see the return with their own eyes (144,000 for the 12 Tribes and 1/3 of the Gentile population survive the 7 vials) and the majority that will be alive for the 1,000 years will experience it through a resurrection from the grave.
    The group that is alive and standing on day 1 of the 1,000 years is also the exact same number that will be alive and in Israel for the yearly feast of the tabernacles on the last one before Satan and the other fallen angels are released from the Pit. The people alive will have been ‘perfected’ in that time so they can see the fire that sends the fallen angels to the fiery lake. The verse below is their travel from this earth to the 3rd heaven, the place the Great Whiter Throne takes place.

    Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
    and look upon the earth beneath:
    for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke,
    and the earth shall wax old like a garment,
    and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner:
    but my salvation shall be for ever,
    and my righteousness shall not be abolished.

    I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago,
    (whether in the body,
    I cannot tell;
    or whether out of the body,
    I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
    such an one caught up to the third heaven.

    But ye are come unto mount Sion,
    and unto the city of the living God,
    the heavenly Jerusalem,
    and to an innumerable company of angels,
    To the general assembly and church of the firstborn,
    which are written in heaven,
    and to God the Judge of all,
    and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

    The land of Israel is brought back to garden like conditions to a certain extent. The river in Eze:47 will restore the Dead Sea to being a body of fresh water for some fish. Other than them no other flesh will be alive for the 1,000 years as they could not be saved from the fire that will come later. The last of the birds and animals that are alive are the ones that Christ has feed on the bodies of some men that are killed on the day of return. They are then ‘put to sleep with the promise of being remembered in the new earth verses that come into being after the Great White Throne event. The valley created in the last vial of Re:16 is the same one in Zec:14 and the valley is where the graveyard in Eze:39 is established. To the north of that is a smoking hole that is where Satan is buried for that period, also in that place are the 2/3 of the people that are killed by His sword and they are behind the locked gates of hell and they remain there where Satan is released so none of them are sent to the lake.

    Being caught up to the clouds is a few 1,000 ft and that is how high the resurrected two witnesses are lifted before they can be glorified the same way the body of Jesus was on the day of his resurrection. The ones they meet there would be the 24 Elders as they are the ‘many saints’ that also came out of the grave the same morning, they also ascended but did not return. They will have the thrones over the men that are just being gathered. The ones under the alter are the ones in the Bible that lost their lives in that service and the two witnesses are the last two that will experience that fate, they are also the first to be resurrected from the grave followed by all of Israel with the Beloved Disciple being the first of that group to be glorified. The cleanup for 7 years as given in Eze:39 then starts and Gog is where the bones of the 200M angelic horsemen of the 6th trump are gathered and buried. They join Satan at they end of the 1,000 year reign. Jerusalem will become a glorious city but all the scars of the earth are not fully healed until after the Great White Throne.

    To make their land desolate,
    and a perpetual hissing;
    every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished,
    and wag his head.

    All that pass by clap their hands at thee;
    they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem,
    Is this the city that men call
    The perfection of beauty,
    The joy of the whole earth?

    This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly,
    that said in her heart,
    I am,
    and there is none beside me:
    how is she become a desolation,
    a place for beasts to lie down in!
    every one that passeth by her shall hiss,
    and wag his hand.

    Watered down so the resurrection in Eze:37 is something other than what is says, that means the river in Eze:47 also doesn’t have to be real and a host of other things that make it possible for the ranks of men to qualify as being gods. (unchallenged authority) When you are God you don’t have to be coy about how you say things.

    So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth:
    it shall not return unto me void,
    but it shall accomplish that which I please,
    and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

    For this shall the earth mourn,
    and the heavens above be black:
    because I have spoken it,
    I have purposed it,
    and will not repent,
    neither will I turn back from it.

    And all the kings of the north,
    far and near,
    one with another,
    and all the kingdoms of the world,
    which are upon the face of the earth:
    and the king of Sheshach shall drink after them.

    Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words, and say unto them,
    The LORD shall roar from on high,
    and utter his voice from his holy habitation;
    he shall mightily roar upon his habitation;
    he shall give a shout,
    as they that tread the grapes,
    against all the inhabitants of the earth.
    A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth;
    for the LORD hath a controversy with the nations,
    he will plead with all flesh;
    he will give them that are wicked to the sword,
    saith the LORD.
    Thus saith the LORD of hosts,
    evil shall go forth from nation to nation,
    and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.
    And the slain of the LORD shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth:
    they shall not be lamented,
    neither gathered,
    nor buried;
    they shall be dung upon the ground.

  4. In addition — why did the program suddenly become a tour of Kabbalah?! Nothing about peripheral subjects such as Matthew 24, but five minutes about Kabbalah?!

    I, too, am preparing a review of episode 5. In the meantime, here are links to my video-reviews of episodes 1, 2, 3, & 4.

    Review of Episode 1 (Lost in Translation) –
    Review of Episode 2 (The Promised Land) –
    Review of Episode 3 (Forbidden Scriptures) –
    Review of Episode 4 (The Real Jesus) –

  5. Michael,
    Without having seen the series but only read some of Robert Cargill’s commentary and your own analysis, it seems you’re being quite gracious.
    This series is not merely prejudiced and misguided, but rather a calculated and deliberate assault on the veracity of the bible and the faith of every sincere Christian and Jew.
    Not to mention a purposeful attempt to do the very thing they falsley accuse the early and modern church of doing; namely obscuring and suppressing truth for some other of their own ends. Utterly abhorrent!
    Thank you for bringing clarity and balance.