Robert Finley. The Time Was at Hand. Maitland FL: Xulon, 2011. Print.
If you have read one book by an evangelical American on Biblical prophecy, you have probably read them all. Yeah, they keep getting updated when world events change things—so now they say “Russia” instead of “Soviet Union.” Chafer, Anderson, Lindsay, Walvoord, LaHaye and Jenkins, Rosenberg, they all pretty much say the same thing.
Well, Finley does not. And it is refreshing.
Finley maintains that much of the Book of Revelation and the Olivet Discourse (Jesus’ prophetic lecture in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) are mostly about events that would happen in the first century. Jesus said “This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 24:34, cf. Mark 13:30, Luke 21:32). Revelation begins and ends with the expression “The time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:3, 22:10).
The Time Was at Hand presents plenty of evidence that much of what passes for possible end-times scenarios today was actually fulfilled from A.D. 66 to 73 when Judea and Jerusalem were under siege by the Romans. The details of the civil war, death, suffering, and treachery endured by the Jews in those years is unparalleled in the history of the world. That was, says Finley, the Great Tribulation. And it put a final and brutal end to the Old Covenant.
The main emphasis of The Time Was at Hand is simply that the New Covenant has superseded the Old. (Jeremiah 31:31-33, cf. Hebrews 8:8-13) The Scripture tells us that under the New Covenant there is no longer a distinction between Jew and Gentile, but that God’s Kingdom is meant for everyone. God’s way with the Jews is no longer different from His way with Gentiles.
Hal Lindsey hypothesized the 144,000 called out Jews in the Book of Revelation will be “144,000 Jews for Jesus” in the future. Finley reminds us that the first generation of Christians were mostly Jewish and that the 144,000 refers to them.
Many American writers suggest that Israel may rebuild the Temple at some point. Finely does not argue the point, but recognizes that since the coming of the Messiah, a Temple is no longer necessary:
If present day Zionists, or whoever, should put up a building in Jerusalem which they choose to call a “temple,” we can be sure that God in Heaven will have no interest in it whatsoever. (290)
Not only does Finley emphasize that God’s Gospel is the same for all people, he also believes that the modern American Christian focus on Israel is a distraction and a hindrance. It is a distraction because American believers are putting time and energy in interpreting Near Eastern events instead of sharing the Gospel. It is also a hindrance in witnessing the claims of Jesus to the quarter of the world’s population in Muslim-majority countries.
“If Christians help Zionists drive out the inhabitants of Palestine and make it a Jewish state,” the Muslims ask, “then why should we not drive out the Christians from other places and make them Islamic states?” And that is just what they are doing in many places where Christians and Muslims lived side by side for generations. (191,192)
I have great respect for Robert Finley. Christian Aid Mission, which he founded, focuses on indigenous and non-Western missions around the world. He is probably more aware than most people of the kind of work that is effective in bringing the Christian message to places in the world where it is unknown. His is a serious concern.
Understand that Finley is no Bible skeptic. Such skeptics will sometimes take the position that Bible prophecies were written down after the fact so that all “prophecies” were already fulfilled. Finley understands that many prophecies about the Second Coming are yet to be fulfilled. He just emphasizes that most, if not all, of the prophecies concerning the land of Israel-Palestine have already been fulfilled. The most important prophecy that has not been completely fulfilled yet is Matthew 24:14:
This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations [Greek ethnos, i.e. “ethnic groups”], and then shall the end come.” (cf. Mark 13:10)
Finley does draw from some historical sources that may not be well-known. He presents evidence that most Christians and Jews in the Middle East and North Africa converted to Islam during the Arab conquest of that region. He also adopts the thesis made famous by Arthur Koestler’s The Thirteenth Tribe that most Eastern European or Ashkenazi Jews were converts to Judaism in the Middle Ages. When adding the descendants of these people with the converts to Judaism from the time of Esther to the fall of Jerusalem, Finley suggests that few people who today identify with Judaism probably have any Abrahamic ancestry.
I recall reading in the Talmud that some Jews in Babylon had so many ancestral records that they needed a camel to carry them. Most such records were deposited in the Temple and so were destroyed in A.D. 70, so no one knows today. Though Arthur Koestler was an Ashkenazi Jew himself, his hypothesis does remain controversial. Still, I had a friend who discovered at age thirty that she had been adopted. She was able to reunite with her birth family and found out they were Jewish. A Jewish friend of both of us told her, “Only God knows who the real Jews are.”
Finley also makes a convincing case for who he thinks the antichrist is. I am not going to give that away in this review. While this is by no means original with Finley, it is not a name on the usual contemporary list of suspects be it the Pope, a Russian leader, the Kaiser, Hitler, Anwar Sadat, Saddam Hussein, Nicolae Carpathia, Henry Kissinger, etc. etc. etc. He also makes some clever observations regarding alien invasion stories like the film Independence Day. No, he does not believe in space aliens—I said, clever, not paranoid.
Finley’s approach is humble. He notes that Isaac Newton, one of the greatest minds of the millennium, spent years studying Bible prophecy, and even he admitted that there was much he could not understand and much that he missed.
Finley does not claim to have an end-times scenario worked out. “A great deal of mystery remains,” he admits. (201) It is better to admit that than to be following “fictional prophecy concepts.” (56)
Take a look at this book. It is well worth reading.