The Emmaus disciples were devastated. Not knowing that it was the resurrected Christ they were talking with, they disclosed that they had hoped that Jesus would be the one who would redeem Israel. But then he was crucified.

Now there was a report that his body was missing from the tomb and that angels told some of his women followers that he was alive. They were trying to make sense of it all.

Jesus said to them: “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)

After he revealed his identity to them, “They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’” (Luke 24:32)

We don’t want to be foolish “and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” We want the scriptures to be open to us.

Even though we don’t know the day or hour of his return, in Matthew 25, didn’t Jesus’ command his followers to be constantly on the watch for his return?

Why does the Bible contain prophecies concerning the end times if we can’t understand and believe what the prophets have spoken?

Being honest, though, we have to admit that many of these prophetic words mystify us.

For example, in Matthew 24, Jesus described many signs of a coming tribulation. In verses 33 and 34, he added, “So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

This generation? Which generation? The one to whom he was speaking or a generation to come in the distant future? Was he describing the devastation that would befall Jerusalem in 70 A.D. or the great tribulation that would occur just before his return? Or both?

Likewise, the prophetic book of Revelation contains many puzzling images and numbers.

  • A testing and tribulation that will last “10 days” (2:10)
  • Two witnesses prophesying for “1,260 days” (11:3)
  • “Three and a half days” in which they will lie dead in the streets and then come back to life.” (11:9-11)
  • A new mother who will flee into the wilderness and be nourished by God for “1,260 days” (12:1)

And what are we to make of Old Testament end times prophecies? Example: Daniel 12:11-12: “And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days.”

What do those numbers mean? Why are there two different numbers which differ by 45?

How about the “time, and times, and half a time” mentioned in Daniel 7:25, Daniel 12:7, and Revelation 12:14? What is that all about? What does it mean?

Throughout history, a number of prominent Bible students—including various leaders of the Watchtower organization—have come up with explanations.

They began to teach them and developed a following.

They predicted specific occurrences that would take place in specific time frames.

Both they and their followers began to feel special and proud:

  • Only they are truly being watchful.
  • Only they understand the deep things of God.
  • Only they understand the times.
  • Only they are truly pleasing God.
  • They spread the word.
  • The following grows.
  • As the day approaches, followers increase their donations.
  • As the day approaches, followers increase in zeal as shown by meeting attendance and witnessing activity.

The problem is that a day of reckoning always comes.

What happens when the predicted date arrives and nothing happens?

What do the teachers and followers do then?

That’s what we’ll discuss in next week’s post.