This post started out as a comment reply to Apollos’ revealing comment on a previous post, “Drawing the Line”. However, as is often the case in such things, the line of reasoning led to some new and interesting conclusions which, it appears,are better shared via another post. It all started with a little additional research to try to identify our previous understandings regarding the ten toes:
w59 5/15 p. 313 par. 36 Part 14—“Your Will Be Done on Earth”
The number ten being a Biblical number symbolizing earthly completeness, the ten toes picture all such coexisting powers and governments.
w78 6/15 p. 13 Human Governments Crushed by God’s Kingdom
There does not appear to be any prophetic significance to the image’s having ten toes. This is a natural human feature, just as the image has two arms, two legs, and so forth.
w85 7/1 p. 31 Questions From Readers
Various views have been expressed about the ten “toes.” But since “ten” is often used in the Bible to signify completeness as to things on earth, the ten “toes” appear logically to represent the entire global system of rulership at the culmination of the days.
w12 6/15 p. 16 Jehovah Reveals What “Must Shortly Take Place”
Does the number of toes of the image have special meaning?…the number seems no more significant than the fact that the image had multiple arms, hands, and feet.
As you can see from the foregoing, prior to 1978, the ten toes symbolized completeness. After 1978 and prior to 1985, the number 10 in this instance was given no significance at all. In 1985, we returned to our former understanding and again attributed to the ten toes the symbolism of completeness. And now, in 2012 we have again returned to the idea held in 1978 that the number of toes holds no special significance. I don’t know what we believed in the decades prior to 1959, but what can be said with certainty is that we’ve reversed our position on this interpretation at least three times already. This isn’t the most egregious example of doctrinal flip-flopping. The record on that goes to our understanding of whether the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah will be resurrected or not, with eight flip-flops.
Whenever we have to explain ourselves regarding our changed position on some prophetic interpretation, we quote Proverbs 8:18, 19 which reads, “But the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established. 19 The way of the wicked ones is like the gloom; they have not known at what they keep stumbling.”
This clearly indicates a progressive brightening of the light. How can our flipping and flopping on a subject be considered a gradual brightening of the light? It would be more appropriate to dub it a turning off and turning on of the light.
What then? Is Proverbs 4:18, 19 a false statement? “Never may that happen! But let God be found true, though every man be found a liar. . .” (Romans 3:4) Therefore, we are left with only one option: We must conclude that we are misapplying Proverbs 4:18, 19. Our first question should be, What is this light illuminating? Consider the context. The Scripture refers to the wicked ones as well as the righteous ones. Is it referring to the failure of the wicked ones to accurately interpret Bible prophecy? That does not appear to be the case. In fact, nothing in this Scripture is alluding to the ability of the righteous or the wicked to interpret prophecy.
Notice that it speaks about a path the righteous ones are on. Then it refers to the way of the wicked ones. Both these words indicate a course of conduct, or a journey from a starting point to an ending point. One needs a light to illuminate a path or way.
(Psalm 119:105) Your word is a lamp to my foot, And a light to my roadway.
The first century Christian congregation was referred to as “the Way”. Our path or roadway speaks of a way of life, not an understanding of prophecy. The wicked may also understand a prophecy correctly, but their way is without the guidance of God’s word. They are in darkness and so their conduct marks them as wicked, not their understanding of prophecy, or lack thereof. We are now deep in the time of the end and the distinction is clear between one who has served God and one who has not. (Malachi 3:18) We are children of light, not of darkness.
We have made so many scriptural errors when attempting to interpret prophecy that a study of these errors can be disheartening.
“Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Gen. 40:8) We don’t seem to have ever fully accepted that injunction, believing somehow we are exempt from it. This attitude has led to some resounding embarrassments, yet we continue to engage in this exercise.
On the other hand, God’s Word has lit up our roadway so that we stand out in a world gone mad. That light continues to get brighter and many are flocking to it, to the glory of God Almighty and his anointed Son.
I find that focusing on that gets me through those moments when I despair of our unceasing speculative missteps.