Decoding the Mystery
BY CHESTER R. ECHELBARGER
What is the truth about “Bible codes”? How can you know what to believe? Why does it matter?
Around the world, men and women are captivated by a theory so incredible that, if proven true, would forever revolutionize mankind’s view of Scripture.
Within the past few years, several bestselling books claimed that prophecies concerning 20th Century people and events were embedded in the Hebrew Bible as hidden code, written many centuries ago. But others renounce this theory as unfounded.
What are the facts—the truth—of the matter?
These Bible codes, also known as Torah codes, involve words, phrases or clusters of words that some believe hold special meaning. The theory is that God intentionally placed hidden messages within the Bible’s text. The popular book The Bible Code claims these codes can predict the future. Other bestselling books, along with numerous articles and television documentaries, have propagated the theory. However, such claims are strongly questioned by skeptics and contested by various religious groups.
Yet code proponents assert that names and events hidden in the Scripture can only now be revealed, in this modern Information Age, through computer searches of the Hebrew text. Supposedly, these codes contain secret predictions of events that have already come to pass, including the assassination of Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; the Jewish Holocaust; the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan; the first Gulf War; and the emergence of diseases such as AIDS and diabetes. They even predict an earthquake will strike Los Angeles in 2010.
Advocates say that predictions for virtually every major event of history can be found in the first five books of the Bible, the Torah. Other Bible decoders claim that such predictions are in all of the Hebrew texts—the entire Old Testament.
How It Is Done
The arrival of the personal computer, along with the development of advanced software, has presumably enabled Bible codes to be retrieved. They are deciphered through an encryption method called Equidistant Letter Sequencing (ELS). In this method, the spaces and punctuation between words are ignored; only letters are counted. This software treats the entire Hebrew Bible as one long string of letters without spaces, hunting for embedded words.
The program arranges this long line of 304,805 letters, which make up the Torah, into an infinite number of computer configurations. It then searches for a predetermined set of words. Starting with sequences of 1, 2, 3, 4, up to 10, then 20 to 50 letters, etc., code words are found by utilizing a consistent number of skips.
For instance, if someone wanted to embed a message that translated into BLUE SHOE, it might look something like this: Brown Lunch Units Exist; SearcH our hOme to Enter
Counting letters only, the message is decrypted by using every fifth letter. Using this method, letter skips can involve hundreds, even thousands. After a name or phrase is found, the letters encoding the words are arranged so the phrase becomes visible. Then, other words of related meaning are sought. These are described with complex statistics to “prove” they are not presented by random chance.
Do They Exist?
Does this system of decoding messages from Scripture reveal hidden prophecies from God?
Prominent scholars dismiss these as illegitimate, noting that no one has a letter-by-letter version of the Bible as it was originally written. Even the oldest surviving manuscripts include slight variations, any of which would throw off computer test results.
Can these codes forewarn of events to come—can they predict the future?
The answer is no. What the future holds is known only to God, and we can only know what He chooses to reveal to us.
Supposed details of future events discovered by computers are speculation at best. Since we do not know the exact details of future events, it is impossible to know that what is found is indeed a future prophecy. Although it may turn out to be true, there is no way to know for sure until after the event has occurred. Therefore, computer-generated codes cannot be relied upon to predict the future or to warn us of events to come.
So what can we conclude? First, we need to read what God’s Word has to tell us—what is openly presented, and not some supposed hidden prophecy embedded in the text, or some other erroneous speculation. In John 17:17, Jesus Christ said, “Sanctify them through Your truth: Your word is truth.” The Bible’s text is the source of all truth, as revealed from God to man. It is the Creator speaking to His creation.
Why the Fascination?
What has sparked today’s mushrooming interest in prophecy? Sensing that something is terribly wrong, many believe the world has reached what the Bible calls the “end-time”—or “last days.” Millions routinely discuss prophetic terms such as “Anti-Christ,” “Great Tribulation,” “Millennium,” “Armageddon,” “Beast,” “False Prophet,” “God’s Wrath,” “Abomination of Desolation,” and others—but without proper meaning or comprehension.
This is because they simply do not know where or how to look within God’s Word to get correct understanding of what such terms mean, and how they will sequentially play out within God’s great Master Plan for the end of the age. Instead of examining the hundreds of clear scriptures on these and other aspects of prophecy—for proof (I Thes. 5:21)—many seem content to trust in human “experts.” As a result, confusion abounds.
Why Did Christ Teach in Parables?
Some believe Jesus Christ used parables as interesting stories in order to make His point more clear and enhance the audience’s understanding. But was this actually His intention?
Perplexed by His use of parables, Jesus’ disciples privately asked Him about their meaning (Mark 4:10).
Jesus answered, “Untoyou it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand” (Mark 4:11-12).
Note what Jesus said! Only Christ’s servants could understand the parable’s real meaning. Others might think they understand—but they cannot! Christ never leaves His servants in the dark about matters He wants them to understand. But He records them in ways that keep them hidden from the view of others. This is why so few understand the Bible, which has been read by millions.
In John 6:44, Jesus stated, “No man can come to Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw him.” Only those whom the Father calls and opens their minds through His Holy Spirit will unlock the spiritual understanding contained in God’s Word.
In addition, when a person responds to God’s calling with obedience, he will receive more understanding (Psa. 111:10).
The Bible is approximately 750,000 words. Since about one third is prophecy, this means that 250,000 words are devoted to many, many prophecies. Now ask: What possible purpose would God have in devoting a full third of His Words to a subject—any subject—and then leaving mankind in the dark about it?
God gives prophecy for two clear purposes: (1) As a warning for those who will take heed and (2) proof of the existence of the true God of the Bible—and, therefore, proof of the authority of the Bible.
Also recognize that God’s prophecies will occur, regardless of the passing of time. In Matthew 24:35, Christ assured, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” Just because God’s prophesied events do not occur within our perceived timeframe does not render them unfulfilled. They will happen according to God’s purpose, on His time schedule.
We have the assurance from a loving and just God that we will be forewarned of prophetic events: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He reveals His secret unto His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Notice it says His secrets are revealed to “His servants”—not to mathematicians using powerful computers and sophisticated software.
God keeps His promises. He always reveals great events before they happen. Only He can reveal prophesied events, because He is the one who brings them to pass. No human being can do this. In Isaiah 48 ALL, God says, “I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of My mouth, and I showed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass…I have even from the beginning declared it to you; before it came to pass I showed it you” (Isaiah 48:3, 5).
In fact, God issues a challenge to all self-proclaimed prophets and seers in Isaiah 41:21-23.
The Bible IS a Coded Book
Bible code proponents are right about two things.
First, the Bible is a coded book. However, God’s Word is not coded in the manner that advocates assert. For this reason, the vast majority of people are ignorant of Bible prophecy and God’s ultimate plan for humanity.
In this end-time age, man gropes in an insatiable quest to acquire more knowledge. Yet, he does not seek the right kind of knowledge. God says people are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Tim. 3:7).
Second, end-time prophecies can only be understood in our time now. God inspired the prophet Daniel to record great prophecies pertaining to future events—yet he was not permitted to understand them: “But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Dan. 12:4). We are living in this “time of the end,” an Information Age when knowledge continues to rapidly increase. Stunning, long-misunderstood prophecies in the books of Daniel and Revelation have now been unlocked.
Yet, ironically, confusion abounds! This is because people reject God’s Word as the right foundation of knowledge.
The Bible is a mystery to most. It simply cannot be read cover-to-cover like any other book and be understood. The Word of God is like a jigsaw puzzle, with thousands of pieces of varying shapes, forms and sizes, which must be put together in a precise pattern. When every piece fits perfectly, the entire Bible makes sense. These pieces—the truths of the Bible—are scattered throughout, revealed “here a little, there a little.” Notice: “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isa. 28:10).
But why are these truths not evident to one who reads the Bible from Genesis to Revelation? Simply because they lack the key needed to decipher the codes—God’s Holy Spirit. This alone opens the mind to understand the Word of God. I Corinthians 2:9-10 states, “But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those that love Him. But God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” Only the power of God enables human beings to understand spiritual matters.
God gives His Spirit to those who “repent”—who change their way of life—and “believe the gospel,” the good news of the coming kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15). This involves surrendering to God and keeping His commandments, which results in growing in spiritual understanding: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do His commandments” (Psa. 111:10).
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Traditional Christianity has generally denied God’s Law, teaching that it has been abolished and nailed to the cross. Yet God’s Word states His Holy Spirit is “given to them that obey Him” (Acts 5:32). The pastors, priests and theologians who advocate disobedience, therefore, cannot and do not understand the Holy Bible. Rather, they lead people astray, away from the path that would allow them to acquire God’s Spirit and true understanding.
Prophecy has nothing to do with computer software extracting embedded messages from Scripture. Rather, it is God’s Holy Spirit that gives biblical understanding and reveals prophecy coming from the text of His Word.