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Extrapolation


            The object of this article is to warn of the dangers of extrapolation, particularly when dealing with Scripture. To start with one would mention that the theory of evolution contains quite a lot of extrapolation. Thus, because creatures in greater or lesser degree have the ability to adapt to their environment (if they couldn’t they would probably die out if their environment changed) it is assumed that they can completely change over time (i.e .millions of years). Put succinctly, small adaptational changes in a creature’s make up can become major structural changes. This is a false assumption. If I could run a mile non-stop, it is no proof that given time I could run a hundred miles non-stop. Just adding time does not justify the extrapolation any more than it does the evolutionists’ extrapolation.


            If we turn to the Scriptures we might consider the case of Melchisedec (Hebrews 7). What is said of Melchisedec there might be considered an extrapolation of what is said of him in Genesis 14:18-24. However what is pointed out in Hebrews is that the witness was that Melchisedec lived (verse 8). The writer of Hebrews is not saying that the Melchisedec of history had not been born and did not die, but simply that there is no record of his birth and death and therefore he can be typical of the Son of God. Psalm 110:4 provides a link between Christ and Melchisedec. It would not do to extrapolate from what is said in Hebrews that the Melchisedec of history was not born and did not die.


            It is a common extrapolation that when Christians die they go to heaven because it is said that they are with Christ (Philippians 1:23) and that because Christ is in heaven (Hebrews 8:1/2) they must be in heaven. It does not follow, because Christ is elsewhere said to be with us (Matthew 28:20) and we are on earth. Does that mean that Christ is on earth ? It would be a false extrapolation to say so.


            Then there is the matter of the Rapture of the Lord’s people. Scripture speaks of his people meeting the Lord in the air and that then they will always be with him (1 Thessalonians 4:17). It says nothing about taking them to paradise or to the Father’s house. To say that he does is really just an extrapolation, presumably because our minds would tend to think that otherwise we would simply be left suspended in the air for at least seven years while judgments fall on the earth. However, all this depends more on our imagination than statements of Scripture. It must be remembered that there is more than one heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2) and that the heaven seen in the book of Revelation is not for the most part paradise. It is a heaven from which judgment is exercised.


            When speaking of the Rapture of the Lord’s people it is dangerous to extrapolate. Because we are to look for the Lord’s coming and not for events, this does not mean that certain events spoken of in the Scriptures may not take place before the Lord comes for his own. If they do we should not shut our eyes to them. I refer particularly to the Jews returning to Palestine though still unbelieving as to Christ. God cannot overtly support them because if He did it would justify their unbelief, but He can act behind the scenes and allow men to act in such a way that the Jews can occupy their earthly inheritance, as it is pretty evident he has, at least, partly done. Sometimes the Rapture is spoken of as being imminent. This is dangerous, because the truth of the Rapture was really recovered nearly 200 years ago and the Lord has still not come for his people. The fact is we do not know when the Lord will come. The matter is in the Father’s hands (Acts 1:7), though such signs as there are point to the fact that He will come soon - the gathering apostasy in the Western world and the ingathering of people in the remote parts of the earth (the ways and fences - Luke 14:23). Consider the vast ingathering of people in China for example. Further, the Rapture is sometimes spoken of as being secret. Certainly the Lord’s people’s are not likely to be watched by others as the change in their bodies is said to be in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:51/52), but the disappearance of a large number of people is hardly likely to pass unnoticed. People sometimes are reported to have disappeared mysteriously today. One would not shut out the fact that Satan may be able to make persons disappear to neutralise the effect of the Rapture, rather like what the sages of Egypt did (e.g. Exodus 7:8-13). However it will be noted that Aaron’s staff was greater than the others, for it swallowed up their staves.


            Turning now to the matter of separation from evil and how it applies to ‘eating’ we have a clear case where it is wrong to extrapolate. When Christ instituted the Supper He did it when He was with his disciples (Luke 22:14/15). It was when He was with his loved ones that he instituted the Supper and to whom He gave it (Matthew 26:26-28). He ate ordinary meals with taxgatherers and sinners as well as Pharisees, but his eating the Passover with his disciples was a distinct matter. We should not extrapolate from the fact that because we only take the Supper with the Lord’s people we should not eat common meals with anyone else. Correspondingly we should not extrapolate from the fact that we eat common meals with unbelievers that we can also take part in the Lord’s Supper with them.


            In a quite different case we find that Christians often extrapolate backwards in time when thinking of the Person of Christ. Christ is the Son of God. Certainly He was that when here on earth, but extrapolating backwards into a passed eternity that He was the Son of God then is wrong. Certainly he existed then (John 1) but his Sonship involved his coming forth from God and there is no real basis for thinking that He came forth at any other time than at his birth (Matthew 1:25). The subject is a large one and in days gone by holding that Christ was not Son of God in a passed eternity was sufficient to have a person burned as a heretic in both Catholic and Protestant Christendom (e.g. Michael Servetus).


            The principles that are enunciated here can be applied widely and it is something that Christians should be exercised about.


November 2010