REDISCOVERING THE POWER AND PURPOSE OF BIBLE PROPHECY — PART 1
by Joel Rosenberg
In Luke 12:51-56, the Lord Jesus said these words: “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two againstwill be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
And He was also saying to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turnswhen you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?”
In the first century in the Roman-occupied land of Israel, people were living in a time of great anxiety. They were worried about their own future. They feared war and drought and famine and natural disasters. They desperately wanted and needed a Savior. Yet Jesus rebuked them. Why? He scolded them for having all the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures that told them so many details about who the coming Messiah would be, but not carefully studying those prophecies in the Word of God. They weren’t observing the prophecies and comparing them to current events. They weren’t “connecting the dots.” They weren’t realizing the power or purpose of Bible prophecy. Thus they were missing the fact that Jesus Himself was the Messiah, was standing in their midst, and was ready, able and willing to save them from their sins and their sadness.
Today, we, too, are living at a time of great anxiety. People are worried about their own future, and the future of the world. There is a growing threat of a major war breaking out soon in the Middle East between Israel and Iran. Various nations in Europe are collapsing economically. The American economy is in deep trouble and we are facing the very real threat of fiscal and moral implosion. We’ve seen an explosion of violence and a murder wave even in small towns in America. We’re facing all manners of natural disasters, including terrible drought, historic fires, and now another serious hurricane aimed again at the Gulf Coast.
What’s remarkable is that all of these trends here in the U.S. and around the world are consistent with Bible prophecies about the “last days.” We are seeing End Times Bible prophecies coming true all around us, all of which tell us that we are steadily approaching the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Yet far too few people are studying the Word of God. They aren’t connecting the dots. They don’t understand the power and purpose of Bible prophecy. Thus they are missing the fact that Jesus Christ is calling them to Himself. He wants to save them from their sins and sadness. He came to offer the free gift of eternal life, and abundant life. And He’s coming back in person soon.
Personally, I’m fascinated with Bible prophecy, and have been for most of my life. I write non-fiction books and speak around the world about prophecy because it intrigues me so much and I feel compelled to share these truths with anyone who will listen. At the same time, I also write novels based on the premise, “What if?” That is, what if certain prophecies were to come true in our lifetime? What would that look like? What would that feel like? I don’t know for certain when or how these events will come to pass, but novels allow me to play a “war game,” as it were. They allow me to get people thinking about what these prophecies are and considering what they mean and how they could affect our lives.
I believe it is vitally important that people rediscover the power and purpose of Bible prophecy — now more than ever — and this is what I’d like to speak about for the next two nights.
Unfortunately, many pastors, priests and ministry leaders here in the U.S. and around the world are not teaching Bible prophecy — as I see it, there are four major reasons for this.
First, many pastors don’t teach prophecy because they have a lack of belief in the power of God’s Word. Sadly, many pastors today don’t really believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible, authoritative Word of God. The Lord Jesus once remonstrated the Pharisees because they were misinterpreting Scripture. He said, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29) Too many pastors and priests today are the same way. They not carefully studying the whole Bible. They’re not trying to understand the “whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27, KJV). They don’t really believe that prophecy comes from God, and therefore they don’t teach these prophecies or help people understand why God gave us prophecy. Yet Bible prophecies are so exciting because they are intercepts from the mind of the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God of the Universe. Prophecies tell us what is on the heart of God. They warn us to stop certain behaviors, and encourage us to be holy and walk more closely with the Lord. They are also storm warnings of future events. They tell us dramatic events that coming, and how we should get ready and be prepared to be found faithful and worthy when those moments come. Prophecies call us to serve Christ with boldness and courage so we will not be ashamed when we stand before Him face to face in the not-too-distant future. The Bible says that God gave us prophecies to build up and encourage followers of Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote, “One who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation….One who prophesies edifies the church.” (I Corinthians 14:3, 4b) Isn’t that what every believer needs, to be built up, encouraged and consoled?
Second, many pastors don’t teach prophecy because they have a lack of knowledge of — and sound training in — Bible prophecy. There are many, of course, who do believe that the Bible is the very Word of God. However, for a variety of reasons they have never taken the time to study prophecy carefully on their own, and/or weren’t taught it in any detail or depth in seminary or Bible college or seminary. Thus, they understandably feel unprepared and inadequate to help people unpack the truths of these Scriptures. Some prophecies are, of course, complicated and confusing. Some of the names mentioned in prophecies (like “Gog” and “Magog” and “Gomer” and “Put” in Ezekiel 38-39) are strange and obscure. It takes some historical detective work to determine what these things mean, and some pastors decide they neither have the interest nor the time to do the research and teach their congregations clearly and accurately, so they avoid teaching prophecy all together. I understand this, and I’m doing my best to create resources — and point people to other excellent resources that have been helpful to me — to help pastors study and teach prophecy. Because now is the time to rediscover the power and purpose of prophecy. The Bible is clear that God will bless those who study and teach End Times prophecy, and we should be faithful in doing just that. The Apostle John wrote, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3) Amen.
Third, many pastors don’t teach prophecy because they have a fear of being lumped in with “prophecy nuts” and those who peddle sensationalism. Admittedly, there are, in fact, many nuts who try to teach prophecy. They misinterpret the Scriptures. They draw erroneous conclusions. They sensationalize. And thus they bring dishonor and discredit to themselves. Pastors are right to avoid such false teachers, and to avoid creating an appearance of cheapening the Word of God in these ways. But just because some teach Bible prophecy wrongly, or badly, is no reason for solid teachers to avoid the topic. There are those who teach false regarding the Gospels and the epistles, too. But a good pastor wouldn’t dare skip teaching correctly these books of the Bible. On what basis, then, do we have the right to avoid teaching whole books of the Bible — Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation, among others — just because some charlatans are out their misleading people? Indeed, we should be teaching solidly on prophecy all the more because of the nuts who are out there. We shouldn’t cede the battle for hearts, minds and souls to the nuts. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “Preach the word: be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2-3)
Fourth, many pastors don’t teach prophecy because they have a lack of understanding of the times in which we live and the increasingly close return of Christ. At the same time, there are many sincere pastors who love Jesus and love the Word of God but somehow are just not gripped by the remarkable moment of history that we’re in, and the urgent need to prepare men’s hearts for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ for the Church. More than ever, we need pastors who are like the sons of Issachar, “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” (I Chronicles 12:32) More than ever we need pastors who will obey the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ who told us to not be obsessed with understanding the future of the weather, but rather to understand “this present time” and prepare the people under our care to walk with Christ more closely and obey Him more faithfully as the Day of His return for us draws ever nearer.