by Howard Green
If there is a subject in the Bible that is arguably the most debated, divisive, and distorted….it is the subject of Bible prophecy. Under the umbrella of end times teaching, there are primary issues like the Rapture, the Great Tribulation, Israel, the church, and the Second Coming that shape our outlook on the future and even how we now live. We will get to work on some of those issues in future articles. What we will look at now is the elephant in the room. It’s a growing trend to negate Bible prophecy in our day. Believers need to answer this question with clarity and boldness:
Is Bible prophecy relevant?
Prophecy is woven all through the word of God. There is prophecy that identifies certain people, places, and events. What we want to look at together is Bible prophecy as it pertains to end-time events. In writing this article, I must admit some sadness because it’s one thing to debate pertinent issues such as….the likelihood of a particular end-time event coming to fruition in our lifetime, the chronology of the Rapture, or what Mystery Babylon mentioned in Revelation is referring to. It is a given that believers will study and conjecture about these issues right up to the time Jesus returns.
What I find sad and frankly unconscionable, is that we are living in a day when an increasing number of Christians are viewing Bible prophecy as irrelevant or as a distraction.
Some believers may come right out and articulate that Bible prophecy is a distraction. With others, the negating of eschatology may be more subtle. How is end-time theology negated by believers? There are many ways, but here are a few that are very apparent these days:
1. Viewing our fellow Christians who study prophecy…as somewhat off point.
2. Viewing Bible prophecy as a distraction from the here and now.
3. Believing that the study and teaching of Bible prophecy will distract people from the work at hand…including the great commission.
4. Considering the study of the end times and prophecy too difficult or too divisive.
5. The most apparent way many churches, fellowships, and individuals are attempting to negate Bible prophecy is by simply ignoring it.
In neglecting the subject all together, Bible prophecy has become foreign to many churches and Christians. If it is addressed or taught, it is relegated to being a back burner issue. It is met with the same enthusiasm one might expect for a month long sermon series on the countless genealogies in the books of 1st or 2nd Chronicles!
(Truthful) prophetic material is exclusive to Christianity and Judaism because for prophecy to be 100% truthful it has to be 100% accurate and to be 100% accurate, it must be 100% fulfilled to the letter. Our God has a perfect record because everything His prophets have prophesied about has come to pass just as it was written in the Bible. I could write volumes about the spot on accuracy of the word of God, but suffice it to say that the Lord of heaven knows everything and His wisdom is unsearchable.
Isaiah 46:9: “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”
God in His divine wisdom has declared the end from the beginning. Far from being a wild shot in the dark, Bible prophecy is declaring future events with pinpoint accuracy as only the Lord can do. Although there are many things we won’t know until we get to heaven, much relevant information has been given to us for our instruction and edification in this life.
There is a significant portion of Scripture that is prophetic. In the book, Ready with an Answer, John Ankerbergand John Weldon have done the digging into the Bible and written about just how prevalent the subject of prophecy is in the Word of God. Here are some facts worth considering:
1. Approximately 27% of the Bible consists of prophetic material.
2. Out of the 66 books in the Bible, 62 contain prophetic material.
3. In the OT & NT, more than 1,800 verses address the Second Coming of Jesus.
If nearly a third of the Bible deals with prophecy, it becomes evident that prophecy is much more than a periphery issue. When we search the Scriptures for references to end-time events, we will quickly see the subject appears frequently. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Joel, Zachariah, and several other books all reference the last days to some degree. Daniel chapter 9 is worth noting because contained therein is a detailed summary of the final seven years preceding the return of Jesus.
God’s prophet writes about the same scenario that Jesus addresses in Matt. 24 and John writes about in Revelation 13. Daniel wrote about the rise of antichrist many centuries before Jesus and John the apostle mention him. This is just another stunning realization of the accuracy of the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of God.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke each have a whole chapter focused exclusively on the last days. 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, and 2 Peter all contain numerous direct references to the last days and Second Coming.
Revelation is the last book in the canon of Scripture and one of the most loved. In Revelation we find a book that lays out in great detail the end-time scenario. Look at how chapter one starts with pointing directly to Jesus and His emphasis on the importance of this book in the life of a believer:
Revelation 1:1-3: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servantsthe things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servantJohn, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”
That is an amazing gift to every believer from God. He gives us His written word for instruction and direction. When He made the things “that must soon take place” known to John, it was for us, His servants, to read, hear, and keep what is written. In Revelation 22, Jesus tells us, “I am coming soon” three times. When we look through the Bible, when we read verses in their context and when we find eschatological prophecy woven throughout its books, chapters, and pages…it makes the point all the more clear:
Bible prophecy isn’t a diversion…it’s enormously relevant today.
I want to address some disturbing trends. I understand there have been some erroneous teaching over the years in the realm of last days events. I know there have been dates set, claims made, and sensational speculation about future events. That is a shame because just as unbiblical teaching departs from the centrality of what God intended for us to know, so does the knee jerk reaction of ignoring Bible prophecy altogether.
It seemed like it wasn’t too long ago when pastors, teachers, and evangelists preached on the subject of Bible prophecy often. What good days they were…when end times events were taught with clarity, boldness, and relevance. Good men of God used hermeneutical skill to interpret Bible prophecy and view it in its proper context.
They knew Bible prophecy reflected the centrality and preeminence of Jesus. They knew Bible prophecy pointed us toward the fulfilling the Great Commission, and they knew that Bible prophecy was not simply just pointing to an ancient moment in time, but much of it has its ultimate and complete fulfillment in the future.
I have to tell you that I’m a bit weary of the soft sell social gospel that is being peddled these days. Teaching on judgment, repentance, atonement, and the Lord’s imminent return have been largely replaced by sermonetes on life enhancement.
When were we, as believers ever mandated to soft sell the gospel and package it in a politically correct box so that we won’t offend anyone’s sensibilities?
That was not the message of the early church. For them, loving His appearing was the blessed hope…not the great distraction. If we have become so wrapped up in our programs and “making church an experience they’ll return for”…it becomes apparent that a growing number of believers aren’t looking for the Lord’s return.
Instead, some are trying to make this life the apex of self fulfillment. That outlook is diametrically opposed to the heart that loves His appearing, is a bold witness and is watching and waiting.
1 Thessalonians 5:1-4: “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers,you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.”
Please understand…I believe grace, forgiveness, mercy, and the love of Jesus is paramount. But friends, it can only be paramount to a person who comes to the realization that: He is a wretched sinner before a holy God. The Bible says that godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation. Why would a person repent if they don’t know that Jesus is coming soon and that He is not coming back as their Savior, but as their judge?
Why would someone repent when the only message they hear many teachers in church or on television say is this one?:
“You are a good person, Jesus loves you, and God is going to make your life blessed and wonderful.”
Yes, Jesus loves them and His mercy extends to all sinners right up until the moment they die or Jesus returns. Then it will be too late and they will face judgment.
The core message for 2,000 years has been that we are sinners, we need a Savior, and repent…the kingdom is at hand. The prevailing core message these days has changed from Jesus saves to…accept Jesus to enhance your lifestyle and circumstances.
We need real men and women who will teach the whole word of God and not pick and choose what is not offensive. Paul said that we are an aroma of life to those who are being saved and we are an aroma of death to those who are perishing. Moreover, we need Christian men and women who will be a bold witness for Jesus in light of the reality of His soon return. We cannot peddle the Word of God. As Christians we must warn people that indeed, Jesus is coming soon.
The prevailing winds of apathy and distain for Bible prophecy among even some evangelicals is sad. Recently, I was listening to a 10 part CD series on the book of Revelation while traveling. A nationally known pastor was teaching through the book; why it’s important, how it affirms holy living, and our love for spreading the gospel.
He tells about a sad occasion when he went out to lunch with two other pastor friends. One of the pastors told a joke about the end times and the other one found it funny.
“Hey…did you know Jesus is coming again…and again and again and again?”
I’m not here to cast stones or blame because none of us are perfect. I do want to look at the heart of the issue. What was meant as humor and sarcasm shows a complete and unbelievable disregard and disrespect for Bible prophecy and for the Lord’s soon return. Needless to say, the pastor who was teaching the series on Revelation was floored by what he heard, and stunned that fellow pastors had become so apathetic about a central reality in the Bible.