Friday, June 17, 2011

Know God, Part Three: The Future Is In His Hands

In part one, we talked about the importance of studying the whole counsel of God, giving every single verse the same weight, the same consideration, and the same relevance to our daily lives, acknowledging that there is not a single word of Scripture that is not utterly invaluable to our existence as human beings, and that to forsake even one syllable of this magnificent love letter is to delegitimize the whole.

In part two, we talked about the need to study prophecy, which was again alluded to in another post, gaining a rich knowledge of the history of our God, the history of his people, Israel, and the unmatchable power of a God who created all things, knows all things, and holds all things, past, present, and future, in his hands.

And now, beginning with this post, and continuing into at least the next two, we will finally take a look specifically at end times prophecy. We will address its significance and its validity, and we will explore some of the specific prophecies that have recently been and are currently being fulfilled, as well as those that are soon to come.

So for today, we'll answer the question of "Why?". Why should we study end times prophecy? What value does it hold for us as believers? What value does it hold for the world who has rejected Christ up to this point? And what should our response be?

First and foremost, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we need to study end times prophecy simply because it is in the Bible, and nothing that is in the Bible is meant to be ignored or neglected. And not only is it just in the Bible, prophecy comprises nearly 1/3 of the entire Bible, much of which relates to the end times, the "last days", the day of the Lord, and the millennial kingdom. (We'll break up and define each of those terms in the posts to come.) I think it is safe to assume that if God chose to overwhelm the scriptures with such massive amounts of information pertaining to the time leading up to his return, he expected us to become well acquainted with these prophecies.

"Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who CORRECTLY EXPLAINS THE WORD OF TRUTH." 2 Timothy 2:15 (emphasis added)

Second of all, the simple fact that we are commanded to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and ALL OF OUR MINDS (Matthew 22:37), should stir within us a desire, a hunger even, to keep going back and reading the passages of scripture that probably make our heads ache the first time through. So often, Christians simply give up on end times prophecy because it is confusing. And really, if you've ever attempted to read Daniel, or Ezekiel, really a pretty good chunk of the old testament, and of course, Revelation, you probably felt like your head was going to explode trying to figure out what on earth these people were talking about. There's crazy talk about beasts with multiple heads and a woman riding on a dragon and demonic locust-like creatures that swarm the earth, and that's just the beginning. It absolutely can be overwhelming at first, but that does not mean that we just throw it into the all too popular category of "stuff-the-'experts'-can't-agree-on-therefore-no-one-needs-to-try-to-figure-it-out". I firmly believe that this is a tactic of the devil's, meant to confuse the world and even the church, so that we will not believe the Lord's messages and warnings, that we might be caught off guard. There are small details in the Bible that the Lord HAS chosen to not make clear, and on which Bible scholars who are truly seeking the Lord WILL disagree, but our God is NOT a god of confusion, and in matters of such vital importance, he HAS revealed THE truth, not one of many truths, but THE truth, and if we ask him and truly seek him, he will reveal that truth to us. 

"Then [Jesus] added, 'Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given --and you will receive even more. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them." Mark 4:24-25

The world's views on absolute truth, or lack thereof, have seeped so tragically into the church; and now, rather than working together to discover the Lord's absolute truth in areas such as this, we have simply accepted that because people disagree on the matter, that the truth must be unattainable, not wanting to discredit anyone but wanting, instead, to keep an open mind to all opinions and ideas. Sadly, we have allowed false teachers who have either strayed from the word of God or most likely were NEVER truly acquainted with it to infiltrate the body of Christ, and we are too politically correct to demand that these false teachings cease so that the truth may be raised up. The reality of it, however, is that with honest deductions and dependence upon the word of God and the holy spirit, we CAN discredit many of these false teachings which serve no purpose other than to confuse God's people. I'll get into some of these specifics in the next two posts. For now, let me just reiterate that God is a god of knowledge and clarity, and if you truly seek him, he will reveal the truth to you.

"And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth." Acts 17:11 (emphasis added)

Ok, so we know that we need to study end times prophecy because it's in the Bible and all of the Bible is meant to be studied. We know that even the most confusing parts of scripture can be made clear if we seek the Lord and his truth, and that we should never just give up on something in scripture just because it is difficult to understand. But what should we expect to gain from studying this? What's the point? Aside from obedience to God and his call on our lives to be devoted to the study of his word, and aside from the fact that we know he will help us to understand it, what exactly are we supposed to glean from all of this? And the answer to that one is simple:

Our future! Our immediate future, our distant future, and perhaps even more importantly, the future that the inhabitants of this world will face if they do not repent before the beginning of the tribulation period, and ultimately before Christ returns to rule on this earth.

Who doesn't want to know the future? People today are obsessed with trying to discern the future. They read their horoscopes, they study the stars, they go to tarot card readers and palm readers, they look to all sorts of doomsday theories like the ones related to the Mayan calendar. And if you're a follower of Christ, you know that all of that is absolutely worthless. You know that none of these spirits or stars or people can offer even the smallest bit of information to a world that is so desperately seeking answers. 

And they DO need answers! And we know the One who CAN answer these questions for them. And if we choose not to share it with them, either because we have never studied it and we don't even know for ourselves, or because we are too afraid of sounding nuttier than a fruit cake by talking about this stuff, then we are disobeying God and we are being unloving, even hateful, towards a world that so desperately needs to hear TRUTH for once in their lives.

There is this misconception in the church today, stemming most likely from a long church history of truly unloving approaches to evangelizing the nations, that in order to be "loving", we have to leave out the "fire and brimstone". Now, let me just say that I DO NOT believe that we need to go around shaking our fists at the world, yelling that they're all evil and they're all going to hell. This will not be the slightest bit effective.



Heaven and hell go hand in hand. You will be in one or the other. The rejection of one is the acceptance of the other, and a refusal to make that decision IS a decision in itself, and it is a decision for hell, a decision to be eternally separated from God.

We absolutely need to tell people about the wonderful things God can do in our lives. We need to talk about how glorious heaven will be. We need to share the GOOD NEWS of what Jesus did for us on the cross. But if people never have a realistic understanding of what their alternative TRULY is, how can we expect them to understand the gravity of that choice and the imperativeness of making the right choice IMMEDIATELY. For no matter how long we have before Christ actually returns, no one is promised tomorrow. All of our days are numbered from the day we are born. We could step into eternity at any moment, and we all need to know exactly what is awaiting us on the other side.

And just as we need to talk about the realities of hell, we MUST be talking about the realities of what is coming during the tribulation, something we will get into in the posts to come. God explained to us throughout his word, and Jesus reminded us in the gospels, that THOUGH WE CANNOT KNOW THE DAY OR THE HOUR, WE ABSOLUTELY CAN KNOW THE GENERATION, THE SEASON, THE IMMEDIATE TIME BEFORE THE DAY OF THE LORD. We can know and we need to know. Jesus said to the pharisees in Luke 12:56, "You fools! You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don't know how to interpret the present times." 

Did you catch that? He called them fools because they were unable to discern the signs of the times in which they were living. This implies that it IS possible to discern the signs and to determine WHICH generation we are living in. And it is vital that we know which generation, as described in scripture, we are living in so that we can live accordingly. The pharisees were so blind that they were unable to discern that they were living in the generation that would see their messiah finally come to the earth for the FIRST time, and they MISSED OUT on the tremendous blessing that could have been theirs had their eyes and their hearts been open to the truth. 

AND JUST LIKE THEM, if we are unwilling to do the work of studying our bibles and praying for wisdom and discernment and honestly evaluating the world around us to determine WHICH generation WE are living in, WE, TOO, ARE GOING TO MISS OUT! We as believers are going to miss out on the blessing that we could receive by obediently participating in the work that God wants to do in this special generation, during this special time in history. And our unbelieving friends and family are going to miss out on their window of opportunity to accept Christ before it is too late.

Don't be blind as the pharisees were blind. Don't miss out on what God is doing. Don't keep silent, but LEARN for yourself about the world and the time that you are living in and then apply it to your life and finally SHARE it with those around you. You will be blessed for your faithfulness!

"God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near." Revelation 1:3

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