In the middle of a conversation about his church and his ministry, a pastor shared with me that he thought that Bible prophecy was not all that relevant to the present day needs of his people and so he stayed away from it in his preaching. He went on to explain that biblical prophecy tends to be “sensational” and, when all is said and done, to be quite confusing to people.
This pastor was one that seemed to have a high view of the scriptures and one that sincerely wanted his people to mature in their walk with Christ. From our conversation it was clear that he wanted his people to be helped in their struggle with the world, flesh and the devil. With that in mind I asked him if he had thought about how Christ and the Apostles employed biblical prophecy in helping believers grow spiritually, suggesting that Jesus and the NT writers sprinkled future events liberally in their teaching. Bible prophecy was used by them to change the way people thought and lived; that the basic purpose of prophecy is to change the way we all live in the present. To his credit, he indicated that he really needed to rethink his view of biblical prophecy.
Here are some of those truths that show us the great value of biblical prophecy and why the prophetic element is found interwoven everywhere in the Bible. Biblical prophecy is not only “relevant” to our lives today but it provides a biblical mindset found in those who pleased God. (See Hebrews 11:9-16).
#1 – Biblical prophecy understood and embraced gives needed help in our struggle against sin.
Serious believers are very aware of the “sin that so easily entangles us” (Heb. 12:1) and wish for victory over sin. When we keep future events fresh in our thinking, that we are going to see Christ and appear before His judgment seat, we are apt to not allow sin to take up residence in our lives. We can say “no” to sin much easier. This was the point the Apostle John made.
“And now little children abide in Him (keep in fellowship), so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming…And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 2:28; 3:3)
It is when we cease thinking that Jesus could appear at any moment and bring to pass the end times as described in the Bible, that we get careless in the way we live. Remember Jesus’ powerful statement that it is the evil slave who says “my Lord delays his coming” (Matt. 24:48). The believer’s struggle against sin will never stop in this life, but that believer is fortified in the inner person by the truths of what may soon take place.
#2 – Biblical prophecy provides a framework for the believer to prioritize life better and to make better decision.
If we knew that the ABC company was going to go out of business in six months we likely wouldn’t take a job with them. Bob and Mary would probably not have bought an old house and spent the last year remodeling it, if they had known it was going to burn to the ground the day after they finished their project.
Bible prophecy can play such a life changing role today. When believers become convinced of the truthfulness of these prophetic portions dealing with our accountability and reward and end time events, they will prioritize life differently. They most likely will make better decisions and order their lives in a much more biblical way. The reality of future things sheds significant light on the important issues of life and gives us a framework for evaluating what is most important. Those who live with an awareness of what lies ahead in the plan of God think differently regarding the use of their time, money and resources. The goals and purposes of life are altered by a conviction about future realities. Again, note the Apostle Peter’s exhortation when he says “what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” in view of future events (2 Peter 3:11).
Understanding and believing what biblical prophecy declares makes an impact on the way we do life now. The Apostle Paul made it clear (as in 1 Cor. 9) that he said “no” to himself and ordered his life differently than many others because he had an eye on the glory that was ahead for believers.
#3 – Biblical prophecy provides a valuable mindset in times of trial and temptation.
The fact that believers are faced with some burdensome and painful trials in this life is not a new revelation. We know that God has not exempted believers from the sudden death of a loved one or the arrival of a debilitating disease or the appearance of great financial loss. And even if such “major tragedies” do not enter the believer’s life, the child of God still experiences scores of “minor” pressures, griefs, disappointments and setbacks.
James, and others, observed that believers can respond well or they can respond poorly to these painful times in life. In order for trials to be successfully endured, James says that the believer must possess God’s wisdom, which is seeing life from God’s perspective. An integral part of God’s perspective is the future that lies ahead. This is how Jesus faced the trial of His crucifixion. The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (12:2). Jesus looked beyond those six hours on the cross to that time in His glorious kingdom when He would be with those that He would redeem and restore.
The believer who is focused on this world will likely not do well in trials when things go terribly wrong in this world. Without a working knowledge of things to come, he will have to fall back on the “stiff upper lip” approach or to wishful thinking. The truth is that our best life is not now. But the believer who anticipates the glorious age to come will be better positioned to deal well with the pain and disappointments that accompany trials in this world.
After speaking about the universality of trials and the need for God’s wisdom, James references the future (James 1:12). The “crown of life”, also mentioned in Revelation 2:10, does seem to focus on the future reward given to the believer who loves the Lord so much that he does not resent what the Lord has allowed into his life. An incentive for enduring in trials is the understanding that there is future reward for the enduring believer.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)
As James’ letter comes to a close, it returns to the matter of the trials of life and the need to patiently endure like Job and the prophets of old. And here James again appeals to the future to give strength to his friends.
“Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord….You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.” (James 5:7-9)
What believers need in times of trial and difficulty is not positive thinking, but prophetic thinking!
So, does Bible prophecy do us any good? One cannot but answer “yes, yes, yes” when the scriptures are carefully read. These are but three truths we want to observe about the importance of prophecy. Next month we want to continue with this subject which is so vital to the church today and so helpful to believers who live in the world system.