This article continues the previous discussion by adding three more absolutely critical elements to prophecy and the believer. These six points ought to cause any pastor to teach prophetic truth to his flock.
In our last study, we addressed the very common question of the value of Bible prophecy. Unfortunately, many Christians whether they are in the church or the academic community, believe that biblical prophecy is not very important. They reason that it is too controversial, too unclear or much too irrelevant for life in the present. However, this attitude would come as a real surprise to the early church. For example, when the Apostle Peter wrote his two letters (which are not seen as prophetic epistles), he spoke some 25 times about future events. The writers of the New Testament understood that prophecy was designed to shape the way we view life right now by influencing our choices and priorities.
In our previous study, we observed three realities that indicate how important Bible prophecy is in the life of the believer. We noted that Bible prophecy (1) helps us in our struggle with sin, (2) provides a framework for making decision and prioritizing life and (3) gives a needed perspective in times of trial and temptation.
There are several other truths which refute the common idea that prophecy is not all that important for us today.
#4 – Biblical prophecy provides hope which is a key element in establishing a biblical worldview.
If there is anyone who ought to live in this world with confidence, it is the child of God (cf. Titus 2:13). If there is anyone who ought not live under the load of defeat, fear and depression, it is the child of God. While none of us are exempt from painful situations in life, we should not live hopeless, negative, defeated lives because we understand where all of life is headed and that we have an amazing future that is ours as believers. “Let us rejoice and be glad” (Rev. 19:7) will be the prevailing sentiment for the redeemed.
This attitude of hope is not wishful thinking because it is grounded in the commitment of God to restore what was lost in the Garden of Eden. Man’s willful disobedience brought about the loss of paradise, of fellowship with God and of the privileged position of ruling the earth. When Adam and Eve sinned, God could have wiped everything out and started over again. (After all, what would He have lost but two people and six days of work!). But instead He promised that there would be restoration and reconciliation through the “seed of the woman.” And at that time, He embarked on the path that would bring about the restoration of all things that had been lost.
When we turn to Revelation 20-22 we discover that those three things that were lost will be fully regained because of the Cross and the powerful working of our Creator God. Unhindered fellowship with God, a wonderful paradise and the opportunity of ruling with Messiah will again be the experience of people. Biblical prophecy lets us in on this marvelous ending and gives us the confident expectation which assists us in living well for Christ right now. Biblical prophecy provides us with a clear, comprehensive worldview which in turn generates biblical hope because we are dealing with a God who is faithful to His promises.
#5 – Biblical prophecy reveals the end of evil and of the unbeliever.
The problem of the presence and apparent success of evil has been a thorny theological and philosophical problem for all of man’s history. Biblical prophecy does not deal with the origin of evil but it does deal with the end of evil. Wickedness will not prevail and evil people will be punished and will not “get away with murder.” It is clear that evil and evildoers will be removed from life that will be lived forever in God’s forever kingdom.
“But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:13)
“…and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those who names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev. 21:27)
“And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Rev. 20:11)
As the Scriptures describe the fate of the unbeliever, it is a terrible fate that they face. As we contemplate the eternal end of the unbeliever, it is not good that we become satisfied with our own wonderful futures but that we are motivated by biblical prophecy to share the good news with those who futures are horrible.
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels….’ and these will go away into eternal punishment…” (Matt. 25:41, 48)
The Apostle Paul graphically adds to this statement by Jesus.
“…when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” (2 Thes. 1:7-9)
Paul’s prophetic word on the fate of unbelievers is terrifying. They not only will be sent into eternal fire, but their lives will be ruined eternally (“eternal destruction”). It is the opposite of that quality of life known commonly as “eternal life.” This one passage removes the ridiculous suggestion that anyone will have a good time partying in hell, or any other such nonsense. That which God designed life to be and have by way of meaning and purpose will be gone and gone forever.
The banishment from the presence of the glorified Lord Jesus is the very heart of eternal punishment. The result will be to deprive them of the Lord’s favor and all which gives purpose and joy to life.
It will be like being eternally depressed, where forever life has no meaning to it. And furthermore, they will be “away from the presence of the Lord.” Today even the wicked are recipients of God’s common grace and are therefore blessed. But in the lake of fire, there appears to be a complete separation from any of God’s grace and mercy. Can anything be more terrible than what Paul describes in these verses? These forceful statements about the fate of the unbeliever ought to resonate in the hearts of believers causing us to be more compassionate and more active in giving out the good news.
Believers who are armed with this prophetic knowledge will be encouraged by the demise of evil, even it appears on the daily news that evil is winning the day. In the world to come it is righteousness that reigns.
#6 – Prophecy contributes an important reminder of God’s absolute sovereignty.
The prophet Isaiah powerfully declared that God is sovereign over all men and nations (Isaiah 40). No person, no nation or combination of nations can for one second thwart the plans and purposes of God. And while we might be impressed or even intimidated by the authority of those in Washington DC, Moscow, Berlin or Tehran, God is not. Bible prophecy reveals that our sovereign God will bring to pass everything that He said He would do. He is sovereign. And biblical prophecy reinforces that significant reality.
So, again, has biblical prophecy an important place in the life and thinking of the believer? Perhaps the average believer, whether in the pew or the halls of the academy, need to give serious reflection to the Word of God on the strategic role of prophecy in our theology and our living.