Why You Need to Read Prophecy
Why You Need to Read Prophecy
This Sunday we’re heading into the prophetic section of Daniel. It’s going to get weird. We’re talking about wildly deformed beasts, iron-toothed monsters, and flaming chariot-thrones.
Some people live for these parts of the Bible. It’s like doing a sudoku puzzle as they figure out which part fits into the timeline of history, current events, and the future apocalypse. They have charts and diagrams all over their walls, showing exactly what’s going to happen in what order when the world ends. Some of them even have specific dates.
Other people have seen some of the silliness that Bible prophecy inspires, and they’ve decided that they’ll just avoid all those parts of the Bible altogether. They think nobody can really understand it, so it’s all just a waste of time.
But if all Scripture is breathed out by God and all Scripture is profitable (2 Tim 3:16), then God put prophecies and apocalyptic visions in his word for good reasons. I can think of three:
1. Prophecy gives us a wake-up call.
A major theme throughout biblical prophecy is a simple reminder: Judgment is coming. God knows how tempting it is for us to think that life will just go on like it is right now forever. Especially here in the islands, where every day is pretty much the same. We complain when it’s 3 degrees colder than usual.
Many of us expect that things will be nice and comfortable forever. But God’s judgment is coming. Every single person will stand before God in his courtroom. That should wake us up. Or as Paul says, that should make us sober:
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. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (1 Thess 5:2-6)
It’s so easy to fall asleep, but God’s judgment could come at any time. That should affect the way we relate to God and the way we relate to the people around us. That should affect the way we spend our time and the way we spend our money. This gives us urgency in life. One of the big things Christians in our culture are lacking is a sense of urgency, and prophecy gives it back to us.
2. Prophecy gives us hope.
Many prophetic books in the Bible were originally written to believers who were suffering under persecution. Daniel wrote while Israel was exiled in Babylon. John wrote Revelation while Christians were being killed all over the Roman Empire.
There are times in life when God’s enemies are winning, and it seems like they’ll always keep winning. It looks like nobody can stop them. But God’s promise throughout his word is that they will be judged. At the end of the day, God wins.
So when your professor starts attacking Christianity in class, ridiculing anyone who would believe the nonsense in the Bible, you don’t need to get mad and fight back. Just remember that God wins. When your family starts gets down on you for your faith, question all the time you spend doing God-stuff and telling you they think you’re part of a cult, you don’t need to get defensive. Just remember that God wins. When your company passes you over for promotions because you honor God and you refuse to do the shady things they want you to do, just remember that God wins.
It just might take a while for us to see it. Which is the third reason why God gave us prophecy:
3. Prophecy gives us patience.
God wins, but things will get worse before they get better. That’s a repeated pattern in biblical prophecy. The world will get worse and worse before Jesus comes to judge and rule over his creation.
Nobody in America believed that 100 years ago. They launched a magazine called Christian Century, because they thought we were entering a new era of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Then World War I happened. And World War II. And Hitler, and Stalin, and Pol Pot, and it turned out to be the bloodiest century in human history.
God will put an end to that kind of evil. But he’s doing it on his own time. Look at what Peter says:
Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Pet 3:8-10)
God is patient. He allows us to keep living so that more people can hear the gospel, repent, and be saved. God is patient with us, so we need to be patient with him. When it feels like someone’s getting away with evil, be patient. When it feels like there’s nothing you can do to stop it, be patient. When it feels like you’re the one suffering the most, be patient. God is in control, and one day that evil will be history. “Death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4).
In the end, God wins!