I saw a newsletter about prophecy and it was very good at pointing out things happening today and bringing our attention to current events, coupling those with what the Bible says. In short, it raises our anxiety level about the soon coming antichrist. Therefore I thought it would be good if I made a few remarks about it. Prophecy should be a source of great joy and happiness to Christians, not of fear and trembling. The Last Days will bring victory to believers in Jesus, but disaster to those who have rejected the King. Therefore, I think, if prophecy causes a believer to have anxiety, then perhaps that would be a good time to review what prophecy is all about.
First of all, I want to tell you who prophecy is for. When God tells us something that will happen in the distant future, who is he talking to?
1 Peter 1:10-12
10Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: 11Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. 12Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
So we find out that when the Old Testament prophets prophesied things relating to Jesus and our salvation by faith, they asked God about it because they didn’t understand exactly what was going to happen. God told them that he didn’t expect them to understand it because he was not talking to them. He was talking to people in the future. That information was to help future generations. It was not intended to help people whose time had not come.
In another place, the Bible says,
26Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 27Son of man, behold, they of the house of Israel say, The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are far off. 28Therefore say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord GOD.
When Ezekiel prophesied, the people he spoke to said, “He’s not talking to us, he’s talking about something that will happen in the distant future.” So God replied, through Ezekiel that he is talking to them about things now and not the distant future. That shows us that even then people knew prophecies about far future events were not intended for them but for future generations.
Now this is important to understand: When the time is here, then we will know what the prophecy means. But until then, we can only guess at its meaning.
When Jesus came, he talked to the Pharisees, Sadducees and Priests, explaining to them what the Old Testament prophecies were and what they meant. Those people understood Jesus, but they rejected him anyway. Therefore they are without excuse.
Remember how Christians treated prophecy throughout history. I’ll start way back in Paul’s day. We know the antichrist is supposed to appear during the Last Days. Even in Paul’s day they were looking for the End Days and the antichrist to appear. That is because when we see the antichrist, we know this is the end.
In ancient Rome, when Nero was emperor, people thought he was the antichrist, and they said so. They used the Bible to prove it. However, Nero was not the antichrist. They were wrong about that being the End Time.
When Martin Luther brought in the Reformation, he called Pope Leo X the antichrist and proved it by the scriptures. He was wrong; and it was not the End Time.
Pope Leo X called Martin Luther the antichrist and he proved it by the scriptures. He was wrong, and it was not the End Time.
Christians in Great Britain called Napoleon Bonaparte the antichrist and they proved it by the scriptures. But they were wrong; he was not the antichrist and it was not the End Time.
When Adolph Hitler was roaming around, Christians called him the antichrist, and proved it by the scriptures. Christians also called Benito Mussolini the antichrist, and again proved it by the scriptures. But they were wrong, and it was not the End Time.
Recently, when Nixon was in office, many Christians called Henry Kissinger the antichrist, but they were wrong.
Hal Lindsey wrote a book, The Late Great Planet Earth, in which he proved the Soviet Union was the antichrist. But the Soviet Union went away and Hal Lindsey was wrong; it was not the End Time.
In the 1950s when I was a new Christian, I remember standing on the porch of my church and a faithful Christian woman assured me we were right then living in the End Times and Jesus would appear at any day, any second. He may even return before I got home. That was over 50 years ago. (And I did get home.)
All these people used the scriptures and current events to prove the End Times were here. They all believed it. They all taught it. They were all wrong. And today we’re still doing the same thing they did.
Prophecy about the End Time is intended for the people living in the End Time. It is supposed to explain to them what is happening around them. When they see it, they can read about it in the Bible, understand what is happening, and be comforted.
Did you see that word, “comforted”? Prophecy is supposed to comfort us, not scare us to death. The Bible says,
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
The Bible does not say, “Terrify one another with these words.” No, it is “Comfort one another.”
The Bible uses the word “fear” a lot, and it is used in different ways. Used one way, it means to “Be Afraid,” but used another way it means to “Reverence God.” Those are quite different.
Here are some “be afraid” scriptures.
26Men’s hearts failing them for fear
But let’s read that entire context of that scripture:
20And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 22For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. 24And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. 25And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
You see, this fear happens at the last minute. Armies have surrounded Jerusalem. The sun, moon and stars behave erratically. The ocean casts up huge waves. And the people see Jesus in the sky. That is when their hearts fail them, because they know this is it. It is all over for them. There is no more chance.
But you… this is a time of great joy for you, because Jesus has come. Your Lord and Savior is here, and there will be no more bad guys. The thing that makes them fearful and their hearts fail is the exact thing that gives you great joy.
The Bible says,
2 Corinthians 2:15-16
15For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: 16To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life.
When people see Christ in us, they behave in one of two ways. The people who are saved rejoice and are happy. Those who are enemies of Christ become very angry and abuse us, which causes us to rejoice even more. That is the way it will be when Christ comes; to the saved, great joy; to the lost, great distress.
The Bible talks about another fear, the Reverence of God.
Proverbs 1:7, 7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge
Proverbs 8:13, 13The fear of the LORD is to hate evil
Proverbs 9:10, 10The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom
Proverbs 10:27, 27The fear of the LORD prolongeth days
Proverbs 14:26, 26In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence
Proverbs 14:27, 27The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life
So when somebody tells you,
1 John 4:18, perfect love casteth out fear and He that feareth is not made perfect in love, don’t let that disturb you. Godly fear brings you great good. Godless fear brings you great harm. And in you, in your heart, live God and Jesus. That doesn’t mean you will never be concerned or confused. It means the type of fear being talked about in the verse about men’s hearts failing them does not apply to you.
And now, I want to tell you about ministers and teachers. As you know, not all ministers are good. Even of those who are good ministers, some are better than others. Some ministers fail because they are weak in their knowledge and experience, although they go around teaching other people in their ignorance anyway. Unfortunately, those who are good but weak will wrongly say, “Thus saith the Lord!” They themselves believe what they tell you. They will lead you astray just as they are led astray, although they mean well. You have to be careful.
Here’s what I want to tell you about ministers. Everybody has to eat, even ministers. Ministers have to feed their families, pay for their homes, send their children to school, and clothe themselves. They have to pay for their car, their electricity and water. They have to have income through their employment, and their employment is preaching. That’s just the way it is. It’s not bad. That’s the way God made things and they are subject to God’s laws just as we are.
Ministers have found out what brings in more money. What would you do? If you found out if you behave one way you’ll get $5,000 per month but if you behave in another way, you’ll get $1,000 a month, what would you do? You should do the godly thing, that is, you would take care of your family first.
Ministers have found out that if they talk about prophecy, they get paid more than if they don’t. More people send in money. Furthermore, if they scare the people, they get paid even more. And even greater than that comes in if they can make you hate or fear someone. If they can make you hate and fear someone, they get paid most of all. Thus, you are taught to hate and fear the anti-Christ, Liberals, Atheists, Homosexuals, and maybe even Catholics. The more you hate or fear someone, the more money you’re going to send to the person who taught you to hate and fear. It’s a great money-making industry.
That’s not to say they’re lying. That is to say they are parsing their words and giving a message that brings them more money. Just as the Bible says,
I Timothy 3:6,7
6For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women…
7Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Now I took those verses out of context, but I did it to make a point. The point is this, People who know how to manipulate the emotions of others will do so, because it brings them more money and fame. That doesn’t say they’re bad; it just says they’re really good at taking care of their own families first.
What does Jesus say about people like that?
Matthew 7:15: 15Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Matthew 24:11: 11And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
Why did Jesus say “Beware”? He said it because people whom we call “prophets” will come to us and teach us wrong things. Think about this. If it were evident they were false teachers, then we would have no problem avoiding them. But it’s not evident that they are false. They look real to us. They sound real. And so it is us they deceive. That is why we should be careful. Then why shouldn’t we carefully examine what other ministers say instead of just believing everything they feed us?
One last word before I end the letter. You know Christ is coming and he will take you into heaven to be with him. You will escape the punishment of the antichrist because you won’t be here. You have nothing to fear on any account.
Just remember to put prophecy and events in order: The Event happens first and then you understand the prophecy. When people teach Bible prophecy before the Event happens, they try to anticipate the Event by turning everything they see into the Event. That is backwards. The Event may not happen for another 75 years, yet all that time we will be saying, “Here it is! It’s happening now!” Or “There it is over there. It’s happening now!” That’s not the way God wants it. The Event happens first and then you use the Bible to understand what it means.
Bible prophecy is for the people to whom the Event happens, not for those people who live before the Event, sometimes hundreds of years before it.
And of course it goes without saying that if a person doesn’t know anything about the Bible, he won’t understand what is happening when it does happen. Therefore we should all study and learn the Bible, but let the Event happen first before trying to interpret it.