Some of us have used prophetic studies of the Bible in a way that has cast us as “the ugly Christian” in the eyes of a watching world.
But how can we blame our critics for giving us low marks if they see us trashing the environment and expressing detached fascination with the specter of a coming Armageddon– while projecting a “we’re out of here before it happens” attitude.
The misuse of prophecy, however, does not change its original intent. Futuristic writings like Daniel and the Book of Revelation have always had an important role in telling the story of the Bible. Even though such prophecies provide limited foresight ahead of their fulfillment, we need to think twice before dismissing their value.
1. Using prophecy to keep the faith. The accuracy of already fulfilled predictions remind us that God is great enough to allow genuine human freedom while remaining in control of the outcome. No one knows how He does it-but, at the very minimum, God is like a Great Chess-master who allows the moves of human choice while remaining in control of the board. He will finish what He started. God’s final moves have already been determined. We may break His heart, but no one will break His will or frustrate His plan.
2. Using prophecy to keep hope alive. The prophecies of the Bible continue to give hope to those who believe them. The predictions of Scripture remind us that history is on schedule. We are not passengers on a runaway bus. Through death, or the return of Christ, we will all arrive at our chosen destination (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
Our challenge is to keep hope alive without being foolish or presumptuous. Wisdom will teach us to say of Christ’s return, “Maybe today. Maybe not.” We need to be ready to go with Jesus now, or to stay here awhile longer. We need to teach our children to join us in looking for Christ’s return while also preparing for the possibility of a long and full life on earth.
3. Using prophecy to help us love one another. In writing to those who had entrusted themselves to Christ, the apostle Paul praised them for working hard as they waited for the promised return. He affirmed not only their “work of faith” and “patience of hope,” but also their “labor of love” (1 Thessalonians 1:1-10). Paul’s logic is understandable. Just as anticipation of an “imminent” visit from the corporate office puts workers on their best behavior, so a healthy expectation of Christ’s “any-moment” return can teach us to reflect the values and attitudes of our Lord.
So let me ask you can you see the value of limited foresight– even if we don’t know how or when the predictions of the Bible will actually play out? Does it make sense that God has not given us information to know where we are on his calendar?