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The Value of Limited Foresight

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?

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11 Responses to “The Value of Limited Foresight”

  1. alexdizon says:

    I’m actually thankful that I don’t know when Christ will return for several reasons:

    1. I would like to prepare for His coming, not solely out of fear of how or where I will end up, but more because of a genuine love for Him. If I knew I may be distracted and do things mechanically or purely out of duty and fear. I’m not saying that fear of God and having a sense of duty as a Christian are not important. However, like the church of Ephesus, we can easily be consumed with being upright and compliant, that we end up forgetting our First Love “Jesus”.

    2. It’s the same as Mary’s and Martha’s story. I am likely to end up running and scurrying up and down the house because I want all the tiny details to be perfect and forgetting the real purpose why Jesus is coming. Through God’s grace, I hope that I can enjoy His presence in my life and just savour every moment of it and share with others the hope that I had found in Him.

    3. I love surprises! Knowing God, His surprises were, are and will always be extraordinary.

    4. He knows best. His timing has always been perfect.

  2. Mart De Haan says:

    tish, I think Isaiah 53 is one of the most amazing extended prophecies that pictures a mysterious suffering servant of the Lord who, in retrospect, can only be a picture of Jesus death. It not only talks about him suffering for our sins (Isa 53:6), but even alludes to his life being extended after death (v 10). Another amazing prophecy gives a prediction of when Messiah would come, and that he would be killed (cut-off) “but not for himself” prior to the destruction of the Temple. We’ve written a booklet on this prophecy called “The Daniel Papers” and can be found in pdf form here.

  3. Gale L. Jarvis says:

    Mart when you are my age 74, many times i looked back and think about the many foolish things i have done, if i had know the consequenses i probably would have done a few things different, but because of the hard head in most of us, or feeling the need to at least experiment, most of us would probably done the foolish thing any way.
    That is why i stay involved with different youth ministries, the sooner a person can get under the influence of the Holy Spirit it does not matter what is coming the Holy Spirit will keep them safe in what ever plans the Lord has coming.
    I believe another great scripture Tish is
    Psalms 16:8-10, conected with Acts 2:29-32, where Peter made these facts known, and at least 3000, believed and were saved because of Peters commitment to these facts.

  4. Mart De Haan says:

    Gale, me too, can’t imagined how many times I’ve gambled against consequences– knowing but risking. Eventually, I think I learned the power of faith combined with what I knew in my head. It’s still a struggle. That’s probably one reason we need to keep in mind what has predicted– not to know all the details– but the big “at least it means this much” kind of foresight….

  5. hal.fshr says:

    In reading Mart’s article today, I was especially struck by this comment: “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.” Somehow this statement captures a balance in viewing free will and God’s sovereignty. Certainly the relationship between the two is a mystery, but it reflects a major theme of the Bible in both Testaments.

  6. dredford says:

    While not the main point of your post, Mart, I was struck by two comments: 1) critics giving us low marks because we “trash the environment” and 2) fascination with the specter of a coming Armageddon. At this point I am more concerned about those who “worship” the environment than those who “trash” it. In many circles we, as humans, are no longer viewed as stewards of the environment, we are viewed as enemies and destroyers of the environment. The “green movement” has made significant inroads into the church and will continue to do so. As an evangelical who vividly remembers the 1970s and the days of “Late, Great” and “A Thief In The Night,” I don’t believe much of evangelicalism really thinks a whole lot about future events, the endtimes, or even prophecy in general. I believe the church has lost some of its “hope” because we talk so little, and hear so little, about the future God has for us.

  7. SandraC says:

    I think I can see somewhat how good it is that God does not give us a specific timeline for when He will work out His plan. Many of us may stop living our lives to the fullest if we knew everything that was coming ahead in the future. Or, as mentioned in previous posts here, we may live our lives in fear of what is coming or out of ‘duty’ instead of in love of and for Christ. I trust in and rely on God in part because I do not know the future; I need God to direct my steps because I don’t know everything that is coming my way.

  8. Weeble says:

    Honest, thoughtful Christians who are seeking the mind of Christ have widely differing views of the Lord’s return–coming from the same Bible! While the premillennial view (usually accompanied with a belief in a pre-tribulation rapture) seems to be dominant right now, there are at least two alternative views; the postmillennial an the amillennial, and until it actually happens, we don’t really know which (if any) scenario will play out.

    Jesus said that even HE doesn’t know the day or the hour; who are we to say that we do? He also said “In the hour you think NOT, the Son of Man cometh.” A pastor of mine once waggishly commented, “I figure that as long as everybody’s talking about it, it’s not going to happen!”

    A seminary professor (who was also somewhat of a wag) told us once that he was a “panmillenialist”; he believed that it would all PAN out in the end (yeah, I know, BOO1 HISS!). However, given what I’ve said above, over time I’ve come to believe that he was on target and I consider myself a “panmillenialist” myself. Jesus’ message about his return specifically included not getting worked up about various reports that we may hear. Rather, we are to be found faithful at His return. That doesn’t leave me much time to wonder about the “antichrist du jour” as each story makes its rounds.

    I read yesterday that Martin Luther was quoted as saying, “If I knew for sure that the world was to end tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today.” That, to me, is the kind of attitude the Lord wants for us. He doesn’t want us standing on a hill in white robes waiting for Him to come get us; He wants to interrupt us in the middle of our daily service to Him.

  9. poohpity says:

    There are a lot of things I’m glad I do not know before hand because I probably would not want to do them. I also like surprises especially the little blessings that God gives us everyday. We just need to give each other a break and realize we aren’t going to do everything perfect but we are all in process to become like Jesus.

  10. daisymarygoldr says:

    Firstly, time is relative. Therefore, even if God would have given us an appointed time of Christ’s return, our limited human mind will never be able to perceive it. Secondly, Christians are expected to ‘be ready’, ‘watch and pray’, ‘endure’ and ‘faithful in doing’ at the time when the Lord returns. Not knowing the exact time helps us to be prepared at ‘all times’. Thirdly, we live in this world but should not get entangled with the affairs of this world. Although marriage is the context in I Cor 7, verses 29-31 is a beautiful description of a servant awaiting His master’s return.

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