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A heads-up for living

We don’t know the hour, but the Bible’s predictions give us important information

A heads-up for living

(Illustration by Krieg Barrie)

At the Saturday women’s prayer meeting I prayed: “Lord, come quickly. Already we see your words materializing—the nations surrounding Israel to destroy it; the increase in persecution of your church.” No sooner had I finished than a woman prayed after me: “Lord, please help us to resist the temptation to try to decode your word and to presume we know the future. Help us to focus on the things that unite, not on divisive things.” Gulp. 

Here is my question: If God has revealed specific things to us about the future, how is it “decoding” or “divisive” to mention them, without specifying when those things will occur? 

As for divisiveness, we shall have very little to talk about if we confine ourselves to what is not divisive. You can eliminate the subjects of worship music, baptism, counseling methods, tithing, the role of women, and the nature of sanctification, for openers. Does that leave us with the topic of love? That will be divisive too.

As for decoding, we learn from the historian Eusebius that many living in Jerusalem around A.D. 70 had no trouble “decoding” Jesus’ message to head for the hills at the sight of their city encompassed with armies (Luke 21:20). By simply believing Him they escaped a great bloodbath. 

“Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when … I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken. … Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him” (Zechariah 14:1-5).

There are way too many specifics crammed in here to call the passage metaphorical. Why not follow Occam’s razor on the logical assessing of hypotheses and assume that God means what He says? (What do they teach at these schools?) And God says that there will be war between Israel and the nations; that God will fight for Israel; that He will touch down on the Mount of Olives; that we will witness the mother of all earthquakes; that radical topographical changes will result; that the valley created by the quake will reach to a place called Azal. 

To emphasize that He is talking about space-and-time history and not poetry, God relates the earthquake that is future to us to one that is past and documentable. He says, in effect: Remember how you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, who reigned in 783-742 B.C.? You will flee again when the Big One comes.

The writer of Chronicles compliments the tribe of Issachar by calling them “men who had understanding of the times” (1 Chronicles 12:32). John brackets his Revelation with declarations that he is writing “to show his servants what must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1; 22:6). Jesus himself shows what predictions are for—a heads-up for living: “I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you” (John 16:4).

Who would have thought that after centuries of modernity, beheading would once again be a means of persecuting the people of God? Does it not send a chill up our spine to read all about it in Revelation 20:4 even as we hear about it on CNN? “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus.” 

Let us then encourage “one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25). We don’t know when the Day is, but we can see it approaching.

Email aseupeterson@wng.org

Comments

  • Robert Stroud
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 02:27 pm

    For related thoughts on this subject, inspired by Andrée's wonderful column, check out the new post at Mere Inkling. It's entitled "The World's End."

  • Florida Cracker's picture
    Florida Cracker
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 02:27 pm

    An engagement with "A heads-up for living."http://thechristiancurmudgeonmo.blogspot.com/2014/09/run-for-hills.html

  • Dean from Ohio
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 02:27 pm

    There are two ditches on the road to interpreting prophecy, one that captures those who rush ahead in presumption and "fill in the dots" without data, and the other that swallows those who lag behind in unbelief and ignore the data. This corresponds to the two types of error managed in statistics: Type I error (seeing nonexistent patterns in data) and Type II error (failing to see real patterns that actually exist in the data). A good statistician knows she cannot eliminate the possibility of either type of error, but has to manage both at the same time. In other words, drive down the road and stay away from the ditches.How do we choose between the two risks? By becoming as a little child. If God says it, we put our trust in it without overlaying a bunch of things only adults could believe. Listen to God's words of prophecy to Habakkuk:Look among the nations, and see;wonder and be astounded.For I am doing a work in your daysthat you would not believe if told.For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans,that bitter and hasty nation,who march through the breadth of the earth,to seize dwellings not their own. (http://biblehub.com/esv/habakkuk/1.htm, ESV)The prophecy continues, but the exhortation is addressed to those who were, as Jesus told the two on the road to Emmaus, "foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken." I have lived a while, but not long enough to see little children described as curmudgeons. May God give us all grace to see and believe!

  • nevertheless's picture
    nevertheless
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 02:27 pm

    I have always loved the 'clear thinking' that drawing near to God inspires. Praise Him.

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 02:27 pm

    The thing most interesting to me is not the specifics of the prophecy or trying to fit modern nations into Biblical prophecy.  What amazes me is the way the world has changed in such a short time (about seven years) so that things mentioned in the Bible could actually happen very rapidly or even are happening.  While students of the Bible see these things and ponder them the world absolutely cannot see what they would have easily seen just a few years ago.  If my comment seems "divisive" perhaps you "decoded" it wrong. 

  • Florida Cracker's picture
    Florida Cracker
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 02:27 pm

    The lady who prayed that God's people might be more careful about assuming they know what is going to happenin the future which in turn is based on the asssumption that one knows what God means to tell and that we know to what use God would have us put that information. She probably should not have "preached" through her prayer, but the content of her sermon was right. We could avoid a great number of mistakes and have much better understading of the whole of the Scriptures (including those cited in this column) if we undestand and remind ourselves that modern national and ethnic Israel is not the Israel of the Bible (including the prophecy quoted above). No, what is happening with the modern state of Israel is not what was prophesied by the prophet Zecharian.Below a Blog titled "Israel Is Not Israel."http://thechristiancurmudgeonmo.blogspot.com/2014/07/israel-is-not-israel.html