A heads-up for living
We don’t know the hour, but the Bible’s predictions give us important information
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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.
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