One Pilgrim's Progress: Bible Prophecy: What's It All About?
Nothing sells like prophecy. It’s true. A church or ministry can have goofy theology, an oddball leader and ridiculously strict rules and regulations, but if they have a few world maps, a pair of scissors and a stack of newspapers, along with an even half articulate preacher, it seems, people will send them money by the bucket-loads.
People are scared of what they don’t know, and they don’t know the future. So it seems that any old huckster who comes along claiming to know what’s around the corner, if he’s clever enough to forge God’s signature to his predictions by juggling scriptures like a circus magician, can round up quite a hefty following.
But one thing we ought to get straight if we don’t want to be sucker punched by prophecy pushers is this: Bible prophecy is not about our knowing the future; it’s about our knowing Jesus Christ.
If you want a good case of prediction addiction, go hand your brain over to the self-proclaimed messengers of God so they can fill it with fiction about which particular despot is actually the "king of the south" or the "king of the north" or the "beast" or the "false prophet" or the tenth "horn." It’ll be loads of fun, very exciting, and almost as spiritually useful as playing dungeons and dragons for the rest of your life.
"Bible prophecy is not about our knowing the future; it’s about our knowing Jesus Christ. "
Or you could take a lesson from the apostle Peter. He had a few thoughts about prophecy — its origin, its value, and its purpose. He knew what it was all about. And he passed that info along to us in what we call the first epistle of Peter.
"Concerning this salvation [described in the previous seven verses], the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven" (1 Peter 1:10-12).
Here’s the scoop, then, straight from Peter to us:
The Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, is the source of prophecy. (Revelation 19:10 says the same thing).
The purpose of prophecy was to predict the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When you’ve heard the gospel, you’ve heard all there is to know about prophecy.
And what did Peter expect his readers (us) to do with this information? Just this: "Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed" (verse 13). To set our minds on that grace is to live out the "new birth" (verse 3), in faith (verse 7), as we "love one another deeply, from the heart" (verse 22).
Wait a minute, you say. What about Revelation? Revelation predicts the future, doesn’t it?
No. Not the way prophecy addicts think it does. Revelation’s picture of the future is simply that some day, Jesus will come, and everyone who receives him with joy will share in his kingdom and everyone who opposes him will be left with nothing. Revelation is a call to never give up in the service of your Lord, even if it kills you, because you’re safe in his loving hands — regardless of what the seemingly never-ending parade of evil systems, governments and people might do to you.
Bible prophecy, including the book of Revelation, is about Jesus Christ — who he is, what he’s done, and the simple fact that he will return. In the light of that truth — the gospel truth — prophecy entails a call to "live holy and godly lives as we look forward to the day of God" (2 Peter 3:12).
Bogus misrepresentations of Bible prophecy only divert attention from its true message — from the "simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3), from the gospel.
Prediction addiction sells, but the cure is simple and free — a good dose of the unvarnished gospel.