Sunday, September 2, 2012

Back to Basics: The Importance of Prophecy

As the time draws nigh, people less and less look to prophecy as a legitimate study of the bible. They dismiss the prophetic, are skeptical of it, or simply ignore it. The silence of the pulpits is resounding, and the ignorance of the people is disheartening.

I'd like to spend a bit of time in encouraging us all to study the word, and not to ignore the prophetic. Lambert Dolphin wrote,

"A major portion of both the Old and New Testament is devoted to prophecy- nearly one third of the Scripture. Only four of the 66 books of the Bible are without prophecy-Ruth, the Song of Solomon, Philemon, and 3 John. Even the shortest book of the Bible mentions prophecy (Jude 14, 17-18, which refers to Enoch and the second coming of the Lord). Out of the Old Testament's 23,210 verses, 6,641 contain predictive material, over twenty eight percent. Out of the New Testament's 7,914 verses, 1,711 contain predictive material, over 21 percent."

Joel C. Rosenberg wrote an essay this weekend titled Rediscovering The Power and Purpose of Prophecy. He makes four main points,

"Unfortunately, many pastors, priests and ministry leaders here in the U.S. and around the world are not teaching Bible prophecy — as I see it, there are four major reasons for this."

--First, many pastors don’t teach prophecy because they have a lack of belief in the power of God’s Word.
--Second, many pastors don’t teach prophecy because they have a lack of knowledge of — and sound training in — Bible prophecy.
--Third, many pastors don’t teach prophecy because they have a fear of being lumped in with “prophecy nuts” and those who peddle sensationalism.
--Fourth, many pastors don’t teach prophecy because they have a lack of understanding of the times in which we live and the increasingly close return of Christ.

Illustration above, "God judging Adam" Genesis 3, William Blake, C. 1795

Rosenberg fleshes out each of the points, and promises that a second part to the essay will be posted soon.

Prophecy is the very Word of God, spoken by His mouth to His servants. (Revelation 1:1, Luke 1:70). Before the Word was written, He spoke it. The first prophecy was given to Adam and Eve in the Garden as He related to them the curse of the Fall from Grace, but promised a Messiah. (Genesis 3:15).

Then the Prophets came, as they had since the beginning, (Luke 1:70), and God told them to write down the words. (Habakkuk 2:2, Exodus 17:14, Jeremiah 30:1 & 2 for example).

Poor Jeremiah. God spoke to Him and Jeremiah spoke to the people. Then God told Jeremiah to write the words down. Jeremiah did. However, Jeremiah's words from God were so ill-received that King Jehoiakim burned the scroll of everything that had been written. The King burned it bit by bit as Baruch read it. The LORD then told Jeremiah to write it all over again, a monumental work, and this time God added words that cursed the king. (Jeremiah 30). God's word will not be denied.

So prophecy was and is the word of the Lord, whether spoken as it was in the Old Testament or written as it was then and it is now. It will be spoken again, in the Tribulation, when God sends His Two Witnesses to prophesy for 1,260 days. (Revelation 11:3). Illustration, James Shaw Crompton, of Habakkuk 2:2, "I will stand upon my watch"

Prophecy is extremely important, we are told many times. 1 Thessalonians 5:20 warns us not to despise prophesyings. For example, in 2 Peter 1:19 we are told it is "a sure word." This is because almost nothing else illustrates His sovereignty more than prophecy. How so?

"And the LORD said to Moses, “Is the LORD’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.” (Numbers 11:23). He delivers His word and tells us to test it, watch for it. This is because His Word is sure and God knows it will come true.

Pastor Jim McClarty discussed the Irresistibility of God in his 2009 sermon delivered at the Sovereign Grace Bible Conference. He made several wonderful points during his exciting 1 hour sermon, but his second point is the one I'd like to bring to you now. He said,

"God's irrestibility is demonstrated in prophecy. Prophecy is a risky venture. There are no other major religious pieces of literature in the world that contain the amount of prophecy that the bible does. It's one of the most unique characteristics of the bible, and it is chock full of prophecy. The reason it's risky is, you can check it." (Numbers 11:23, Deuteronomy 18:22).

People often think that the Old Testament times were heavily prophetic all the time. They believe that miracles happened every day and that God talked to the prophets every minute. It is not so. The miracles we read about in the Old Testament were spaced far apart, years, decades, centuries, even. After Micah, there were no prophets for 400 years, until John the Baptist came, and John performed no miracles as Elijah or Moses did. For most of the generations in the OT, they read the scrolls, listened to the priests, and lived lives in submission to Holy God and were waiting for their Messiah to come.

Illustration, Jeremiah, "The Lord's word came to me again" Annie Vallotton.

In our day, we read the pages of the bible, listen to the pastors, and live lives in submission to the Messiah who has come- and will soon come again!

I love prophecy. The LORD put me here during one of the most heavily prophetic times in the history of the world, to be part of the generation that will be raptured. I see it unrolling before my eyes. Now, people can get carried away. Mr Rosenberg was right that there are nuts who run away with prophecy predictions and claim to hear a word from the Lord as Jeremiah or Elijah did. Fortunately, as Jim McClarty said, we can check the prophecies in the bible. We can rejoice that our Holy God not only is the creator of the universe and the author and architect and finisher of our faith, but His word is sure. He is sovereign and that means, according to Rev. Matt Slick at CARM,

"Sovereignty in relation to God means that God has the absolute right to do with His creation as He desires. Some verses that support this are as follows: Psalm 115:3, "But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases." Isaiah 46:10, "Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure;"

Faith in God is always trustworthy, even when answers to life's issues and traumas do not always arrive. We must trust God in spite of what we see. But when we do see, as in prophecy coming true as written in the pages of His word, we rejoice that He is in control and our faith will prosper us.

"And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper." (2 Chronicles 20:20).

7 comments :

  1. I enjoy reading your blog very much. However, the first illustration set my teeth on edge and I feel like I really must address it's usage.

    The Bible is very clear about making images of God - it is forbidden.
    Exodus 20:4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below."

    Matthew Henry: "The second commandment refers to the worship we are to render to the Lord our God. It is forbidden to make any image or picture of the Deity, in any form, or for any purpose; or to worship any creature, image, or picture." http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?b=2&c=20&com=mhc

    Numbers 23:19 begins "God is not a man" and John 4:24 begins "God is spirit". If we want to illustrate God according to scriptural reference, we would have to add wings and feathers, among other things - like roving eyes!

    I personally use pictures of Jesus when teaching young children because Jesus was both man and God, fully human and fully God, he lived and died and rose again here on earth and ascended back into heaven with a human body (glorified). Jesus also appeared on earth in the Old Testament several times as theophanies, in form as a human being. But I ALWAYS remind children that we do NOT know what Jesus looked like and that the pictures I use are just to help us understand the story. I've even talked to my young Grandson about John's description of Jesus in Revelation 1 which is not at all what most people think Jesus looks like.

    Although I've used a dove to represent Holy Spirit, again, I always tell children it is just a representation, as described in Luke 3:22 " the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove" NIV. other translations say "as" or "in the form of" - but NEVER that Holy Spirit IS a dove - He just descended like a dove would.

    I cannot do that with God the Father. God is a spirit and just as we cannot see our spirits, we cannot see God, and the Bible says we cannot see God and live! Pictures like the illustration you used just make God seem to be an angry old man, totally destroying His magnificence and "otherness".

    I encourage you, humbly, to rethink your use of images of God the Father. Study it out. Art is beautiful many times, but that does not mean it is good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, but that seems a bit legalistic to me. The commandment is explicitly talking about worshiping false idols or images. Let's not get worked up over minor issues, if that were even one.

      Delete
    2. "A bit legalistic" Like being "a bit pregnant?"

      Would you mind explaining *how* it is legalistic to adhere to and/or discuss using images in reference to the 2nd Commandment? Please use scripture. Thanks

      Delete
  2. What would look different if more Pastors would trust God and allow Him to "run" the church? It seems to me the mouths of Gods people have been shut by either sin or shame. That in itself is prophecy fulfilled. Finding men like John MacArthur, (and I am sure there are more who qualify) willing to speak boldly in these days is tough because they may look as you say as a "prophecy nut job". Many Pastors don't want do do anything more than to lead a quiet congregation and not make waves within their circles.
    There is something coming that will change that, outright persecution in America.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Speaking of The Rapture, have you seen/read this yet? I find it very interesting.

    A THIEF IN THE NIGHT By Frank DiMora - on bibleprohecyman.com

    J.L.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI, J.L.,

      Thanks so much for that. I'll make one note, the link you offered brings the reader to a dead spam page. This page has the same essay (it is a .pdf)
      http://frankdimora.typepad.com/files/a-thief-in-the-night-by-frank-dimora-july-31-2011-.pdf

      Delete
  4. Woops, haha, I see why now, it's because I misspelled prophecy, I forgot the second p. bibleprophecyman.com is the proper link. It is a pdf that the article is written. I find it a very interesting interpretation, and if it's a correct one, to think we could be gone before the end of this year, is exciting! I mean, I always anticipate The Rapture anyway, because I know it's imminent, but it feels even more so when you have an idea of a date. :)

    Blessings!

    J.L.

    ReplyDelete