Among other things, the Bible is a historical record of the past, present, and future of humanity. Depending on who is doing the calculating, the Bible is composed of either two thirds or one quarter prophecy. Regardless of the exact percentage of prophecy contained in the Bible, biblical prophecy is simply history written in advance of the actual event.
Humans are trapped in this dimension of time and space and can only know the present and the past because these are the limits of human existence. Although humans attempt to look beyond the present into the future, the natural constraints of this physical realm make it impossible for humans to know with certainty anything that is beyond the past and present of this dimension of time and space. However, God is not limited to the past or the present, because his realm is outside these physical constraints. God created this dimension of time and space and has sovereign authority and power over its present and future existence. Not only does God have the authority to dictate and predict this physical realm's future, God has the power to cause his predictions to come to pass.
THE BIBLE AND PROPHECY
The Sovereign God claims that what is recorded in the Bible by his servants and prophets are his words. Within this book God claims sovereignty over all things that exist and over all humans and their eternal destiny. The Bible is the only book on planet earth that can demonstrate that its inspiration is supernatural in origin and that it is from a being that exists outside this physical realm. One way it does this is by predicting with incredible accuracy personal and world events before they happen and then bringing these events to pass in every detail within a specified time frame. The fulfillment of prophecy is a major proof of God's existence and that he has sovereign authority and power over his creation.
Although the Bible is a witness to humanity that the Sovereign God and the Creator God exist, the Bible was written primarily for those whom God has called to salvation during this age. Through the Bible, it is possible to learn from the experience and teaching of others and gain valuable knowledge, understanding, and inspiration to help us in our daily walk with God:
"Every scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; so that the man of God may be perfect, fully furnished for every good work" (2.Tim.3:16-17). See also Eph.6:10-17; Heb.4:12.
"Now all these things happened to them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1.Cor.10:11 KJV). See also Psa.19:7; Pro.1:1-7; Dan.12: 9-12; Col.1:7-10.
The apostle Paul says that the things that happened to the people of ancient Israel were recorded for those who would live in the end of the age; therefore it is important for God's servants today to understand the writings of the prophets concerning national Israel's past, present, and future as it impacts world events.
The apostles taught the elect of their age how to "be established in present truth" (See 2.Pet.1:2) in order to live a pious life and gain an understanding of prophecy. A part of this teaching involved prophecy as they understood it to apply to that age. The apostle Peter says the following about how we should view prophecy:
"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though you know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ has shown me. Moreover I will endeavor that you may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2.Pet.1:10-16 KJV).
The apostles did not teach foolish things; they taught the things that they were taught by Jesus Christ. Jesus knew the truth about the beginning and end of humanity and the prophecies that must come to pass in order for his heavenly Father's plan for humanity to be completed because Jesus, as the Creator God, was the giver of all truth from the Father and he dictated the future of national Israel and humanity.
The Father said for us to pay attention to what his son said:
"Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said," This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" (Matt 17:4-5 NIV). See also Mk.9:7; Lk.9:35.
It is important to carefully study what Christ said while he was on earth and what he caused to be written to us through his prophets when he was the Creator God before his birth as a human.
"And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning-star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the holy spirit" (2.Pet.1:19-21 NIV).
"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping" (2.Pet.2:1-3 NIV).
Many people today claim to be the Sovereign God's prophets and because of their persuasiveness, it is sometimes difficult to know whether or not a person is a prophet of God or a false prophet. Today, there are many false prophets and teachers of damnable heresies and shameful things in opposition to God's truth. One way to tell if a person is a prophet sent from God is to see if their teaching reflects God's truth. If a prophet's teachings or behavior is in opposition to God's law, they are not sent from him.
Does it Matter?
Does it matter what you believe about prophecy and will these beliefs affect your salvation? The answers to both questions depend on your attitude and behavior toward God and the current state of world events.
For ancient Israel, it was very important for them to heed a prophet's warning to repent of their individual and national sins in order to receive the blessing that God had promised and not suffer punishment for continued rebellion. Today, it is just as important to heed a true prophet of God as it was for ancient Israel. And it does matter how a person views prophecy, because if a person incorrectly understands a prophecy and makes decisions predicated on misinformation, these decisions cannot only affect one's personal life, but can also adversely affect the lives of other people. History is full of examples of disastrous results from wrong decisions made by individuals and groups of people who based their actions on a misunderstanding of biblical prophecy.
In order to minimize confusion when studying prophetic events, it helps to place each prophecy in its proper category. The following is a list of the major prophecy categories:
The House of Israel
The House of Judah
Individual tribes of national Israel
Punishment, destruction, repentance, and blessings
Predictions specific to individuals and certain prophets in the end of the age
Prophecy concerning the Father's elect
The dangers that face the Father's elect
The fate of the elect for failing to make correct decisions
Punishment, protection, and rewards
End of this Age (Punishment and Destruction of nations and people)
The Kingdom of God (its coming and its rule)
The Various Resurrections
World Events and God's Plan for the Salvation of Humanity
If one is to understand prophecies concerning world events in the political sense, one must understand them in the context of how each prophecy relates to national Israel, the House of Israel, the House of Judah, and God's past, present, and future purpose for their existence, because the tribes of Israel are at the focal point of God's plan for the salvation of humanity.
If one is to understand world events in the environmental sense (e.g., earthquakes, famine, disease, and earth changes) one must understand them in the context of how each prophecy relates to God's plan for the salvation of humanity and the necessity to teach historical lessons that show humanity's mortality and morality and its need for physical and spiritual salvation.
Prophecies that deal with national Israel, the Houses of Israel and Judah, and the individual tribes of Israel are separate categories. If you understand this, it makes many past, present, and future prophetic events much more clear. When studying prophecies concerning the end of the age, the House of Judah primarily refers to the Jewish nation of Israel comprised of the tribes of Judah, Levi, and Benjamin and the House of Israel refers to the people who are commonly called the lost ten tribes of Israel (Asher, Dan, Gad, Issachar, Joseph comprised of Ephraim and Manasseh, Naphthali, Reuben, Simeon, and Zebulun).
There are also prophecies about the impact of individual tribes of Israel and other nations regarding world events as they interact with the various national entities that are comprised mainly of Israelitish people. Therefore, in order to understand prophecy concerning world events in a political sense, one must know the current names and locations of the ancient nations and people that are referred to in the Bible.
Prophecy Time Frames
There are three time frames for prophetic events: the past, the present, and the future.
The fulfillment of past prophetic events proves the existence of a supreme being who has the authority and power to influence people's lives and foreordain the course of events in this physical realm. The fulfillment of past prophetic events provides those who will study and meditate on them with insight into the mind of God and an opportunity to learn life lessons from the experience of other people.
Many present prophecies are ones which have spanned centuries, such as the blessings promised to the tribes of Israel, the curses for the Israelite's continual rebellion against God. The religious confusion among the tribes of Israel, and the negative effect these religions have had on the Israelitish peoples. The continuing fulfillment of these types of prophecies shows that obedience to God's law brings blessings, but disobedience causes negative results that pass to successive generations.
Future prophetic events are the ones that most interest people, such as the sequence of events which are to occur during the last 3 ½ years before Christ returns and the rapid emergence of the prophetic Beast and False Prophet just before the end of the age events begin to occur.
The fulfillment of past and present prophetic events is relatively easy to identify because they can be precisely located in the context of recorded history. But this is not the case with future prophetic events because these events are only revealed to those who need to know in advance of the event (See Dan.12:9-10).
Having a good overview of past and present prophecies can help a person understand why the fulfillment of these events were necessary. Having a good overview of present and future prophecies can help one put the current world conditions in perspective and understand that, no matter how difficult or disconcerting these events may be, they are all necessary for the completion of God's awesome plan for the salvation of humanity.
Problems in Understanding Prophecy
The following are the main problems most people have in truly understanding prophecy:
Believing other people's interpretation instead of doing the research themselves
Not being well versed in the basic plan of God for humanity
Not knowing which prophecies are or are not relevant to one's daily life
Not having access to credible historical reference materials
Not realizing that certain prophecies are understood on a need to know basis
How to View the Study of Prophecy
Some people base their hope of physical and spiritual survival on their understanding of prophetic events; however, many have been disappointed and have suffered ridicule and hardships because of their belief in a false prophet's predictions or belief in a prophetic event that did not happen when they thought it should.
The study of prophecy must always be kept in perspective, or one can be easily led astray by false doctrine or false prophets (See Eph.4:14). A healthy skepticism about a person's interpretation of biblical prophecy will serve you well and perhaps prevent you from making a mistake that will have a negative impact on your life.
The prophet Daniel was told the following about the mysterious things that he was told to record about the future:
"And he said, Go your way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand. And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. Blessed is he that waits, and comes to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days. But go you your way till the end be: for you shall rest, and stand in your lot at the end of the days" (Dan.12:9-13 KJV).
Daniel wanted to know exactly what the things he was told to record meant and when they would come to pass. However, he did not need to understand the details surrounding these events or the exact time of their fulfillment because they would not affect him or the people of his day.
Paul's warning to Titus concerning avoiding foolish questions and arguing about things in which there is no benefit also applies when it comes to studying and discussing prophecy, because many prophecies simply have no bearing on your physical or spiritual life or your salvation today:
"Avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and arguments, and quarrels of the law, for they are unprofitable and vain. And that after the first and second warning, avoid the heretic, knowing that such a person has been perverted, and sins, being self-condemned" (Tit.3: 9-11 Para.).
It simply does not matter if a person understands some prophecies or not, because some prophecies will not impact your life one way or another, especially if these prophecies have already had their total fulfillment for past generations or their fulfillment is so far in the future that the event will not impact people alive today.
Paul's warning to Titus should be taken seriously by anyone who does not want to suffer the consequences of associating with the elect who are teaching heresy which can include a perverted interpretation of prophecy. Moreover, most prophecies are only understood in retrospect because only then is there enough information to compare an event with the prophecy about that event.
Although some understanding of prophetic events is important in order to have a balanced view of the Bible and God's plan for the salvation of humanity, you must understand that there are many more important aspects of being a member of God's earthly family than being extremely well versed in biblical prophecy. The apostle Paul said the following to the Corinthian church about the importance of understanding prophecy to one's walk with God:
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing" (1.Cor.13:1-3 NIV).
Paul says that if you are not a loving individual you have gained nothing. Therefore; the understanding and the gaining of this godly character trait is more important than an exceptional understanding of prophecy. Although it is important, you should keep the study of prophecy in perspective, because there are many more important aspects of your walk with God than an understanding of prophecy. Moreover, if you neglect to do the more important things, it will not matter in the day of judgment whether or not you understood prophecy.
"Love is longsuffering, and is kind; charity envies not; charity vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, Does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Bears all things, believeth all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1.Cor.13:4-7).
Without exercising the gift of love, all other gifts of the spirit will be of little value to the one having or exercising them. Although true love is sometimes unseen, its power can be dramatic and monumental in scope and effect. By understanding and exercising the spiritual attributes of love, faith, and works, a person can become increasingly stronger in the spirit until they reach spiritual maturity and perfection. See 2.Thes.2: 9-10 Gal.5:9,22.
"Love never fails: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away" (1.Cor.13:8-10).
During this age, those who are charged with teaching God's people can only partially predict future events because they do not know everything God knows, nor are they privy to every detail of God's plan for the end of the age events.
Can Prophecies Fail?
Paul said that there are prophecies that fail. But is this true? Can prophecies fail to come to pass? Yes, prophecies can fail.
The prophet Jonah reluctantly went to Nineveh and proclaimed that in 40 days the city and its inhabitants would be destroyed. To Jonah's dismay the people believed him and proclaimed a fast, even the king believed Jonah's prediction and humbled himself and decreed that both man and beast should fast, repent of their sins, and beseech God to forgive them and let them live.
On the fortieth day Jonah sat outside the city waiting for Nineveh's destruction, but no fire came down from heaven, no earthquake shook the city, and no army invaded it; nothing at all happened. Jonah had faithfully warned the people that in 40 days God would destroy the city, but the prophecy failed to come to pass on time.
Even though Jonah knew that God would show mercy to those who would repent, he still thought that God might destroy the city and its people, so he continued to wait to see what would happen. What happened is that Jonah received a lesson in God's mercy:
"When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened" (Jon. 3:10 NIV).
The prophecy of destruction did not come to pass because the situation had changed. Although Nineveh was eventually destroyed about 150 years after Jonah's prophecy, it was not destroyed in the prophecies' original time frame.
In the Book of Jeremiah we see a conditional prophecy:
"Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the Lord: "This is what the Lord says: Stand in the courtyard of the Lord's house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. Say to them, 'This is what the LORD says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth.'" (Jer.26:1-6 NIV).
Although these people knew that the Creator God was real and that he was not a God to be trifled with, they did not pay attention to the warning he gave through Jeremiah; instead, "The priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, "You must die!" (Jer:26:8).
True to their nature, these Jews were not about to change their ways. This proclivity for dismissing prophetic warnings reaches into the future to the time of the Two Witnesses who are prophets of God and who will proclaim the true gospel message and the Messiah's return, and make many predictions concerning world events for 3½ years preceding Christ's return. These two prophets will be dismissed as troublemakers and despised by the Jews and the rest of the tribal nations of Israel before they are murdered and put on public display in the streets of Jerusalem. See Rev.11:1-12.
"Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: "The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you" (Jer.26:12-13 NIV).
It is important when studying prophecy to understand that some prophecies will fail because circumstances change. God can change his mind according to a change in circumstances or people's attitudes and behavior.
Jesus' disciples were very anxious to understand the things that might happen in the end of the age because they were looking for him to reestablish the Kingdom of Israel in their immediate future. When they asked Jesus about these events, he only gave them an overview of prophecy, because these events were not going to take place during their lifetime. See Matt.24 and Mk.13.
The prophecies that Jesus gave his disciples about the end of the age were useless to them in a practical sense, because these prophecies would not come to pass for centuries and would only impact the lives of those who would be alive during the end of the age. However, for those who live during the events just prior to Christ's return, a good understanding of these prophecies can be beneficial.
It is evident from the tone of many of the apostles' letters that, for many years, they expected Christ to return during their lifetime. The apostle Paul says the following about the timing of the elect's change to immortal life:
"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (1.Cor.15:51-52 KJV).
Many of the early church believed that Paul meant that their transformation to a spirit-being would happen during their lifetime. The elect of the early church did sleep; they all died. Paul's prediction did not come true for them at that time; however, Paul's prediction will come true, and perhaps during our lifetime.
Very few of the prophetic writings were relevant to the lives of elect during the time of the early church. In reality, unless there is some potential physical or spiritual benefit to an individual, there is little value to understanding every detail of future world events. However, having an overview of God's promises regarding the establishment of his kingdom can greatly increase your faith.
The Church Disappears
Except for the prophecies warning of the destruction of the early church, practically none of the prophetic writings about future world events have come to pass (as of this writing, 2014), or have had a dramatic personal impact on the lives of the Father's elect since the ministry of Jesus Christ. The prophecies concerning the disappearance of the early church were prophecies that should have been taken seriously by its members, because these predictions would not only have a dramatic impact on their lives but also impact the lives of the elect through the ensuing centuries.
Matthew, Mark, and John all record Jesus quoting the prophecy in Zechariah (Zech.13:7) which foretold the scattering of Jesus' disciples after his death:
"All you shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered abroad" (Matt.26:31 KJV). See also Mk.14:27; Jn.16:32.
This is an extremely important prophecy because the following words which Jesus did not quote from Zechariah's prophecy give us the key to understanding why the apostolic church ceased to exist as a powerful entity:
"Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, says the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones" (Zech.13:7 KJV).
The little ones mentioned here are the Father's elect, as noted in many scriptures (see Matt.8:12; 18:3-10; 19:13-14; Mk.9:42). Why would Jesus Christ turn against the little ones? And why did he omit this part of Zechariah's prophecy? The reasons that Jesus would turn against the little ones is because they would turn against the Faith Once Delivered and cease to be zealous for truth and because this was a different prophecy which would be fulfilled at a different time.
The prophecy in Zechariah would begin its fulfillment during the apostolic age of the church and continue until a time shortly before Christ's return.
If the early church had truly understood and taken seriously Zechariah's prophecy and the many warnings given to them in the apostle's letters, perhaps the outcome would have been different. Perhaps the early church as an organization would have had a longer history of accomplishment and many of God's people would not have been destroyed.
PROPHECY FOR TODAY
There is a category of predictions that pertain to this age of salvation and its particular dangers. The following prophecies concern the Sovereign Father's elect family on earth and seem to have a time frame in which there is an ongoing fulfillment that began with the early church and ends with the return of Christ.
Wolves Among the Flock
"And from Miletus Paul sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. . .Take heed, therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the holy spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his blood. For I know that after I leave, grievous wolves will come among you, that will not spare the flock. Also among you shall men arise, speaking perverse things, in order to draw away disciples after themselves" (Acts 20:17, 28-30 Para.).
This prophecy certainly came to pass during the time of the early church and has continued to this day. This is a prophetic warning that should be taken very seriously by anyone who is concerned about their salvation.
The Latter Days
The apostle Paul warned the evangelist Timothy to beware of those who would depart from the faith and remain among the elect to draw them away from God's truth:
"Now the spirit speaks expressly that in the latter times saying that some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; telling hypocritical lies; having their conscience seared with a hot iron" (1.Tim.4:1-2 Para.).
Paul's prediction that evil people would attempt to destroy God's people from within was applicable to the early church and should be taken very seriously today, because it specifically speaks to the end of the age just before Christ returns.
Satanic Deception and His Ministry
Satan's deception through false ministers causes much disunity and division among the various congregations of God. At the very beginning of the early church, Satan began his plan to destroy the elect of God from within. The apostle Paul warned the elect at Corinth to be aware of this threat to their eternal lives:
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works" (2.Cor.11: 13-15 KJV). See also Deut.13:1-5; Jer.23:21-22.
Yes, Satan has many ministers disguised as true ministers of God (Rev.2:9; 3:9). Although these servants of Satan are actively deceiving the world at large, some of these individuals are within the congregations of God and are actively subverting the elect of God.
The history of the church clearly shows that Satan and his servants have been very successful in their mission to destroy the elect, including those who are dedicated to restoring the Faith Once Delivered.
The Bible contains many warnings about avoiding false prophets. The Book of Revelation speaks of a great False Prophet that will come on the world scene at the end of this age and deceive most of the world into worshiping a false god who is identified in the Book of Revelation as the Beast.
Will the False Prophet and the Beast openly reveal who and what they are and their true intentions? Of course not! The only way a person will be able to recognize these individuals for what they truly are is to understand the prophecies concerning them. This is why the elect need to clearly understand the details of God's plan for the salvation of humanity, the foundational teachings of the Bible, and what God expects of those he calls to salvation during this age; otherwise, one will be among those deceived by false prophets and other evil individuals.
There are many prophets in the world today with many contradictory opinions about biblical prophecy and the future of humanity. The reality is that there are only two religions in this world: the Sovereign God's worship system and a counterfeit worship system having many differing sects but all in opposition to the Sovereign God's worship system. The Sovereign God has prophets that promote his worship system and evil spirits have prophets who promote a counterfeit of the true God's worship system.
The problem has never been a lack of prophets, it has always been determining if a prophet is serving the Sovereign God and speaking the truth or if that prophet is a false prophet serving himself for personal gain or serving Satan who is actively deceiving the world. See Rev.2:9;12:9.
A Place of Safety
Many people spend an inordinate amount of time and effort preparing themselves a safe haven in the event the prophecies concerning the Beast system and the Great False Prophet come to pass during their lifetime, while others seek to locate the place of safety noted in many prophecies and contemplate what they will do when they arrive at this place.
The reality is that, according to the prophecies in the Book of Revelation, a minimum of six-sevenths of the Father's elect will not be protected during the 3 ½ years of trouble at the end of the age because of their rebellion against him. So what benefit is it to make elaborate physical preparation for one's safety or know the location of the place of safety when it is obvious from the prophecies that the only elect who will be protected are the ones who have spent their time and effort to grow in grace and knowledge and live a life of obedience and service to the Father. Wouldn't it be more prudent to spend your time on these efforts?
Warnings about the End of the Age
The biblical record shows us that ancient Israel rarely paid attention to the prophets or took seriously God's warnings that he would punish them if they did not repent. The Israelites were in a habit of ridiculing, physically abusing, and killing God's prophets because they did not like the message that they brought. This proclivity of the Israelites to dismiss God's true prophets is a trait that today's modern Israelites who are scattered throughout the world continue to exhibit. This trait will result in their collective and individual punishment just before Christ returns.
If we are truly living in the end of the age just before Christ returns, there are a number of prophecies which are very important to certain individuals and of general interest to others.
The Proclamation of The Gospel
"This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt.24:14 KJV).
Jesus said that his Father's good news message must be proclaimed as a witness to all the nations before the end will come. The question is, has the gospel truly been preached to all nations? The early church did not do
this and during this age most professing Christian ministers are preaching a different gospel than Jesus and the apostles preached. Therefore, it seems that, in order to understand this prophecy, one must first understand what the true good news message is before one can know if it has been preached to all the world.
The proclaiming of the good news message to all nations in the context of the end of the age will either require an enormous amount of money, an enormous amount of supernatural power, or both and will require men of tremendous ability, courage, character, and faith to accomplish the task.
The Two Witnesses
"And I will give to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two lamp-stands [candlesticks] before the God of the earth [See Zech.3:1-10]. And if anyone desires to harm them, fire comes out of their mouth and devours their enemies: and if any one desires to harm them, so it is right for him to be killed. These have the authority to shut up the heaven, that no rain may rain in the days of their prophecy [3½ years]: and they have authority over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire" (Rev.11:3-6 Para.).
The prophecies concerning these two men show that one of them is the signet of God on earth and has authority over all nations. These two hold the highest office of authority within the Father's earthly family of kings and priests. These two men not only predict earth-shaking events, but also have the authority and supernatural power to bring them to pass.
God the Father sent Jesus Christ to the earth to proclaim his good news message. Jesus' message can be paraphrased: "Here is my Father's good news, believe it, because if you do not believe it, this is what will happen to you."
The two great prophets at the end of the age will have the same message, plus they will be warning people to prepare for the impending arrival of the Messiah to conquer the earth and establish the Kingdom of God in Jerusalem.
When we review what the prophets of old said and did, we notice that the essence of their messages and predictions is that if sinners do not repent of their rebellion against God they will be punished. What are the Two Witnesses going to predict? If they follow the rule of prophets, they will predict the punishment of sinners and benefits for those who repent of their sins.
How will you recognize the Two Witnesses mentioned in the Book of Revelation? You will be able to recognize them if you have the spirit of God dwelling in you, understand the gospel message, and understand the prophecies concerning them. Everyone else will think of them as enemies of their particular god or way of life.
Mark of the Beast
"And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that have understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six" (Rev.13:16-18 KJV).
"And the smoke of their torment ascends up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receives the mark of his name" (Rev.14:11 KJV).
"And the first [the spirit-being] went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshiped his image" (Rev.16:2 KJV).
These predictions are really bad news for people who accept the mark of the Beast. Today, in the professing Christian community there are many conflicting opinions as to exactly what the mark of the beast is and is not. Because this is a life or death issue, anyone who wants to avoid taking this mark and escape the punishment that comes with the mark must understand the prophecies that explain exactly what this mark is and is not. See Chapter 16 for more details regarding the mark of the beast.
"And when you shall see Jerusalem being encircled by armies, then know that its destruction is near. Let those in Judea flee to the mountains; and those in the midst of it, let them go out. And those who are out of town do not go into Jerusalem. For these are the days of vengeance when all things that have been written are to be fulfilled. But woe to the pregnant women, and those breast-feeding children in those days! for great distress will be on the earth and wrath on his people" (Lk.21:20-23 Para.).
It is recorded that on the twenty first of Jyar in 66 A.D., just before sunset, chariots and soldiers in armor were seen running about in the clouds around the city of Jerusalem (See Josephus Wars IV, 5,3; Lk.21: 20) About 3½ years later in 70 A.D., Herod's temple and Jerusalem were destroyed. There has already been one fulfillment of this prophecy and according to the sequence of events concerning the end of the age, it seems that there will be a second fulfillment. Therefore, if you are one of God's people living in Jerusalem it would be advantageous to understand the details concerning this prophecy's fulfillment during this age so that you will be prepared to take the appropriate action when you see this event come to pass.
If you are living in some other country, it would still be good to understand this prophecy, because you would know that the return of the Messiah is less than four years away. For you this prophecy would only be important as information that can help strengthen your faith as you begin to see other prophetic events concerning the end of the age unfold.
Prophecy is very interesting to most people because it is in our nature to be inquisitive and seek to understand the future. For some people the desire to understand prophecy becomes an obsession that dominates their thoughts and biblical studies. Although prophecy is a major part of the biblical record, understanding prophecy is not the most important aspect of the biblical record concerning your salvation.
The apostle Paul says the following to the Thessalonians about Christ's return:
"But of the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that, that day should overtake you as a thief. You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation" (1.Thes. 5:1-8 KJV).
The elect at Thessalonica understood their heavenly Father's basic plan for the salvation of humanity and knew that Christ would come when people least expected; therefore, Paul's instruction to pay attention to the events of their time included the warning to keep this knowledge in perspective and not lose sight of the goal, which is salvation.
Blessings Come From Watching
"Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he comes shall find watching. He will have them sit down and eat as he serves them" (Lk.12:37 Para.).
Active watching involves responsiveness, faithfulness, and effort. Why is a Christian blessed for watching? The reason is that if you actively watch (i.e., attend to the business of growing spiritually) you will be blessed with all of the things that are promised to those who participate in the first resurrection. Verse 37 is also a clear reference to the righteous being given rewards in the Family of God by Jesus Christ after the first resurrection and the wedding supper of the Lamb.
"If he [Jesus Christ] comes in the second watch or the third watch [delays his coming] and still finds them watching, blessed are those servants" (Lk.12:38 Para.).
Who is watching? The Philadelphia grouping of God's people appear to be the only ones who have been consistently and faithfully watching. When the rewards of the Philadelphia grouping are examined, one can easily see how blessed these particular servants will be at the return of Christ. See Rev.3:12.
In a broader sense, this blessing also applies to the wise Christians (e.g., the five wise virgins. See Matt:25:1-13) who are among the other six groupings of elect described in Revelation 2 and 3 who receive severe correction from Christ. Even though Christ's return appears to be delayed to the second or third watch, he does come and he finds the wise watching, because they have heeded the midnight warning cry (Matt. 25:6). Because the wise were actively watching and had a reserve of oil to keep their lamps burning, they are also blessed. When the rewards of those who heed the warnings to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 are reviewed, we see that they are also given substantial rewards along with eternal and immortal life in the Family and Kingdom of God.
"Be therefore, ready, for the Son of man [Jesus Christ] comes in an hour when you are not expecting him" (Lk.12:40 Para.). See also Mk.13:30-37; Rev.3:1-3.
You must be consistent in your faithfulness and dedication to the Father and Jesus Christ, because none of us knows the hour when Jesus Christ will come. And we are each but a breath away from death. And when we die, our fate is sealed. If we have been faithful to the very end of our life, we will be in the first resurrection and will be rewarded accordingly. However, if we have been unfaithful in our walk with God, we will be punished for our wickedness in the Lake of Fire, which is the second death.
The point is that it is necessary for anyone who is called to salvation to be ready, consistent, and faithful at all times. Remember, it is the person who overcomes to the end that is saved. Whenever that end comes for us, whether we die tomorrow, are martyred for our belief in the Father and his Son, or live until the return of Jesus Christ, it is the consistent overcomer who secures eternal and immortal life in the Family and Kingdom of God.
Although prophecy is important from an overall point of proving that the Sovereign God exists and that his plan for the salvation of humanity is on schedule, a keen understanding of prophecy is not required for one to obtain salvation. For most people, the study of prophecy concerning world events is an academic exercise, because it is rare that an individual can impact the end result of biblical prophecies. In reality, prophecies concerning world events will come to pass whether or not one understands them or whether or not one believes them.
However, there are certain prophecies that should be understood because they relate to one's eternal salvation now and in the future. Many of these prophecies contain predictions about punishment, protection, and rewards for the elect and what action to take to avoid punishment and gain protection and rewards for doing what the Sovereign Father expects of someone he has called to salvation.
The apostle Paul said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works" (2.Tim.3:16-17).
Understanding the past, present, and future prophecies is of no value unless this understanding will have a positive impact on your life now and in the future. Therefore, it is important to keep the study of prophecy in perspective and pay special attention to teachings and prophecies that are important to your salvation. You must be especially careful about what you come to believe concerning prophecy. You must challenge the predictions of today's prophets with the word of God, making sure that what is predicted is not truth mixed with error and that what is predicted conforms to God's word and his plan for the salvation of humanity.
Keep Prophecy in Perspective
Although one must not minimize the importance of prophecy because it is a part of the whole process of growing in grace and knowledge, prophecy must be viewed as it relates to the Father's overall goal for each person individually, as well as for humanity as a whole. Keeping the study of prophecy in the proper perspective will help you acquire those good things that Paul talked about to Timothy. We can become perfect in understanding and in righteousness by understanding prophecy in a correct light.
Prove all things
"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1.Thes.5:21 KJV).
By B.L. Cocherell b2w2