What Did Jesus Tell Us About Our Future?

Lighthouse beacon light2

It always helps when planning a vacation to talk to someone who has already been to the desired destination. They can tell you about what to see as well as what to avoid. The same is true with restaurants, is it not? How many of you have decided not to go to a certain eating establishment after listening to a less than favorable report by someone who had eaten there? Or, on the other hand, how many of you couldn’t wait to go to a restaurant because someone raved about its food?

When it comes to heaven, we have someone who has been there. I am referring to Jesus, of course. When talking to Nicodemus, Jesus highlighted the fact He had descended from heaven to establish His authority for speaking about heavenly things (John 3:12-13).

When Jesus talked about our future, about eternity, He did so with unique authority as not only One who came from heaven, but also as One who rose from the dead.

What exactly did Jesus say about eternity, about our future?

Jesus promised to take us to His Father’s House: Jesus said this in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” In John 14:2-3, Jesus promised to take His followers, represented by His disciples, to the place in His Father’s house He was going to prepare for them. This very much seems to be a private return of Jesus for His own that differs substantially from His quite public return to earth, which He described in Matthew 24:29-31.

Jesus gave us signs of the end times: During the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples asked Jesus about the signs of His coming and the end of the age. Matthew 24:3-14 records Jesus’ answer with the list of signs He provided to them. Since these things came from the One who could see ahead to His coming, we should not so easily brush them aside as many do today.

So many believers today pay so little attention to what Jesus said in Matthew 24 despite the fact that His words are unfolding in an amazing way throughout the world today with uncanny preciseness. We are living in the time Jesus spoke about in these verses.

Jesus foretold the future desecration of the temple by the antichrist: Jesus also verified Daniel’s prophecy regarding a future world leader, the antichrist, who would put an end to sacrifice at the temple halfway through the tribulation. Jesus referred to this as the “abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel” (see Dan. 9:27, Matt. 24:15).

In this verse, Jesus confirmed that that there will be antichrist that will rise to power in the last days and he will defile the temple halfway through the tribulation, just as Daniel predicted. This has not happened since the time of Jesus; it awaits a future fulfillment when Israel will rebuild the temple, the antichrist will establish a covenant that will include Israel, and this leader will break his pledge of peace by defiling the temple halfway through the tribulation period.

Jesus predicted a time of great tribulation: In this same passage, Jesus also predicted a time of “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matt. 24:21). In the next verse, He states that if this time was not cut short, presumably by His return to earth, all humanity would perish. Jesus said that no one would survive this time apart from His coming,  which will stop the progression of events that would wipe out human life.

This is the time John spoke about in the book of Revelation. In chapters 6-19, the apostle adds details to this terrible time in human history.

Jesus described His glorious return to earth: I love Jesus’ own description of is glorious return to earth in Mathew 24:30, “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Jesus entered the world as a helpless baby during His first coming. For His second coming, He will return in spectacular fashion with great power and glory as the entire world watches.

Jesus spoke of His future millennial reign: At this point you might be wondering where Jesus talked about His future millennial reign. While He did not specify it as clearly as John did in Revelation 20:1-6, he certainly implied it in key passages such as Matthew 26.

During Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin, the High Priest demanded that Jesus tell him whether or not He was the long awaited Messiah. “Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven’” (Matt. 26:64). Jesus was quoting from Daniel 7:13-14, a passage that prophesies the Father giving the “son of man” a physical kingdom where “all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him.”

By quoting from this passage in Daniel, Jesus affirms that one day He will be the King over the long awaited physical kingdom that will include the nations of the world.

Jesus warned people about the existence of hell: John Lennon tried to imagine life without an eternity, one without the existence of heaven and hell. In other words, our existence would end after our brief time on earth.

Jesus, however, acknowledged both the existence of heaven and hell. In fact, no one in the Bible talked more about God’s final judgment than Jesus. Seven times Jesus warned people about the existence of hell referring to it as a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Jesus repeatedly warned people of the dire consequences of rejecting Him and His gracious and loving promise of eternal life.

Jesus assured His followers of eternal life in paradise: Jesus did not come for the purpose of condemning the world, however, but for the purpose of giving His life as a “ransom for many” so that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (Mark 10:45; John 3:16-17). So yes, while there are frightful consequences of rejecting Jesus’ gracious offer of life, there is the promise of paradise for all those who turn to Him for salvation from the penalty of their sins. Even for the thief crucified next to Him received this assurance after acknowledging Jesus’ ability to save him from his sins (Luke 23:40-43).

Jesus commanded us to watch for His return: In Matthew 24:44 Jesus said this, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” A little later in the same discourse He added these words, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (25:13). The Lord urges His followers, us, to watch for His return. This is not just something for the few on the fringe, but for all who call upon His name.

Jesus’ last recorded words to His church are these, “Surely I am coming soon.” The Greek word for “soon” is better translated “quickly.” It’s clear from His last words to us that Jesus desired for us to watch for His John 14:3 return. If this was true then, how much more today as we see the signs of the approaching tribulation multiply around us?

Why does all this matter? Do Jesus’ words carry more authority than the rest of the New Testament? No, I believe it’s all Jesus’ revelation to the church of His deity, the saving Gospel message, and the joyous eternity He is preparing for all of us who belong to Him. What we believe about the Gospel and our future after this life starts with the words and saving work of Jesus to which He added further revelation through His apostles in the first century.

These things matter so much today because so many professing believers want a Jesus who did not really say or mean several of the things listed above. They want Jesus, but deny the urgency of His saving message, the existence of hell, and His warnings of judgment. They want a Jesus of their own making, not the One revealed on the pages of Scripture.

We can trust Jesus’ words about all these things because He came from eternity and He rose from the dead, just as He said He would. This establishes His credibility beyond anyone else who has ever lived.

Oh, there is one more thing that is absolutely essential to add that many also deny . . . .

Jesus said He is the only way to the Father, the only way to eternal life: In John 14:6 Jesus said these words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If you are trusting another Jesus, one who would never deny anyone entrance to heaven, please turn to the true Jesus, the One who is truly the only way to eternal life, who will be true to all His words that I have listed above. He will surely save those who belong to Him and bring them into the joy of eternity.

If you are trusting your good works or being a good person to get you to heaven, please know that Jesus died for your sins precisely because your good works could never merit you any favor with the Father. He is the only way to the Father; He is the only way to eternal life.

The cross proves how much Jesus loves us; He was willing to die in our place.

It’s Jesus’ righteousness that counts, not our own. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The cross proves how much Jesus loves us; He was willing to die in our place. If you have not yet put your faith in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of your sins, please do not reject His gracious and loving offer of life any longer.

The time of the end is rapidly approaching, please turn to the Savior before it is too late.

 

 

The Nightmares of Yesterday

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As I drove away I thought, “My faded memories of yesterday are real, not just bad nightmares from so long ago.” I had gone back to the town and to the church building where I was the pastor many years ago. I remembered my high hopes and great excitement for the new ministry opportunity. I absolutely loved being a pastor and desired to accomplish great things for the Lord. Everything in my life suddenly turned upside down while there, however, rivaling any bad dream of my past.

I also felt a deep sense of peace and calmness in my heart on my way back home. Yes, the trials were exceedingly painful and severe, but the Lord had delivered me through all of them. The restoring process was quite long, but Jesus has healed me from all the wounds and resulting fears and panic attacks.

During the long healing process, I wrote the story below for myself, to focus my thoughts on the future rather than on what had happened in my past. Perhaps this is why biblical prophecy remains such a passion of mine; it continues my focus on the future.

Here is what I wrote about 25 years ago:

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The Land of What Will Be

The past is a lonely place. We so often journey to this land by ourselves, relive its memories in the solitude of our minds, and linger there, thinking about what might have been.

This barren land of What Might Have Been bears a striking resemblance to Neverland where Peter Pan fled to escape reality. Like boys refusing to grow up, we so often refuse to let go of the faded dreams of our past, now only a faint memory. We tenaciously hold on to the past not realizing that there is only air in our hands. I know; I have visited this deserted isle many times.

Our stay in the land of What Might Have Been is risky. There the pirate of our souls attacks us with his sharp arrows:

“You fool! You should have known better.”

“HA! You got what you deserved.”

“You are the guilty one!”

“It’s all your fault, you know, you should have seen it coming.”

And on it goes in the land of What Might Have Been. No overgrown boy in tights flies to our rescue in this realm. We are there seemingly all alone, feeling the pain, shouldering the burden, and soaking our pillows with tears.

Failed plans, broken relationships, crushed dreams, and telephone conversations with old friends can all take us back to this desolate isle where hard as we might try, nothing changes.

There is another land, however, called What Will Be. It’s a joyful place. Those burdened with the past rarely feel the great joy and happiness of this brighter shore.

Two Men on a Journey

There were two men, however, who with help were able to leave the barren land of What Might Have Been and experience the joy of the land of What Will Be.

As we join these men traveling to their home in the early evening, we notice their heads hanging low. They are despondent, like many of us at times. As tears run down their cheeks, they rehearse the events of the past few days. The one who was to save their nation had been killed, put to death as a common villain.

“If only . . . . If only he had lived. What would it have been like? Freedom from bondage. A safe home for our people. If only he were still alive. Can you imagine how great that would be?”

As they languished in the land of What Might Have Been, a familiar stranger approached from behind and asks, “What are you guys talking about?”

“Are you the only one in this country who does not know what has happened these past several days, how Jesus of Nazareth was betrayed and put to death?” they reply. “Now, to make matters worse, women have visited his tomb and reported that it is empty. They say an angel told them that He is alive. What could have happened to the body?”

Undaunted, the stranger becomes their teacher explaining the ancient Scriptures to them. “The prophets clearly foretold that the Messiah would have to suffer first, and then enter into His glory,” He tells them. Beginning with Moses, he then proceeds to give them a course on Old Testament prophecy far surpassing all that had ever been given since that time.

As the two men approach their home, they feel their hearts burning with hope. They invite the stranger in for supper; and there, as He gives thanks and breaks the bread, they recognize Him.

“This is our Master. He is alive! He has risen from the dead! He is here, in our home, eating at our table!”

As soon as these disciples recognized Jesus, He vanished. Immediately, they got up and raced back to Jerusalem, their feet barely touching the ground.[1]

Our Call to Hope

The same Savior who brought hope and joy to those saddened travelers so long ago knows all about our shattered dreams, crushed hopes, and troubled hearts. He comes alongside us in our pain and feels all the pangs of our loneliness.

Yet He also stands at the edge of the desolate land of What Might Have Been and bids us to leave this desolate territory.

It is not a call to fame and fortune, at least not in this life. We may discover that our circumstances do not change. They may even get worse. The disciples who reveled in the resurrection that first Sunday long ago would face years of persecution for their faith. Except for John who suffered banishment, they would all be put to death for proclaiming the resurrection.

What, then, is the appeal of the land of What Will Be? Hope!

This is not, however, the type of anticipation we think of when we express a desire that the weather will be sunny and warm tomorrow. It may storm all day or even snow.

This hope is certain. Our future joy is just as sure as Christ’s resurrection, which guarantees it with absolute certainty for all those who know Him.

But how does this hope sustain us?

The Example of Jesus

Jesus Himself gives us the best illustration of how it works.

First, consider all that He endured. Betrayed by a trusted companion. Condemned in phony and illegal trials, although He had never done anything wrong His entire life. Denied by a close friend. Beaten, whipped, and mocked by the very men He had created. Nailed to a cross, the cruelest form of execution ever imagined. Scoffed and ridiculed while gasping for air on a cross full of splinters. And worse of all, separated from His beloved Father in heaven.

How did He survive all that? What kept Him from losing His mind? How was He able to forgive and reach out to others in midst of such cruel torture?

Hebrews 12:2 explains how He did it, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Can you imagine a joy so great as to carry someone through all that torment, grief, and agony? Jesus could.

And the good news is that He is willing to share it with us. On the night He was betrayed, Jesus spoke of His home in heaven (the place of joy that sustained Him on the cross) and promised His followers that He would return to take them to a special place He was preparing for them inside that home.[2]

The glory of this future gathering in heaven caused the Apostle Paul to proclaim that the sufferings of this life were really nothing compared to the joy and splendor we will experience in eternity.[3] (If you think Paul had an easy life, read II Corinthians 11:23-33.) Jesus revealed to Paul that the future joy of eternity would make his enormous earthly afflictions seem small in comparison.

Our Eternal Hope

Our hope is this: Jesus has shed His own blood so that we might possess eternal life and enjoy a future joy far beyond anything we can imagine here on earth. And He has risen from the dead to demonstrate that this is no pie in the sky promise. It is real. It is certain. He is coming again.

Will we return to the land of What Might Have Been in a vain attempt to recapture failed dreams? Will we put our ultimate hope in earthly tomorrows that hold no certain promise except that they themselves may someday become candidates for the bleak realm of What Might Have Been?

Will we let Jesus transform our grief into joy as we look forward to the tremendous joys of eternity awaiting all who know Him as their Savior?

Or, will we place our trust in the One who has cancelled all the charges against us and promised us a certain and secure future, one that even the worst of circumstances on earth cannot destroy? Will we fix our eyes on eternity and let that gaze be our strength in a troubled world? Will we let Jesus transform our grief into joy as we look forward to the tremendous joys of eternity awaiting all who know Him as their Savior?

We have a choice. We can remain in the land of What Might Have Been and let the enemy of our souls ravage us with his relentless charges. Or, we can put our lives in the hands of a loving and gracious Savior who longs for us to experience the love, forgiveness, and joy He so freely offers to all who trust Him. The land of What Will Be is real and a place of overwhelming joy and all-encompassing hope.

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This forward gaze to eternity sparked considerable healing in my life in the years after I wrote this story. This is one reason I am so passionate about writing about our hope. It’s not just a matter for theologians to debate, it’s something that redeems our troubled past, relieves our fears of the future, and gives us an unfailing hope for what lies ahead. This is why I write about our thrilling hope; it’s so much more than theology to me!

Where is your ultimate hope today? Does it rest in this troubled and chaotic world or in Jesus and His promises of a glorious eternity?

    [1]Luke 24:13-35

    [2]John 14:2, 3

    [3]Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18

I Know Him

I know Whom2

During the past several weeks, I have been writing about the resurrection and what it means regarding our beliefs about Jesus, His authority, His teaching, and His views of Scripture. I believe this represents a missing link both in the church and in our nation today. So many want to claim Jesus as a good teacher, but yet fail to believe what He says about so many things. Many Christians worship Him while at the same time expressing disbelief in many of His teachings.

A couple weeks ago, an old hymn came to my mind called I know Whom I Have Believed by Daniel W. White. The song reminded me of another reason why I trust the words of Jesus; it’s because I know Him. I have absolute confidence in my risen Savior, the One I have walked with for so many years.

Jesus said this in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” For years, I thought this referred exclusively to some sort of inner calling; I sometimes wondered if I was missing out on things He was saying to me.

We hear His voice as we read Scripture and know it is him speaking to us.

Then I realized that this verse refers to His voice regardless of how it comes to us. It includes the conviction inside our hearts that His words are true. We hear His voice as we read Scripture and know it is him speaking to us. Yes, the resurrection confirms His divinity and authority, but there’s still that inner witness of the Holy Spirit testifying to the truthfulness of His words as we read them in the Bible.

He Keeps His Promises

The words to the chorus of I know Whom I Have Believed come from the King James translation of 2 Timothy 1:12 where Paul says, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” Other versions see this as the Lord keeping the Gospel message He had entrusted to Paul.

Regardless of the translation, the words point to the fact that the Lord keeps His promises. It’s curious that all the verses to the song start out with “I know not” signifying things we may not fully understand or know. We do know, however, the object of our faith and we are “persuaded” He is able to keep all the promises He has made to us. That’s the essence of our hope, is it not?

He’s Coming Again

I like the words to the last verse: “I know not when my Lord may come / At night or noonday fair / Nor if I walk the vale with Him / Or meet Him in the air.”

We may not know when He is coming, but we know for sure that Jesus is returning for us someday.  So much has occurred since this song was written in 1883 to make us believe the Lord may come for His church quite soon. But as the song says, whether we die beforehand or meet Him in the air, our hope is unshakable and unfailing. He’s coming again.

The Lord keeps His promises; He is returning to take us home just as He promised us in John 14:1-3.

Recent events have highlighted the uncertainties of this life. The devastation and flooding wrought by Hurricane Harvey shows how quickly the things around us can perish. The violence on the streets of many cities makes us wonder how much longer our nation can endure with such deep divisions. When I look at the scourge of abortion and the imposing of transgenderism upon our young children, I wonder how much longer the Lord will hold back His judgment upon our country.

Come what will around me, “I know whom I have believed.” That’s more than enough for me.

There are many things I do not know. Life is uncertain. But I do know the object of my faith and I know He will keep all the loving promises He has made to me and will not fail to take me home someday.  Come what will around me, “I know whom I have believed.” That’s more than enough for me.

 

Why Such Little Excitement?

 

Alaska Sunrise
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”

We have so much with which to be excited as we look forward to Jesus’ appearing to take us home, but so often we lose our eagerness for it. Why does this happen? Why do even seasoned students of prophecy sometimes lose their eagerness for eternity? Why do I lose my excitement for what lies ahead?

It’s so easy to live as though this lifetime is all we have, is it not? We get up, go to work, drive home, eat, watch TV, and go to bed. We do a hundred different things throughout the day that focus our attention solely on this life and soon we forget about forever.

We dwell in the anxiety of the moment rather than in the thrill of hope that comes from a joyous expectation of what lies ahead.

I am not saying we must concentrate on eternity all day long; we would never get anything done at work or at home. But so often we go about our daily routines with a one-world perspective oblivious to the joys ahead for us in eternity. In essence, we live as though we have no hope beyond the grave despite what we claim to believe. We dwell in the anxiety of the moment rather than in the thrill of hope that comes from a joyous expectation of what lies ahead.

Why do we lack the eager anticipation of the apostles and early believers regarding the return of Jesus? I believe this happens for a variety of reasons:

Misconceptions

How often have we seen depictions of lonely glorified believers sitting on clouds strumming harps? With such a caricature of eternity, it’s no wonder believers lose their eagerness for heaven. Such a picture dampens our anticipation and understandably so.

Better to live for the moment than wait for an eternity of loneliness sitting on a cloud somewhere in the sky.

Scripture, however, tells us we will reign with Christ in his earthly kingdom and then forevermore throughout eternity. Doesn’t that sound a whole lot better than the popular misconceptions of heaven?

Yes, we will sing praises to our Lord throughout eternity; this will be an unstoppable response at seeing the wonders of eternity and fully recognizing all that Jesus did to bring us home. However, our life in heaven will be so much more exciting and better than sitting on hard pews during a lengthy worship service.

I love the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, but someday we will be far more than aspiring angels jumping into icy waters to earn our wings. Scripture says we will “judge angels” (1 Cor. 6:3). I am not sure of all that implies, but it certainly distinguishes us from them.

“I’ve Heard That Before”

Back in the 1960s’ and 1970’s, eschatology became a hot topic. Many churches emphasized the imminent return of Jesus. I remember Jack Van Impe coming to my church to teach on prophecy for an entire week. I felt the excitement of waiting for Jesus’ soon return. He could come at any time!

However, many decades have passed since that time. Believers in large numbers have lost their expectancy of Jesus’ soon return and often respond with “I’ve heard that before” to messages telling them to be ready for it. Having looked for Jesus’ appearing for so long myself, I understand the sentiment that finds it difficult to remain watchful as the years fly by.

Yet as we see prophecy begin to be fulfilled in our world today at an amazing pace, if there was ever a time to be watchful, it is now! The signs increasingly point to the soon beginning of what we know as the tribulation and thus to Jesus’ soon appearing that happens before its onset. Can it be much longer before he returns? Don’t let the phrase, “I’ve heard that before,” take your eyes off the prize! Jesus could come at any moment!

Silence

Unfortunately, rather than increase their focus on Jesus’ return for us as the signs multiply all around us, many churches remain silent. Such silence not only takes our eyes off eternity but also deadens our joyous expectation of Jesus’ appearing. How can believers today look forward to something they never hear about?

The passing references to everlasting life that we do hear from our pulpits fail to excite us. Assurances of an undefined eternity do little to instill eagerness in us for it. This is why we need a renewed focus on what Scripture reveals about the joys ahead for us rather than bland affirmations of heaven, which do so little to stir our hearts, relieve our anxieties, or comfort us in the midst of sorrow.

The silence in so many churches regarding the amazing truths of eternity sadly dulls our anticipation of the amazing joys ahead for us in forever.

Without the exciting biblical vision of our future hope, it’s difficult to imagine how heaven can be any better than IPhones, smart TV’s, electronically-equipped cars, comfortable homes, and a host of other items that add enjoyment and comfort to our everyday lives. Can heaven really surpass the comforts and wonders of this life? Yes! Absolutely! The silence in so many churches regarding the amazing truths of eternity sadly dulls our anticipation of the amazing joys ahead for us in forever.

Not only that, the silence in many churches adds to the prevailing confusion about Jesus’ appearing. Without sound teaching about our hope, many Christians fall victim to false teachings that take away their hope in Jesus’ return and keep their eyes focused on earthbound goals and aspirations where hope and joy eventually fade away.

Teaching Without a Two-world Perspective

When churches ignore a biblical two-world perspective that includes eternity, they can unwittingly make things such as happy marriages, good parenting, and wise financial planning, our ultimate hope rather than Jesus’ return. Of course, biblically-centered teaching on such matters is absolutely essential. Without a two-world perspective integrated into such instruction, however, these things can easily become the consuming focus of our lives rather than our hope in Jesus’ appearing and eternity with Him.

The danger comes from placing our hopes on temporal results where so many factors, including the sinful choices of ourselves and others, negatively impact the outcomes we so greatly desire. The New Testament teaches believers to expect difficult times in this life (James 1:2-3; 1 Pet. 1:6, 4:12-13). Scripture promises us paradise in eternity, not now. We set ourselves up for great disappointment when we define anything in this life as our ultimate hope, even if it’s biblical and desirable.

To Sum Up

With all the things of this life continually shouting for our attention, it’s sometimes difficult to stay focused on Jesus and what He is now preparing for us in heaven. Even as someone who often writes about such things, I also feel the pull to put too much of my hope in what I see around me. But I also know from experience that it’s my hope of eternity that relieves anxieties and encourages me on a daily basis.

In today’s stress-filled world, we need more than dull platitudes regarding eternal life. We need our eyes fixed on our wonderful eternal inheritance that is reserved in heaven just for us (1 Pet. 1:3-4, 13). Once there, we will wonder why we ever thought that anything in this life could even come close to comparing with the joys of eternity.

 

Are These the Days of Noah?

ark-in-morning-sun
Photo from Ark Encounter Website

No, I am not suggesting that we start building ships or that we rush to the Ark Encounter in northern Kentucky hoping that the recreation of Noah’s ark will actually float. I am referring to Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 where He said this, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

What characterized the “days of Noah?” Back in Genesis 6, God complained about two things regarding the people of that day. Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of heart was only evil continually.” Besides the extreme wickedness of the time, this expression appears twice, “the earth was filled with violence” (6:11, 13).

For the past couple weeks I have been contemplating a post on violence in our world, but the recent shooting of Steve Scalise and others pushed this to the forefront of my thinking. I believe that the violence we see in our world is a sign we are truly living in the last days of human history.

Violence Fills the Earth

In 2016, there were 2,478 Islamic terror attacks in 59 countries in which 21,237 people were killed and 26,680 people were injured. In just the past 30 days there have been 174 attacks by Islamic Jihadists in which 1,659 people were killed (source for these numbers is thereligionofpeace.com, which chronicles each such attack). These statistics do not include the thousands of Christians whom ISIS beheaded or crucified during the past few years.

During the bloody civil war in Syria over 500,000 people have been killed, according the last numbers I saw on this, and the bloodshed and killing continues unabated in this horrible conflict.

The greatest source of deadly violence in our world continues to be abortion. In our nation alone, over 50 million babies have been murdered since 1973 and worldwide, this number is much higher. Is not God just as grieved by this senseless bloodshed as He is by the bombings and killing also prevalent in our world? I absolutely believe He is.

Wikipedia lists fourteen current and ongoing wars in our world, including the civil war in Syria, with 1,000 or more deaths each year. The Mexican drug war has claimed the lives of 138,000 people since 2006 with over 12,000 dying because of this violence in 2016 alone.

Does violence fill the earth at this time? Absolutely! We do not know the statistics of violence during the days of Noah, but I have to think what we see around us certainly qualifies as an apt comparison.

The Acceptance of Violence

What’s also disturbing to me is the growing acceptance of violence in our nation. The popularity of the play currently running in New York City portraying the assassination of President Trump demonstrates this growing acceptance of violence. This play is not sponsored, as you might suspect, by some lunatic fringe group, but by the New York Times and other well-known companies. I would condemn such a play regardless of who was president; it would sicken me just as much.

More people have been arrested for violence and for threats of violence in the past six months than in the prior ten years.

Illinois State Senator David Syverson recently posted this on his Facebook page about the growing acceptance of violence, “What’s different about the few random threats made in the past vs today is usually they were made by lone wolves or individuals with no credibility. Their actions were soundly criticized and shut down from all fronts. Today these individuals who are inciting violence are ‘credible’ leaders, in their circles. They have followers and their actions and statements are covered respectfully by the media.”

Senator Syverson also stated that more people have been arrested for violence and for threats of violence in the past six months than in the prior ten years.

The shooting of Steve Scalise was not some random or isolated event; it predictively grew out the frenzied hatred and vitriol by many on the left and in the media toward President Trump and toward Republicans by virtue of their association with him.

Granted, the vast majority of people who oppose President Trump do not advocate violence against him, but the standing ovations at the end of the play advocating his assassination and the often repeated calls for violence against our President sadly testify to the growing acceptance of violence in our culture.

Legitimate protests are a treasured part of our national heritage; it’s those that turn violent or promote violence that not only show a growing acceptance of violence but also cause much harm to our nation.

However, there is overwhelmingly great news for those of us who know the Lord Jesus as their Savior.

A Day Like Any Other

In comparing the days leading up to His coming to the days of Noah, the Lord also made this interesting statement, “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark” (Matt. 24:38). The flood came on a day that started out just like any other day for those who rejected the warnings of Noah.

For us who know Jesus, it will be a day glorious beyond anything we have ever experienced.

Until the moment Jesus returns for His church, life will proceed on earth pretty much as normal as well; there will likely not be any great sign or worldwide catastrophe signaling His appearing to take His church home. Just as in the days of Noah, life will seem normal. It will be a day like any other, that is, until Jesus takes us away to be with Him.

For us who know Jesus, it will be a day glorious beyond anything we have ever experienced.

Please pray for President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. I believe it is vital that we pray for their safety as well as all those around them in the Whitehouse and in the leadership of Congress. If anything, the shooting of Steve Scalise has intensified my prayers for our President and for his wellbeing.

Pray also for the continued and full recovery of Representative Scalise; we need his principled leadership in Congress. He is leading the fight in Congress against the growing problem of sex trafficking. (Update: Steve Scalise continues to improve; God is answering our prayers).

 

Our Eternal Home

New jerusalem2

Recently, we went with friends to see the movie In Our Hands: Battle for Jerusalem. The movie showed the background to and the fight for the city during the Six Day Way in 1967. Perhaps the most striking aspect of the movie was the joy of the soldiers upon reaching the ancient outer wall of the temple.

Fifty years later, the city of Jerusalem remains the focus of the world’s attention and will remain so until the Lord returns. Then, the city will be miraculously restored from the ravages of the tribulation as Jesus will reign in Jerusalem for a thousand years upon the throne the David. It was David, by the way, who made Jerusalem the capital of Israel three thousand years ago.

As such, it’s fitting that our eternal dwelling place will be called the “New Jerusalem.” The Apostle John described this city in Revelation 21:9-22:5. An angel took the apostle to a mountain where he witnessed “the holy city Jerusalem coming out of heaven from God” (21:10). One commentator refers to the “New Jerusalem as “heaven’s capital” city.[1] Let’s look at a few of the features of our future and glorious eternal home:

Dwelling place of God

John first describes the New Jerusalem as the “dwelling place of God” with us as “his people” (21:3). It already seems remarkable that God’s Holy Spirit dwells in us as believers. Here, however, we will share our eternal home with the Lord himself; he will dwell with us in close physical proximity. We will belong to him as “his people” forever secure enjoying eternity with our Savior. It will be more wonderful than we can ever imagine.

As the dwelling place of God, the city will be continually illuminated by the “glory of God;” there will be “no need of the sun or the moon” (21:23). I like the phrase at the end of the verse, “its lamp is the Lamb.” Jesus came to the world as a light shining in darkness; here he will not only shine spiritually, but physically as well. The cycle of day and night will be something of the past; nighttime will not exist in the New Jerusalem (v. 25). Our future glorified bodies will not require sleep so there will be no need of darkness to help us sleep.

Absence of Pain and Sorrow

Death, pain, sorrow, and weeping will not exist in the New Jerusalem. The apostle puts it this way, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (21:4). Try to even imagine such an existence with no sorrow, no loss, and no pain. Pastor and commentator John MacArthur wrote this about the absence of pain and sorrow:

What it declares is the absence of anything to be sorry about—no sadness, no disappointment, no pain. There will be no tears of misfortune, tears over lost love, tears of remorse, tears of regret, tears over the death of loved ones, of tears for any other reason.[2]

Unimaginable Beauty and Size

We would expect such a city to be amazing in appearing and that is just what we find in John’s portrayal of it. As John saw the city descend from heaven he described its appearance as “having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (21:11). Later, the apostle listed all the jewels adorning its foundation and described its street as being of pure gold (21:18-21). This all speaks to the unimaginable beauty of the New Jerusalem. Its appearance will be spectacular beyond anything we have ever seen in our lives.

The apostle also provides the measurements of the huge city in 21:15-17. The city will be a square cube 1,364 miles long on each side and 1,364 miles tall. If superimposed upon the United States, it would take up over half of the country with just its width and length. It’s understandable why the angel took John to a high mountain to view the New Jerusalem; the apostle needed that perspective to take in the city of such incredible size.

River of Life

In contrast to the Webster dictionary definition of heaven as the dwelling place of the “blessed dead,” the New Jerusalem will be a place of life, of rich abundant and never-ending life. Revelation 22:1-2 records this about the city, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

In heaven, we will be more alive than we can now possibly imagine. Our joy will never end. Life will flow unceasingly in our eternal home.

Death will be forever banished in the New Jerusalem. We will enjoy life there to the fullest. In heaven, we will be more alive than we can now possibly imagine. Our joy will never end. Life will flow unceasingly in our eternal home.

The New Jerusalem will be spectacular beyond what we can imagine. Through the apostle John, we have a glorious picture of this amazing city. I believe we can also assume that John struggled with the limitations of human language to adequately describe the wonders and beauty of this city. I believe the New Jerusalem will be more spectacular than anything we have ever seen in our lives and the new earth will exceed the wondrous beauties of creation all around us.

We will dwell in the most beautiful home imaginable and enjoy God’s creation, which will be even more breathtaking than the Rocky Mountains in all their splendor and glory.

Can you see what a powerful influence a focus on our eternal home can have on our daily lives? If we know Christ as our Savior, this is our future. We will spend eternity in a spectacularly beautiful home with access to God’s new created order on earth totally free from all the effects of sin and the curse. We will literally have the best of both worlds. We will dwell in the most beautiful home imaginable and enjoy God’s creation, which will be even more breathtaking than the Rocky Mountains in all their splendor and glory.

This is our eternal and living hope in midst of all the aches and pains and disappointments of this life. Such hope sustains us in the midst of suffering, heals the deep wounds of our past, and gives us courage to face an uncertain future. Jesus rose from the dead to prove that He is who He claimed to be and that His promised return is just as sure as the rising of sun tomorrow morning.

Jesus will not fail to keep any of His many promises to us.

_____________

[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Revelation 12-22 (Chicago: Moody Press, 2000), p. 265)

[2] Ibid, p. 269

A Story of God’s Faithfulness

wood-houses-school-old

Irma Jean Wessels was a friend of my mom while I was growing up in Rockford, Illinois. I had not thought of her for many years until last Sunday when our pastor read Luke 18:28-30 as a part of his sermon. There, in response to Peter pointing out his sacrifice in following the Savior, Jesus responded with these words, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

I am not sure if I heard Miss Wessels talk about this passage in our home or in public, but these words certainly came true in her life as she later recounted. Let’s start from the beginning of her story (based on what I remember).

In the mid 1950’s she was the principal of the grade school where I would later attend. My father was actively involved with the school board of this country school and that is likely where her connection to my family began. God called her to serve as missionary to India and she was already overseas by the time I started grade school.

Knowing that she was single, one day I asked my mom if she ever had a boyfriend. I guess I was just curious. My mom said that she was in love once, but her boyfriend did not feel the same calling to serve as a missionary. Irma Jean remained faithful to her calling although it must have been difficult to leave for India all alone. She felt some sadness, but, I am getting ahead of the story.

Once on the field, things changed dramatically in her location in India. A revolution in Tibet brought many refugees into the area where she was stationed, including a large number of Tibetan orphans. The mission organization under which she served decided to start a boarding school for these orphans. Because of Miss Wessel’s experience as a principal, she became head of the new school.

In the years that followed, she had a remarkable impact on the children who came under her care. Many came to know the Lord as their Savior and her loving devotion to them even caught the attention of the Dalai Lama of Tibet who formally recognized her service in educating these children.

Many came to know the Lord as their Savior and her loving devotion to them even caught the attention of the Dalai Lama of Tibet who formally recognized her service in educating these children.

I remember attending a PTA meeting at the grade school I attended. Back on furlough, Irma took up the entire time telling the parents about her time as a missionary in India. As the former principal of the school, she had the opportunity to share her story of what had happened and about all God was doing for these Tibetan children.

She later brought one of these orphans to the United States to train at a Bible school so he could later return and minister among his people. Since I was close in age to him, I spent a day with him while Irma Jean and her mom visited with my mom.

But how, you might be wondering, does her story relate to Luke 18:29-30? Miss Wessels later recounted how she felt sadness as she arrived in India. Because she remained unmarried, it seemed unlikely she would ever have any children of her own. It was not long, however, before she became a surrogate mother to scores of Tibetan children.

These verses came vividly to life for her one day as she was teaching several Tibetan girls how to sew. She suddenly realized that the Lord had given her an abundance of children. When she left for India, she thought she was giving up hope of ever being a mother. God, however, rewarded her with many more children than she could ever have imagined. He turned her sadness into great joy.

I have long since lost contact with her. I know that after many years of leading the school for these children she returned to the states and became active in missions at home. She also married later in her life.

While we look forward to rewards in eternity for our faithfulness, it’s not beyond the love and grace of our Father to reward us in this life by giving us a taste of the joys that will forever be ours once Jesus returns to take us home to be with Him.

What is Truth?

inside_empty_tomb

As I sat in class the first day, I begin to realize it was not what I expected. I should have dropped the course and signed up for another one. But I delayed in deciding upon an alternative and ended up stuck in the class.

Rather than a course dealing with the various methods of accounting as I expected, it ended up being about the philosophy of accounting. Later it morphed into a discussion of truth itself.

The professor asked us to read an article he wrote in which he asserted there was no such thing as objective truth. All truth statements were thus in one sense equally valid and perhaps also equally invalid in the same the way. No one belief system was better than another; objective truth could not be known.

In the next class period, I pointed out that such a statement contradicted itself. Wasn’t he making an objective truth statement while denying the possibility of such a statement? His statement itself was an assertion of objective truth; the very thing he said was impossible.

The teacher showed respect for my beliefs and allowed me to voice my many objections to his atheistic worldview although I did not sway him in any way toward a biblical point of view. We had some interesting discussions regarding the subject of truth for the rest of the semester as I realized my purpose for being in the class.

My class was many years ago, but the questions remains today: What is truth?

It actually goes back at least two thousand years, to when Jesus stood trial before Pilate. In response to the Lord’s assertion that he had come into the world “to bear witness to the truth,” the governor responded, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38).

The ancient Roman governor mocked the whole idea of truth. Even if truth had any value, which he doubted, what did it matter at that moment? What good was bearing witness to the truth if one was going to be crucified that very day? In Pilate’s eyes, he had the power; Jesus did not, so what difference did the truth make anyway?

Jesus is the Truth

Just hours earlier, Jesus had told His disciples this, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus not only came to bear witness of the truth, He claimed to be “the truth.”

This is a remarkably bold statement in many ways. Jesus claims to be the embodiment of truth as well as the only way of salvation. In contrast to my professor’s assertion, Jesus said objective truth indeed existed and more than that, He was it. The Word had become flesh and dwelt among us as the apostle John later asserted in his Gospel.

His statement also refuted the mocking of Pilate. Truth mattered because He was the only path to the Father and to eternal life. All other belief systems lead to death; only Jesus has the words of life and is the way to eternal life. He soon demonstrated why He could make such a bold claim.

Who else through all history has ever accurately predicted their death and the precise timing of their resurrection?

On the third day after being nailed to the cross, Jesus rose from the dead just as He said He would do. Has there ever been a greater confirmation of the truth of one’s own words? Who else through all of history has ever accurately predicted their death and the precise timing of their resurrection? No one has ever risen from the dead for that matter, apart from our Lord, let alone predicted it!

This is what sets true Christianity above all other belief systems. The grave is empty. Jesus is alive. His words are truth and of supreme value.

Why Does It Matter?

C.S. Lewis once said this, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

Our faith is of “infinite importance” because Jesus rose from the dead. His radical claim to be “the way, the truth, and the life,” the only path to eternal life is true because He is alive.

C.S. Lewis once said this, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

If Jesus had remained in the tomb, our faith would be false and of absolutely no value. Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people to be pitied.” The apostle told the believers in Corinth that their faith was worthless if Jesus had not risen from the dead.

In the next verse, however, the apostle asserts, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

The fact Paul knew that some of the witnesses had already died suggests he likely could name most of the 500 who had seen the risen Savior.

As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, most of the 500 people who saw Jesus alive after His resurrection were still around and able to testify to its validity (15:6). The fact Paul knew that some of the witnesses had already died suggests he likely could name most of the 500 who had seen the risen Savior.

So not only does objective truth exist, as validated by Jesus’ resurrection, it has infinite value. We dismiss it to our peril because Jesus is not only truth, but also the only true source of life.

If you have never put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, please do so before it is too late. We have become so familiar with the words of John 3:16 that they often lose their meaning when we read them. They do however, express the overwhelming value of the Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to see the Case for Christ. The movie shows the response of Lee Strobel to his wife’s decision to trust Christ. He was not happy, to say the least. He decided to use his skills as an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune to refute the claims of Christianity. He remained confident all the way through his intensive scrutiny of the facts that he could disprove the resurrection of Jesus and bring his wife back to his atheistic point of view.

For two years he dedicated himself to proving that the claims of Jesus were a sham and He was still in the grave. One morning, after remaining at work all night to review the evidence, he came home and uttered these simple words to his worried wife, “I believe.”

What makes the truth claims of Jesus stand far above those of my cynical professor? He rose from the dead just as He said He would do. He is alive.

And if He is alive, He is the only path of salvation. All the founders of all the world’s religions, philosophies, and belief systems are all dead. As such they offer no life, no hope . . . nothing at all, only death.

Speaking just weeks after Jesus’ resurrection the Apostle Peter uttered these words, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”[i] He confirmed the words of Jesus, salvation is only found in Christ.

In the same way the early church began to look for His return. For if Jesus said He was returning for them, they knew He would do what He said.

We also look for His return because based on His track record of truth, if He says He is coming to take us to His Father’s house, He is certainly going to do it. Of this there can be no doubt.

Maranatha! Our Lord come!

 

[i] Acts 4:12

Peter, Enoch, and Methuselah

lightning2

Of all the late night comedians I watched over the years, I liked Johnny Carson the best. I liked his humor and still remember several of his skits.

Johnny would sometimes come out dressed as Carnac the Magnificent with a large red turban on his head and a dark cape wrapped around him. Ed McMahon introduced the parody referring to the sealed envelopes he held in his hand as containing questions no one could possibly know about beforehand. Carnac held each envelope to his turban before giving the answer to the question in it supposedly never seeing the contents of the envelope.

Sometimes he listed three names as the answer before opening the envelope to read the question, which tied the three answers together in a humorous way.

Similarly, you may be wondering how the three names in the title tie together. What possible connection could they have? I do not have an amusing question tying them together as Carson would do; I have a connection that tells us something about God.

I believe the names listed above reveal something of His patience with humanity before he sends judgment. Let me explain . . .

Peter

The apostle’s warnings in 2 Peter 3 are more relevant today than ever before. Peter tells us that in the last days “scoffers” will come ridiculing the promise of Jesus’ return (3:3-4).  Their key mistake, Peter says, is that of assuming all things have continued the same “from the beginning of creation.”

He explains what they miss, “For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished” (vv. 5-6). In looking at the world around them, these naysayers neglect to consider that God judged the world in the days of Noah and is therefore capable of doing it again.

Peter also gives us the reason for the seeming delay that the scoffers so readily misinterpret.  God is patient, waiting for as many as possible to repent and find salvation through His Son. The Lord, who views time much differently than us, is not slow about keeping His promise but He is giving people a chance to receive eternal life before his judgments fill the earth (vv. 5-10).

I have always wondered why the apostle brought up the great flood in reference to the scoffers and God’s patience with humanity before sending judgment.  I understood how the flood warns us that at some point God will send judgment. But how does that relate to His patience with mankind?

Enoch and his prophecy regarding the upcoming flood helped me clarify that connection.

Enoch and Methuselah

Enoch lived about a thousand years before the flood that destroyed the earth. He stands out in the list of names in Genesis 5 for his close walk with the Lord. Genesis 5:24 says that while Enoch was walking with the Lord one day he disappeared, “for God took him.” He did not die, but the Lord one day took Enoch up to be with him. Many see this as a type of the Rapture and I agree with that.

Before his ascent into heaven, the Lord enabled Enoch to see far into the future. Jude, the brother of Jesus, tells us Enoch saw far ahead to Jesus’ Second Coming, “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him’” (Jude 14-15).

What an amazing revelation for that time; all the way back during the timeframe of Genesis 5, Enoch saw the Second Coming of Jesus. I wonder what the Lord also showed him. Is it not likely Enoch also saw Jesus’ first coming as well?

Enoch, at the relatively young age of 65, bore a son he named Methuselah, which means “when he dies judgment.”  If we follow the timeline in Genesis 5 and 6, we see that the flood came in the very same year that Methuselah died.

So not only did Enoch see ahead to Jesus’ return to execute judgment upon the earth far into the future, he also predicted the timing of the coming flood that destroyed the world of Noah’s day when he named his son.

God’s Patience

Do you see how this all relates to God’s amazing patience with sinful humanity?

Who has the longest recorded lifespan in Genesis 5? It was Methuselah, of course. After Enoch named him, indicating that when he died judgment would come upon the world, the Lord enabled Methuselah to live the longest of anyone named in the Bible. He was not eager to send judgment upon the world.

God is so patient with us! The very length of Methuselah’s life shows God’s unwillingness to send judgment until it becomes absolutely necessary.

We see this same patience today and many people, just as Peter said, take this to signify that the Lord will never intervene in the affairs of humanity. They scoff in unbelief at the idea that he could ever judge the world for its sins as they conveniently overlook God’s destruction of the world in the days of Noah.

So what do Peter, Enoch, and Methuselah tell us about the day in which we live? They tell us that while the Lord is exceedingly patient, at some point God’s judgment will fall upon a sinful world.

So many people today ridicule such a notion. They take God’s patience as an indication of His distance from us. They see Him as uninvolved in the affairs of mankind and hence not willing to hold anyone accountable for his or her sins.

I believe we are very near to the time of tribulation predicted in the Old Testament and outlined in greater detail in the book of Revelation. I am convinced we are near the time when just like in the days of Noah, God’s patience will end His judgments will arrive on earth.

If you have never put your faith in Jesus as your Savior, please do so before it is too late. He said this in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Apart from Christ, there is no other way, no other path leads to eternal life except the one He provides through His death on the cross and resurrection.

Things will not continue forever as we see them today. The Lord will intervene first through judgments upon sinful humanity and then through His glorious Second Coming. Those outside of Christ, who are alive at the time, will suffer God’s wrath on earth and face an eternity without Him.

For those of who are followers of Jesus, we need not fear the wrath of the day of the Lord; we will be delivered from it, caught up to be with the Lord (see 1 Thess. 5:3-10). I believe the day of the Lord wrath referred to in this passage includes all of the tribulation, although some limit it to just the latter judgments of the book of Revelation.

Regardless, the Lord asks that we watch for His appearing and be ready for He is returning at a time we do not expect (Matt. 24:44). This urgency is not because we can ever be caught by surprise by God’s wrath, but rather Jesus desires that we be as active as possible in serving Him so He can reward us accordingly at His appearing and we can avoid the shame of not being ready when he takes us home.

 

Why Such Silence in Our Churches?

Church in the woods

Why are our churches so silent on the matter of Jesus’ return? Jan Markell, in a recent article, noted that 90% of pastors do not preach or teach about the return of our King, the Lord Jesus.

It was not like this during the early days of the church. The sense of imminency for Jesus’ appearing spilled over from the pages of the New Testament into the early centuries of the church.

Today, we see signs of the approaching tribulation everywhere we look. Yet, few pastors even mention the Rapture, the tribulation, Jesus’ Second Coming, or the Millennium. Why do so few truly understand the times in which we live?

Pastor Tom Hughes of The 412 Church in San Jacinto, California recently wrote an article titled, “Five Reasons Pastors Don’t Teach Bible Prophecy.” Briefly, his reasons are as follows:

  1. They don’t understand prophecy
  2. They fear offending members of the church
  3. They sense it will scare people
  4. They fear people will stop giving
  5. They fear looking like fringe groups who take things to an extreme

I agree that these things play a role in the current silence regarding prophecy. However, I believe they are symptomatic of far deeper issues impacting the church today.

False Teaching

From the very beginning, Satan opposed prophetic teaching. By the time the ink was barely dry on Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, false teachers delivered a message to the believers in Thessalonica contradicting what Paul wrote concerning the timing of Jesus’ return for His church.

In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul promised the young believers in Thessalonica that Jesus would come for them before the judgments of the “Day of the Lord” (see 5:9). I believe these judgments include the entire seven year tribulation, but that is a topic for another time. Almost immediately after the church read Paul’s first letter, false teachers caused a great panic among these believers by telling them the “Day of the Lord has come” (see 2 Thess. 2:2).

It took only a matter of weeks or perhaps months for Satan to attack our hope embodied in the rapture.

In other words, either they had missed the rapture or Paul was mistaken about the Lord’s return for His church. It took only a matter of weeks or perhaps months for Satan to attack our hope embodied in the rapture.

In his second epistle, Peter warned of false teachers who would arise denying the basics of our hope for Jesus’ return. “Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). Are not many today echoing this same refrain? Does this not sound like the day in which we live?

The current pervasiveness of false teaching on Jesus’ Second Coming should not surprise us. The Bible clearly warned it would happen. It started during the days of the apostles and continued on from there.

In church history, the first prominent naysayer concerning the promises of Jesus’ return was a man named Origen who lived in the early fourth century AD. Influenced heavily by the pagan philosopher Plato, he taught that the promised millennium would be a spiritual kingdom, not something tangible and visible. The Council of Nicea in AD 325 condemned his many wayward beliefs, which included reincarnation as well as the belief that everyone, without exception, would someday be saved.

Many false teachings regarding prophecy persist today and I believe this makes many pastors hesitant to talk about the times in which we live. Rather than become embroiled in controversy or appear extreme, they remain silent. Rather than offend people, they avoid the subject altogether.

As a result, many false ideas regarding Jesus’ return continue unchecked by sound scriptural teaching.  The lack of sound teaching about prophecy only serves to further the spread of false teaching.

A Failure to Recognize That We Are at War

The avoidance of teaching about the Lord’s return blinds many to another reality.

Many preachers correctly apply the message of our spiritual warfare to the battles of our everyday life and Satan’s attempts to derail our walk with Jesus. Yet few go beyond this struggle to talk about the prophetic implications of the devil’s geopolitical war against the Lord, Israel, followers of Christ, and God’s Word.

The battle is not between good and bad people, between political parties, or even between politicians we admire and those we do not. As Ephesians 6:12 makes clear, our battle is against demonic forces of varying powers, not flesh and blood. We have a target on our backs, an enemy raging about as a roaring lion seeking to stop Jesus’ soon arrival on earth and destroy us in the process.

Only a worldview through the lens of biblical prophecy offers any sense to the war that daily rages throughout the world.

Satan sees the signs of Jesus’ soon return and it should not surprise us that he is doing everything he can to prevent it. He tried to eliminate the Israelites before Jesus’ first coming; it makes perfect sense he would repeat his strategy with the Second Coming.

Satan knows Jesus will someday return to a restored Israel and his only chance at preventing this is to utterly destroy Israel. We see this in the current massive buildup of weapons aimed at Israel. Scripture describes a great battle in Ezekiel 38-39 where many nations come against Israel. However, God will intervene and rescue His people.

When Satan’s initial attempts to destroy Israel eventually fail, he will use his man, the antichrist, to attempt to stop Jesus’ return to earth. The coming world order will be the mechanism for this coming evil leader to attempt to kill all Jews along with all followers of Christ. We see his plans for this new world order everywhere we look.

We see it in the dramatic growth of the occult and open worship of Satan. We see it in the pictures of small children in agony after another attack of chemical weapons in Syria. We see it in scenes of Christians lined up to be executed. Alas, we also see it in refusal of many politicians from both parties to take a firm stand against the ghastly murder of the unborn and sale of their body parts.

We see it in the hatred toward both Jews and Christians sweeping through the world. This is all setting the stage for the arrival of the antichrist (1 John 2:18). A world aligned with God would never accept the evil designs of the coming world order. The devil must destroy biblical faith and the Judeo-Christian foundations of right and wrong if he is to accomplish his purposes through the antichrist.

As followers of Christ, we are caught up in a war we cannot ignore. An understanding of the times in which we live not only gives us insight into the war around us, but also gives us the courage to push back against the enemy.

A Failure to Recognize Our Place in God’s Redemptive Story

I believe the silence in our pulpits regarding prophecy results not so much from a lack of understanding of prophecy as it does from a failure to grasp the full extent of the glorious message of the Gospel. There is a future tense to the Gospel; one in which Jesus’ returns to earth, binds Satan, and sets up His righteous kingdom over all the earth.

As believers, we are born into God’s redemptive story. Of course there is an enemy. Have you ever read a great story where there was not an adversary, someone opposing the hero of the story? So often we enjoy great dramas not realizing they also speak to our struggles and ultimate victory over our greatest foe.

Of course there is an enemy. Have you ever read a great story where there was not an adversary, someone opposing the hero of the story?

So yes, we are at war and that is where the good news begins. John Eldredge compares our adventure to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo played a vital role in saving the world of his day from the evil Saran. Eldredge calls it living mythically; grasping the reality of the great adventure of redemption of which we are all a part.

The magnificent story of our redemption includes Jesus’ saving work on our behalf in the past as well as His current work inside us through the Holy Spirit. However, we are also saved in hope of a glorious future, in hope of the completion of our adoption into God’s family and the redemption of our bodies (see Rom. 8:24).

Our salvation points to the future. Is this not why New Testament believers lived in constant expectation of Jesus’ appearing? The Rapture represents the completion of Jesus’ saving work on our behalf when we receive our immortal bodies and are caught up to forever be with our Savior.

We are not simply spectators in God’s glorious redemptive program; we are active participants. The spiritual kingdom, on whose behalf we now engage as warriors, will someday become a glorious physical kingdom in which we will reign alongside Jesus.

We all play a role in this great undertaking. Our mere presence on earth restrains Satan’s plans for world dominance; or more precisely, it’s the Holy Spirit inside each one of us that now restrains the work of the coming antichrist. Our prayers . . . our prayers make a great difference in the battle into which we were born the moment we trusted Christ as our Savior.

Do you understand why Satan works so hard to keep believers from understanding the true nature of the battle and their amazing role in God’s glorious plan of redemption? Believers with eyes focused on earth-bound hopes are much less of a threat to his ultimate plans.

Things are not as they seem; there is a much greater reality than what we see with our eyes.

Just like the ending to Beauty and the Beast, the Lord will someday gloriously transform everything we see; He will make all things new. The coming transformation of God’s people and His creation will make the ending to Beauty and Beast seem rather dull by comparison.

A proper perspective of our place in the Lord’s redemptive story negates all the factors that keep many pastors from talking about prophecy. The subject may very well scare us at times; our role requires courage, faith, and a heart devoted to bringing God the glory due His name.

The call of Jesus, repeatedly echoed by His apostles, is to watch and be ready for His return (read Matt. 24:42-51). His last spoken words to the church in Revelation 22 also echo this same plea for readiness.

This perspective energizes our faith and determination to serve the Lord in making disciples of all nations.

Why did Jesus encourage both fervent watchfulness and a passion for reaching the lost? Why is it so critical that we hear both messages from our pastors and teachers?

Stay tuned . . . .