Paying Attention to Prophecy

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For the past several weeks, my daily Bible readings have dragged me through the prophets, both the twelve minor prophets as well as the “big five”—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Although I’ve skimmed the Prophets before in Sunday School and the occasional Bible study, until recently, I can’t think of a single time that I voluntarily subjected myself to such forbidding (and foreboding) reading. Maybe it’s because I’m on the downhill slope of my lifespan, or perhaps the events in the world have an apocalyptic spin, but as I’ve been reading this time, I’ve been very attentive to the warnings and predictions made by these spokesmen for God.

In addition to reading the prophets, I’ve also been re-reading the Left Behind series by Tim LeHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. There are sixteen books in the initial series, beginning with Left Behind and concluding with Kingdom Come. I read all sixteen books years ago, and although the first couple of books are compelling, the remaining books wore me out. I found myself skimming the Biblical references to get to the “action.” I’m paying attention this time.

If you’re unfamiliar with the LeHaye and Jenkins books, the authors’ intent, in my view, was to show casual readers of the Bible how the Book of Revelation could happen, using a literal approach to scripture. (Side note: One of my church-going relatives refused to read the Left Behind books because, in her words, “the word ‘rapture’ is not in the Bible.” I was tempted to remind her that since the Bible was written in Greek, Hebrew, etc., it was unlikely that few, if any, of the words she knows are in the King James Bible.) The authors did not make any claims to having any supernatural knowledge about how or when Armageddon would begin. In fact, they give credit for the idea to filmmaker Russell Doughten, who directed the Thief in the Night series, four feature-length films in the ‘70s and ‘80s about the Rapture and the Second Coming. There are numerous interviews with both LeHaye and Jenkins that shed much more light on why and how and for whom they wrote their series.

But let’s get back to the prophets. Lest you be tempted to skip over the prophetic passages in the Bible, you’ll be doing a lot of skipping—a 2017 Campus Ministry International publication, citing John Ankerberg’s Handbook on Biblical Evidences, gives the facts:

  • There are more than six hundred direct references in the Bible to “prophecy” and “prophets.”
  • Approximately 28% of the entire Bible contains prophetic material, some of which has already come true while some of has yet to be fulfilled.
  • Only four of the 66 books of the Bible are without prophecy (Ruth, Song of Solomon, Philemon, 3 John).
  • 6,641 verses, or 28.5%, of the Old Testament, contains prophetic material.
  • 1,711 verses, or 21.5% of the New Testament, contains prophetic material.
  • In total, there are 31,124 verses in the Bible. Out of these 8,352 contain prophetic material.

That’s a lot of prophecy! But what does it tell us? It tells me that, even though God has been disappointed in His human creations over and over again, He loves us so much that He has sent prophets and writers and apostles pastors and His Son to encourage us, as my Daddy would say, “to straighten up and fly right.” Are the prophets repetetive? Yes, because apparently, most of us aren’t paying much attention and we’re slow learners.

If you’re reading this essay expecting me to draw the parallels between Biblical prophecy and what’s going on in the world today, you’re going to be disappointed. First of all, I am even less than an amateur when it comes to eschatology (the fancy name for the branch of theology concerned with the end times). And second, I’d get it wrong. Everyone has an opinion about the meanings of Biblical prophecies, and we all know that opinions are like…you can Google the rest of the quote if you’re not familiar with it.

Today, what I’d like for you to take away from your reading is that it’s time for us to start paying more attention, not just to politics and who’s right and who’s wrong, but to the truths that are found in the Bible. I’m not saying that Armageddon is imminent. In Matthew 24:36 (NLT) Jesus tells us that “No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.” Do the wars, plagues, and famines point toward the Second Coming? Who knows? If you want some Biblical indicators, here are a few that I’d watch for:

  • The temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt.
  • Believers will be taken up to Heaven in the blink of an eye and non-believers will be left on earth to face the Tribulation.
  • The Anti-Christ will show up (and no, it’s not Obama).

Some of us baby-boomers remember the 1969 song, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” written and recorded by Larry Norman. The song is over 50 years old, but the message is still timely.

Life was filled with guns and war

And everyone got trampled on the floor,

I wish we’d all been ready.

Children died the days grew cold,

A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold,
I wish we’d all been ready.

There’s no time to change your mind.
The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.
A man and wife asleep in bed,
She hears a noise and turns her head,
He’s gone,
I wish we’d all been ready.

Two men walking up a hill,
One disappears and one’s left standing still,
I wish we’d all been ready.

There’s no time to change your mind,
How could you have been so blind?
The Father spoke, the demons dined,
The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.

The bottom line is this: we don’t know how much time we’ve got. Are you ready?


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