Today, the warning sirens of impending attack blare through Tel Aviv for the first time since the Gulf War of the 1990's. The Israeli Defense Force warns:
Right on cue, the prophecy buffs come out to proclaim how every news story fits into the pages of obscure, hard to understand prophetic books. "Is this setting the stage for Ezekiel 38? This is clearly the attack that Amos was talking about..."
I love finding people who have passion for the Word of God. When I'm around folks that study the depths of the bible to find the gems God has provided for His children, I get hungry for more.
But every time war breaks out in the Middle East, I fear prophecy "experts" drag the bible through the mud with their "guesses" about what it all means.
Why did God give us prophecy? Because He wants us to watch the news and play "name that verse?"
Prophecy Authenticates God's Message
Only the God who is outside of time, in control of all things, can write the future with 100% accuracy. God has never made a prediction that hasn't come true.
When you show people the details of the life of Jesus, or the nation of Israel - written sometimes hundreds of years before they actually occurred - you show that God's Word can be trusted.
Then, when you present the Gospel, your message can't be easily dismissed. The scoffer can no longer say - with intellectual honesty, at least - that the book you claim as your authority cannot be trusted.
So, what's wrong with seeking to frame current events into particular verses of the bible?
As present events unfold, prophecy "experts" are making predictions about how it will all play out. When those predictions don't come true exactly as the "experts" predicted, it gives someone a reason to doubt the credibility of God's Word.
Yes, things will occur exactly as God says they will. Does that mean you understand how it all plays out, and how current events fit into that puzzle? What if you're wrong?
How do you use prophecy, then? Evangelist Tony Miano provides a great example in the clip below:
In this clip, Tony asks, "Do you believe the Word of God is true?" After discussing their skepticism, Tony asks them some basic questions about the bible (to show these guys how little they know). He asks questions like:
What's the first book of the bible?
There's a story of a global flood in the bible. A man allegedly built an ark. Who was that?
What are the 2 main divisions (sections) in the bible?
Who's the main character in the 4 Gospels?
The point was not to embarrass these men, but to prepare their hearts by showing them they really didn't know what was in the bible.
Then, Tony opens the bible, and says, "I want you to tell me who this is about."
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
Who's that? Of course, it's Jesus. Tony goes on to explain why God gave us prophecy:
"We all have fingerprints. Each of us has fingerprints that are unique. The Word of God has a fingerprint that makes it distinct from every other religious text on the Earth, and it's prophecy.
"What I just read to you, which you both identified as talking about Jesus, was written more than 700 years before He was born. What do you think about that?"
In a matter of less than 2 minutes, prophecy had done its job. These guys thought differently about the credibility of the bible.
Now, Tony could say, "Let me show you some other cool prophecies. Have you seen what's going on in the news about Israel? Well, that's talked about in these verses, which say this is going to happen next."
Imagine what would happen if those guys go home and watch the news unfold differently. Would they take the bible seriously?
Instead, recognizing that prophecy had completed its job, Tony used prophecy rightly - to springboard to preaching the Gospel.
Prophecy is the car that drives you to your destination - the Gospel. If you spend your life admiring the car, learning everything about every piston and engine spec and spark plug, you'll never truly experience the abundant life God has waiting for you.
Is it wrong to spend countless hours studying prophecy? It depends. Does prophecy lead you to the news, to work on fitting every current event into your "prophecy puzzle?" Or does prophecy strengthen your faith in God's Word and drive you at warp speed toward Jesus?
More importantly, biblical prophecy warns that dark days are ahead. Where do you find your comfort - in prophecy, or in the God who holds all things together?
Your turn: what verses or parts of the bible strengthen your faith the most? Let me know in the comments below.