This is the sixth part in the Beyond Today Bible study series: End-Time Prophecy 101. As we look ahead to the coming of Christ we watch and strive to discern the times. We don’t want to be caught unaware. But a balanced approach will also understand there will be long hours of waiting leading up to His appearance.
[Darris McNeely] So I’ll just let you remain in your seats. You’re all primed and ready to go, and if you’ll bow your heads, I’ll ask God’s blessing on this study this evening. Father in Heaven, our great God, we thank You. We come to You and praise Your name through Christ as our Savior, look to You very gratefully, Father, for our calling, for the blessings that You’ve given to us, the unique role that we have as firstfruits, and we are grateful, Father, for all of that, for the guide, the anchor in this day of life that Your Word gives to us. So we gather tonight, we ask for Your blessing on the study, on what is said, the hearing, and certainly be with all who will view this at a later time, we pray that they might be edified and instructed in Your Word and convicted to a deeper commitment, and to Your Word and Your way of life, and also encouraged to be an example in this world as well. So, Father, guide this study. We commit it into Your hands, and we pray in Christ’s holy name, amen.
We just completed our series on the 10 Commandments, and now we’re beginning a series of…there’ll be a short series, a continuation of one we had had about a year or more ago that was about Bible prophecy. We called that Bible Prophecy 101, and this is a continuation of Bible Prophecy 101. We decided not to kick it up to a graduate level. I will keep it at that, and it’ll just kinda be tacked on to that, and so we will be doing about three studies over the next few weeks during the midsummer period, and then we will begin another series after that. We’ll talk about that at a later time. Tonight, what I would like to begin with you and have a study in is a very interesting one, I think, I’ve thought about it a lot over the years, and probably 16 years ago, I started looking at this particular topic and I know I talked about it then, and so I’m bringing it forward, revising it a bit for us today. But it’s a look at where we are in God’s prophetic plan of salvation. Notice how I phrase this. Where are we in God’s prophetic plan of salvation?
As we always talk about prophecy, we want to place it into a proper context of God’s overall purpose of bringing many sons to glory and salvation. Prophecy is a part of God’s plan and purpose as revealed in the Bible. It is a very important part of the Bible. There’s a great deal of prophecy in the Bible. Sometimes we focus on certain parts of prophecy to the exclusion of others, and sometimes we also will elevate prophecy beyond other parts of the Bible, such as doctrine perhaps, or Christian living. Christian living and doctrine and prophecy are three great, large sections that divide the Bible, and they’re all important. But if we like prophecy and if we want to know the answers to certain prophetic questions, we may tend to focus more on that to the exclusion of others, and that’s not always spiritually helpful or healthy to do so.
So I’ve deliberately set this as where are we in the prophetic plan of salvation? Often the question will come to us, where are we in Bible prophecy? How much time might be left before Christ returns? And that’s an honest question, and there’s nothing wrong with that. To even ask the question puts us in the line of some of the great men of the Bible, men and women of the Bible. In the book of Daniel 12 in verse 8, Daniel after having all the visions, the dreams and the revelations given to him, in Daniel 12:8 Daniel 12:8And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?
American King James Version×, he says, “What shall be the end of these things?” What’s gonna be the end? And God’s basic answer is, “Seal it all up, Daniel, and it’ll be opened up at the time of the end. Go your way. You’re gonna sleep in the dust of the ground. You’ll not know it all.” And he knew a lot. He had some fantastic revelations.
Christ’s disciples were sitting with Him on the very Mount of Olives, and they said to him one day, in Matthew 24, where it’s recorded, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” They thought it would happen then. They wanted to know when and how to look for it. So if we ask the question today, it’s an honest question, and it follows in the line of several good people within the Scriptures. If we look at today’s world, 2016, there is a lot to think about. We are seeing what I believe to be a hinge of history or a critical, epical turning point in world affairs.
I thought about this for many, many years, and as I’ve kept up with what’s going on in the world, watched the world events and studied and taught Bible prophecy, I’ve thought about this. And other historians have even talked about that particular idea, the idea that right at this moment, meaning not just 2016, but let’s say this period of the world history in which we’re living, is a period of great change. We have lived through a lot. We have seen the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992, for instance, just to pick one, a great world empire that came crashing down, and it left the United States the sole superpower in the world. Prior to that, there was something called the Cold War, and this Cold War between those two great superpowers in the aftermath of World War II.
But since ‘92, America has been essentially the sole superpower, and yet in recent years, we have seen a relative decline, many aspects of American influence, American power and its role, its strategic position within the world while still yet remaining the single greatest power militarily and economically presently in the world, and yet everyone seems to recognize that there are things changing about America, within America and its role in the world. We are seeing the Middle East in a period of turmoil that is unprecedented at least certainly in our lifetime and threatening to reshape the Middle East in a way that has not been done for a 100 years, which is, in one sense, a brief blip on the prophetic radar screen, but still it is, in the light of other Bible prophecies, something that is of great note.
We are seeing a moral, cultural shift in not just America, but the world that is increasingly leading it away from God. And when we note certain Scriptures and warnings and statements by Jesus, such as, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” And writing by Paul, 1 Timothy 3, where he talks about the world being…men growing worse and waxing more evil in the time of the end. We take note of that as we look at our time and our place. And so there’s a great deal taking place, and of course, we get a bit caught up in even our own American politics, and we have questions and concerns about that, and we look at a prospect of a nuclear North Korea, a nuclear Iran, or an ISIS that is on the rise, and we asked a lot of questions and we wonder about a lot of things right now because of what is taking place. So it is a very interesting and important and I do think a very pivotal moment in world history as we build towards certain prophetic events that we read from the Bible will take place.
You know, the Bible does contain a lot of prophecy. I think we understand that. Sometimes we will say that one-third of the Bible is prophecy, 90% of which has not been fulfilled, I think that’s the phrase that we have used in the past. But if we look at a lot of the parts of prophecy in the Bible, we can see a number of things. We ought to just quickly look at it. The Bible, especially the Old Testament, contains a lot of prophecies about Christ’s first coming, all of which have been fulfilled, because He came, all right? The fact that He even named the town where He would be born. But we can, in a sense, check those off; they’ve been fulfilled.
You read the book of Daniel. Daniel had a lot of prophecies about Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, and many of those have been fulfilled, and yet also Daniel pointed into the time of the end, especially in Daniel 7 and Daniel 9, Daniel 11 and even Daniel 12, toward prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled. But a lot of Daniel’s prophecies about Greece and Persia especially and Babylon were fulfilled. He also had a prophecy that is called the 70 Weeks prophecy, and that has at least has been partially fulfilled. There are elements of that yet to be fulfilled. Daniel talked about the abomination of desolation in two locations in his book. Christ even quoted it in Matthew 24:15 Matthew 24:15When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand:)
American King James Version×, and He said, “When you see it,” and that’s a dual prophecy. There is something that happened in the second century BC in Jerusalem, and as Jesus pointed to it, there is an end time fulfillment of this as well. And so there’s a duality there.
There are prophecies obviously of Christ’s second coming that are yet to be fulfilled. There’s the appearance of two witnesses that Revelation 11 talks about that have yet to be fulfilled, and that is a very specific prophecy. I have one of our members from Indianapolis here this week that is at the class, and we were talking…she’s staying in our home, and she was talking the other day. I have to tell the story that she related to me because she had a very good friend from her high school years she went to a reunion with sometime back. And this other individual is very religious person, and they got to talking about the Bible, and this person believes that Christ is going to return, and she said to Linda, she said, “Why, Christ could even come today. Look how beautiful it is outside, big, blue skies and billowy clouds. Christ could even come back today.” To which Linda, being a prophecy student said, “Well, no, He’s not.” And she said, “Well, why not?” “Well, because the two witnesses haven’t lain dead in the streets of Jerusalem for three and a half days. So He’s not going to come back today.” Now, how’s that for putting A and B together, coming up with C? The two witnesses is a very specific prophecy. Two individuals, God’s witnesses, witnessing against the Beast. They’re killed. They do lay in the streets of that city for three and a half days and then they come back to life. That hasn’t happened yet, all right?
Revelation 13 talks about the appearance of a figure, a political figure called the Beast and a religious figure called the False Prophet. They haven’t come on the scene yet. Revelation 17 has a very specific event where ten kings give their power for an hour to an entity, this Beast power. That hasn’t happened yet. That’s another very specific prophecy. And, you know, there are other prophecies that even go beyond the end time events that we look toward, that we cannot forget and should not forget. There’s a prophecy that says that the saints will rule with Jesus for a thousand years in Revelation 20. One thousand years. Obviously, that hasn’t happened yet.
There’s another prophecy called the Great White Throne Judgment period that shows that after that thousand-year period plus for another period of time, that there will be another time of resurrection of the dead, small and great. Obviously, that hasn’t happened yet. That prophecy is over a thousand years in the future. Think about that. We don’t know how many more years before Christ returns; only the Father knows that. But we do know that here’s one as well over a thousand years in the future. So we can’t forget that one as well. And then there’s the new heavens and the new earth beyond that.
These are all prophecies of the Scriptures, a number of which are yet to be fulfilled. If you look at some of these big ticket items in prophecy, they deal with salvation, they deal with the resurrection and the salvation of a group of people called the firstfruits. We just kept the day of Pentecost, and we’re reminded of the important key role of the firstfruits in the plan of God. And then as I mentioned with the Great White Throne Judgment, the billions of people who have lived and never known the truth will have their opportunity, their first opportunity for salvation. And so that’s the bulk of mankind. And so these prophecies deal not just with certain timelines or figures and days, and months, and weeks, and all, but they deal with salvation, the salvation of mankind, and we don’t want to forget that as we look to understand these eternal truths of the Bible and the future of mankind and the coming Kingdom of God. We’ve got to be sure that we keep our focus balanced when it comes to prophecy and understanding what is happening.
Now, we want to do all of this in the context of the entire Bible and what the Bible tells us about the history of mankind on this earth, and God’s plan of salvation, and how all of this works and plays out if you look at the timeline and look at the Bible. There’s some interesting things that we can draw from it. I want to take a moment and just draw a few things I guess on the board to bring that out a little bit. If you were to construct a crude timeline up here, let’s put Creation down here, all right? And there’s the beginning point of what we read with the creation of Adam and Eve, Genesis 1, verses 26 and 27. And, you know, the story begins to unfold in the book of Genesis, but if you look at how God’s plan unfolds, there’s a arc or a line of history that is moving. But if we look to the next big event after Creation, we would have to say that probably we could make a case that there’s the Flood, time of Noah. You know how long that is? Roughly, with our understanding, about 1,600 years from the time of Creation to the Flood, if we put it all together in a proper way, 1,600 years to another kind of a peak of events. Now, we have individuals named and scanty knowledge, at least from the Bible about what’s taking place in that period of time. You got Cain and Abel, you got other names of individuals, but then you have a flood, and as we know, there’s roughly 100 years in there of Noah preparing and preaching, and then the Flood comes and goes, and, you know, you’ve got Babel and you’ve got the post-Flood world.
From the time of the Flood to the birth of Abraham, we come, let’s say, to Genesis 12:1 Genesis 12:1Now the LORD had said to Abram, Get you out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you:
American King James Version×, we’ve got another 325 years, more than 3 centuries of time that goes on in there, and we don’t have a lot of information about them that life is going on, but there’s another peak of a biblical event. And Abraham lives 175 years during that period, and then we’re told that he dies, and of course, he has, you know, his story and his sons and his family, and all that story progresses along through Genesis. We come ahead beyond Isaac and Jacob. We come down to Israel going into Egypt, just to pick another key event. Israel is in Egypt after they go down there in the time beyond Joseph for 239 years. They languished in Egypt, from Joseph to the time of Moses, 239 years. Over two centuries takes place.
The Exodus is in the year 1483, roughly if we… According to our best chronology that we have, 1483 BC is the year of the Exodus. So you see we’ve moved along in time, but there’s big gaps of time in between certain key peak events. Now, I’m omitting a lot other matters and certainly there is a world history that parallels this that we don’t even have in the Bible. I’m not putting that up there. Just looking at some of the key thoughts of the Bible to make a point here. Israel went into the land and took it over, the time of Joshua, Judges, the Kings. And then after a time, Israel in the land lasted about 600 years from the time of their entry into the land. Six centuries until they were taken captive. You find the fall of Judah right here, the last of the tribes in Jerusalem, about 605 BC, and they go to Babylon. From this time until the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, there’s another 500 years roughly, approximately, 5 centuries.
Now there’s history going on. Daniel’s prophecy tells us a lot about that, but if you look at this and since, you know, you’ve got about 30 years for the life of Christ, and 32 years I should say for His life, and then the book of Acts talks about a 30-year period here that we have as a record of the Church from the book of Acts, and then in a sense, the Bible comes to a close, the revealed Word of God comes to a close. History doesn’t end, and we come down to our time where we are today, and we’re roughly 2,000 years, 2 millennia. What’s happened in the meantime? Well, there’s been a lot that happening in the world, obviously. But if you look at how the Bible shows us God and His plan of salvation works out, there are peak events, the Flood, the Exodus, fall of Judah and complete fall of Israel, birth of Christ, and we can put other time events in here as well that take place, but if you look at this, it’s instructive. There’s a few peaks and there’s a lot of flat line. We can call those plateaus.
Life is going on, people are living, history’s being made, but in terms of God’s purpose and plan of salvation, there’s a lot of, not empty time, but there’s just a lot of time for people to be living. The Church never dies during this period. Christ said, “I will be with you until the end of the age.” There’s always a remnant of God’s people, the Church. There was a remnant in Jerusalem 70 years after the fall of Judah that did go back and preserved it until the time of Christ. You’ve got Israel and Jerusalem here, you’ve got patriarchs and Israelites down in Egypt, and then Moses, God raises up somebody through, called Moses out of a family that bears a level of righteousness by which He can choose a man called Moses at a time when Israel’s in slavery and forgotten a lot, and who knows what else is going on in terms of their absorbing Egyptian culture there. Think about the period in between these peaks. Now, we could put down here that, you know, we could…the terminus point that we might be wanting to come down to, we’d have, let me put today right here, and then out over here at the very end, let’s just say Christ returns, second coming, and that’s out ahead of us, okay?
This is today, and somewhere out here ahead of us is this peak event, and we know that there are certain events that have to take place in between for that to happen, and then there’s still much to happen beyond that, that the Bible tells about. We find ourselves here. We look back through all of that, and we are enriched by what we know by God’s Word, by the prophecies, by the teaching, by the examples of righteous people, men and women who’ve gone before. But if we’re to look at the Bible story in that way, there’s an important lesson, and that lesson is that there’s a lot of time in between the key events. And as we can see here where we are right now, we might as well say that there’s some time ahead of us. How much? I don’t know. Where are we in God’s plan of salvation? Well, we’ve come a long way from Creation. We’ve come a long way from the time of Abraham, and certainly two millennia from the time of Christ.
God’s plan is always being worked out. God is always working among nations, among individuals, to varying degrees along this timeline. You know, Noah found grace, as it seems, the only one at that point in time. He was the only one in a very wicked world. Abraham is the one singled out by God from Mesopotamia to be the one that through whom He gives the promises and makes a covenant through his progeny. And, you know, Christ is born into a good family at a time in Judea when there is politically and economically and culturally just a mix of problems just among the Jews. And yet there’s a man named Joseph and a woman named Mary who are good people to provide a natural, physical home for the birth of the Son of God, just as along the way we will read the stories of any number of individuals.
One of them that I like to focus on, and I was going to give a sermon on Pentecost and changed my mind at the last minute, is that of Ruth. When we look somewhere in here during the time of the Judges and the story of a woman named Ruth, that little four-chapter book back there that is set at the time of the Judges. And if there’s one book maybe that can tell us how life goes on in these flat plateau periods and give us a lesson today, it’s Ruth, because it’s really a story about life going on. You’ve got, if I can do it here very quickly, you’ve got a man, a Benjamite, I believe, of a tribe living in Bethlehem. There’s an economic downturn and he and his wife Naomi decide to leave Bethlehem and they go to Moab of all places. Moab was probably the worst place that their neighbors would have ever thought that these two Israelites would’ve gone. “Moab! You’re going to Moab?” It’s almost like, you know, it’s like somebody from Tennessee back in 1938 saying, “I’m going to Detroit because that’s where work is.” And a lot of people did, and, “You’re going up there where those Yankees are?” “Well, I got to.”
Well, he did, and his family went with him and his sons married Moabite women, and then all the men die, and there’s Naomi and Orpah and Ruth left. And they start out, and Ruth’s the only one who says, “I’ll go with you back to your home.” They migrate back. They go back, you know, like people say, “I’m going back home.” And they go back home, and Ruth goes with her. And Ruth and Naomi walked into the village of Bethlehem about the time of the early barley harvest, and it is a very small village. Life is going on in the time of the Judges when there’s a lot of anarchy that you read about in the book of Judges, and every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Politically, the leadership was very weak and there were problems, but even in the worst times, there are always people who are living their lives righteously, going about their business and they don’t get caught up in that. And there is such a man there named Boaz who is doing his job. He’s a fairly well-to-do individual. He’s got a field and he obeys the law by which he leaves the corners of his field so the poor can come and glean. And Ruth goes there and gleans, and those two meet, and Boaz finds out that he can redeem her because he’s kin, and he decides, “I’m gonna do it,” which is a point of obedience. Because as you know the story, the one who’s actually closer, there was another man, he decided not to do it because it would have interrupted his line of succession in his own family.
And so Boaz got the opportunity to take Ruth and to keep the line going, which was a very, very important matter to God and to the stability of the nation. And the point is, there’s always people getting up every morning, going to work, living well and living righteously. There’s always a remnant, no matter how bad things get in the world, no matter how bad things might get even for the church, there’s always a remnant. And there’s always a lesson there for us that life goes on and has to be lived, and we have to be about our Father’s business, no matter where we might find ourselves along this timeline. Ruth found herself back here with Naomi, and you know how the story ended: Ruth marries Boaz and she figures into the actual lineage of Jesus Christ. God works in mysterious ways. And so a Moabite descended from an incestuous relationship and a tribe of people that God said, “You don’t go near them,” one of them comes into the line of the mother of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness, mercy, God’s infinite compassion played out in that story. But as people who are living righteously no matter what’s going on, and it gives you and I a lesson.
In Luke 19, Christ was about to enter Jerusalem. Luke 19. And this was His last week of life. And in verse 11, “As they heard these things, He spoke another parable because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the Kingdom of God would appear immediately.” They thought, “It’s gonna be here. This is it. Our Messiah, our rabbi, our teacher who’s done all these miracles and all these great teachings and had all these people following Him, He’s going to restore the Kingdom to Israel.” And Christ knew that’s what they were thinking as they came into Jerusalem prior to the Passover season, and in His mind, He says, “I’d better tell them something.” And so He gives a parable, the parable of the rich nobleman who went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So He called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and He said to them, “Do business ‘til I come.” Do business ‘til I come. Jesus knew that the Kingdom… He was not going to establish the Kingdom and restore the Davidic line at that time. He knew that it was down the road a bit. And so He gave them a parable. And there are many important lessons from the parable, but one at the very beginning is this, and it fits our study tonight, “Do business ‘til I come.” Put another way, we must be about our Father’s business. We must be living righteously, godly lives no matter how much time remains until He comes.
That’s one of the answers to the question, where are we in God’s prophetic plan of salvation? Well, you know, we’re here. Do business ‘til He comes. And tomorrow we’ll incrementally move a little bit closer. This time next year when we’re asking the same question regardless of who’s president of the United States, we’ll just… we’ll have moved another millimeter maybe. The same answer is, “Do business until I come.”
Keep an eye on the world, watch what’s going on around us, observe how other people are living. I think Boaz back here at the time of Ruth, I think Boaz watched his world, as remote and ancient as we look at it as it was—of course, it wasn’t ancient to him—they were living their lives. I always like to imagine, you know, people didn’t get up in the ancient world and beyond every morning and say, “Wow, good to be living in 33 BC. Good to be living here in the ancient world.” It wasn’t ancient to them. It was. It was their reality. It was their life just as ours is today, and if time would go on another millennia, somebody may look back on our time and say, “Really? They burned fossil fuels, or did this or did that? How arcane, how ancient.” But we don’t get up… we think, “Ah, we are in a sophisticated modern global world,” and we are by comparison.
But Boaz looked around and he watched his world and he said, “There’s a God who lives.” One of the great lines—there’s several great lines in Ruth—but Boaz said, “As the Lord lives.” He’s going do what he had to do and be honorable to Ruth, as the Lord lives. He knew there was a God who lived and who watched his movements, and it didn’t really matter what the village elders at the gate did, or what they were doing up the road about 10 miles in Jerusalem. He didn’t really care, except they weren’t up there in Jerusalem at that time because David hadn’t yet come on. But the capitals of the other tribal associations, he didn’t really care because he knew there was a God who lived. And in that moment, he was going to be honorable to this woman, Ruth, and obey God’s law, which is what we should do as we live our lives. What does it mean to “do business ‘til I come?” Well, we get a lot of clues by looking at the rest of the Bible beyond prophecy times.
Let’s take just the wisdom literature of the Bible. Let’s take a couple of books for a moment. Book of Proverbs. We love Proverbs. It’s good to read the Proverbs, lot of wisdom in Proverbs. There’s a lot of practical wisdom for everyday living, to tell us how to relate to each other, how to relate to God, how to look to God, how to fear God. Great deal of practical wisdom, and just how to get along every day in life. If we continually read the Proverbs, we’ll be better for that. You know, when you read the Proverbs, you don’t read about the Beast and the False Prophet. Ever thought about that? You don’t read about ten kings or a great fiery dragon. There’s no rivers of blood. There’s not a 200 million person army in the book of Proverbs. There’s just a lot of practical wisdom about how to live our life in these plateaus up here and to go along. We get tips on child rearing. We get tips on the power of gossip and why we should avoid it. We have admonitions against laziness in the Proverbs, and so on and so on. You know how it goes out.
Now I admit, the book of Revelation would make a far more interesting movie when you read about the dragons, or the dragon, and you read about these images and all of this movement, and it’s the basis of a great story that’s sometimes far more interesting than the book of Proverbs, but understand this: God put both of the books in the Bible. He put Proverbs and He put the book of Revelation. As we look ahead to the coming of Christ, we want to watch and we want to discern the times in which we live. We don’t want to be caught unaware. We know the admonition that Christ, the day of the Lord can come as a thief in the night. But a balance to understanding will also remind us that there are very long hours of boredom. I don’t know any other way to put it, of life leading up to, in our case, this time. I mean, we’ve got to get up tomorrow and go to work. We’ve got to pay the bills. We’ve got to make sure we make the rent or the mortgage payment by the end of this month. We got a car payment, we’ve got to make a car payment. Credit card bills are going to come due, and we’ve got to do a lot of things to get on with our life.
We planted our gardens. For many of you, you’ll probably start this. I was talking with one of you here tonight and things are looking pretty good right now. Tomatoes are coming on, there’s beans coming out. Families are being raised. I was just noticing the families at our meal here before the study tonight and the babies and the parents with their kids, small kids, and the grandparents here, and just the multiple generations in this group right here. And it was just good to look at and to see that as it is in any group of people, and you see the generations. Life goes on and it will go on, and there’s faith.
There’s another book of wisdom called Ecclesiastes that tells us, like Proverbs, how to deal with these long hours in between as we wait for the unfolding of God’s great plan of salvation. If you were to take a few of the verses out of the book of Ecclesiastes that Solomon wrote, you see that you have a lot of reflections about life and how to live that life. Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books. One day I hope I might get an opportunity maybe to teach it at ABC. I never had that, so a few years ago, one of the former instructor who didn’t like to teach Ecclesiastes said, “Well, you come down and you teach it.” I never did make that connection, didn’t come down to do it, but I try to read through it at least once a year. It’s a book put together by Solomon. I tend to look at the book as Solomon’s meditations, almost like Solomon’s journal about his life, and it’s a record of one man’s spiritual journey that we have for us. And he had a lifelong quest for learning. We see how he dealt with the highs and the lows, the boredom and the excitement of his life. And in the end, we see him coming back to the purpose of his life and concluding with a very strong positive affirmation about God and His way of life, to keep God’s commandments. I like to look at that book as Solomon kind of sitting in his rocking chair on his front porch and looking at life and appreciating the beauty of life and all that it has to offer. And it’s a spiritual journey, which means it’s not a straight road. There’s a lot of curves in the story of Ecclesiastes, and there is when you look at the story of Solomon’s life, and he reflects that in what he writes.
If you turn to Ecclesiastes, we’ll just look at a few verses very quickly here because it helps us to have a philosophy, again, as to how to deal with all these periods before a peak event or a major prophetic time, to make sure that we’re ready when it does come, if it comes in our lifetime. He said in verse 4 of chapter 1, “One generation passes away and another generation comes, but the earth abides forever. The sun also rises and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose. The wind goes to the south, turns toward the north, the wind whirls about continually and comes again on its circuit.” He’s describing a lot in this very poetic approach to so many parts of this world and the planet. He talks about himself and being the preacher in verse 12, “The king over Israel and Jerusalem, that he set his heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all that is done under heaven. This burdensome task God has given to the sons of man, by which they may be exercised.” He has at times a cynical, sometimes jaded look toward life. It’s very honest, it’s very raw, it’s very real as you go through the book. He said, “I’ve seen the works done under the sun, and indeed all is vanity and a grasping for the wind. What’s crooked cannot be made straight.” There are some things about politics and government and human nature he saw that could not be straightened out humanly.
And he said, “What’s lacking cannot be numbered. I communed in my heart saying, ‘Look, I’ve attained greatness and I’ve gained more wisdom than all before me in Jerusalem. My heart’s understood great wisdom and knowledge, and I set my heart to know wisdom, to know madness and folly, and I understood that this is also a grasping for the wind.’” No matter how much you read, observed, discussed, learned, he said it was like grasping for wind. You still couldn’t get a complete understanding of it all, and much understanding, he said, “Increasing knowledge increases sorrow” in verse 18.
He goes on chapter 3, verse 4 to talk about what he did. He built houses, he planted vineyards. Verse 5, he says, “I made gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of trees and fruits in them. I made myself water pools.” So he had fountain features going through his land, and he had great possessions. Perfect description of Solomon and what he had. He was able to amass a sizable fortune, power and influence to achieve what was a golden age in the history and the story of Israel. And then verse 11, he said, “I looked at it all and the labor, and it was all vanity and grasping for wind. There was no profit under the sun.”
He didn’t hold anything back from himself. And he goes on to describe so much. In chapter 3, that very famous section, “To everything, every time there is a season under the earth.” A great song was written about that back in the ’60s. Ecclesiastes 3, he talks about the seasons of life. “There’s a time to live, there’s a time to die, a time to love, a time to hate,” the cycles and the seasons of our life and of our human nature. And through it all, you get an overriding sense as you read the book that it’s very clear. Solomon is saying enjoy your life as God intends. Enjoy your work, enjoy your money, your possessions. Enjoy your wife and your family. Enjoy all of your physical things, but use them profitably and well for an eternity of service knowing that there is a Lord who lives, and there is a God of judgment.
That, when it’s all said and done, is the way to understand Solomon’s teaching. It’s a book for the long plateaus of life. It’s a book for today, as we seek to find out and seek to understand and how to relate to our world today and live within that world, with all of its turmoil and uncertainty, with the fears that are there, and yet to keep our eyes on God, His plan, His purpose, His way of life and know that it works, and live it, and to know that God will bless, and to live our life with that knowledge. Remember, Solomon comes to the end of the book and he says, “This is the whole duty of man: to fear God and keep His commandments.” After all of his musings, wonderings, amassing and everything that he went through, that is his conclusion.
It’s a book for the plateaus of life. It’s a book to help us place ourselves in the balanced proper context of God’s plan of salvation. It can promote a balance in our life, where instead of you and I rushing from one prophetic story or instance or crisis to another, trying to figure it out, worrying, doubting, being caught up, being disappointed. The beginning of the Seventh-day Adventist Church came out of a period known in history as the Great Disappointment because a man named William Miller predicted the return of Christ twice and it didn’t happen. Great disappointment. It was the origins of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
An unbalanced view of prophecy can create disappointment, doubt, and discouragement in life, and even an abandonment of faith. That is not right, and that is not what we should be doing. We should not be living our life going from one crisis to the other. We should keep our eyes on the horizon of life, discerning the times, looking at this world, while the other eye guides the use of our hands in crafting a godly life with a proper perspective. Crafting a godly life, preparing for the future, and yet keeping an eye on the world and our times and coming to discern them.
Years ago I read a quote. I’ve seen it attributed to a number of different people, but it’s a good quote regardless. “If I knew that the Lord was returning tomorrow, I would plant a tree today.” If we could know—and I don’t know and you don’t know—but if you could know, and if I would know, the quote goes, I’d still plant a tree. The planting of a tree is one of the greatest statements of hope and faith that you can have. Plant a tree. Prune a tree. Keep it going. There are great lessons. Even Christ used trees in different ways to teach spiritual lessons about bearing fruit and even being patient with a tree that might not be bearing fruit for a while.
So, it’s very important. The first century Church of God that we read about in the book of Acts came to a point where they did expect Christ to appear in their lifetime and it didn’t happen. Persecution set in. Doubt, fear, heresy, all these things riddled the church, kind of just like our day and our time. And that’s why Paul wrote the book of Hebrews. And when you go through the book of Hebrews, you find statement after statement to hang on, persevere. In chapter 2 of Hebrews, verse 1, he says, “We must give the more earnest heed to the things we’ve heard lest we drift away.” In chapter 3, verse 5, he said, “Moses was faithful to his house as a servant for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, the Christ after a son of his house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” We have to hold our hope and confidence firm to the end.
In chapter 4 and verse 14, “Seeing that we have a great high priest who’s passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” Hold on to it. Tight hold, a tight grip, that’s what hold fast means. Keep a tight grip on our confession of faith. That’s what we have to do. Key to understanding the truth of the Bible, God’s plan, includes a proper understanding of prophecy and a looking for the appearing of Christ. But the key is to treat the Scriptures responsibly and not live out our lives always on the edge—looking for the apocalypse, being fearful about the world to the point where we lose our perspective. We can’t allow any of that to discourage us.
In chapter 12 of Hebrews, again, he says, in verse 2, “Look to Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith, and for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of throne of God.” Verse 3, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” All through the book of Hebrews, there’s this admonition he keeps coming back to. Don’t be worried. Don’t get discouraged. Hold fast. There is a plan that is being worked out, and we’re a part of it, and this is our life. And it is important to understand all of this in that context and especially as we are at this particular point in human history and God’s timeline of salvation.
There are events to occur, yes, before Christ returns that are monumental. Daniel 12:1 Daniel 12:1And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
American King James Version×says that, “There will be a time of trouble unlike any during this period of time.” Hard to imagine when you study history and know what times of trouble happened historically all the way back to the beginning. There’s some rough waters ahead. But do we face them with fear, trepidation? Or do we face them with confidence and with hope—because we have lived our lives by the Proverbs, with the spirit of Ecclesiastes, and all the other teaching and certainly the Spirit of God guiding us and keeping us strong, so that should these matters happen in our lifetime, we will be able to recognize them, persevere through them, not be deceived, hold to the faith, or certainly even in our own life regardless of what might happen and we age and come to the end of this existence and Christ has not returned—can we die in the faith? Will we, knowing that we have lived God’s way of life?
And we have been called as a part of a group called the firstfruits in Scripture, called now in advance of all these other prophetic events and even the prophecy about the Great White Throne, of a time of people to be brought up in a resurrection when there is no Satan, there is no worldwide deception, and they will have their opportunity for salvation in a world completely different than what you and I have been a part of. Can we live our life with that, knowing that our calling in this age, this purpose is a very important part of this prophetic plan of salvation, that there would be an elect? There would be a group of people called the firstfruits to be called now, to build character, to prepare, to do the business of Christ until He comes, to prepare to rule with Him—literally rule with Christ for a thousand years. As we develop spiritual knowledge, spiritual character, as we overcome this world, overcome ourselves, as we hold to the faith and are faithful, and we are able to keep our eyes on that city, then we are fulfilling that role and Christ will be able to use us, and we believe that. Brethren, that is why you’re called now. Our calling is a unique calling. We need to dust that off a little bit in our thinking, in our mind, and appreciate that and understand it.
There’s a reason why you and I are called today in this age, in advance of all these other prophetic times. And God will give us the grace, God will give us the strength to realize that. He will finish what He has begun in each one of us. There’s so much that we’ve got to keep our mind on at this point in time and not lose sight of, and yes, prophecy is a part of that. And what has happened, what has happened in part and what is yet to be completely fulfilled is very important because it’s a part of biblical plan. And we are living in some very, very interesting times. It’s obviously interesting from the world perspective. It’s certainly interesting because we’re living. This is our time, which bring us to that point. This is our day of salvation. This is our time. Now is our time to be faithful, to build that character, to know God, to prepare for the world to come. This is our time. I believe that. This is not by chance. This is not by just some fantasy dream that somebody came up with and created a nice little church fellowship group for us to be a part of or to continue on or to try to hold on to. No, this is the Church of God. This is the body of Jesus Christ that we have been placed into. These are the truths, the eternal truths of the God of life that we have been called and our minds have been opened to understand. The prophecy is a part of that, and understanding how this world works makes us into something that should be a group of people that do understand why America is and the role that it’s in, where it’s headed and why certain things are happening as they are because we read the Bible, and we’re grounded there.
In Romans 13, where are we in God’s prophetic plan of salvation? Let’s look at Romans 13:11 Romans 13:11And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
American King James Version×, we’re here as we’re admonished to put on Christ “and do this,” Paul writes, “knowing the time that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” That’s where we are. We’re here and it’s now, and it is time to awake out of sleep. “Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” Let that be the scripture that gives us a solid answer to that question. As we look at our world today and as we study Bible prophecy and we let that teach us about God’s eternal plan of salvation, and help us then to draw closer to our God in that way.
Well, that’s tonight’s Bible study, and appreciate all of you being here, and we will have our next study in two weeks, and I believe at that time Gary Petty will be conducting the study. And so we’ll look forward to seeing you back then. So be safe as you travel home, and I wish all of you that are watching online a good rest of your week. So goodnight, everyone.