This is the seventh part in the Beyond Today Bible study series: End-Time Prophecy 101. For some people studying prophecy is one of the most exciting aspects of their Bible study. They like to figure dates and charts of end time events based on Daniel and Revelation. They search for the typology of the Minor Prophets and the gospel message in Isaiah. They revel in discovering the former fulfillment of a passage and speculating on a future fulfillment. Others find prophecy confusing and unimportant. Join us for this study as we look at six reasons why you should include biblical prophecy as part of your personal Bible study and the impact it can have on your daily life.
[Gary Petty] Welcome everyone to the Beyond Today Wednesday night Bible study. If you will please just bow your heads, we’ll ask for God’s blessing on what we do here.
Great Father, our King, we come before you as our Father. We need You, Father, to guide us because we are little children. Spiritually, we’re just small children trying to understand the reality of who You are, who Jesus Christ is, the world You’ve created, and the purpose that You have for us in this world, Father, that’s under Satan’s rule and has been really changed from what You intended us to be and how You intended us to live. So, Father, You gave us this Book that helps guide us, direct us. And it gives us also a vision of the future, Father, and what You’re doing, what we call prophecy, when You tell us in advance what You’re going to be doing. So please guide us now through this book. Please help us to be able to understand and grow from it through Your Spirit that we may be encouraged, Father, and have faith in what You are doing and faith in what You will achieve. So we praise You, and we ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
So this is the second study in a new sort of series of studies we’re doing on Bible prophecy. The question I would like to ask tonight and answer is why study Bible prophecy? Now, for some people, that’s the easiest question to answer. They just love Bible prophecy. In fact, that’s what most of their study is, to get into the Bible, the book of Revelation, and make up charts and figure out what Hosea is saying and not only to the people then but what’s his message for us today to go through the Olivet Prophecy of Jesus Christ and the book of Daniel and connect all these things together. And that’s the center of their Bible study.
Now, other people will say, “I don’t study the Bible much as far as prophecy because I’m more interested in doctrine—basic doctrine, core doctrines, like I wonder who God is and I want to know how to live my life.” Other people say, “To me, the most important thing about studying the Bible is Christian living. It’s how to live life, how to have a happy marriage, how to raise my children.” Of course, how you answer some of these things depends on what period of life you’re in, too. But for some people, prophecy is an important part of the Bible study. For others, it’s the core of their Bible study.
Well, the truth is if we’re going to get the message God gives to us, then we have to study all these things. We need to study Christian living, because prophecy without Christian living is rather meaningless. We need to understand how to have a happy marriage. We need to understand basic core doctrine, what the Bible does teach about heaven and hell or whether we have an immortal soul. These are all important things. We need to study the Sabbath, the holy days. But we also need to study prophecy.
So why should we study prophecy? So what I’m gonna do today is I‘m gonna give you six reasons why prophecy should be part of your Bible study. I’m not saying it should be all of your Bible study. In fact, I’m not even saying it should be the majority of your Bible study. But if we understand it as part of our mix of understanding what the Bible is all about, we will find that prophecy is involved in every other subject in one form or another. So reasons why, and we’ll go through these reasons and we’re gonna go through a number of scriptures. So if you have your Bibles, you can keep up with what we go through here.
The first one, first reason why we should study Bible prophecy, prophecy reveals that God is active in human history. There was an old deist belief that God was like a watchmaker. He just made the universe, wound it up, stood back, and said, “Let’s see what happens.” And that’s not true. Now, it’s true that you and I live in a world that’s not God’s world, in terms of society. He didn’t make this world the way it is. This is a product of Satan. It’s a product of us. But what we see in prophecy is that God just didn’t let it go. He kicked Adam and Eve out of Eden then stood back and said, “You’re on your own now. I’ll show up sometime in the future.” No.
God still is involved in the midst of all these consequences, the results of what Satan does and what you and I do. He’s still carrying out His will so that history reaches its final destination to achieve what He wants without interfering with our individual will. That’s very important to understand because you can begin to look at prophecy in its basic themes. The single most important theme in all of the prophecies of the Bible starts in Genesis and goes through Revelation, which is how God is going to save humanity through the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, these different titles given to the One that God is saving humanity through. The promises made to Abraham ultimately reflect and talk about Jesus Christ.
So Jesus Christ, His first and second coming, is a theme that runs all through the Bible. We find what God was doing through the nation of Israel, a theme that runs through the Bible not only in Exodus but in the book of Romans. Paul talks about that. We see the theme of what is now God doing through the Church. You can find that prophesied in the Old Testament. And you can see those prophecies being fulfilled. And there’s future prophecies about the Church.
So you begin to find these themes of prophecy that run through everything in the Scripture. And sometimes when you study these prophetic themes, you’ll find, “Well, here’s some things that have already been fulfilled.” This gives us then concepts of how they’ll be fulfilled in future.
These principles laid out in Isaiah, Chapter 46, these are very general ideas. We’re not gonna do specific study tonight but very general study on why, especially if you’re a person who says, “Well, prophecy is not interesting to me that much,” but why it has to be part of your study at some point. Isaiah 46, verse 9, “Remember the former things of old.” Now, this is God speaking. Isaiah’s writing down what God told him to speak. “For I am God, and there is no other. I am God, there’s none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and, from ancient times, things that have not yet done, saying My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.” Declaring the future, things that haven’t happened.
Once again, God isn’t taking away the free will of all human beings. But He is making sure, as He interacts with human history, that in the end His will is going to be done, by not taking our free will. That’s why He has, in His predictive prophecy, the fact that there’s going to be a lake of fire. There will be people that will be destroyed and suffer that eternal punishment, because they will not have heeded that He is their God.
But there is primarily in the prophetic message hope—hope and encouragement that God is going to carry this out. And that breaks down into your life and my life, because God is going to fulfill certain things in our lives, certain things past this life, that we can look past death and look ahead and say, “Yes, there is a resurrection.” And resurrections. That’s one of those themes that runs all through the Old and New Testament, one of the great themes of the Scripture.
Peter talks about this in 1 Peter, Chapter 1. It’s a very interesting passage here in 1 Peter, Chapter 1. I won’t read all of it because he actually goes on to say that this should motivate us. 1 Peter 1, in verse 10, he’s talking here about what God is doing through Christ and that’s salvation, how He’s saving man from being under the rule of Satan. And he says, “Of this salvation, the prophets have inquired…” He’s talking the Old Testament prophets here. He said those prophets ask God, “What does this mean? Explain when do these things happen? How do these things happen?”
If you look through the minor prophets or even Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, they would get prophecies that apply directly to the times that were happening then, and then the prophecy would jump ahead to later times. They wanted to know what did that mean. Even Daniel was told, “I’m not gonna tell you. That’s gonna happen long after you’re dead.”
And so these prophets wanted to know, “Okay, we see where we are in this prophetic message. But You’ve given us more. When does this happen? How does it happen?” Isn’t that what the disciples asked Jesus when He took them up to the Mount of Olives, “Tell us about these the things”?
And he says this salvation, they “have inquired and searched carefully who prophesied of the grace that would come to you,” Peter says to the Church in the first century. For thousands of years, God revealed things to prophets who said, “What does that mean?” And he says, “We know what it means.” There’s prophecies that are gonna happen in the future. We don’t know exactly how they play out. We don’t know exactly how the Beast power comes into power or does certain things. We know it’s going to happen. But when we look at prophecy, much of prophecy, it’s amazing how much prophecy has already taken place in some parts, parts that would have taken place. Many times, the prophets were looking at it where all of it was out ahead of them. Very little was happening in their date and time of day.
He says, “Searching what or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when he testified before him the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow,” especially the messianic prophecies. They wanted to know these things. And Peter said they didn’t understand them. “To them, it was revealed that, not to themselves…” Now, understand what he’s saying here. To those prophets, it was revealed the message was at times not for them at all, or to them at all; it would be for them and the future, but it wasn’t to them. They were writing this down, why? “But to us, they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you, to those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things which angels desired to look into.” That’s a remarkable couple of sentences there.
And he says they wanted to know what this meant, what they were writing down, and they did not know. And he says, “You know.” All the prophecies about Christ’s first coming have already been fulfilled. All the prophecies about His death and resurrection have already been fulfilled. Isaiah, what he wrote, Isaiah 52 and 53 about the suffering servant, did not fully understand what that meant. We do. We actually do. And this is what Peter is saying. They wondered, we know.
Now, there’s a whole set of prophecies about His second coming. We wonder, don’t we? We don’t know how all that plays out. But what this does teach us, God’s actually carrying out in this chaos, in this mess, in this mayhem that we’ve created and that Satan has created, God reveals that He is involved in what’s going on. He lets us suffer the consequences and works it out for our good anyways, if we just simply repent. He works it out for the good of humanity in spite of ourselves.
So that’s the first reason we should study Bible prophecy, because when you study prophecy, you see that it reveals that God is active in human history. He hasn’t abandoned humanity in this mess. He’s just there carrying out what He’s going to do in spite all the other things that are going on.
Second reason, prophecy then… If you’re picking up the Bible for the first time and you start reading this prophecy, you start understanding these prophecies, you start understanding the history of the Bible. Prophecy encourages people to repent and turn to God. Every prophetic message that you find in the Bible where God says He’s going to punish a people or punish a person, you will see that involved in that prophecy is a call to repent. It’s what made Jonah so angry, “Wait a minute, I wanna go tell the Assyrians, they’re getting theirs.”
“No, you have to go tell them if they don’t repent, I’m going to punish them.”
“Okay, I just wanna go tell, ‘God’s gonna punish you.’”
“No, you have to tell them if they don’t repent I’m going to punish them.“
“No, that’s not the message I wanna deliver.” And then he delivered the message, and they repented, in a physical way. I mean they didn’t receive salvation at that point. But God did not bring out His punishment on that generation. They didn’t give up their pagan gods, but they at least acknowledged that the God of Israel was God. And they repented enough that God saved them from that immediate destruction. And Nineveh was spared. God always sends somebody to give the message to repent.
It’s interesting when you look at the time of Samuel, Samuel lived in a very difficult time. During the time of judges, Israel mostly lived in anarchy, just 13 tribes at war with each other, with everybody else, and constantly being conquered because they disobeyed God. Crying out. God would send them a judge. He would save them. They would follow God while the judge was alive. The judge would die, and the whole cycle started all over again, over and over and over again.
And here is Samuel. Samuel finds himself as a child doing what? Having to deliver to the high priest Eli prophecies that weren’t very good ones about him and his family. And Samuel then grew up in the house of Eli serving God there in the tabernacle. And eventually, because Eli did not repent and he did not make his sons repent, God killed his sons in battle. And Eli, the shock… He tumbled over backwards, he was very heavyset, and broke his neck and died. And the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant, which means God was no longer with them. Well, there you go. That’s the end of the story, but it’s not. God always sends somebody to say, “Turn back to Me, and we can stop this,” until it gets too late to. The nation’s destroyed as well, how do you turn back now?
Well, it’s interesting with Israel, He promises to bring them back thousands of years later. But we’re back into the book of Samuel here. Let’s go to 1 Samuel. So what does God do even when He’s punishing His people? 1 Samuel 7, just to give us one little story here, one little insight into this second point, that prophecy is there to tell us to repent. He had told us prophecy. It had taken place. Eli had died. His sons had died. The Ark of the Covenant was gone. God had abandoned His people, so it would seem. And what is Samuel’s message? “See, God has abandoned you. All hope is lost.” And that’s not his message.
1 Samuel 7, verse 3, “Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel saying, ‘If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreth from among you, prepare your hearts for the Lord and serve Him only, and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.’ So the children of Israel put away the Baals and Ashtoreths and served the Lord only.” And you know what happened? God saved them from the Philistines.
Now, something else happened in this story, I’ll just mention. The moment they repented, the Philistines gathered together and said, “Let’s go kill all of them.” And there’s an important lesson in this. When you have drifted from God or you have some sin that you have not dealt with but there’s a barrier between you and God, and you repent and you turn to God and God forgives you, you can almost guarantee Satan’s gonna bring some enemy along to try to mess up your life. That’s another story you get from prophecy.
Prophecies, they are to get us to turn to God. They did not turn to God. But God kept saying, “I’ll forgive you, I’ll forgive you.” You see that in the book of Isaiah. As Isaiah gives this message over and over again, “God’s gonna punish you, God’s gonna punish you,” and over and over again, he says, “But God still is here with His hand outstretched. God is still saying, ‘Come, I’ll take you back if you just repent.’” And you see that all through the prophets, especially men like Jeremiah who wanted Judah to repent so much. And they wouldn’t. It just pained him that they would not repent. And he was always just… “Turn to God. He can stop this.” Although, there are a couple of times he says, “I’m tired of them. Just kill all of them. Then basically, “No, no, I don’t mean it,” okay? He’d go back out begging them to repent.
So there’s always a message. Prophecy is to inspire people to repent and turn to God. So it’s an important part of Bible study. And when you study prophecy, especially prophecies that have already happened, many times, it helps you understand, “Oh, I need to turn and repent. I need to look at my life better,” or more, more intently, and especially when we look at the horrible things that are gonna happen in the future that we need God.
Third thing, prophecy is to strengthen the faith and courage of those who have already turned to God. “So I’ve already turned to God. I’ve already repented. I guess I don’t need to study prophecy.” No, prophecy is to strengthen the faith and courage of those who have already turned to God. “So I don’t like prophecy, all it tells me is bad things.” Remember the first point, prophecy shows us that God is working this out. It doesn’t mean you and I may not have to go through the bad times ourselves. But the endgame is good. The endgame is in His Kingdom, His Children, forever. The endgame is to be resurrected or changed if we’re there when Christ comes back and to serve Him in changing the world. That’s the endgame.
Between now and then, He tells us some of the things are gonna happen and He deliberately tells us some of it’s not gonna be good. But remember, “I am there,” that’s the message. So it gives us strength and courage. A perfect example of this is in Acts, Chapter 21, Acts 21. And let’s start in verse 10, “And as we stayed many days,” Luke is writing here in first person, he’s there, “a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he came to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet and said, ‘Thus says the the Holy Spirit, so shall the Jews of Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”
I have to tell you, I’ve met people in my life who said, “I’m a prophet” or “I want to be a prophet.” What idiot wants to be a prophet?! Read what Ezekiel went through or Hosea went through. Agabus has to show them, “Hey, Paul! Hi! Remember me?”
“Oh, yeah, you’re one of the prophets.”
“Good, give me your belt.”
What? Yeah. They ask people to do strange things all the time. Then he ties himself up, and then he delivers this message, “So are you, Paul, going to be bound by the Jews.”
Now, it’s interesting how the people responded and how Paul responded, okay? Two different responses here. Let’s go to verse 12, “Now, when they heard these things, both we and those from that place,” both we, in other words, Luke and others that were with him, “pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem.” Panic, “Oh, don’t go, then they can’t take you. If you don’t do this, then this bad thing that this prophet from God had said will happen won’t happen. Just don’t go. That will solve it. If he says, ‘If you go to Jerusalem, this will happen,’ then don’t go to Jerusalem. Then it won’t happen.”
Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart?” He says, “You’re causing me such hurt and pain here. Why are you doing this to me? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And when he would not be persuaded, we see, saying, ‘The will of the Lord be done.’”
See, what Paul said, “The will of God be done.” The people said, “No, no, no, no, we can somehow get away from this. Maybe God doesn’t want you to go to Jerusalem.”
And Paul, “Yeah, He does. I’ve already been led by God’s Spirit. That’s where I’m supposed to go.”
“No, no, no, we’ve got to stop this. The prophet’s telling you not to go.”
Now, if Paul would have not gone, we might be reading a different history of Paul’s life. But Paul said, “No, I have to go. And I will face this with,” what? “strength and courage.”
Now, Paul had been told he was to gonna go to the Gentiles. Now, remember he has no knowledge of what’s gonna happen next. As he would get captured and bound in Jerusalem, it would start him on a journey that would bring him to Rome itself, the seat of the greatest power on the face of the earth. And that’s where he would end up. And he would take the gospel to the Gentiles. We have all these letters that he wrote while in prison. The work of Paul that God wanted done through Paul was magnified by him being captured, bound, and imprisoned. And Paul’s viewpoint was “Well, that’s what God has predicted. I guess I better go face it.” Everybody around him was “Don’t do this.”
Prophecy is to strengthen us. It is to give us faith. It is not to run away and hide. The idea that what we need to do as Christians is run away and hide, then we’ve studied the prophecies so what we want to do is not let anybody know that we’re a Christian. We sure don’t want to preach the gospel. We don’t want to say any this message to anybody. We don’t want to tell anybody about God. We just sort of hide out in our homes, maybe store up some food, and we just wait. We hide out. Paul didn’t do that. And this prophecy was directly about him, okay?
Now, let’s go see what God wants done. Let’s go see what God wants done. Fourth point, prophecy is to motivate those who turn to God. Remember, number two is to get people to turn to God, but what if you’ve already turned to God, the prophecy still has a purpose for you. One, it’s supposed to strengthen us to give us faith. But this other point is, number four, prophecy is to motivate those who turn to God to live righteous lives. Peter talks about that. If we know these things, how should we live? To know these things and not be motivated is a little worrisome.
I’ve had people say, “I don’t like prophecies. I don’t like anybody covering prophecies about like revelation and the tribulation and those kinds of things because those are scary, and I don’t want my children hearing it. Why is it in the Bible?” Now, once again, that’s not all of our study, is it? In fact, it can’t be, because one of its purposes is to motivate us to live righteous lives. So we better be understanding and growing in righteousness. Because “if I know all prophecy and I don’t have agape, I am” what? What did you say?
[Audience member] Nothing.
[Gary Petty] That’s right. If I have all the prophecy and I don’t have righteousness and I don’t have God in me, it’s zero. That’s how much worse it is to know all prophecy. So it has to motivate us in the way that we live. Look at Matthew 24. Like I said, I’m going through a lot of Scriptures. But I want to go through these Scriptures just to plant the ideas, just a Bible study broad idea. Matthew 24, verse 45, Jesus tells a parable, “Who then is a faithful and wise servant who his master made ruler over his household to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant who his master when he comes will find so doing. Surely, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. But if the evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming.’”
You know what? It doesn’t matter whether you lived at the time of Paul or you lived as a Christian in 1000 A.D. or 1936 or 2060. We are to live our lives, we’re to spend our lives as if Christ is coming back, because He is. I know it’s a cliché, but if you walk out of here and have a heart attack tonight, Christ comes back for you pretty quick, because what is the next waking thing you know? It’s being resurrected. So we cannot get to the point where we say, “Well, you know, Christ is coming back. Yeah, but maybe 30 years from now.” It may be 30 years or 50 years, I don’t know. I do believe that. But then God doesn’t work off of my timetable, never has. I’ve tried to get Him to.
And so when we get to the place where Christ isn’t coming back and we center our lives not on being prepared for that event but on just everyday living and the things that we have and the job that we have, we zero in on those things until these become so myopic, then we are in danger of doing what this very parable is about. Remember, by the way, this parable is part of the Olivet Prophecy. Matthew 24-25 is the Olivet Prophecy. He says, “And if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants,” treat other people terribly, “and eat and drink with the drunkards,” live just slipshod lifestyles, sinning. “Still, well, you know, I get drunk once in a while, but I’m not an alcoholic. I don’t really commit adultery. Pornography, once in a while, but I don’t commit adultery.” We just sort of slide into this never-never, half-Christian world.
He says, “The master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and in an hour that he is not aware of. He will cut him in two and appoint his portion with the hypocrites. And there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” That is an incredibly strong statement, because weeping and gnashing of teeth is a term associated with the lake of fire. That’s an eternal judgment statement right there. These are servants of God, servants of God who lose sight that the purpose of life at all stages of life is to be prepared for the return of Jesus Christ, to be prepared for that moment, whether it comes in your lifetime or my lifetime.
Fifth point, prophecy is to help those who turn to God discern the times in which they live. Now, you notice a lot of these reasons I’m giving is for those who’ve already turned to God. Prophecy isn’t just to get us to turn to God. Once we turn to God, once we repent, prophecy still supplies important aspects, important points for our lives. And one is prophecy is to help those who turn to God discern the times in which they live.
Matthew 21 tells us an interesting story of some people who did not discern the time in which they lived, Matthew 21.
Let me recap what I’ve given you so far now. Prophecy reveals that God is active in human history. Prophecy encourages people to repent and turn to God. Prophecy is to strengthen the faith and courage of those who have turned to God. Prophecy is to motivate those who turn to God to live righteous lives. And then the fifth point, prophecy is to help those who turn to God discern the times in which they live.
This is when Jesus is going to Jerusalem preparing for the time when He knew He would be sacrificed. Verse 1 says, “Now, when they drew near Jerusalem,” this is Jesus and His disciples, “came up close to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them.’ And immediately, he will send them.” Well, that’s a strange thing to do. They’re all walking along. He says, “Go get me a couple donkeys.”
“Well, let’s see. There’s 13 of us. I guess, okay.” But they didn’t ask questions. They went to get the donkeys.
“All this was done that it might be fulfilled…” Now, this was what Matthew was able to understand later and write… “which was spoken by the prophet saying, ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your King is coming to you lowly and sitting on a donkey, a colt, and the foal of the donkey.”’” And you go back into the age of prophecies, and you will see that this is part of what is prophesied.
So here they are. They don’t really understand probably what’s going on. A prophecy is being fulfilled. They don’t see that probably right away. They go get these donkeys. “How did He know these donkeys were there? How did this guy know to give us the donkeys? Jesus always does these strange things.” They bring back the donkeys. “So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road. Others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went out before and those who followed cried out saying…” Now thousands of people come out. They gathered around Jesus riding a donkey.
Why is this a big thing? People rode donkeys into Jerusalem all the time. Not at Passover season. Not a Jew. And there’s a reason why, because of this prophecy, “Hosanna to the son of David. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.” He’s gonna come on a donkey. And here He comes.
There were thousands of people who discerned this event is a fulfillment of that prophecy. “And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’ And the multitudes said, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.’” At least, they recognized Him as a prophet. Others recognized this is the Messiah.
Now, there was a group of people who did not discern this. Let’s go to Luke, Luke’s account of this, in Luke 19, Luke, Chapter 19, because Luke adds something that Matthew did not have in his account. And verse 39, they hear the crowds coming. You can imagine all this turmoil, thousands of people gathered around, following Jesus. Then He comes riding in on this donkey with the little colt along with it. All the disciples probably smiling and looking around and people cheering. And people are just throwing their clothes down for Him to walk over, for this donkey to walk over.
And what did the Pharisees say? Verse 39, “And some of the Pharisees called in from the crowd, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’” Stop this. Why do they want Him to stop it? Well, this is a fulfillment of a prophecy. This is Jesus, the illegitimate guy from Galilee that works on the Sabbath by healing people. He’s really too important. Who does He think He is? They did not discern what was happening.
Jesus says to them, “But He answered and said to them, ‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.’” He said, “Sorry, I can’t. This is prophesied. This is part of God’s actions.” God is involved in human history. And this is one of those instances where He’s involved, “And I’m riding this donkey for a purpose, to fulfill the prophecy. And if these people don’t say it, rocks will start saying it, because it says that’s what’s gonna happen.” Well, that will be interesting. So I tell you what, I will shut everybody up and let’s get the rocks to say it. All the rocks are gonna get little mouths on them and start singing.
But here we see and understand that prophecy helps us discern the times. The Pharisees did not discern the times. In fact, there’s a number of parables that Jesus gives about to the people of His day to discern the times. Now, this is really important then to understand. The purpose of prophecy isn’t so that you and I will always know events before they happen. I doubt if any of Jesus’s disciples… Now, this is a conjecture, my part thought, “Oh, I can’t wait till tomorrow when Jesus fulfills the prophecy and send us to get a donkey.” They didn’t know what was going to happen next. They only knew it when they saw it happening. Aaaaah.
And you will read all through the Gospels, it will say, “And then they didn’t know something would happen.” Oh, now they know. They didn’t know beforehand. That’s a great day that you and I have and try to work out all the details of prophecies, of future prophecies, because I’ve seen so many wrong future prophecies. There was a very popular book not too long ago on how Saddam Hussein was the Beast. Thousands and tens of thousands of copies sold; it was a huge book in the evangelical world. You can buy them for about a dime in any Goodwill today.
And we in our history have even been guilty of that at times. We work out minute details before it happens. We know the big picture, and we know some details. It’s important we know those. But we also have to realize we won’t know a lot of details. What we have is the ability to see things when they happen and say, “Aaaah, I see what’s happening.”
A lot of common people in Jerusalem who had known of Jesus and His teachings saw Him as the Messiah. Not long after His death, 3000 people are baptized in one day. That’s the fruit of His ministry, what He was doing physically on the earth. They saw that. They understood it. They’re the ones who helped fulfill the prophecy. But they didn’t know the day before it was gonna happen. They knew the prophecy. But they didn’t wake up that morning and know that was gonna happen.
Maybe the guys with the donkeys knew. I’ve often wondered. Did an angel come and say, “Two guys are gonna come and ask you for your donkeys. You give it to him, because the Messiah is coming today.” Maybe the owner of the donkeys was the only guy on the earth that may have known. He knew somehow to give the donkeys at least to these guys, right? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe Jesus sent somebody else in earlier and bought the donkeys but we’re not told. We’re only told from the viewpoint of the men who were told to go get them. We don’t know what Jesus did to set it up or God did to set it up. But something happened. But they didn’t know. They just went and got the donkeys.
So as to help us understand, discern the times in which we live, the last point, this last point is that prophecy is to comfort those who have turned to God with the knowledge of the final outcome. It is to comfort those who have turned to God with the knowledge of the final outcome. You will see many prophets in the Bible absolutely discouraged when nobody listens to their message or they get put in prison or they get beat up. Some of them got killed for their message. It was the final outcome. The knowledge of this message has a point and a purpose in which God is doing. And if that purpose is in my life, prophecy now becomes very personal. It becomes a personal message. Wherever I am in prophecy, wherever I am in this point where God is working, I must do what God wants me to do now.
Just like I’ve told my children many a time, I believe God’s coming back in my lifetime. So did my dad. One of the last things he ever said to me was about being prepared for the Kingdom of God. And I told my kids, “My last breath I’ll say to you, ‘He’s coming back.’” You see, it doesn’t the matter if it’s in my lifetime. It doesn’t matter. It’s what I hope. It’s what I believe. But if not, then that’s my mistake. It doesn’t matter, because we’re gonna live our lives as if He is. But there’s a comfort from knowing prophecy, that we know that God has an endgame. And you see that in the prophets.
Mr. McNeely, in the public appearance campaigns, goes to the book of Habakkuk. And Habakkuk lived at a very difficult time in which the people would not listen and he’s telling them what God is going to do, and the Jews would not listen, and Babylon keeps showing up. When Babylon finally took Jerusalem, they had already attacked Judah twice before. They just keep showing up and beating them up. “The Babylonians are coming,” God would tell them. The Babylonians would come, beat them up, and leave. And God would say, “Now repent.” And they wouldn’t. “Babylonians are coming.” They’d show up. Finally, God said, “Well, this time, they’re not going away. Well, they’re going away, but you’re going with them.” And Habakkuk lived in that time.
Look at his message. Let’s just look at Habakkuk 1. I think the minor prophets are just fascinating. I find them fascinating as each one of them is at a specific time period in Israel and Judah’s history. And they all have even some of their personalities come out. Hosea to me is really fascinating because you can see some of his personality. Amos is too, but Amos just doesn’t seem to care. He’s like “Hey, I’m here to tell you—I would rather go back and be a farmer. So here’s the message. If you don’t want to listen, God’s gonna… Yeah, God’ll just beat you up.” He probably wasn’t quite that unfeeling, but he’s a pretty blunt guy.
Habakkuk 1, verse 1, “The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw,” the burden, the message, but he carries this. He says, “Oh, Lord, how long shall I cry and you will not hear? Even cry out to you, ‘violence,’ and you will not save. Why do you show me iniquity and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me. There is strife, and contention arises. Therefore, the law is powerless and justice never goes forth, for the wicked surround the righteous. Therefore, perverse judgment proceeds.” He says, “I look at my country,” and he says, “It’s violent, and there’s no justice, and rich people get away with things, and poor people are oppressed, and people commit sexual sins, and people steal and lie and cheat.” Sound like any country you know?
And he says, “I hate this.” And he goes to God and said, “So I want You to fix it. How long do I keep crying out to You? And I keep telling people, ‘Repent,’ and there’s no massive repentance taking place here.”
And so God comes along and says, “Okay, here’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna bring a country in here, and I’m gonna destroy it.”
And then he says, “How can You do that? How can You bring in a group of people that’s actually worse than us? That makes no sense.” And now he goes from condemning Judah to defending Judah, “Oh, no, no, You wouldn’t do that.”
He says, “Oh yeah, I will.”
Now, Habakkuk has to tell them, “The Babylonians aren’t gonna go away. They’re gonna keep coming back until we’re destroyed, because we will not repent.” And now his message, it became very, very difficult. And he struggled with giving them this message. And then it happened. He was watching his country slowly disintegrate and then be destroyed by the Babylonians. Habakkuk, Chapter 3 is a song. It’s a prayer, but it’s actually written as a song. It could be sung, put to instruments, as many prayers were then. And he prays about what’s happening. Now, think about his discouragement. In a land that was God’s people, and he was God’s prophet, and he came to them and he told them the message, and nobody seemed to care.
One of my favorite prophets is Jeremiah. And he couldn’t figure out why nobody seemed to care, “Why can’t you people see this?” And he wanted his nation to repent so much. Habakkuk wanted his people to repent so much. He assured them that the Babylonians are coming to do this. And that’s what will happen.
So why didn’t he give up? Here, he was a prophet giving a prophecy. He could have given up. But he didn’t. It did lead him though to sing something to God. Let’s look at first… We could pick out a number of verses here, but let’s pick up in verse 16. So when he hears…he says, “Okay, when I finally heard God’s judgment,” he says, “when I heard, my body trembled, my lips quivered at the voice. Rottenness entered my bones, and I trembled in myself that I might rest in the day of trouble when he comes up with the people. And he will invade them with his troops.”
In his prayer, he literally says, “I hope I die before all this happens.” It made him sick. He says, “I felt like all rotten out inside.” He just felt meaningless and purposeless, and, “oh no, there is no hope for God’s people. “
“Though the big tree,” verse 17, “may not blossom nor fruit be on the vine, though the labor of all the olive may fail and the fields yield no food, though the flock may be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls…” When this happens—when there’s no food, when the trees are all brown from being burnt, when there’s no people, when you can walk into a broken down barn and there’s no animals—when that time comes, “Yet I will…” Now, why did he know this? He delivered a message of God’s punishment but always within the message is God’s mercy. And at this point, he was comforted by the message and the knowledge that this punishment was not forever. Well, how would he know that?
He knew of a lot of the other prophets, their message, whether it be Ezekiel or Daniel… No, not Daniel. Daniel’s a boy, a young kid at this point. But he would’ve known at least some of the prophecies that had told of the time when Israel and Judah had been brought back together. He would have known of that, that the Messiah was going to come. He says, “Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord. I rejoice in my God of my salvation.” God will save me. God will carry out His will in my life even if the world around me falls apart. It’s a great message that God gives to Baruch. It’s one of my favorite passages in Jeremiah, “Stop trying to fix this, for wherever you go, I will be with you.”
“Stop trying to fix this,” is I’m summarizing a whole bunch of verses, but He tells him, “I will be with you wherever you go,” which means this isn’t gonna be good, because you want to be home, but you’ll not necessarily be home. And you look at Baruch, of course, he wasn’t. He was with Jeremiah. And Jeremiah watched his home be destroyed, watched Jerusalem be destroyed. In the last part of the book of Jeremiah, what? He’s been kidnapped by people who had run off to take him into Egypt. Not exactly how he wanted to retire.
“Wherever you go, I will be with you.” And Habakkuk had to come to that realization. This is the comfort that comes from knowing prophecy that as you see you it happen, you can, because of your relationship with God, know He saves you. “Wherever you go, whatever happens to you, I will be with you. And I have a purpose for your life. And I have a purpose for you in the future.”
“The Lord God is my strength. He will make my feet like a deer’s feet. He will make me walk on my high hills.” And then he says to the chief musician, “It’s okay, let’s put this to music. It’s a song that will be sung, ‘I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation.’”
Prophecy helps us understand that. It actually helps us have joy in the face of the events as they happen. Well, I’ve seen people throughout the years who made personal charts of how Revelation fits together and can figure out what they thought… the exact date almost that Christ was gonna come back and all these things and gave up righteous lives, especially when it didn’t work out the way they thought it would. We won’t know exact dates. We will know if we can discern the times, we will be able to see what’s going on. And in the midst of that trouble, we will be able to have joy that the God of salvation is with us. Comfort.
So why should you study Bible prophecy? Well, the reasons we talked about today: so that we can see God’s hand in human history, we can be encouraged to repent and turn to God, we can have our faith and courage strengthened, we can find motivation to live righteously before God, we can be able to discern the times in which we live, and we can be comforted in knowing the goodness of God’s final outcome. And if we’re close to God, we will know that He is personally involved in our lives, even in the midst of what’s going on.
So as you can see, we want to encourage all of you not to study prophecy exclusively because you can’t fulfill all those purposes, but to understand that prophecy does have a purpose. And that purpose is to help us draw close to God, it says that He will be in us and that He will develop us and prepare for us for the final days, when a prophecy when New Jerusalem comes on this earth, and history really begins.
Well, thanks for coming out. And let’s see. The next Bible study, Mr. Myers, is in two weeks. Okay. What subject will we be covering, you know?
[Steve Myers] More prophecy.
[Gary Petty] More prophecy. Okay, there we go, more prophecy in two weeks.