SYNOPSIS – Prophecies of impending doom should neither be rejected nor taken at face value. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
The year 2019 produced economic and political turmoil around the world – Just as previous years have done – And 2020 is proving to be even more tumultuous. Current armed conflicts are too numerous to count, “world peace” remains a pipe dream, the global economy is close to collapse, and a new epidemic is working its way rather rapidly through the population.
During all these ominous events, the prophecies of global catastrophes have continued to abound within many churches, predictions validated (apparently) by the daily news headlines. All this creates confusion as the doomsayers feed the very bonfires of anxiety from which they always profit with virtually daily “prophetic” updates.
Scripture encourages Christians to exercise discernment, to evaluate prophecies, visions, and dreams. Voices warning of imminent disaster should not be taken at face value. Failed predictions, false teachings, and evil “fruit” all constitute evidence of a false prophet – (Deuteronomy 13:1-3, 18:22, Isaiah 8:20, Matthew 7:15-20, 1 Corinthians 14:29-32, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, 1 John 4:1-3).
The gift of prophecy has been given to the church “for edification and exhortation and consolation.” The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is a God of peace and order, not confusion and chaos. His words are provided to instruct, console, encourage, correct, bring hope, and establish peace among His people – (1 Corinthians 12:7, 14:3, 14:33, Romans 14:19, Ephesians 4:12-13).
Success in ministry and popularity are NOT signs of genuineness. Often in the Bible, the prophets of Yahweh were lone “voices crying in the wilderness,” faithful servants who experienced persecution rather than prosperity or popularity – (For example, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah).
The Apostle Paul pointed to the deprivations, sufferings, and persecutions he suffered for the sakes of the gospel and his churches as the very things that validated his apostleship, and not to letters of commendation, crowd-pleasing rhetorical skills, or miraculous signs – (2 Corinthians 11:10-33).
Prophecy is a gracious gift to the church from the Spirit of God – Therefore, it ought not to be rejected out-of-hand, but taking every self-proclaimed prophet’s word as gospel is not a prudent course – (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
Despite events and appearances, God retains “dominion over the kingdoms of men, and to whomsoever he pleases he gives them, and sets over them even the basest of men.” God’s control over history is portrayed in the first paragraph of the book of Daniel (Daniel 4:17):
(Daniel 1:1-2) – “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Jerusalem and laid siege against it; and the Lord gave into his hand Jehoiakim king of Judah and a part of the vessels of the house of God, and he brought them into the land of Shinar into the house of his gods, and the vessels brought he into the treasure-house of his gods.”
Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan ruler who conquered Jerusalem, destroyed its Temple, and wiped out the nation of Judah, did so because God “gave” it all into his hands. This principle is behind Paul’s logic when he wrote:
(Romans 13:1-2) – “Let every soul be in subjection to governing authorities; for there is no authority save by God, and they that exist have been arranged by God; so that he who ranges himself against the authority opposes himself against the arrangement of God.”
Paul was not writing to Christians who lived in a democratic society. Rome was ruled by emperors who held absolute power. Ordinary residents (like Paul) had no ability to influence the political system. At the time of his epistle, Nero was Caesar, the same emperor who went on to murder his pregnant wife, persecute Christians, and vert likely caused the martyrdom of Paul. His rule ended in his ignominious suicide (“even to the basest of men”). Yet he held power according to “God’s arrangement.”
The God who created and ordered the Universe also orders the kingdoms of mankind to accomplish His purposes and plans. He demonstrates His power and wisdom by working His purposes through to fruition, despite the free will, blunders, and occasional stupidity of men, often bringing unexpected victory out of failure and hopelessness.
This principle is demonstrated by the crucifixion of Jesus. The idea that God achieved absolute victory through the execution of a messianic upstart by Israel’s greatest enemy – Rome – was scandalous to Jews and folly to Greeks, yet Christ crucified is “God’s power and God’s wisdom” – (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
One result of his death is that, ever since, the institutions and “fashions of this world are already in the process of passing away.” Rome or whatever world empire currently holds sway may look invincible, but its days are numbered. It possesses power at God’s discretion – (1 Corinthians 7:31).
With the Death and the Resurrection of Jesus, the “powers and principalities” hostile to God have been defeated, and decisively so. History has turned its final page and is now winding down to its inevitable end. The kingdom of God has been inaugurated in Jesus and is moving forward inexorably to its consummation at the “arrival” of Jesus in power and glory – (Matthew 4:17, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, Colossians 1:13, 2:15, Hebrews 2:14-16, Revelation 1:6-9).
At the end of the day, there is no genuine security, prosperity, peace, or liberty apart from Jesus. No person, political ideology, or government has succeeded in creating anything approaching a perfect society – All existing kingdoms and societies will come to nothing when he returns. Those who put their faith in wealth, democracy, political ideologies, free-market capitalism, the State, social “safety nets” and so on, will suffer great loss and disappointment when Jesus arrives “on the clouds.” Such things amount to false hopes, prime examples of the “meat that perishes.”
Rather than view themselves as integral members of the larger non-Christian society, believers ought to follow the biblical pattern and identify themselves as full-fledged citizens of the Kingdom of God, andlive accordingly – (Ephesians 2:19, Philippians 3:20).
Christians should exercise common sense and act prudently during difficult times. Prophecies about impending doom should not be rejected automatically,, nor taken at face value to be valid. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” The only true security is trust in God for all our needs.