Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Gary] Bible prophecy is filled with visions and images that are so startling and troubling, they spark the imagination. The Bible tells of four horsemen wreaking havoc over the entire earth, kings having strange visions that foretell of the rise and fall of empires, and horrifying themes of the end of the world. Even biblical prophetic phrases like “Great Tribulation,” “the beast and false prophet,” and “Armageddon” are part of popular culture.
What is God telling us by giving us the news headlines before they happen? What is the purpose of Bible prophecy? Does the fantastical imagery revealed thousands of years ago have a practical application in your life?
Join us on Beyond Today as we answer, “Why Study Bible Prophecy?”
[Announcer] Join our host Gary Petty and his guests, as they help you understand your future on Beyond Today !
[Gary] Have you noticed the pervasive interest in zombies in popular culture?
And it’s gone beyond just movies and television. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually has a section on their website titled “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.”
This phenomenon isn’t confined to the United States. In Australia, you can buy tickets to participate in a zombie war with laser-tag technology where participants choose to dress up like half-rotten corpses or try to survive the game as a normal person.
Sociologists see this fascination with surviving a zombie war as a response to the uncertainty of the post 9/11. Since the War on Terror began, our world will never be the same. The Middle East is coming apart, Russia and China threaten their neighbors, and politicians seem clueless on how to deal with increasingly dangerous global destabilization. The uncertainty grows with the daily bad news.
Adding to the angst is a growing warning from Christians that the world is headed towards what Jesus called, Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21).
For many people, an actual future apocalypse—an apocalypse of war and terror and economic collapse—seems all too real.
How should a Christian respond to all of this bad news?
You know, some read the Bible’s predictions of a future time of global catastrophe and respond by building bunkers; stowing weapons. Is that the image that the followers of Christ should have? I mean, bandoliers hung around their bodies, firing a submachine gun from the hip, mowing down their neighbors who are trying to steal their stockpile of food?
Not exactly the “love thy neighbor” teaching of Jesus is it?
Now the Bible does predict terrible future events. So what should the followers of Jesus Christ be doing when faced with all of this prophetic bad news?
Well today, we’re going to look at three simple reasons why we should study Bible prophecy and how God wants us to respond to His prophetic message.
The first reason for studying biblical prophecy is to understand that God is active in human history.
If I asked you, “What is the foundational prophecy in the entire Bible?” how would you answer? Where would you even begin? Maybe with one of ancient Israel’s prophets or the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel, Jesus’ Olivet Prophecy, or the book of Revelation? Maybe that’s where we would start.
How about beginning at the beginning, in the book of Genesis.
Here we find this story of how the first humans, manipulated by the great archangel Satan—who had rebelled against his Creator, decided that they knew better than God and choose to live by their own rules. God told them because of their decision, life on earth would be hard and eventually end in their deaths. He explained that their ways would produce broken relationships. I mean, even the physical environment, originally designed to be human friendly, would become harsh and unyielding.
And this is the way of humanity ever since. It’s the world you and I live in.
Genesis 3—it’s filled with bad news except for one verse. Let’s look at verse 15 where God said to Satan: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15, NKJV).
In the Greek language there is a word for this verse— protoevangelium . You know what it means? “First good news.”
Now the prophecy is vague by itself, but when put into the context of the rest of the Bible, we see that God is predicting His intervention in human history. He has a plan to reconcile humanity back into a relationship with their Creator.
All biblical prophecy is given to show how God is allowing us to live our own way—and fail—and how He is bringing us back to Him. The Old Testament is filled with prophecies about the Messiah—the Son of God—who would restore God’s Kingdom on the earth. In the New Testament, we see that the Messiah comes twice. The first time as the man Jesus to suffer as the seed of the woman—Genesis. And the second time as the conquering hero—the King of Kings.
You know, you and I live in a remarkable time between Christ’s first and second comings. Studying biblical prophecy can give you a life-changing perspective on how God has intervened and is intervening in human affairs to save us from Satan—whom Paul calls “the god of this world”—from ourselves.
On Beyond Today , we regularly do programs on the visions of Daniel, Jesus’ Olivet Prophecy and the events foretold in Revelation. These prophecies reach across thousands of years to show how God is working throughout human history to bring solutions to human suffering. All of these prophecies are based in the “first good news” of Genesis 3.
You know, the Bible doesn’t predict the end of the world in one cataclysmic bang. It does predict a future time when humanity will face total destruction and how God will send Christ a second time to save humanity.
God is active in human history and He can be active in your life today.
Which brings us to a very important question, “How can God be active in your life to help you prepare for the future time of Great Tribulation predicted by Jesus?”
We’ll look at the answer to that question, but first let me tell you about today’s free literature offer.
To help you better understand why we should study Bible prophecy, I’d like to offer you our free study aid, You Can Understand Bible Prophecy.
Prophecy is God’s inspired revelation to mankind. Through it, God reveals Himself and His great plan for all people. This study aid will help you better understand what’s in store in the future, and more importantly God’s awesome purpose for your life.
To obtain your personal, free copy of You Can Understand Bible Prophecy , simply call us toll free at 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632. Or, go online to BeyondToday.tv to read or download a copy. Now if you live outside North America, please write to us at the address shown on your screen throughout today’s program [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254].
Today we’re looking at three reasons why we should study Bible prophecy. The first point is to see how God is active in human history.
Now this leads us to a question: “How can God be active in your life and help you prepare for the future time of Great Tribulation?”
In the book of Revelation, we see disturbing images of four horsemen that symbolize a future time leading to global death and destruction. In this vision, given to the apostle John, a rider on a white horse symbolizing a conquering world religion rides across the earthly landscape spreading religious deception.
Now he’s followed by a fiery red horse bringing war and violence on a global scale: terrorism, civil war, the breakdown of old national alliances.
A third horse, black in color, announces famine. Millions begin to die as drought and the ravages of war create food shortages. Even the food that is available is impossible to transport as many areas where the governments and aid agencies begin to crumble.
And then there’s a pale horse bringing death by pestilence. Disease pandemics spread unchecked overwhelming medical facilities. These ghostly images predict death for a quarter of all mankind.
But that’s not the end of it. Jesus said that after these events, conditions will become so severe that “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22, NKJV).
So how do we prepare for these events? I mean, how much food do you hoard? How much gold do you stockpile? How deep is the bunker you dig that can save you from a time when no flesh will survive?
This brings us to our second point of why study Bible prophecy: Prophecy encourages us to repent and turn to God.
You know, there is a certain fear factor in biblical prophecy. God gives us the future headlines to help motivate us to become spiritually prepared by giving our lives to Him right now. You know, the time to turn to God isn’t when the world around you is collapsing.
Turning to God involves getting on your knees and asking God to forgive you for living in rebellion against Him. Now I know, I know. Someone is going to say, “What do you mean living in rebellion against God? I may have done a few bad things, but you know, I’m basically a good person.”
Now, if you think like that, I want you to really listen to what I’m about to read. This is from the apostle Paul in Romans 5:10: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
All of us, until we are reconciled to God, are enemies of God. You need to wrap your mind around that. To turn to God is to admit to living in rebellion as His enemy and then you must want forgiveness and peace between you and your Creator. If your response to God has been “I’ve done a few things wrong, but I’m basically a good person. So, please forgive me for doing a few bad things” then you haven’t totally turned to God. You have not accepted that your rebellious nature has made you God’s enemy. That’s what he says.
God wants to forgive you and make peace between you and Him, but first you have to accept that only God can fix the problems and you are part of the problems.
In the end, relying on physical preparation may help keep you alive for an extra day or week when troubles come, but spiritual preparation, hearing God’s call, turning to God, studying your Bible, spending time in heartfelt prayer, applying what God reveals to you in everyday life will bring you to the power and source that can keep you alive forever.
Bible prophecy encourages us to repent and turn to God.
Now, our third reason for studying prophecy is: To strengthen the faith and courage of those who have turned to God.
Turning to God also involves the commitment and courage to live by His ways, to become a disciple of Jesus Christ, to look at the dark clouds of the future and put your faith in God as your fortress, as your bunker.
The purpose of prophecy isn’t so that we will always know all the details of events before they take place. It is so we can understand events as they happen and have faith in God’s intervention.
There is a great example of this in the life of the apostle Paul. Paul was visiting Philip in Caesarea when the prophet Agabus came to speak to him. Now Agabus took Paul’s belt and tied together his own hands and feet. Now think about this. This man walks up, takes off Paul’s belt and ties his own hands and feet together. Now at this point, he had everyone’s attention.
He then declares, “So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles” (Acts 21:11).
Paul was intending to go to Jerusalem. His companions panicked. They begged him not to go to Jerusalem because this prophecy predicted something bad was going to happen to him. Now Paul’s reaction is interesting. He knows that God is involved in human affairs. He has given his life to God and he knows that God wants him to go to Jerusalem.
Paul tells the Christians in Caesarea, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).
You know, Paul didn’t know the details of this prophecy. He didn’t know that his arrest in Jerusalem was the beginning of a long journey that God would use to bring the gospel to Rome itself.
You and I know this through the book of Acts because we can read there that Paul went to Jerusalem, he was indeed arrested, but because of his arrest he would spread the Word of God to many people who would have never heard it otherwise. Paul responded to Agabus’ prophecy with faith and courage.
How should we react to the prophecies of terrible events in the Olivet Prophecy or the four horsemen of Revelation? Reading biblical prophecy, and the story of the prophets themselves, should inspire us with the faith and courage to have God fulfill His will, His desire in our lives.
The study of prophecy is to strengthen our faith and courage to be the children of God in an evil world. It is to help strengthen our faith in facing the difficult times prophesied in the Scripture because we believe that God will be with us.
Biblical prophecy is a great source of comfort to those who turn to God because it gives knowledge of history’s final outcome. Not the outcome of a destroyed planet spinning cold and lifeless in space, but an outcome where the Creator intervenes to save His creation. Christ is returning to teach human beings to fulfill their ultimate purpose: to be the children of God in His family forever.
Now, if you are interested in understanding what God says He is going to do and what’s going to happen in the near future, I encourage you to order your free copy of our study aid, You Can Understand Bible Prophecy. This study aid will help you comprehend the true magnitude of prophecy—as it places the past, the present and the future into clear perspective.
When you order, You Can Understand Bible Prophecy , we’ll also send you a free subscription to Beyond Today magazine. This unique publication will help you comprehend the spiritual significance of biblical prophecies. Each issue also contains a variety of articles designed to assist you in living the true Christian life—by following the example of Jesus Christ and His original disciples—and how to be spiritually prepared for the fulfillment of prophesied events.
To order your free copy of You Can Understand Bible Prophecy and receive your free subscription of Beyond Today magazine, call us at 1-888-886-8632. That’s 1-888-886-8632. Or go online at BeyondToday.tv or you can write to us at the address shown on your screen. We provide our literature absolutely free of charge as an educational service. So, don’t wait—request yours right now!
We’ve been discussing three reasons for studying Bible prophecy. I’m joined by fellow Beyond Today presenters, Steve Myers and Darris McNeely.
You know, many people have given up on even trying to understand Bible prophecy. So if someone comes to you and says help me sort of understand Bible Prophecy 101? Where do you start?
[Darris] It’s a good question. I would start with probably a story or scripture out of Acts 17, where the apostle Paul is talking to the Athenian philosophers. And he gives them a really fun little sketch in about three verses of everything from God being the Creator Who is not worshipped in temples made with hands, and that He has set every nation and every people according to His particular purpose—where basically nations have lived through history is by God’s design (Acts 17:24-26). He also said there that they have had their own time. Meaning that when certain nations were prominent and certain nations fell, that all, again was according to God’s purpose and plan. Paul lays that out. But then he brings it all together with the fact that God has winked at the times of men’s ignorance, there is a need for repentance and the world is going to be judged by Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30-31).
And so, in a very few verses there in Acts 17, Paul lays out everything from God being the Creator to the coming of Christ and I think that gives a very succinct description. And it resonated a bit with his audience, at least held their attention for a little bit of time, and I think it would for anyone—help them understand that.
[Steve] Yeah, I think it’s interesting when you think about what prophecy is. In one sense, it’s history given in advance. So when we look at the very beginning of the Bible, as God starts to work with even Adam and Eve and on, He had a purpose and He had a plan. And that plan is throughout the Scripture, all the way from Genesis to Revelation. And what you see at the heart of those things is God’s relationship with man and how Jesus Christ is the answer to man’s sinful problems. And that resonates throughout prophecy. And so I think at the heart and core of what God’s got in mind is having a relationship with us and the means to that relationship is through Jesus Christ.
[Gary] I think a lot of people, the problem they have with prophecy—it’s just disjointed pieces. They don’t know how it fits together. Yet there are many prophetic themes that run throughout the entire Bible. What are some of the prophetic themes that people should look for that create this continuity?
[Darris] One is Babylon—the city, the empire and the end time configuration of a political religious power that Revelation talks about. It stretches from Genesis all the way to Revelation. The beginning of a city called Babel that grows into one called Babylon and an empire that destroys Judah. And then is also around in a figure of a great system at the very time of the end in Revelation 17. Babylon stretches throughout the Bible as the antithesis of God’s plan, God’s city, God’s purpose and it encapsulates everything against that plan. So that’s a theme. I think Babylon and its purpose and its role opposite of God’s is really one major theme.
[Steve] Yeah, another one that is tied to that is this whole idea of what is God going to do? Well He is going to replace Babylon. He is going to replace man’s empires. And that resonates throughout history and through prophecy as well, when you see what His purpose is, what His plan is. And that Christ coming as Messiah, the prophetic things that were fulfilled about His first coming, we can take to heart that His second coming will also come to pass because of fulfilled prophecies. Hundreds—more than 300 prophecies about Christ’s first coming I think helps us to recognize that theme that He’s coming again and He’s going to replace the societies of this world.
[Gary] That’s the reason I always found myself going back to that “first good news” in Genesis 3:15. Everything comes from that. That God’s going to clean up this mess. He’s going to solve everything and He’s going to do it through Jesus Christ.
The three of us have been studying prophecy since we were very young. It’s part of our lives. But, maybe we can share with people, how is prophecy, how has Bible prophecy, studying it and understanding of it, affected your life personally?
[Darris] I think it’s helped me to understand that there is a God involved in history and that when you begin to study—I’ve always had an interest in history. Bible prophecy augmented that and blew that up to help me to understand that major historical events also have fit into the plan of God and that prophecy helps us to see that. So, it makes what is happening in the world today very much, very real, and that God is involved. And therefore, I think that it inspires me to lead my life at a level of preparation, a sense of urgency that hey, life has meaning. Life has purpose. It’s very serious. And, use it to prepare for a time in the future that the Kingdom of God foretells that that’s what this life is all about. So it’s really added a dimension of meaning and urgency to my life that develops it into a completely different level.
[Steve] For me, I think I had an extreme interest in figuring things out. That prophecy can kind of be like that, that I want to find this out, figure this out, and maybe I can know exactly when this is going to happen and when these things will occur. And yet, when we get beyond that we begin to see, well, what is that purpose of prophecy. And, it has so much to do with what kind of person I am. Because I understand these things, Peter posed that question, what manner of person ought you to be? And so it comes back to the kind of person that I should be because of this awesome plan of God and because of prophecy—what has happened, what has been fulfilled and what will happen in the future. So I think that impact is a personal impact that prophecy should have, not only on me but on all of us.
[Gary] I can remember as a child, probably 7, 8, 9 years old, asking God to help me so I could be there when Christ came back. I just want to be there. I want to be part of that. I want to be part of God’s family. And even as a child, that affected me.
So who’s your favorite prophet?
[Darris] Oh, my favorite prophet… Probably Daniel. He figured things out, was a good man, didn’t cave into the culture of his day, was righteous but he also could stand toe-to-toe with a king and explain God to him. I like Daniel.
[Steve] I like the apostle John. He was with Christ, was known as the apostle of love and yet God used him as a powerful instrument to record the book of Revelation. And so we have some special insight because of an apostle who is known as the one who loved Christ.
[Gary] I’ve always liked Jeremiah. I mean Jeremiah wanted so much for the people he was sent to, to repent. And they didn’t. And he got discouraged and said I’m not going to do this anymore. And God said, oh yes you are. And he just kept going on and God kept taking care of him in very difficult times, even though he was so discouraged because he wanted people to turn to God. They wouldn’t do it. So I’ve always liked Jeremiah.
Thanks for being here today.
Please remember our free offers today including our Bible study aid: You Can Understand Bible Prophecy and Beyond Today magazine. Both are yours completely free of charge. To order your free copies, call us toll free: 1-888-886-8632 or go online to BeyondToday.tv .
[Steve] Hi, I’m Steve Myers. I’m the pastor here at the United Church of God Cincinnati East congregation. I’d like to welcome you to come and join us on this great spiritual journey. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. Click on the Congregations tab to find a church near you. We’re committed to growing in our relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ as well as fellowshipping with each other.
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We’re happy that you’re looking into what God is doing in our efforts to bring His message to the world. God is certainly pleased that you’re looking into knowing Him better. And we’re here to help! We would love to have you come and visit and worship with us. We’re looking forward to meeting you soon! Come and join us!
[Gary] Why study Bible prophecy? Well first, prophecy shows us that God is active in human history. Two, prophecy encourages us to repent and to turn to God. And three, prophecy strengthens the faith and courage of those who have turned to God. Now is the time to respond to God and not when you are watching the prophesied events tear your world apart.
Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also invite you to join us in constantly praying, “Thy Kingdom come.”
For Beyond Today I’m Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.
[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today’s program, go online to BeyondToday.tv . Please join us again next week on Beyond Today !