What do we see when we read through the prophets in the Old Testament? Hope? Yes. Warning? Yes. God offers hope to His people even as He warns them. Why is that? Why does God present the possibility of a bright future at the same time He tells His people how bleak things look? Why? Because that’s reality. Look at how it started:
“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17
Even as God was showing Adam what an amazing life he had to live, the Lord also warned Adam that he would die if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Hope and warning at the same time. It is a theme of both Old and New Testament prophets.
As we bring our study about The Prophet’s Voice to a close, let’s look at how we might present hope and warning for our present situation.
The Future is Bright
Jesus offers His people a bright future – now and later. I think most Christians understand the “later” part because the Bible speaks so often about the joys that await us in Heaven.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16-17
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3
“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-57
“For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:1-8
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.” 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.” Revelation 21:3-5
We also have the promise of great love and joy here on earth now as we serve Christ.
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. ‘These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:9-17
“Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” Romans 14:16-19
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-3
“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19
The letters of the Apostles, especially Paul’s, are filled with words of hope and encouragement about what we can experience in this life as we serve the Lord.
The Future Is Bleak
I would prefer being a prophet of hope and encouragement (and even wrote a book about that), but the facts are clear that Christians are in trouble – big trouble. God has told us what He wants His people to do, so what will we do in response to the clear teaching of God’s Word? Based on what we see happening in our country today, I believe most Christians will do little or nothing to solve the problems we face. When they finally realize how bad things are – it will be too late to do anything about it. Now is the time to act.
It is becoming increasingly dangerous to be known as a “Christian” in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, and other areas of the world that currently have some form of religious freedom. The number of people who don’t want to hear from God is growing daily. They are also growing in political power. That means Christians will find the process of preaching the Gospel more difficult because of societal opposition, new legislation aimed at controlling the practice and promotion of Christianity, and the enforcement of those laws. Tens of thousands of churches in the United States will most likely be closed and forced underground in the years to come. Many Christians will be persecuted and prosecuted for worshiping God and telling people about Jesus Christ.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. God is on His Throne. Jesus Christ is building His Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I’m not talking about God’s success or failure. He can only succeed. It is our failure I mean. We, the Church, are failing God. Jesus and His Apostles made everything very clear to us. There is a path to success and a path to failure. The Church appears to be on a path to failure.
Here are the choices Jesus gave each of the five failing churches in Revelation. Notice the “choice” Jesus gave them to succeed or fail.
- Ephesus – “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” Revelation 2:5
- Pergamos – “Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.” Revelation 2:16
- Thyatira – “Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. But hold fast what you have till I come. And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.” Revelation 2:24-26
- Sardis– “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.” Revelation 3:3
- Laodicea – “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:19
Do you see the choices in each of these? “Remember” “Repent” “Do the first works” “Hold fast” “Overcome” “Keep My works” “Be zealous and repent”. As I read the words of Christ and look at what’s happening in our country and world today, it seems clear that time is not on our side. I think of what Jesus said in Matthew 16:
“Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, ‘When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.” Matthew 16:1-4
We should be able to read the social/religious/political signs clearly enough in our countries to know that severe persecution for Christians is close. Jesus Christ is our Chief Prophet and He has spoken. Do what He says and we will overcome. Continue to disobey and we will be overcome. It’s a fairly simple choice. My hope is that those of us who make up the true Church on earth will wake up, look up, and do right before it’s too late. To that end we pray.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”