By: Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
Precise dates and interpretative details of Bible prophecy never cease to fascinate prophecy watchers. Like the early disciples, people tend to take greater interest in the exact “times and seasons” God has scheduled for the fulfillment of specific prophecies (Acts 1:6-7). In the process, the core function of prophecy is overlooked.
Prophecy since Old Testament times has always contained a warning to live right or face doom, repent or perish! If you ever wanted to know the main point of Bible prophecy, this is it. The prophet Zephaniah calls out:
“Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired;
“ Before the decree bring forth[takes effect], before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the LORD come upon you, before the day of the LORD’S anger come upon you.
“ Seek ye the LORD, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger” Zeph. 2:1-3).
The message is plain and unadorned: Repent or perish! Bible prophecy is not something to take lightly. Of all our ‘religious’ experiences, prophecy is in a unique class of its own. It has unrivalled certainty. This is the point the apostle Peter makes in 2 Pet. 1:16-19:
“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
“ For He received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
“And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount.
“ We have also a MORE SURE WORD OF PROPHECY; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts”(Emphasis mine).
What Peter is essentially telling us is that, while the Transfiguration he witnessed together with James and John (Matt. 17:1-5) provides perhaps his strongest ground of faith, the prophetic word is surer!
In Matthew 24, Christ gave an outline of world conditions in response to a question from His disciples: “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (v. 3). Among other signs, Christ mentioned religious deception, the outbreak of wars and famines, “but the end is not yet”, He emphasized, but rather “the beginning of sorrows” or “birth pains”(vv. 4 -8 KJV/NIV).
Although characteristic of the end-time period known as “the last days” (Acts 2:17), the trends Jesus described will intensify as His return draws near. Because prophecy is sure and true, it behooves us to take seriously its end-time warnings and amend our ways accordingly. (see 2 Pet. 3:1-7).
The result will be a double blessing, in that destruction will be averted and eternal life received. The apostle Peter again stresses this point in the third chapter of his second epistle:
“Seeing then that all these things [the heavens and the earth – v. 10] shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness (v. 11).
“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things [new heavens and a new earth – v. 13], be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (v. 14).
The contemporaries of Noah were not that ‘smart’; they ignored his prophetic warnings and were swept away by the flood:
“But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
“For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark,
“And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:37-39; see also 2 Pet. 2:5).
But much more than taking heed and living a life of righteousness, the Church must take up the prophet’s burden and warn people of the impending danger:
“ So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at My mouth, and warn them from Me.
“When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. “Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul” (Ez. 33:7-9).
This is the right attitude Bible prophecy should inspire among believers and not as some brethren at Thessalonica did. Not only did they not preach to others, but they stopped all work in the mistaken belief that it was unnecessary to work, since Christ would come very soon—in their lifetime! This was what occasioned Paul’s famous ‘son of perdition’ prophecy:
“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
“ That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
“Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:1-4).
Exhorting the ‘Christ-will-soon-come-stop-work’ party to work, the apostle wrote to the church:
“ … we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
“ Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.
“And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thess. 3:11-12,14).
Interestingly, “the son of perdition” prophecy is closer to fulfillment today than it ever was in Paul’s time. Now we hear of preparations under way to rebuild the Jerusalem Temple razed down in 70 AD! (Please visit www.templeinstitute.org). It’s a signal to preach the last segment of “the everlasting gospel” (Rev. 14:6) before the end comes (Matt. 24:13-14):
“And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
“The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
“ And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name” (Rev. 14:9-11).
When the final “abomination of desolation” (‘the son of perdition’) is set up in the rebuilt Temple of Jerusalem, we will have to flee to escape persecution. The persecution will arise from a universal decree compelling all to worship the beast (the antichrist) and his image (Rev. 13:7-8, 15):
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
“Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
“ Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
“ Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
“ And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
“ But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day [proof that the 7th day Sabbath would be kept till the very end]:
“ For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:15-21).
Notice that the period of the “great tribulation” actually leads up to Christ’s return which will be “as the lightning [that] cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west” (v. 27; also 29-31).
So let’s heed the warning, repent and work to warn others! Bible prophecy is a two-edged sword: Reward and Doom (Isa. 1:19-20). Never forget that:
“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:
“ For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).