WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY THE FUTURE HOLDS?

It wasn’t that long ago that the Bible Prophecy teachers abounded. They each claimed to have special insight into Bible prophecies which enabled them to forecast what was around the corner for our world. Some of them, such as Hal Lindsay, sold millions of paperback books promoting their interpretation of Bible prophecies. Others, such as Tim LaHaye, novelised their interpretations into the ‘Left Behind’ series which also sold in the millions.

This unquenchable longing by people to know what the future holds and hopes that the Bible spells it out in detail, shows that believers have undergone a conditioning over the past century and a half that this is what Bible prophecies are about.  

For the past decade and a half I have been arguing that this is not the focus of either the Bible or its prophecies. Rather than approaching the Bible with a set of assumptions about its contents, it is better to approach the Bible seeking to understand its original message. This process is known as exegesis. To exegete a Scripture, and especially a Biblical prophecy, we must answer several questions:

  1. Who is this Scripture written to? (Clue: The answer will never be “us” or even “me”).
  2. How would the original audience have best understood this Scripture? (Clue: The answer will nearly always include some relevance for them.)
  3. Which other Scriptures give insight into this Scripture in question? (Clue: there will be other Scriptures which will be helpful to our understanding of a Scripture passage.)

If you want to know what the Bible forecasts for our future, you have to start with the right questions. Since the Scriptures were written to particular audiences and not to us, we need to distinguish who the Bible’s message is to and who the Bible’s message is for. The expression “last days” in the New Testament has more to do with the ending of the Old Covenant economy which included the temple in Jerusalem, the Levitical Priesthood, the system of animal sacrifices, and the ceremonial rituals. This was all made obsolete at the Cross (Heb. 8:13) and then finally done away with when the New Covenant had been offered to all those under the Old Covenant economy (Col. 1: 5-6, 23).

If you’re hoping to use the Bible to determine who will be the next President of the United States or Leader of the Kremlin, you’re going to be disappointed. To be sure, the Bible did indeed forecast with uncanny accuracy the coming world empires and even predicted the name of one of these Emperors (Isa. 45:1) But it did so with reference to the audience it was written to. It also did so because it was linked to God’s redemptive plan in Christ. We could surmise a few things though from what see in those prophetic Scriptures which looked way beyond its original audience. For example, in Revelation 7:9 we get a glimpse of the final harvest of souls and this glimpse should cause us to take heart. In Revelation chapter 20 we get a glimpse of Christ’s protective nurture of His faithful in the midst of growing hostility toward His followers from those destined for wrath (Rev. 20:9ff). In Revelation 21 and 22 we are given a glimpse into our eternal bliss which still awaits us. 

Therefore, as we exegete the Scriptures we should be more confronted with what the Scriptures calls us to do – which includes, to bear witness to Christ, and His saving work, to a world enslaved in spiritual darkness. We should be shaped by how the Scriptures commission us to do this witness-bearing which includes being as wise as serpents and as a subtle as doves (Matt. 10:16), and accepting that as we are faithful to Christ in being these witnesses, we will have to endure the world’s hostility. That’s what our future holds.

Andrew Corbett

About The Book of Revelation

Much damage to the credibility of the Bible has nearly been done by those who twist the contents of the Book of Revelation to force it to sound like it refers to the events of our present day. Time and time again, so called Bible-Prophecy teachers have been left with egg on their faces as their ridiculous speculations have proved to be completely wrong. Our Administrator forwarded onto me a copy of an email we were sent claiming that our understanding of the Book of Revelation was wrong and that we would be humiliated by the Lord when the Rapture took place on October 17th 2009.

You’ll notice that I am writing this brief article after this ‘day of humiliation’. But still the sillyness continues to be rolled out by many TBN preachers who (even inadvertently) misrepresent the Book of Revelation by claiming that it is written to us about our day. (I have compiled a small list of such of failed interpretations.) In the unlikely event that you are a now cynical believer reading this article, or even in the more unlikely event that you are a complete skeptic about Christianity and the Bible reading this article, I hope to take just a few minutes of your time to offer an alternate understanding of the Book of Revelation that will actually present a credible case for Christianity and the Bible.

What’s The Deal With The Millennium?

Where is human history going? Many people believe that the Bible has not only accurately predicted human history to this point, but that it predicts a coming ‘Golden Age’. This possibly impending event is called: “The Millennium”. But there are very devout Bible readers who think this kind of reading of Scripture is actually a gross misreading of the Bible, and that what the Bible really says about the future may surprise – and even shock people today.

The “Millennium” is the touchstone for how people label themselves when it comes to interpretting Bible prophecy. Depending on how they regard the Millennium, they will classify themselves either as, (i) Premillennial; (ii) Amillennial; or, (iii) Post-Millennial. Within these Millennial categories there are people who take a “fundamentalist” view, generally known as “Dispensationalists” and there are others who take a “Reformed” view, generally known as “Historicists”, or the position I will argue for- “Preterist”.

The Tide Is Turning When It Comes To How We Understand Bible Prophecy

I remember as a young boy going to church on a Sunday evening and hearing the Bible Prophecy teacher give his end-times-chart-on-the-bedsheet-on-the-wall talk and feeling both excited and scared.”Excited” because it was reassuring to hear how accurate the Bible was in matching prophecy with history. “Scared” because the Bible apparently said that the ‘last days’ were going to be hell-on-earth! I was taught that the USSR was the bear of Ezekiel and also described as Gog and Magog. I was told that the Anti-christ was alive today in America and already plotting his world take-over. I heard that a time of Great Tribulation was coming on the earth to punish Israel for rejecting their Messiah and forming an alliance with the Anti-christ who will eventually rebuild Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. This would all lead to the battle of Armaggeddon where millions of people would be killed in the mother of all battles. But most evangelistically I was told that I could escape this coming doom by committing my life ot Christ and therefore qualify for being “raptured” just before this final seven year period began.

Like my interstate pastor friend, I just thought this was the traditional, orthodox doctrine. I mostly ignored the inconsistencies this understanding presented. I just let the questions mount. Then one day when I was still young, I heard another pastor teaching about end times who seemed to suggest that not only wasn’t this the traditional way of understanding Bible Prophecy, it was also not orthodox! That is, he said that the Bible couldn’t teach this. He called it “Dispensationalism”. Back then, Hal Lindsay was the paperback champion of Dispensationalism while Dr John F. Walvoord (of Dallas Theological Seminary) was the hardback champion. In my boyhood church no-one questioned these Bible authorities. Dozens of Bible Prophecy teachers were spawned by these authors. Each one reiterated the Dispensational interpretation of the Bible and too few of us realised that we weren’t just being told how to interpret Bible prophecy…

Finally, How To Understand The New Testament

Professors Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart state that the entire framework of the New Testament is eschatological (How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth, 2003:145). “Eschatology”, they write, “has to do with the end, when God brings this age to its close.” Hence my double entendre heading – Understanding what the Bible teaches about “finally” (Eschatology) is necessary in order to understand what the New Testament teaches… 

Determining The Date Revelation’s Authorship

It would be remiss of any serious student of Revelation not to at least do a cursory examination of the historical context to which Revelation is back-dropped. The first point of reference would have to be to determine when Revelation was written. Most scholars regard there being only two possible dates. Dr. Leon Morris explores this adequately in his Tyndale Commentary series volume on Revelation, and I recommend that this widely available commentary be read. In the case of most books of the Bible, determining the date of its authorship, while certainly important, is not necessarily crucial to its interpretation. But this is absolutely not the case with the Book of Revelation. Some tradition has up until recent times regarded the date Revelation’s authorship to be around 95AD. This has been based almost entirely on a misunderstanding of one vague statement by the second century Church Father, Irenaeus.

The Symbolism of The Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation has variously been described as so mysterious that it simply cannot be understood. But this has not stopped some from speculating about what its symbolims means. Such speculation is based on the assumption that the Book of Revelation is uniquely symbolic. But what are the implications of the idea that Revelation is written with consistent Biblical symbolism in how we understand its message?

In fact, it can be shown that the Book of Revelation is saturated in Old Testament imagery and symbolism. Understanding this should help us to avoid abusing this profound Book with ridiculous speculation that forces such contemporary events as the European Union, the United States, modern Iran, and computer technology into the text.

The Disappointment of Dispensationalism

Dispensationalism comes in various forms. A “dispensation” is a period of time. An era. In its most extreme form it regards God as having multiple plans of salvation depending on the particular dispensation. These dispensations generally commence with the Dispensation of Innocence and include other Dispensations such as the Dispensations of Works, Law, and Grace. This is contrasted by the orthodox Christian view of regarding God only ever having one means of salvation: the work of Jesus of Nazareth, especially His suffering, death and resurrection. But Dispensationalism is most notably distinguished from orthodox Christianity in the way it regards Israel. Dispensationalism says that God has a distinct plan and salvation for Israel. The roof of Dispensationalism is then supported by the walls of a novel form of end-times teaching. This includes such things as a rapture of the Church, a two-part Tribulation period, the global rule of an Anti-Christ, the reconstruction of a Temple in Jerusalem, the Battle of Armageddon, and then the Return of Christ. Dispensationalist Bible Prophecy teachers have gone to great lengths in their predictions of what the future holds based on their interpretation of the Bible. I have written a separate article on some of these predictions. But there’s a problem. A big problem!

The Trinity Examined and Explained

There is no greater mystery than God. And perhaps there is no greater quest than to answer the question who is God? as truthfully as possible. When the identity of God is discussed there are a wide range of ideas put forward. Some have gained acceptance and formed the basis for the world’s religions. For those who have realised that God must have an identity they conclude that He must be a person. This is called theism- or more precisely, monotheism. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are three great monotheistic religions of the world. But Christianity is further distinguished from these other monotheistic religions by identifying God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Is Preterism Over-Realised Eschatology?

Even preachers who claim to have no view on “End-Times” actually do – and usually make it known even if only subtlely. Thus, there are many great Gospel preachers who have built huge churches but who have a lousy eschatology! Then there are some preachers who have dangerous eschatology (such as John Hagee). When those who have some proficiency in the field of eschatology dare to disagree with any of these mega-church “big guns” about eschatology (even in a constructive manner), it is not surprising (but still disappointing) to be called “heretical” by them. To these pop-preachers, Preterism is merely “over-realised” eschatology. Here’s why it isn’t…

Perhaps these preachers have this view because they have accepted a caricaturisation of Preterism and not a well informed understanding of it. This is understandable from those preachers who are generally not careful in their in the research and tend to be more inspirational than exegetical. But when this criticism comes from one of the most popular preachers in the world (and a mega-church pastor) many Preterists are left bewildered for good reasons.

There are some preachers who deserve to be regarded as among the best in the world. Yet, many of these preachers have a false idea about what “Preterism”. More and more of them have been decrying Preterism and denouncing it as it has grown in its appeal. For example, one popular preacher alluded to Preterism as “over-realised eschatology”.  Since this preacher has such a huge following, his ill-informed comments about Preterism were even more disappointing. I wish to respond to his claim that Preterism is “over-realised eschatology”.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, BIBLE PROPHECY, AND JERUSALEM

I’m currently on Annual Leave. Having just spoken at the A2A Conference on the Gold Coast of Queensland, we chose to tack onto the first part of our leave some time on the Fraser Coast (which is north of the more famous, Sunshine Coast). To our surprise and delight, the motel where we had booked our couple of week’s stay upgraded us to a room which had cable TV. Taking advantage of this perk I channel surfer to the Christian channels and landed at Daystar where Irvin Baxter was interviewing Pastor Paul Begley on his program, End Of The Age (May 7th, 2018). I had never encountered either of these men, who struck as being very zealous and sincere. But what they stated as being ‘Biblical’ and clear signs from the Bible that we are living at the end of the age was bewildering. And even more bewildering was their claim that God was using President Donald Trump as a modern-day Cyrus who would help to usher in the return of Christ by moving the American Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem!

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