ELEPHANTS IN THE CHURCH
By Jeannette Haley
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” – Matthew 24:30
In this final article of the “elephant” series, we will be examining just why the subject of end-times prophecy is another “elephant” in so many churches. In fact, this particular “elephant” is simply ignored out of fear of “rocking the boat.” No leader wants to risk having church members bring up topics, or situations, that might upset people and “rock the boat,” especially when it could affect finances. After all, it’s safer to stick to church traditions and the usual vein of thought that people are comfortable with (whether it’s true or not) even if it means they have to sit there every Sunday for decades without ever learning anything new from the Bible.
Ignorance is not a virtue, it is not beneficial to a person, and it certainly won’t bring a Christian into spiritual maturity. Yet, in our times it appears as if, for multitudes of people, ignorance has almost become a “right” that must be hard fought for and maintained at any cost. However, the old saying, “Ignorance is bliss” just isn’t true when the rubber meets the road, and what we are seeing in America and around the world as I write this should be proof enough of that. Nevertheless, some still insist on remaining ignorant, and use that ignorance as a place in which to mentally retreat. Such determined ignorance becomes their place of safety, their hiding place, and their excuse for maintaining their immature status quo without ever moving forward one inch towards becoming an informed, fully functioning, mature, soldier of the cross. Such people are living off (what I call) the “mental grid,” which reminds me of people who drop out of society and build a hideout where they can hole up ‘off grid” should the “sky fall.”
People may have the freedom to choose to remain ignorant, but pastors don’t have the right to help keep them that way. Years ago, Rayola challenged a pastor we both knew concerning the fact that he only preached “milk” to his congregation and asked him why he didn’t preach “meat and truth”. His response went something like this, “If I did, the people wouldn’t be able to receive it, so I can’t do that.” Like so many pastors and teachers in this Laodicean age, he had forgotten that Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” Not entertain the sheep, not tickle the ears of the sheep, and not dumb them down so that they become dull of hearing and have no appetite for truth, no desire to obey God, no understanding of His Word and ways, no personal relationship with Jesus, and definitely no preparedness for trials and tribulations. In fact, the prevailing consensus these days goes like this: “Well, there’s going to be a great, world-wide revival before Jesus comes,” or “We won’t be here during any of the tribulation,” or “God wants me to live my ‘best life now’ and love myself so I will know how to love my neighbor,” or “All we have to do is think positive.” Where oh where do such notions appear in the Bible? Instead of embracing nothing but “soft preaching,” the Bible says, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” 2 Timothy 2:3.
Considering that about 30% of the Bible contains prophecies, it should be obvious to God’s people that He wants us to read, study, meditate upon and ask the Holy Spirit to show us what He wants us to know, understand and remember. We dare not choose to go “mentally off grid” and plead ignorance concerning God’s prophetic Word. We also need to trust that the Holy Spirit is indeed our great Teacher, and that if we are truly willing to “wade into the prophetic pool,” that He is faithful to lead us and will show us what He wants us to know.
The great danger in remaining ignorant, and deliberately avoiding the study of biblical prophecy is the fact that such a person will not develop discernment, which renders him or her weak and vulnerable to wolves in sheep’s clothing, false prophets, lying spirits and doctrines of demons. It’s not that you have to know and understand every minute detail of every prophetic utterance in the Bible, but you need a good foundation built upon the full counsel of God and biblical principles that maintain the integrity and Spirit of the Word, which serves as a safe boundary in which to explore more obscure prophecies. Thus, a strong foundation and safe boundary, built on Spirit and truth, maintains God’s intent, character and will throughout the whole which is to reveal and exalt the Lord Jesus Christ.
When reading those portions of Scripture which contain prophecies, there are some things that you need to keep in mind and ask yourself, such as: Who is this prophecy written to? What is the reason for this prophecy? Has this prophecy been fulfilled, or is it a dual prophecy (or even a triple prophecy) which is being presently fulfilled, and does it also have a future fulfillment? Is this prophecy in the process of being fulfilled today? How does this prophecy reveal God’s will for Israel, or other nations, or the church, or for me personally? In other words, how is this prophecy applicable to the times I live in, and/or to myself personally? What does God want me to understand?
There are some serious considerations to be made if you happen to be in the camp that believes certain prophecies pertaining to the latter days are for Israel, but not for the Church because “We won’t be here.” If God intended that we “shouldn’t be here,” then why did He bother to give us a Bible that is one-third prophetical? God doesn’t “waste His breath” upon “holy men of God” who spoke as they were “moved by the Holy Ghost,” 2 Peter 1:21b. Every Word of God is precious. Every Word of God is Living, powerful, quickening and vital for our spiritual well-being. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Jesus certainly did not excuse the willfully ignorant, mentally “checked out,” “off grid” folks when He said in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Who are we to assume that we are so clever that we have the right to pick and choose which prophesied events we will see, or experience, and which ones we won’t so it’s okay to simply ignore it?
Also beware of Preterism, which believes that “all prophecy in the Bible is really history. The preterist interpretation of Scripture regards the book of Revelation as a symbolic picture of first-century conflicts, not a description of what will occur in the end times. The term preterism comes from the Latin praeter, meaning “past.” Thus, preterism is the view that the biblical prophecies concerning the “end times” have already been fulfilled—in the past. Preterism is directly opposed to futurism, which sees the end-times prophecies as having a still-future fulfillment.” (From gotquestions.org.)
One of the terrible errors the church makes when it comes to biblical prophecies that concern Israel is to “pick off the meat” (promises) for the church while “tossing the bones” (judgments) to Israel. A good read is Jeremiah 30-33 which concerns Israel and their promised future. In Jeremiah 30 we read God’s promise of deliverance, comfort and privileges restored for the Jews, the destruction of all nations that come against them, God’s chastisement of them and the promise that they shall be His people, and He will be their God, and in His fury He will destroy the wicked. This chapter in Jeremiah specifically states, “in the latter days ye shall consider it” vs. 24b. Chapters 31-33 are a continuation of Jeremiah’s prophecy to Israel, and for Israel, yet Bible commentators specifically ignore the plain fact that the promises in chapter 31 are given to Israel by God, and not to the church. Such blatant and offensive machinations of the Word are partly to blame for the reason why so many people can’t make sense out of them when they are wrongfully applied, so they choose to avoid prophecies altogether.
Powerful prophecies should draw Christians like a magnet in order to glean all the priceless nuggets of wisdom they reveal, and yet many simply shrug their shoulders and walk away in ignorance. The average professing Christian has little or no interest in God’s prophecies and dealings with Israel, figuring that none of it has anything to do with him or her or the times in which we live, thus they prefer to mentally check out and retreat to their “off grid” place of ignorance. But if we are to believe what Jesus told us about “living by every Word of God” then we need to diligently seek to know how these prophecies apply to our own lives. 1 Corinthians 10:6-11 says, concerning Israel’s history with God, “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”
This is a serious warning to us as Christians, not just to Israel or unbelievers! And since the examples in God’s Word are a record of His chastisements and judgments directed at the children of Israel “and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come,” don’t you think we should be paying attention? 1 Peter 4:17 says,“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” The answer to that question can be found in Scripture, including prophecies detailing the final judgments of God such as Revelation 21:8.
The Book of Daniel reveals the sovereignty of God over the affairs of men in all ages and contains detailed prophecies that span about 2,200 years of history. The Book of Daniel is a companion to the Book of Revelation and his visions of four great empires, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greece and Rome, are not only historically accurate but they point to the ultimate triumph of God’s Kingdom over all Satanic and world powers. Daniel 11 gives us details concerning the anti-Christ, and Chapter 12 ends the book on a note of glorious victory of resurrection after “a time of trouble.” (Verses 1, 2.)Christians who ignore prophecies, especially those concerning the end times as revealed in the Book of Daniel, Revelation, and the words of Jesus will find themselves sailing without a compass on the stormy seas of great end day tribulations. Mindsets cemented in place by the “experts” will eventually clash with reality; “unanointed” platitudes will fail when challenged by the whole counsel of the Word of God in light of current events. Thus, creeds, along with the currents of traditional beliefs and doctrines taken out of context and mis-interpreted to fit the causes and agendas of man will fail to stay afloat in the rising tide of evil. In other words, we need to read and believe what the Bible has to say to us without complicating it beyond recognition with our pre-conceived ideas, personal hopes for the future, unbelief and fear.
Being content to live in the “misty flats” (as missionary Isobel Kuhn called it) will end in a dull, disabling, and defeated spiritual life. There comes a time in our spiritual walk when we will be called by God to rise up and come to the “mountain” so that He can show us a greater “view” of heaven and earth, and impart to us visions of Christ in the Spirit that require more from us than merely being content to live in the lowlands of Christian experience. This is one reason why prophecy is so important for the believer to become acquainted with. Are we going to understand every detail of prophecy? Probably not, but then, we don’t know all there is to know about God either. The main thing to keep in mind is that all prophecy either points us to Christ or leads us to a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Every Christian should learn which prophecies have been fulfilled, and which prophecies have a double, or perhaps a triple fulfillment. Fulfilled prophecies are also a powerful witnessing tool because they prove that the Bible is truly God’s Word. Therefore, fulfilled prophecies inspire Christians to evangelize because they know that God is faithful to all His Word, and He is, and will, fulfill His prophecies. People need to be warned of what is coming upon the earth, and turn to Christ for forgiveness and salvation before it is too late.
Bible prophecy also motivates Christians to holy living. Romans 13:12-14, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” 1 John 3:2, 3, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” 1 Peter 4:7 tells us, “But the end of all things is at hand” and 2 Peter 3:10-14 gives a graphic description of the end of the age, and how we should be found. Jesus, after telling His disciples what will take place in the end days, warned in Luke 21:35, 36 “For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” We need to know prophecy so we will know how to watch and pray, be prepared to stand and remain standing, and finally be able to stand before Christ Jesus.
Bible prophecy provides hope for the future for God’s people. Spurgeon summed it up beautifully in this short devotion in which he wrote, “And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). “Oh, that these happy times were come! At present the nations are heavily armed and are inventing weapons more and more terrible, as if the chief end of man could only be answered by destroying myriads of his fellows. Yet peace will prevail one day; yes, and so prevail that the instruments of destruction shall be beaten into other shapes and used for better purposes. How will this come about? By trade? By civilization? By arbitration? We do not believe it. Past experience forbids our trusting to means so feeble. Peace will be established only by the reign of the Prince of Peace. He must teach the people by His Spirit, renew their hearts by His grace, and reign over them by His supreme power, and then will they cease to wound and kill. Man is a monster when once his blood is up, and only the LORD Jesus can turn this lion into a lamb. By changing man’s heart, his bloodthirsty passions are removed. Let every reader of this book of promises offer special prayer today to the LORD and Giver of Peace that He would speedily put an end to war and establish concord over the whole world.”
Mainstream Christians today base most of what they believe about the latter days’ prophecies on popular fiction books, movies and sensationalism found on the Internet, along with church dogma, personal interpretations, and pat answers. Toss in the confusing “interpretations” of the Seventh-Day Adventists along with other cults and false prophets, and you end up with a confusing, contradictory mental mess. Chip Brogden nailed it when he said, “The purpose of revelation is not to substantiate your illusions about God, but to eliminate them.” It is the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth as we diligently search the Scriptures to find, learn and understand what it really says, comparing Scripture with Scripture, while taking advantage of helps such as a Concordance, Bible Dictionary, along with historical and cultural facts. But the Holy Spirit, because He is a “gentleman,” won’t strive with us if we insist in being block-headed and unwilling to let go of error that we have “banked on” for years. When we ask the Holy Spirit to come and teach us, we must first ask the Lord to protect us from any interference from the father of lies, to humble us and forgive us for our pride, to make us teachable, discerning and willing to embrace whatever the Holy Spirit reveals to us whether we agree with it or not from our own limited, and sometimes faulty, understanding.
(Continued next issue.)
Biblical prophecy tells us all we need to know, but man’s imagination, which is often fueled by fear and personal agendas, tends to either exaggerate, embellish or ignore different aspects of it. Therefore, let us become as little children, keep it simple, and believe what the Bible says. Jesus’ disciples were just as human as you and me, and they asked Him when certain things would happen, what would be the sign of His coming, and what signs would signal the end of the world. (See Matthew 24:3.) Jesus gave a direct, simple, understandable, chronological “list” that can serve as a pattern (or chart) into which other biblical prophecies can be easily identified as applicable, or compatible with the pattern, thus filling it in by contributing additional details. So, let’s look at some of what He said, verse by verse in order and check off what has, is and will come to pass. Take care to note the word “Then.”
The first thing he said was, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” verses 4, 5. You may ask, who claims to be “Christ”? The answer is anyone who claims to be “The anointed one of God” because that is what “Christ” means. In reality, there are so many false prophets, false Christs, and false “Christian” leaders that even a modest world count is over 3,300. Such people are more than deluded—they are demonized. Demons want attention and desire to be worshipped. I knew a man years ago who was not only into drugs (which is an open door for demons) but he believed he was literally Jesus Christ and even flew to Israel to tell them he was! Consider the popes. “The term “vicar” comes from the Latin word vicarius, which means “instead of.” In the Catholic Church, the vicar is the representative of a higher-ranking official, with all of the same authority and power that that official has. Calling the pope the “Vicar of Christ” implies that he has the same power and authority that Christ had over the church.” (From gotquestions.org.)Jesus’ prophetical warning has been in the process of being fulfilled since Jesus ascended to heaven and it will continue to be fulfilled until His return. In these end days, however, there is a marked increase in the numbers of false prophets and heretics.
The next verse, 6, says, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” It’s no secret that this world has been filled with war and bloodshed since Cain killed Abel. The difference for our time is the fact that “hearing” of wars and rumors of wars is universal thanks to technology. And, for Israel in particular there is the non-stop, continual threat of attack. So, we can check off this verse as well.
Now we come to verse 7 in which Jesus adds some weighty details concerning this particular time of wars and rumors of war which we need to take time to focus on. He said, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” Again, this entails the entire world, and oh! How fitting it is for our time. We all can see how nation is rising against nation (think China, for just one example). As for kingdoms, think about the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light. (See Colossians 1:13.) We can see a great divide occurring the world over between these two kingdoms.
Concerning famines, roughly 9.1 million people starve to death each year. One recent headline read, “Locust swarm: UN warns of food crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Somalia.” There has been much said recently about possible food shortages in the United States as well, causing people everywhere to begin to plant gardens, including us this year.
Next in line are pestilences. According to Bible Study Tools Dictionary the meaning of this word is, “Any sudden fatal epidemic is designated by this word, and in its Biblical use it generally indicates that these are divine visitations. The word is most frequently used in the prophetic books, and it occurs 25 times in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, always associated with the sword and famine.” Another definition which I find interesting is, “Pestilence – Or PLAGUE, in the Hebrew tongue, as in most others, expresses all sorts of distempers and calamities. The Hebrew word which properly signifies ‘the plague’ is extended to all epidemical and contagious diseases. The prophets generally connect together the sword, the pestilence, and the famine, as three evils, which usually accompany each other. The glandular plague, which in modern times has proved so fatal in the East, is the most virulent and contagious of diseases. In the fourteenth century it overran Europe, Asia, and Africa, and 25,000,000 are estimated to have died of it within three years. Like the Asiatic cholera, it is one of the most appalling scourges sin has brought on this world; and may in this point of view correspond with the “plagues” referred to in the Bible, Exodus 9:14 11:1 1Ki 8:37.” (From ATS Bible Dictionary.) I’m sure you’re thinking CORONA about now.
Jesus’ warnings of earthquakes occurring in different places is interesting because of the dramatic increase in earthquakes. In 2014 NBC news reported that “Between 2004 and 2014, 18 earthquakes with magnitudes of 8.0 or more rattled subduction zones around the globe. That’s an increase of 265 percent over the average rate of the previous century, which saw 71 great quakes, according to a report to the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America. For those of you who like to keep track of earthquakes and other global happenings, check out www.thebigwobble.org.
At this point Jesus interjected a statement that helps us get our bearings. He said, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” Matthew 24:8. Again, all of these things have been occurring all over this world to a greater or lesser degree since our Lord ascended to heaven, including two world wars, the holocaust, and other numerous wars resulting in mounting sorrow. In our time we have experienced an increase and intensity of such events, and in 2020 alone the world has suffered through a “planned” pandemic, along with organized chaos and extreme lawlessness and injustice, all culminating in great sorrow. One can only imagine how much sorrow is mounting up to heaven from broken hearts and broken lives as we look around us and realize that what Paul prophesied in such scriptures as 2 Thessalonians 2, 1 Timothy 4, 2 Timothy 3, and Acts 20:29-31 have been, and are now being fulfilled.
Because of modern technology which is in the hands of powerful globalists who view Judaism and Christianity as “non-essential”, Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:9 is stunning. Please note that this verse begins with “Then.” We are already seeing the fulfillment of verses 10-12, and I will leave it to you to read them. We need to take note and not skip over verse 13, which reads, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” The next verse, Matthew 24:14 shows us that the “gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.” Finally, in verse 15 Jesus refers to that which was spoken by the prophet Daniel coming to pass, and He said “whoso readeth, let him understand.” Verses 16-20 is specifically given to Israel, but all who belong to the Lord need to pay special attention to the next two verses, where Jesus states, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”
Notice that verse 23 begins with another “Then.” I love Matthew 24 because Jesus specifically lists in order an overview of the end times. “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or, there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before” 23, 24. In verses 23-28 Jesus is giving specific instructions for those who are experiencing the great tribulation, that they do not believe false prophets and deceivers, and to know that when He comes, it will be as the lightning comes from the east to the west so that they will be able to discern the lies and deceptions concerning His coming. Jesus clearly stated what to expect after the tribulation of those days. He said, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken; And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” verses 29-31. [Emphasis added.] “But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” Matthew 24:37.
Why study prophecy? The answer is, for many reasons, but bottom line because it all points to, and reveals, the Lord Jesus Christ. God does not want His people to remain ignorant of Him, His Word and His will for all people. He even promised a blessing for those who read the Book of Revelation. Revelation 1:3 says, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”
Indeed, it is!