The Gift of Prophecy
“… he that prophesies speaks unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.” (1 Corinthians 14:3)
Someone who asked to stay and witness with us expressed the concern (shortly before coming) that we focus too much on Bible prophecy and that we “don’t talk more about the love of God.” This article explores five areas of concern which can hinder people from handing out materials dealing with prophecy, or lead them to criticise those of us who do. Some concerns are more understandable, and more honest, than others.
We hope this article will help people question the validity of their concerns and whether something may need to shift in order to grow closer to God and other believers, like us.
(1) Fears and Excuses
There are many reasons to share the truth and many blessings that come from doing so. However, being on the ‘front line’ sharing our beliefs with others can be quite daunting for many people. This can lead to the creation of a corresponding number of excuses for why not to get out there. Blaming materials (e.g. “you shouldn’t be focusing on prophecy but on something more loving”) can be a convenient get-out clause. Honest reflection will highlight if we are being motivated by fear, pride, laziness or some other spirit.
We understand that people will come to us with questions and concerns, something each of us have had ourselves. However, we would ask that you give our material a proper go before you decide to write it off. If you think something is important enough to share with others, have you considered producing your own material and handing it out? We are open to ideas that are constructive but we are looking for more than just talk.
(2) Bad Press
Another concern about prophecy which is more understandable is that it is often associated with “kooks” and religious fanatics who distort prophecy for selfish gain, often to win converts, make money or induce fear. Each time someone sets a date (e.g. Jesus’ return) which passes without being fulfilled, more confusion and disillusionment results. This leads people to distance themselves from the subject of prophecy, or avoid it altogether, because they perceive that it is safer to do so. However, we would question how ‘safe’ this is.
Just because prophecy is used insincerely does not stop us from engaging with prophecy sincerely. The solution is not to avoid the subject but to ensure that our motivation for studying it is right. It is wise to ask ourselves whether we want a prophecy to say something, rather than us conform to whatever the prophecy actually is saying.
We are concerned that scepticism about prophecy hinders people from seeing how world developments line up with the bigger picture. This causes more deception and the people with the loudest voice dominating the air waves. In addition to this, many false doctrines about prophecy prevail within the church, resulting in the vast majority of people not being sufficiently prepared. Something urgently needs to be done about all this.
Some cynicism towards the subject of prophecy is due to its focus on things that have not happened. Faith is, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Dealing with the unknown and responding accordingly takes trust… and many people’s trust has been shaken due to the bad press mentioned above. The answer is to ground our trust on something more solid. We do this by lining up everything with the “Cornerstone” – Jesus and his teachings – making sure we do not isolate verses (‘proof-text’) or take things out of context. If we do this, we can usually discern whether a prophecy is true or false. (Hebrews 4:12)
The gift of prophecy can be abused and Jesus warned that false prophets would appear directly before his return doing just this. (Matthew 24:24) While it is wise to question people who have not been tried and tested, we can have more confidence in prophecies Jesus and the early disciples gave us. Over 350 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in the New Testament, which means that New Testament prophecies are likely to be fulfilled too! Also, if something is prophesied by an Authority like Jesus, it is wise to consider that he went to the trouble of informing us for our benefit.
Finally, just because something has not happened yet does not mean to say that it never will happen. We are living in an age when prophecy and reality are more visibly merging, with the prediction in Revelation 13:16-18 being a good example of this. People who claimed that this prophecy was conjecture have needed to re-examine their position with the arrival of an implantable microchip for humans already used for buying and selling since 2004… something the prophecy predicted 2000 years ago!
(4) “Doom and Gloom”
Many people wrongly assume that Bible prophecy is all about “doom and gloom” and that we are filling people’s heads with fears and doubts. Notions of death and judgement are challenging but this should not cause us to run away from these realities. Considering death and meeting our Maker can be the point at which we start to truly live.
Some people argue that we should not worry about the future and that we should get busy living in the now. This sounds good, with Jesus saying something similar in Matthew 6:34. However, it is wise to question people’s motivation for using this argument, especially when it hinders a balanced discussion of prophecy. Often these same people worry a great deal about how they will survive in the present, leading them to enslave themselves by worrying about working for money.
Jesus’ resurrection and return is fundamental to Christianity. If Jesus was resurrected, it means we can be resurrected too. Jesus said: “he that loses his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39) Confronting our fear of death, and learning to die to self, is the Christian walk.
It is concerning that many professing Christians view talk of the ‘last days’ as negative. There are challenging aspects to End Time prophecy (e.g. period of Great Tribulation with global catastrophes and widespread persecution of believers). However, there is a saying that: “It is always darkest before the dawn.” The “dawn” – when Jesus returns to defeat evil and establish his Kingdom on Earth – is our greatest hope. (see Revelation 21:3-7)
The second coming of Jesus marks the end of all worldly kingdoms that have trampled on people rather than helped them. This is “good news”, unless we refuse to embrace the revolutionary principles of the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus taught (like being a servant if we wish to be great). (Matthew 20:26-28) Jesus is coming back to wipe away all tears from the eyes of his servants. If we are not willing to serve God and others, then this is likely to be a tearful moment!
Jesus said that he is coming back but also that his Kingdom is within us now. (Luke 17:21) Are many professing Christians frightened of thinking about Jesus’ return to judge the nations because they do not wish to be judged by his teachings today? (John 12:48) The best form of future preparation is present and continual surrender. Imagining the future can help us in the present, and surrendering to Christ now naturally prepares us for his return.
Jesus refers to himself as “the beginning and the end”. The way to understand the end of all things is to understand the beginning of all things. As we draw closer to the end, circumstances will necessitate a return to the simplicity of the message Christ gave right from the start (cross reference Hebrews 10:25 with Acts 4:32-35, for example). This leads us to the final section below.
(5) Where is the ‘Gospel Message’?
Some individuals have expressed concern that we have left out the ‘gospel message’ from materials we hand out, an assertion we strongly disagree with. For many church-goers, the ‘gospel message’ is summed up in John 3:16. However, ‘believing in Jesus’ is much more than simply believing in his death and resurrection; it is doing our best to obey what he taught. (John 14:15)
It is deeply concerning that so many professing Christians view prophetic texts, like The Book of Revelation, as being separate from the real ‘gospel message’. Worse still, they tend to see everything that Jesus taught in the gospels as being contrary to the ‘gospel message’ too!
The opening of The Revelation says: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass…” (Revelation 1:1) The book is for servants of Jesus Christ. The decision to ignore this message, or even go so far as to condemn those of us who share it with others, clearly does not come from the Spirit of Christ but from some other spirit instead.
Prophetic teachings of Jesus contained within the four gospels and The Revelation are part of the ‘gospel message’. At what point does something contained within the words of Jesus stop being a part of the gospel?! When Jesus said “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15), he meant the whole message. If we focus on one teaching to the exclusion of others, or add and subtract from the message, we clearly do not believe the gospel, which places us in a precarious position. (Matthew 5:19; Revelation 22:18-19)
The Revelation can be challenging to unravel but this should not stop us from trying. We are given a vital clue as to how to unravel this book (and all prophecy) when the angel says to John: “…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Revelation 19:10) Put simply, in understanding and following the teachings of Jesus, the mystery and spirit of prophecy is revealed.
(For example, a sincere follower of Jesus will take what he said about not being able to serve God and Mammon (Matthew 6:24) and will understand how this fits in with the prophecy about the cashless society (Revelation 13:16-18). The Antichrist uses Mammon to enslave people, whereas Jesus sets us free from working for money, which enables us to refuse the mark of the beast when it becomes impossible to buy and sell without it.)
Jesus said that many of his teachings were given to help prepare us. (John 16:1&4) Jesus also instructs us to love others the way he loves us. (John 13:34) Therefore any talk of ‘love’ or the ‘gospel message’ which neglects what we need to do in order to be prepared is not the kind of love that Jesus taught.
We are deeply concerned that the public are actively being primed to accept the Antichrist and his deceptions, with much of the church world falling into this category, either being deceived or doing the deceiving. Misconception about the true ‘gospel message’ plays into this deception. Most Christians are being taught to say “Lord, Lord” but they are not being taught about Jesus’ instructions, either in theory or in practice. (Luke 6:46-49) For example, Jesus instructs us to sell our possessions and give the proceeds to the poor (Luke 12:33); to share the message with others (Matthew 28:19-20); and to trust that God will look after us each day. (Matthew 6:25-34) What better preparation is there than this, both for the times in which we live and for service in Jesus’ Kingdom when he returns?
Over the years, members of our community have distributed materials focusing on different aspects of the message. More recently, we have felt led to give out material (like our film, ‘The Mark’, and the book, ‘Not For Everyone’) for two main reasons: (1) They explore developments happening before our eyes in order to help make people aware; and (2) They point to Christ’s solution of living-by-faith in order to help people prepare. We continue to witness a serious ‘gap in the market’, with many churches preaching about ‘love’, forgiveness, the sinner’s prayer, health and wealth, signs and wonders etc., but with very few churches teaching people to follow Jesus’ example, especially when it challenges the status quo.
World developments reveal that we are on the threshold of the most challenging period of human history the world will ever see. If we are about to be thrown into a war zone, going into denial is not going to help anyone. What is needed, is clear vision and thorough preparation. More than ever, people need to see love in action as defined by Jesus Christ. This is the true “gospel of the kingdom” which needs to be preached to every living creature before Jesus returns. (Matthew 24:14)
We hope this article has been helpful in working through various doubts and concerns regarding viewing and distributing materials relating to Bible prophecy. As we have shown, the spirit of prophecy and the teachings of Christ are one and the same. Unfortunately, our experience to date has been that few people seem to appreciate this, resulting in a serious lack of spiritual and practical preparation. In recognising this, we hope readers will consider that God may be leading us to get out there with our message to help re-address this problem. Lastly, we hope that some of you will also be inspired to help with this urgent and important mission while there is still time.