Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Introduction to Eschatology: "They all...fell asleep"

To recap: prophecy isn't about figuring things out in advance; it's about recognizing the hand of God when he acts, or at least soon afterward.

But if that's so, why bother with prophecy?

The simple answer is that recognizing God at work can stabilize you in the midst of chaos. What is a horror to someone else is a sign to you, and that's especially useful if you're already under fire.

Have you ever considered the contrast, nearly the contradiction, between the wise virgins of Matt 25:1-13 and the frequent warning to watch (Matt 26:41, 1 Thess 5:4-8, etc.)? Matt 25:5 says "they all [wise virgins included] became drowsy and fell asleep." I think the contexts are different: when we are called on to stay awake in Matt 26, it's literal wakefulness to allow prayer; in Thessalonians, the idea is that we will fall asleep morally and become like the unsaved people around us, unprepared for the coming judgment.

And it's preparation that constitutes wisdom in the parable: all fell asleep, but only the wise were ready to act the moment they came to. The foolish strike me as being those people who claim they'll get serious about serving God when the Antichrist shows up. They won't, of course: if they can't be bothered to serve God in comparatively easy times, they certainly won't turn into super saints when the persecution starts. They're more likely to take the Mark.

(Personal nag: this is another reason I despise most books like the Left Behind series: they encourage the view that you can be a worldly "Christian" and still be saved in the end by transforming from couch potato to Olympic athlete under the pressure of the Tribulation. It doesn't work, and many may wind up in Hell because of such nonsense.)

So what's the use of studying prophecy? Well, if you really are studying prophecy itself--what God says, not what some expert says he says--the Holy Spirit will help you see the sign and recognize the encouragement. But if all you know is what someone says about the Bible, that won't get you anywhere. Knowing the Bible is more important than knowing about the Bible, just as knowing God is more important than knowing about God. But these days most Christians know prophecy second-hand at best.

Next time I'll look at a few problems the modern prophecy industry (for it certainly isn't a ministry) has created. We might as well start with the timing of the Rapture and why it should not be the big deal prophecy pundits say it is.

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