Why is it that whenever I write on this blog anything about prophecy I attract far more readers than for anything else I write about? My post David Wilkerson prophecy: earthquakes in Japan and USA has been read over 1600 times in four days. The follow-up Rick Joyner on another Japan earthquake prophecy has been read over 800 times in 48 hours. By contrast, in the last week only one of my other posts, Why I am ignoring Japan, has been read as much as 100 times. So why do my mainly Christian readers have this fascination with prophecy?
For the convenience of those readers, I have set up a new category for this blog, Prophecy, currently containing the 22 most relevant posts over the last five years.
I think the underlying reason must be that Christian people are longing to find some significance in current events, especially in the turbulent times we seem to be in. These times are in fact probably no more turbulent than any others: what is new is only that turbulence from anywhere in the world is reported to us on a minute by minute basis on TV and the Internet. But what matters is the public perception that our times are unusually turbulent.
When we see natural or man-made disasters, none of us want to think that people have died for nothing. When wicked people seem to get their way, we don’t want them to go unpunished. And when we hear reports that God has given to his prophets advance warning of these events, we are at least reassured that he is in control and has not been caught unprepared. This much is certainly one of the proper purposes of prophecy.
The problem comes when we take this one step further. Somehow it is not enough for us that God is in control and will bring about his purposes at some time in the future. We long for God to intervene to put things right, and to do so immediately, on our timescales, not on his in which “a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8). We expect him to take the same kind of action that the UN forces are currently taking in Libya, only more quickly and more effectively. If we had the chance to play God, we might have struck Gaddafi down with a thunderbolt and driven all his forces into the sea like the Gadarene swine. But that is not God’s way of working.
The issues get even more confused when we try to pin on to current events some kind of eschatological significance. We tend to assume that if God has foretold some event through his prophets it must be a sign of the imminent end of the world as we know it. We realise that only at the return of Jesus will all the wrongs in this world be put right. And we long for his appearing, as indeed we should do (2 Timothy 4:8).
The problem here is that, most likely, current events are not at all signs of an imminent end. This is the message of the passage from Matthew 24 which I quoted in my post on the David Wilkerson prophecy. History is littered with false prophecies that the end is nigh, just as Jesus predicted in that same chapter. Many of us will remember how 30 to 40 years ago Christian authors like Hal Lindsey predicted that the Cold War would lead to Armageddon and the return of Jesus. Today these “prophecies” look ridiculous. And very likely any predictions of eschatological significance to now current events will look just as ridiculous In another 30 to 40 years.
All this is not at all to discount prophecy today. God does seem to be giving to his prophets real advance warning of many of the major events shaking our world, literally and metaphorically. The purpose of these prophecies is not to satisfy our curiosity about the future. Part of it is indeed to reassure us that God is in control. But surely their main purpose is to warn us of how we need to repent, to change our behaviour, so that we are not overtaken by unexpected disaster.
When we read prophecies about earthquakes, and even ones about financial collapse, how often do we focus on dates and places and skip over the lessons on how God would have us respond? I confess to being guilty of this in my recent posts on prophecy, as I quoted only the predictions and not the lessons – although in fact the lessons were the larger parts of what Wilkerson wrote and Joyner said. But it is most unwise to ignore God’s warnings, as if we do we too might find ourselves victims of disasters which God allows to happen in this world.