Why the fascination with prophecy?

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.

0 thoughts on “Why the fascination with prophecy?

  1. “Because inquiring minds want to know” Unfortunately, as you so well said, the interest in the prophets are more about their future predictions than their call to repentance. If we study the prophetic writings of the Old Testament we cannot help but see that main emphasis is on social justice as a fruit of true righteousness. As so many unbelievers are so ready to pay to have their futures told, so the believers are eager to pay the way for the prophets their persuasion. I am not sure how to respond to the numerous prophets flying into Thailand to proclaim their prophesies of the great coming revival and then they get back onto their planes to go “bless” another land with their fantastic prophecies. Can they ever be wrong, as their prophecies are always conditional. “If my people…… then a great revival….., but if not…… then tragedy…… How can we argue against this. It may very well be true as it is very much the same message given by the OT prophets, but when the modern day prophets really lead us in the way of social justice, not just sensational apocalypticism then I will truly begin to show interest. I am not interested in judging the “true” prophet from the “false” one, I am just bored with the whole distraction.

  2. Jay, I understand and respect your boredom. The trouble is, others are not bored yet, although they should be. If they are prepared to read this material, and it seems that many are, then I feel justified in offering my take on it.

    But it is not just a modern phenomenon that prophets arrive from foreign countries and make predictions which don’t come true, explained away as because the implied condition was met. That is just what Jonah did in Nineveh, Jonah 3:4-5. Was he wrong or a false prophet?

  3. By the way I don’t think any of my previous posts here, in five years of blogging, have been as popular for an extended period, with 400 views per day for more than a day or two. The only exception was Pope Benedict, Bible scholars, and the Antichrist which had thousands of visitors for just a few days because of a link on a popular site – and then faded away within a week. By contrast these prophecy posts are getting much of their traffic from Google, and that is more likely to keep going.

    One reason for the extra traffic may be that I have made some efforts to make these posts, and this blog in general, more search engine friendly.

  4. Hi Peter,

    I appreciate your posting on the subject because, like you’ve said before, there are a lot of confused people out there who need a dose of the truth. And, the truth is that only time will tell if predictive prophesies are true or not.

    My pastor said something about prophesies that I remember and hold to: As Spirit-filled Christians, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us in ways that God’s people did not in the Old Testament. We should take modern prophesy as encouragement or affirmation of what we already know God has spoken to us.

  5. Pingback: Armageddon, Fulfilled, Prophecies, Scary, Times, World, agendas, depopulation, end times prophecies, global elite, texts, world domination, world war 3

  6. Pingback: Mark Stibbe prophesies earthquakes in Britain - Gentle Wisdom

  7. As the recipient of visions for many years, I keep my mouth shut!
    However, for me at least I found that we are but part of a play that has been written
    somewhere and we seem to follow blindly.If you try and get away from what you have been shown, you forcefully are placed in situations where in the end you arrive where you are supposed to be.
    When you read bible prophesy or any other published prophesy, you must wonder what is God’s interest in telling some the play before it happens!
    Take the one that says: there will be a period of peace for 1000 years when Satan
    once more will be released from his bonds. i.e do what you want to but you have no choice because I am the boss.
    I have a prophesy on my files that was published in 1857 and is absolutely true for our time. Nothing in that prophesy is in doubt.
    What is the use of knowing about it from a simple so called woodsman
    when his audience had NO IDEA what he could be talking about but for generalities!
    God is sitting somewhere playing monopoly or a chessgame for amusement and us suckers just the pawns.

  8. Marinus, it is an interesting question why God chooses to reveal through prophecy what he will do in the future. But as the prophet Amos told us:

    Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.
    Amos 3:7 (NIV 2011)

    I suppose that the purpose of this is so that God’s people can prepare for what he is about to do, and so that others can be warned to repent in the face of coming disaster, and save themselves by following God’s directions. But I am not sure if that is a full and adequate explanation.

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