Jesus didn’t talk about the future just to build a crowd or to fill his disciples’ brains with prophetic minutiae or to sell books. His purpose wasn’t to get them so hyped and overly focused on the second coming that they dropped everything to wait for his return. He always connected the future to the present, grounding prophetic truth in life application. That’s why he always challenged them with “watch and be ready for my coming.” Prophecy isn’t meant just to clue us in about tomorrow, but to clean us up today! If a so-called prophetic expert doesn’t provoke you to purity, walk away!
The Journey: Matthew 24:1-3
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
In other words, when is all of this going to end? Questions about the end of time have been around since the beginning of time. And those questions always betray an inner uncertainly people have about tomorrow, and their eternal future. That is why so-called prophetic books have always been popular, and to a large degree, speculative at best and misleading at worst.
So, since you and I are rightly curious about the end of time, just as Jesus’ original followers were, how can we tell speculative and spurious prophetic materials from those that are solidly biblical? Well, first and foremost, try reading what the Bible itself has to say about the future. Go to the one who is Master and Commander over tomorrow. You will be amazed at the confidence you gain simply listening to his take on the prophetic future.
And one of the things you will notice about Jesus’ prophetic teachings was that he always connected the future to the present. He always grounded prophetic truth in life application. That is a litmus test for the authenticity of prophecy. Twice in his prophetic sermon in Matthew 24, Jesus said, “Watch and be ready for my coming.” (Matt. 24:42,44)
Jesus didn’t talk about the future just to build a crowd or to fill his disciples’ brains with prophetic minutiae or to sell DVD sets. His purpose wasn’t to get them so hyped and overly focused on the second coming that they dropped everything to wait for his return. And so-called prophecy experts today should do no less. If they do, they are not representing Jesus very well.
Prophecy should never make us so heavenly minded we’re no earthly good. If it does, something is wrong! That’s one of the tests of authentic prophecy.
Another litmus test of authentic prophecy is its sanctifying work in our lives. The Apostle John, who wrote the most extensive prophetic work in the Bible, the Revelation, reminded us in his first epistle, “This hope makes us keep ourselves holy, just as Christ is holy.” (1 John 3:3, CEV) Prophecy isn’t meant just to clue us in about tomorrow, but to clean us up today! Authentic prophecy will provoke us to purity!
Yet another litmus test is if it produces an activistic faith. In other words, authentic prophetic interest makes us so heavenly minded we are more earthly good. In Luke 19:13, Jesus said, “Occupy—do business till I come.”
C.S. Lewis said, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
Here’s the unmistakable point of the prophetic: prophecy is given not only for predictive purposes, but to prepare and purify us for the future, and to make us proactive in the present while we wait for Christ’s return.
If you are looking for prophetic teaching that tickles your desires for the sensational, that places no demands upon your life right now, and that produces no changes in you today, then there are plenty end-time works in your local bookstore or on your favorite online video site to tickle your eschatological fancy. But if you want to know what God has revealed about his plans for tomorrow so that it will make a difference in how you live today, go to the Bible. And don’t come away from it until it produces a pure and proactive faith in you that is current.