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Repentance is the purpose of prophecy

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Repentance is the purpose of prophecy

by Ellis W. Stewart
The writer, a longtime Church of God member,
is an elder in the United Church of God.

BIG SANDY, Texas--How should we view the controversial and sometimes unsettling subject of Bible prophecy?

I was inspired recently by an article by Cecil Maranville in the July 2008 issue of World News and Prophecy, published by the United Church of God. In the article you're reading I focus on an aspect of prophecy he brings out in his article.

Mr. Maranville tells of two brothers who considered themselves students of prophecy who requested a church visit years ago in the Worldwide Church of God. He visited them several times.

They wanted to know, among other things:

o Where are we in Bible prophecy?

o What is the next "colossal fulfillment" of prophecy?

Different people

As Mr. Maranville points out in his article, prophecy means different things to different people. The word prophet--according to the Bible and according to the dictionary--means one who speaks for God.

In the New Testament the greatest prophet is the greatest spokesman for God, Jesus Christ.

Those of us who are privileged to be in God's church understand that:

  • Prophecy makes up a large portion of the Bible.

  • Prophecy is a proof that God exists.

  • Prophecy is a proof of the Bible.

  • Our future, our hope, the resurrection, God's Kingdom and so many great positive aspects of our future deal with prophecy, which is what the Feast of Tabernacles pictures.

Prophecy verifies

Yet when some people hear the word prophecy they think only of disasters, the bad things, the calamities that the prophets foretold would happen and will get worse and worse before we experience the wonderful world tomorrow.

Unfortunately, some make a hobby of studying prophecy by viewing it only from this negative perspective.

To them prophecy is a religious crossword puzzle to solve or a numerical code to crack or a hidden key to understanding the time of the end. To them it's all a game.

What does God want us to do with the prophecies--both negative and positive--of the Bible?

God wants us to view prophecy as verification of our beliefs and His very existence, and He wants us to learn to apply prophecy's lessons individually to ourselves while taking care not to condemn others.

Condemn others? People's human nature leads them, when they see their fellow human beings suffering because of fulfilled prophecies of wars and natural disasters, to look down their noses at people they assume God is punishing because of their sins.

Pilate the killer

But Jesus, in Luke 13, addressed their very situation. His followers asked Him about tragedies of His day. They weren't necessarily prophesied tragedies except in a general sense, but the principle applies.

What did Jesus say when someone asked Him why God allowed Pilate to kill some righteous Galileans?

Jesus was asked, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?"

He responded: "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:2-3).

Jesus continued by referring to 18 people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a tower fell on them and killed them.

"Do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?" He asked, then answered His own question: "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (verse 5).

Jesus organized His three-and-one-half-year ministry to condition His followers to prepare them for the big change in their lives His life was bringing them.

The earliest Christians hadn't the means or freedom to worship in peace as we are able to do. They were not just persecuted. In the case of the Galileans, Pilate put them to death while they were worshiping God.

Don't blame the victims

Jesus was careful to instruct His followers never to blame victims for their tragedies. A calamity befalling someone does not mean the person is a sinner (any more than everyone is a sinner).

Rather than condemning the victims of tragedies, He wants His followers to apply the lessons of others' tragedies to themselves. If other people's tragedies can inspire us to look at our own wrong behavior and repent, then we will be farther along in our quest for the Kingdom.

Jesus knew He would rule over death as a result of His death and resurrection and be able to confer life on all who will repent of Satan's way of sin.

Good and evil have been around since Adam and Eve and their introduction to sin by Satan in the form of the serpent. Satan wants to destroy our lives, our very purpose for being here.

Prophecy is one way God speaks to us, showing us how He deals with us as free moral agents.

God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Making sport of prophecy

Mr. Maranville, in his article, says the two brothers were polite, friendly, good people. They made the mistake of treating prophecy as a spectator sport.

Mr. Maranville encourages his readers to let prophecy apply to them personally by letting it inspire them to change their own behavior.

We've seen that prophecy is viewed differently by different people.

After Christ built His spiritual church, the apostle Paul reiterates the same lessons Jesus gave to Luke.

Paul lists 10 "diversities" of spiritual "gifts" in 1 Corinthians 12 that include "prophecy," all to edify His church.

Then, in chapter 13, Paul shows that prophecy, along with the other gifts, are tools to change us and are of no value unless we receive them with God's love.

Matured and grown

In verse 8 of chapter 13 he even says prophecy will fail, and only the permanent gifts of faith, hope and love will abide.

That's once we've matured and grown up spiritually and are born into God's spiritual family.

There are good reasons for prophecy. Let's hold onto its benefits and seek to apply them to our lives to change and help others and be there when the feast days are fulfilled in God's Kingdom.


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