For this devotional thought let us first look at three passages of scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5, Matthew 24, and Matt 25.
1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11 (NLT)
“Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write to you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, ‘everything is peaceful and secure,’ then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.
But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded. Night is a time when people sleep, and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.
For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So, encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
Matt 24:42-44 (NLT),
“So, you too, must keep watch! For you do not know what day your Lord is coming. Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would keep watch and not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”
Matt 25: 1-13, (NLT) The story of the 10 virgins:
“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish did not take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’
All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.
But the others replied, we do not have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.
But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord, Lord! Open the door for us!’
But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’
So, you too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.”
In the past, our forefathers had a preoccupation with trying to identify a date for the Lord’s return. In my church, the SDA church, we spend a significant amount of time trying to understand the book of Daniel, particularly Daniel chapters 7-12, including the 2300 days referenced in chapter 8. But if we were to stop and ask the question, ‘what is the real purpose of prophecy?’—what would our answer be? Is it to predict the future? How can understanding God’s prophetic Word be of help to us today?
As I see it, there is tremendous value in understanding prophecy. I believe that knowing the prophetic writings can help us to make good choices today. Nevertheless, what is most important to me is this: ‘what’s the actual choice I’m going to make today?’ In my opinion, prophecy is not so much about predicting the future, it is more so about being able to look back and see how God has led and make relevant applications today. Yes, the decisions we make tomorrow are important, but we must make good decisions today or else we may not live to see tomorrow.
So here’s an example of a prophetic passage found in Ezekiel 17 which talks about two eagles. The first eagle represented the king of Babylon. The second eagle, the Pharaoh of Egypt.* In this passage Ezekiel shares a riddle in which he describes what will happen to the Israelites as they get taken into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar. It is the story of Zedekiah who is befriended by the King but then seeks help from the Egyptians to fight the Babylonians. Here there was a treaty that was broken and disregarded and because it was broken, God told Ezekiel, ‘hey, this is what is going to happen.’ The Egyptians will not help you. Your people will suffer at the hands of the Babylonians. And so, it happened. Not because God wanted it this way, but because this would be the result of their disobedience. Lesson: God’s Word is true and He will do what He says he will do. At the end of the day, God is not seeking to punish us. He wants us to turn from and seek him.
Ezekiel 18:32 (NLT) says, “I don’t want you to die, says the Sovereign Lord, Turn back and live!“
Prophetic literature is relevant today! However, as we study prophecy let us not get ‘carried away’ with dates and trying to predict the future. Today is the day at hand!
Matthew 6:34 (NLT) says, “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Is this verse saying, ‘do not plan for the future?’ Not at all. If we plan today, we will not need to worry about tomorrow. Here again the focus is on, ‘today.’ What choices do we need to make today?
2 Corinthians 6:2, “For God says, ‘At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.’ Indeed, the right time is now. Today is the day of salvation.”
Hebrews 3:7-8, says, “That is why the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts, as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.”
It is in a time of relative peace and safety that we can become complacent, and susceptible to lethargy. As we experience the pandemic of COVID-19, and the protests of injustice in our society, we may be in a period of ‘heightened awareness of prophecy’ and a sensitivity to what is described in Matt 24:7:
“Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in many parts of the world.”
However, while these events are taking place let us not fall into the trap of thinking, ‘oh, He’s coming next week or, in the next few months. Let’s remember, ‘today is the day at hand.’ Today is the day to make a decision for Christ, because tomorrow is not promised. In effect Christ could come for us at any time. So, let’s choose to serve him and accept him as our Savior, today.
Currently, some restrictions are being lifted with regards to being in ‘lockdown mode’ for the past few months. We have a ‘new normal,’ of sorts. Many are teleworking, doing more ordering online, and traveling less. However, there’s also a danger of being lulled to sleep, as we get accustomed to the ‘new normal.’ As we look at prophecy and its fulfillment may it help to guide our decisions and actions today as we look forward to Christ’s return.
*For more commentary on this passage see David Guzik @ EnduringWord