The Practical Prophecy Podcast: Episode 4

What is the rapture? Part 2

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In this week’s episode of P3, Brian and I continue our discussion about the rapture of the Church. We define the doctrine of imminence, discuss types of the rapture in the Old Testament, ancient Jewish wedding traditions (and how they relate to the rapture), and much more.

 

The Practical Prophecy Podcast: Episode 3

What exactly is the rapture?

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In this week’s episode of P3, Brian and I take a look at the Rapture. Is it in the Bible? Is it relevant to us today? Is it something scary or something wonderful? This is the first in a several part series on the rapture of the Church.

 

The Practical Prophecy Podcast: Episode 2

What is the main thing to watch to understand the times?

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In this week’s episode of P3 Brian Thomas and I take a look at the single most compelling development that let’s us know where we are on God’s calendar. Keep your eyes on this one thing to see if the pieces of the end-times puzzle are falling into place.

The Practical Prophecy Podcast: Episode 1

Why Study Bible Prophecy?

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I’m excited to announce a new resource we are making available. I have partnered with a great friend and Bible prophecy teacher Brian Thomas to bring you a weekly Bible Prophecy podcast. It’s called P3 which stands for The Practical Prophecy Podcast. Our goal is to talk about topics related to Bible prophecy in a practical and relevant way. Please share if you find it helpful in your effort to understand Bible prophecy and how it impacts your daily life.

The Top 3 Things That Keep People from Studying Bible Prophecy

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On this question from the recent survey I sent out, participants could choose more than one answer. These were the top three choices by far. Most other reasons were under 5%. These results were eye opening to me in terms of knowing what posts to write, resources to develop, and what books to recommend. They also confirm the direction and content for a book I’m currently writing which will be published by Harvest House Publishers.

I’ll share specific details about he book once I finish the content and we begin to promote it, but it will help address these three barriers that keep people from learning Bible prophecy. It will be a user-friendly resource for churches and individuals wanting to teach the basics of Bible prophecy in a simple, clear, Biblically sound manner.

My partnership with Harvest House is a huge answer to prayer. Many of the prophecy books I have studied over the years have been published by Harvest House including super-solid Bible prophecy experts such as Tim LaHaye, Ron Rhodes, Jeff Kinley, Thomas Ice, Mark Hitchcock, Ed Hindson, and Skip Heitzig. I am humbled and honored to have teamed up with such a great partner. I have worked on many creative projects before but have never felt so called (and seen so many doors open) as I do with this project. I can’t wait to share more so stay tuned!

Anyway, back to the survey. Based on the results of this question and others, two of my goals through this platform will be:

  1. To help equip churches to teach Bible prophecy in a clear and relevant way that causes spiritual and numerical growth in their local body of believers.
  2. To help everyday believers, seekers, and skeptics understand the basics of Bible prophecy and how it is the single greatest proof that the Bible is from God.

If you happen to have taken the survey, here are some initial thoughts that may help you overcome the three barriers listed above. First, be sure to check out the 5 Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation series of posts to get some clarity on barriers two and three above.

Second, be patient with your church and pray about how you may be able to help equip people by teaching a class, organizing a prophecy conference, or starting a Bible study. Its easy to complain about a need that isn’t being addressed, but perhaps you are the one God has in mind to fill that Gap! I love a verse that my pastor often cites…

Ephesians 4:16 (NIV)
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Consider yourself a ligament! Your local church needs you. Often, people with a calling in the area of Bible prophecy see things in a different way. Sometimes only the watchmen and women on the wall see what’s in the distance. It’s our job to tactfully and respectfully figure out how we can help “wake the bride” as author and friend Jeff Kinley so succinctly states in his book of the same name.

I think there are several reasons why most churches don’t teach much about Bible prophecy and I’ll talk about that in an upcoming post.

In the mean time, let me know what you think. Do the three barriers mentioned above seem to keep you from learning Bible prophecy? What resources for churches and people do you think would be helpful?

The Top 3 Things People Want to Know About Bible Prophecy

A few weeks ago I set up a Bible prophecy survey for people to take. It had 25 questions, several of which I’m going to analyze in upcoming blog posts, this one being the first.

One of the key things I wanted to do was to find out what specific areas of Bible prophecy people most wanted to learn more about so I would know what to write about and what resources to create.


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See the info graphic above and a screenshot of the survey questions and results below. Needless to say, these are the 3 areas that most future blog posts will revolve around.


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Several other questions provided some eye opening results which I’ll share in the upcoming weeks.

Is Bible Prophecy a Distraction to Real Ministry?

5 Reasons Bible Prophecy Is Extremely Relevant Today

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I just got back from a Mission trip to Haiti last night. If you’re not familiar with the conditions there, they are terrible. Everything there is broken. The government, the culture, the land, the economy, the health of the people. Everything.

It’s almost as if the land itself if cursed. Even satellite images like the one above (Haiti at left, the Dominical Republic across the border at right) tell a story. Generations of corruption and greed, voodoo practice, a lack of vision, and a lack of education, have kept this country among the poorest in the world. I have been to some of the poorest areas of Brazil and the Dominican Republic but I’ve never seen the level of poverty and brokenness that I saw in Haiti.

It has an official 80% unemployment rate, but it’s really worse than that. Even someone selling vegetables once a week is considered “employed”. It’s probably more like a 95%+ unemployment rate by real numbers. Most people in the villages eat once every other day. Starvation and malnutrition are common place.

As a prophecy student, I found myself wondering if many Christians would think that a focus on Bible-Prophecy (when there are so many basic real-life needs) might be a waste of time, not just in Haiti, but for the Church in general. More than a few times, I’ve heard that argument from fellow believers.

Here are five reasons teaching Bible prophecy is not only relevant, but vital to discipleship and evangelism.

1. IT GIVES PEOPLE A DEEPER CONFIDENCE IN SCRIPTURE

One-third of the Bible is prophetic in nature and one out of four verses in the Bible talk about prophecy. Prophecy intersects with every category of theology and progressively reveals key themes that are introduced in Genesis and converge in the book of Revelation. A study of Bible prophecy demonstrates the incredible cohesiveness and grand design of the Bible. There is no other document like it in history. A study of prophecy deepens our overall knowledge of scripture — something we are challenged to do as believers. The more we know truth, the more we will spot error and the better equipped we will be for ministry and life. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that “all scripture” is profitable (2 Timothy 2:15, Acts 17:11, 2 Timothy 3:16). The book of Revelation even tells in the beginning and in end of the book that there is a special blessing for those who read the words of Revelation and act on them. So, even the book of Revelation is a practical book that calls us to obedience and results in blessing for those who study it.

2. IT ANCHORS OUR FOCUS ON AN ETERNAL HOPE

We led a Bible study in Haiti with a group of people from the village our church supports and one of the verses we studied was Romans 12:12 which reads — “Rejoice in confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Think about how relevant that verse is to someone who lives in extreme poverty, not knowing when their next meal is coming or what tomorrow may bring. An old blind man in our group talked about being patient in trouble and prayer with a smile on his face. I asked the rest of the group about the first part — the part that gives the ability to be patient in trouble. I asked what the hope is that Paul talked about. “What was our confident hope?” Without skipping a beat, one of the younger men, with utmost confidence and joy in his eyes, said in creole, “When Jesus comes back for us or when we die and go to him.”  This confident hope is our anchor. In Haiti, the believers are not blinded by wealth and comfort. There, they have a raw Acts chapter 2 type of faith. They know everything else is unreliable — everything except our confident hope!

3. IT PURIFIES OUR WALK

There’s something about reminding ourselves of Jesus’ promised return that moves us from being lukewarm to regaining a faith that is on fire with passion to serve him. Since 2000 years have gone by, we’re easily lulled into sleep and complacency — or even sinful compromise — because we’ve lost any sense of urgency. When we study Bible prophecy and are reminded that He is a promise-keeper, and that many of the signs of His return have been falling into place the past 70 or so years, we begin to live with more excitement, purpose, purity, and commitment. I am thoroughly convinced that the enemy desperately wants to get our focus off of Christ’s return because he knows it leads to a victorious Christian walk and another important aspect of our faith…

4. IT PUSHES US TO SHARE OUR FAITH

We tend to share our faith more effectively and more often if there’s a sense of urgency. The Bible teaches that the rapture is imminent (can happen any moment) and we see the conditions falling into place for everything end-times related. A careful, non-sensationalistic study of Bible prophecy reminds us that there are still many people we know who have not heard the Gospel. Perhaps the Lord has brought someone to mind even as you read this. Don’t wait. Tell them about Christ.

5. IT HELPS PEOPLE MAKE SENSE OF THE WORLD

There’s no denying our world is going crazy right now. I recently launched a Bible Prophecy Survey (the results of which I’ll share in upcoming posts) and one of the key areas of focus that came up again and again was global instability. It’s the elephant in the room. These are scary times. But it all makes sense when viewed through the grid of Bible prophecy. What we see today is EXACTLY what Bible prophecy unveils for the end-times.

CONCLUSION

I believe that a careful study of Bible prophecy is extremely healthy and necessary for Christians today. Focusing our attention on the Lord’s return will help move our faith from an arid wasteland to one that is growing and thriving.  An accurate view of Bible prophecy is truly relevant for everyday life and ministry.

Important Bible Prophecy Survey!

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Take the survey now!

Please help me better serve you with relevant content and resources by taking this quick (5 minute) survey to let me know what areas of Bible prophecy you would like to know more about.

If you are ready to take the survey, click here!

Thanks in advance for you help. Feel free to share the survey with others!

Three Easy Rules to Help You Study Prophecy

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Studying the Book of Revelation is intimidating and it does take some intentional work to understand it. But, it’s no where near as intimidating as you think if you keep three rules in mind (covered in detail below).  My goal with this blog is to make complex things simple in regards to end-times theology and understanding. I think most people are intimidated by the subject and many have decided that it’s too complex to figure out anyway, so they retreat to a position of just being okay with the basics — that Jesus is coming back somehow, some way, at some point.

I used to be there too. But then I read verses that say things like, “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33), and “all scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16), or “not one jot or tittle (the smallest marks in the Hebrew language) shall pass from the law until all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). Even the book of Revelation itself says that whoever reads and keeps the prophecies found in Revelation will be blessed (Revelation 1:3, Revelation 22:7). It’s the capstone of the canon, the grand finale of the fireworks show, the crescendo of the symphony, the best part of the love letter, and the climax of the movie, but somehow the enemy has convinced most believers that it’s too convoluted to understand. How did this happen?

First of all, I think it’s because of spiritual warfare. Yes, it’s real. Yes, there is a real Satan and in his twisted mind, he still thinks he can usurp God’s plan and take his place. Satan lusts after the worship that only God deserves and the more he can confuse people about end-time prophecy, the more it plays to his advantage — even though we already know who wins. The enemy knows Bible prophecy. He has studied it for thousands of years. He wants to rewrite the playbook and get our eyes off of the incredible victory that is coming for Christ and for us. If the enemy can take away the biggest motivation factor for expectant living and sharing our faith (Jesus’ soon return/Rev. 22:7) then he will do just that. The enemy does not want God’s people living with the sense of purpose, clarity, and urgency that a proper understanding of end-times events provides.

Second, I think some well meaning but unwise Christians have done unnecessary damage to how people view Bible prophecy. There is never a shortage of date-setters even though Jesus himself said that, “no one knows the day or the hour…” (Matthew 24:36). That doesn’t mean we can’t know the season or general time frame however, but that’s another post for another day.

Third, considering the fact that there are a few different methods of interpretation (Idealist, Preterist, Historicist, and Futurist views) when approaching Revelation, this adds another layer of confusion. If you have 3 or 4 super intelligent authors or seminary professors who say vastly different things about how to interpret the book of Revelation, then how in the world are we supposed to know which view is accurate? Am I reading your mail? If so, please keep reading!

I should note here that the various views of the end-times is an in-house debate. It’s not a salvation issue. Some truly Godly people who love the Lord and love the word of God disagree on the order of end-time events. Through MUCH study and a great amount of conviction, I fall firmly into the futurist, pre-trib, pre-mill camp (If you don’t know what that means stay tuned for future posts on that topic), but I would never berate a brother or sister in Christ who held another view. Sadly, I see this happen way too often when Christians disagree. For some reason these believers forget all about John 13:35 that says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

There is a famous quote attributed to an early church leader that says, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things, charity.” Let’s unite around the essentials, allow for differing views in the non-essentials, and demonstrate true Christian love toward each other, even if we disagree on how the end-time pieces fall into place. But, don’t let the term “non-essential” make you think you don’t need to study and form your own convictions. Have the courage to pursue truth wherever it leads.

So, to bring it back to where we started…making complex things simple. Here are three very important rules to follow when studying prophecy and attempting to form your own conviction about the nature of Bible prophecy and of end-time events.

I. STUDY THE TOTALITY OF SCRIPTURE

If scripture is without error and of divine origin we should see a harmony and cohesiveness within it’s pages, and we do. The more I study it, the more I know that only a sovereign God could have put it together. We see lines of theology introduced in Genesis and progressively revealed throughout the Old and New Testaments. We see a divine harmonization of passages written at different times by different writers. For those who want to take the time, you’ll find that the internal and external evidence for  the reliability of scripture is overwhelming.

With those facts in view as we study prophecy, we can confidently interpret scripture with scripture and take every world literally unless it’s clearly a figure of speech. It is very easy to take verses out of context or brush them off if we don’t understand that we should let scripture shed light on other parts of scripture. When symbols are used in the book of Revelation for example, we can’t use contemporary concepts to understand them. We have to search the Old Testament for instances of those symbols. This unlocks the meaning of the symbol and harmonizes it with scripture. I’ve seen some Christians treat the Old Testament like it is obsolete and only study the New Testament in depth. This does them a disservice because, “ALL SCRIPTURE is God-breathed and useful for teaching…” (2 Timothy 3:16). You cannot fully understand Eschatology without understanding the progression of theology from Genesis to Revelation.

II. DON’T SPIRITUALIZE

Too often, students of the Bible tend to “spiritualize” the meaning of prophecies even though they don’t do this with any other areas of scripture. For example, when the Bible talks about various people groups, we understand they are talking about specific countries, areas, or groups of people. In most cases, we can trace the history back to those people. But some prophecy teachers use “replacement theology” and replace Israel with the Church and that God is done with Israel (even though Paul spends 3 chapters in Romans [Ch. 9-11] clearly showing God is NOT done w/ Israel or the Jewish people).

Another example is with the Millennium (the 1000 year period of Christ’s rule on earth after the Tribulation period). Even though the Old Testament prophets say over and over again that the Lord will rule on a literal throne from Jerusalem, and Revelation chapter 20 says six times that there will be a 1000 year reign of Christ, many prophecy teachers say this is figurative for the Church age. The problem is no other scripture sheds light on this being figurative. No where in scripture does it say the church has replaced the Jews, nor is there any precedent for spiritualizing the meaning of the 1000 years. Everywhere else where God uses a number, that number is to be taken literally. When the Gospels tell us Jesus chose 12 disciples, it meant exactly that. Precision and accuracy are hallmarks of God’s nature.

III. USE LOGIC

We need to use our God-given ability to apply logic to compare and contrast passages of scripture to develop a framework of understanding of end-time events. For example. If the rapture where we “meet the Lord in the air” is imminent (meaning it can happen at any time with no preconditions) as taught by Paul, and if the tribulation begins with the confirming of a covenant by the anti-christ, and if the anti-Christ cannot be revealed until after the rapture occurs, then logic demands that the rapture must occur before the tribulation. Here’s another example. If the anti-Christ stands in the temple in the middle of the seven-year tribulation period and there is not currently a temple in Jerusalem, then it stands to reason that sometime between now and the middle of the tribulation, a third Jewish temple will be constructed. (BTW, did you know there’s an organization called The Temple Institute that has already constructed all of the instruments, trained priests who’s DNA traces back to the Levitical line of the Old Testament, has the building plans, and funding for the third temple?)

As you read prophetic passages without spiritualizing the meaning and recalling other related passages, you can use logic to connect the dots and develop clearer convictions and a better understanding about the nature of end-time events.

By following those rules, I have found that studying Bible prophecy and the book of Revelation to be the most exciting Bible study I’ve ever taken on — mainly because these three rules clear the fog and unlock God’s word. I am 100% convinced that God means what he says and says what he means, that the totality of scripture completely harmonizes, and that our God-given ability to use logic connects the dots.

When studying scripture with that approach and with the attitude that you will follow truth wherever it will lead, I believe you will come to the same conclusions I have (Pre-trib, Pre-Mil, Futurist Positions). But even if you don’t, you will still have a much better understanding of scripture. I hope this post will help encourage you to study prophecy with a sense of clarity and expectancy. God’s word was never meant to be boring or convoluted.

For further reading, be sure to check out the previous posts on the 5 Keys to Understanding the Book of Revelation.

 

Obedience Leads to Blessing

How Jacob Became Israel

I’m using the simple S.O.A.P. method for studying God’s word and wanted to share an example here. In short, I read scripture until a particular verse jumps out at me, then I write that verse down. S is for scripture. O is for observation. A is for application. and P is for prayer. This simple method for daily devotions has worked for me for several years now. Here is my devotion from today. 


SCRIPTURE

Genesis 35:5 Reads, “Then they set out and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.”

In the preceding verses, God spoke to Jacob and told him to take his family up to Bethel to build and altar and settle there. Then, in an act of purification and dedication…and good leadership, Jacob commanded everyone to get rid of their idols. Then the text tells us they gave all of their idols and earrings to Jacob and he buried them “under the oak at Shechem.” (vs. 4) These were valuable items (at least in their eyes) that the people gave up. 

Verse five jumped out at me because it shows how God works in powerful and surprising ways when His people obey him. God worked mysteriously to provide safe travel for Jacob’s family. But that wasn’t it. The main event of this passage was still to come. Once Jacob followed through with full obedience and relocated to Bethel and built an altar there (vs. 7), God changed his name to Israel and confirmed the covenant he had made with Jacob’s father and grandfather (Abraham and Isaac) giving Israel (the person and the nation) the title deed to the land and all the other future blessings of the covenant.


OBSERVATIONS

• God responded to their act of purity, humility, submission, and dedication.

• Obedience ALWAYS shows up in concrete action.

• Obedience leads to the honor of seeing God move in powerful and unexpected ways.

• Obedience leads to protection from self-desctructive habits, and leads to future blessing.

• Leaders can make a big difference by casting an effective vision and making a bold “ask”.

• A leader’s obedience effects generations to come.


APPLICATION

• We need to simply trust and obey. God’s track record is flawless.

• What do we want more — creature comforts and a false sense of man-centered security — or the privilege of being part of God moving in powerful ways?

• Think of what Jacob and his family would have missed if they didn’t obey.

• God is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Think of what we miss if we don’t obey God’s calling.

• Our fears and sense of loss when leaving things behind are merely the enemy’s smoke screen to keep us from God’s best. Whatever we give up is ALWAYS replaced by something much better.

• Fall in love with obedience. It ALWAYS leads to future blessing.


PRAYER (Pray this for yourself and/or insert your own personal prayer)

Lord, help me obey in radical ways. I want to be part of your giant story. I want to see you move powerfully. Help me accomplish the hard task of obedience today — so I can bless you and anchor my heart and soul to future blessings.

Dim the appeal of instant gratification in the blinding light of future blessings which will never fade or disappoint. Amen.