Having crossed the threshold of a new year I cannot think of anyone that would not like to know what the future holds. Fortunetellers and palm readers are a testament to that truth, but they are both ungodly and untrustworthy. The Bible is full of prophecy most of which has already been fulfilled. Some have estimated ninety-five percent of biblical prophecies have been completed with about five percent remaining fulfillment.
But that future five percent according to the Bible is at once clear in some points, and yet obscure in others. Conflicting eschatologies lend cogent truth to that statement. I have thought the intrinsic obscurity was intended by God to prevent any attempt to unscrupulously profit from such advance knowledge. God gives us enough light about the future to let us know He is in control, but not enough light so that we attempt to control others. God never intended for us to profit from a prophet.
One of the points the Bible is very clear about regarding the future is there is coming a time of trouble to mankind that is unprecedented in the annals of human history, and one of the obscurities is the timetable of when the church will be raptured, either before, during, or after this time of trouble. This may explain what I mean when I say the Scriptures are clear and yet obscure at the same time. Some will find the uncertainties about the future disconcerting; I find it comforting that our Father has revealed enough in His Word for us to live optimistically by faith.
While I am sharing on God’s perspective of the future, I thought I would comment on two words found in the Scriptures that give us some insight, foreknowledge and predestination. Some say these two words when used in the Scriptures mean the same thing; that is semantically asinine. Foreknowledge is a function of God’s omniscience, and predestination is a function of God’s omnipotence. There are some things God foreknows and some things He predestines to occur.
While I see them as two different functions with entirely different meanings, I do not believe that within the heart and mind of God they operate independently. Let me explain with a biblical example. I do not believe God predestined the fall of Adam and Eve, but I believe He foresaw it, and prepared a remedy by predestinating a Savior. I believe the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary’s cross was in the heart and mind of God at creation. The Father predestined a Savior because He foreknew our first parents would sin.
Understanding this distinction between foreknowing something and predestinating something to happen is important in understanding biblical prophecy. Prophecy is the product of one or both of these functions, and grasping that truth and applying it can make what God says about the future clearer.
When His disciples asked Jesus about things to come (Matthew 24:3) He said there will be “wars and rumors of wars,” Matthew 24:6. I do not believe God has predestined wars and the concomitant horrors associated with armed conflict, but He does know that when men turn from dependence on Him they will turn on one another in a struggle over control of available resources as the population grows and those resources dwindle. Thomas Malthus said much the same thing. God has not predetermined the troubles to come, but He has foreseen them, and has forewarned us.
The troubles ahead arise from the humanist view that man can solve his own problems; that man can eventually “save himself.” God will allow mankind to pursue its own plans, but the political upheavals and cataclysmic events prophesied in the Scriptures will not occur because God has predestined them to, but because He will allow man to discover that apart from God man does not have the answers to solve society’s problems, nor can he even master the very environment in which he lives. We cannot save ourselves from ourselves or anything else.
So how can I remain optimistically in faith? The righteous man “will not fear evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord,” Psalm 112:7. The cliché is trite but true; I do not worry about what the future holds because I know Who holds the future. Those believers who remain faithful will be labors in a great harvest of souls.