Kenneth V. Ryland
I had the opportunity to participate in a prophecy roundtable via the miracle
of modern telecommunications. We were in rapt conversation about the
"fourth beast" and where all the events of Daniel 11 fit in the
prophetic timetable of human history. Some of the information was truly
inspiring because it made plain the exactness with which God detailed the
future to his prophet Daniel.
preparing for this discussion, the thought occurred to me that we were not
just participating in an academic exercise. Even though with studied gaze we
viewed how prophecy was transformed into history, to the people who witnessed
the unfolding of these divinely foretold events, the prophecies were anything
but academic. And, to those who knew the Bible and its God, the march of these
predicted events was truly an astoundingly beautiful, and often terrifying,
testimony to the very real, personal activity of their Almighty Creator in
shaping their lives and the politics of the nations that surrounded them.
This brings us to the point of why we study prophecy. We want to know about
ourselves. Did God speak of me and my family--my nation--through His prophets?
How will the unfolding of prophecies yet unfulfilled impact me and the ones I
love? Just as those in past ages saw the day that prophecies turned real, will
we see the same in our day?
fascination with prophecy stems not just from what we think we will learn
about ourselves and those most dear to us, but from the fact that throughout
the Bible we have an entire catalog of prophecies that have already been
fulfilled, and that gives us a sense of certainty that since God was true to
his word in ages past, he will be true to it in our time.
prophecy is true because God is both reliable and predictable. And, much of
what the Bible predicts about the future is the natural response of God's
immutable and holy character to overflowing corruption, degradation, and
defiance of any godly restraint. In biblical terms any such morally debased
society deserves to die--even the one in which we live. So, what we want to
know most from Bible prophecy is "Will my nation be destroyed because of
all its sins?" If it appears that God's judgment is against us, is there
a way that I can avoid being punished with the rest of society? Will it be
possible for me to save my family?
are the types of questions that make Bible prophecy meaningful to us. What
gives these questions relevance is that we can look at history and see that
God has indeed carried out judgments against certain societies not just
"to fulfill His purpose" (whatever that means), but to eliminate the
perpetrators of evil. Very often prophets shouted warnings to the people that
unless the evildoers quickly reversed course and stopped their moral
debauchery and idolatry, God would act to destroy them. We see this theme
played over time and again by Israel's and Judah's prophets.
we are all wondering is "Has our nation gone too far?" Will we be
able to reverse course before God's judgment hammers us and our children? Is
there a way to turn all this around enough to avoid the judgments that God
said would come upon a people who, after declaring to the world that their
nation was created by an act of God for the purpose of the advancement of the
Gospel, have slapped their Creator in the face with their wanton immorality,
destruction of human life, and rampant corruption.
am reminded of Solomon, who during the latter part of his life turned himself
and the nation from God to idols. Here is God's response to Solomon in 1 Kings
11: "So the LORD became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned
from the LORD God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded
him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did
not keep what the LORD had commanded. Therefore the LORD said to Solomon,
'Because you have done this, and have not kept my covenant and my statutes,
which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and
give it to your servant. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the
sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However
I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for
the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have
chosen.' Now the LORD raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the
Edomite; he was a descendant of the king in Edom. (vv. 9-14)
the Lord beginning to raise up enemies against our nation also?
many Christians are concerned about what prophecy holds for our country
because the Judge of the Universe is predictable, and we can see his dealings
with Israel--how he made them pay for their idolatry and treachery. This is
what makes prophecy relevant to us today. This is why it is important to study
prophecy. Not only do we gain a glimpse of the future, but we awaken to the
real need to straighten out our lives and our relationship with God before the
time for that runs out.
thing that we all fear, and rightfully so, is that we will not heed the
prophetic warnings as Nineveh did, but will live to witness the words of
Ezekiel 22 fulfilled in our nation in our time:
The people of the land have used
oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they
wrongfully oppress the stranger. So I sought for a man among them who would
make a wall, and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land, that I
should not destroy it; but I found no one. Therefore I have poured out my
indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath; and I
have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,' says the Lord GOD. (vv.