Going North and South at the Same Time
Vol: 20 Issue: 2 Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Whenever something happens in the world that lines up with Bible prophecy, well-meaning believers close ranks together, announce, ”This is it!” and start proclaiming ”the end is at hand!”
When the end doesn’t come on schedule, they are discouraged. And worse, those with whom they shared their insights are now confirmed scoffers. Not to mention the damage the disappointment wreaks on the believer himself, especially a new believer.
Teaching Bible prophecy is fraught with risks; conditional statements become part of one’s resume, whether intended or not. For twenty-five years, for example, Hal Lindsey has been bombarded with criticism for claiming the Lord would return in 1988.
Fact is, that isn’t what Hal either said or intended. Hal was discussing the developing EU at the time that Greece became the 10th member. Hal said that, according to the Bible, the revived Roman Empire would consist of ten nations in Western Europe.
IF, Hal said, this WERE the final form of the Roman Empire, that would mean the Lord’s return would be seven years later. Seven years after 1981 (when Greece joined) would be 1988. Ergo, the canard, “Hal Lindsey is a false prophet” developed legs, (much to Hal’s later astonishment.)
Over the past few months, the development of the Iranian-Russian nuclear crisis has had many prophecy-watchers (myself included) very excited at the potential ramifications.
The prophet Ezekiel outlined a coming war between Israel and a confederation of Islamic states, led by Persia and headed by Russia, that would culminate on the mountains of Israel with the defeat of the forces of Gog-Magog.
Iran is Persia, the Russian Federation corresponds to Gog-Magog, the entire Islamic world is gearing up for war with Israel and a war with Iran over its Russian nuclear program is all but assured. “This is it! The end is near!”
But what if it isn’t? Will you lose your faith?
In a real sense, Bible prophecy is something like a road map. When one uses a road map, one needs two critical pieces of information in order for it to be useful. One needs to know one’s starting point and one’s destination. Armed with those two pieces of information, a glance at the map provides a good indication of where one is at any point along the trip.
Ever notice when on a road trip that sometimes the roads merge? One can be traveling on a south-bound highway that merges for a time with a west-bound highway.
There are a few places where a north-bound and south-bound highway merge briefly, especially around construction sites. According to the highway signs, one gets the curious sense of traveling north and south at the same time.
I recall a road trip I took cross-country shortly after buying a car that had a compass built-in to the rear view mirror. The highway signs said I was going west, I was headed west to California, but about half the time, the compass was telling me I was also heading either north or south — and a couple of times, east.
Compass headings and road signs notwithstanding, eventually, I arrived at precisely the place on the West Coast I had planned. Sometimes I was headed north, sometimes south, and even occasionally east, but I knew I was trending to the west.
Stay with me, here.
We know the direction we are heading, but just about the time we are sure we are headed west, the compass says we are going north or south. We are going around a mountain or some other obstacle, but we know that, once we’ve detoured around that unseen ‘bump in the road’ we will resume our original course.
Bible prophecy for the last days is like that. The bulk of the major events prophesied for the last generation are focused on the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble” during the Tribulation Period. From where we sit, it appears to be just over the horizon.
We know it is fast approaching — it says so on the road map, when suddenly, the compass shifts and we are heading south for a time. Does that mean the map is wrong? Or are we misreading our current location? The answer won’t come for certain until we reach our destination. But until we arrive, we trust the road map’s general sense of direction.
Bible prophecy maps out the last days in a similar fashion; we know where we are going, but sometimes, the compass and the road map don’t seem to line up. But instead of recognizing that we are going around an obstacle, some believers put their faith in the compass instead of the road map.
Are you with me now?
The Bible’s map is not only crystal clear about the ultimate destination, but it also provides road signs to let us know we are headed in the right general direction. Just as a west-bound road trip TRENDS west, but doesn’t always travel due west, Bible prophecy outlines trends; wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences, etc., that serve as mile markers to tell us we are approaching our destination. But from time to time, we find ourselves being detoured.
Seeing a sign that says “Los Angeles, 385 miles” means you are almost there, but it doesn’t mean you can take the next exit. Neither are you close enough to predict your exact time of arrival. There are still plenty of potential detours and traffic hazards along the way.
The Bible’s outline of future history continues to unfold as predicted, but that is not to say there won’t be a few more detours as we go around unseen obstacles along the way.
You have to trust the road map, not your sense of direction, your compass, or a road sign. Or nobody else will trust you when you are giving THEM directions.
We are close to our destination. All the Bible’s road signs say we are close. The Bible’s road map says we are close.
Jesus said we would know when it was near, even at the doors. But that isn’t the same as being able to predict exactly when we will arrive at our destination. Jesus has scouted the road ahead, He knows where the detours are. We don’t.
It is enough for us to know that our map is accurate, even when it looks like we are going north and south at the same time.