Posted in eschatology, harold camping, prophecy

UPDATED– How to approach prophecy, plus, snow tornado

Editor’s Note–I don’t usually update essays after a few hours at most, preferring to leave them alone. But today I was reading John MacArthur’s “Christ’s Prophetic Plans” and some things in there just dovetailed erfectly with what I was saying here. I am adding the prophecy chart and a paragraph that explains why prophecy is important.


In a chaotic world it is sometimes hard to sort out what’s true and what’s not. In a chaotic and sometimes obscure prophetic world it is sometimes really hard to sort out what is happening.

As a theological study subject, Eschatology, or the study of end time things, has gotten a reputation of a kind of sneering unpopularity. There is no doubt that it is a popular subject, especially in the last few years. But very few admit to liking it, studying it, reading it, or teaching it. And this is too bad, because Peter said in 2 Peter 1:19,

“And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,”

Peter was urging them to delight in the prophecy of the Lord’s coming. He was telling them that the Old Testament prophets foretold of the Lord’s coming and He came. The word is sure. He will come again. That is sure too. Referring constantly to the Word will break the hold that the false teachers had on them, and they were besieged by the crackpots, false teachers, preachers, and prophets in that first century church. Satan was doing everything he could to make the Christians unsure. He still is.

Below is a chart of an overview of prophecy from MacArthur’s book “Christ’s Prophetic Plans”

One reason this area of study seems to have gotten a bad reputation is because of the crackpots, casual predictors, and personal diviners. It seems that everyone has a dream that they need to tell about the times. “I talked with Jesus last night…” Harold Camping and his ilk did much to damage the reputation of that sure word when they set dates and handle the Word incorrectly.

When the inevitable disappointment comes, people are all too willing to throw out the entire bible rather than the false prediction. “I knew it!” they say. “The whole thing is bunk!” Sad.

In Christ’s Prophetic Plans, John MacArthur wrote,

“Imagine this hypothetical dialogue about the millennium between two well-meaning Christians. One proudly announces “I am promillennial- whatever it involves, although we cannot really know for certain, I am all for it!” The other responds, Well, I am Panmillenial-while prophecy is important for Christians to know, I am sure it will ‘pan out’ in the end.” The first Christian concludes that one cannot know for certain what Scriptures says about prophetic issues and the second declares that it is not important to know. Both are sincere, but both are woefully ignorant that Scripture abounds with information on future things. Biblically minded Christians do not have to settle for such a muddled approach to eschatology.”

Richard Mayhue wrote in that same book, Christ’s Prophetic Plans, Scripture teems with prophetic material. Not even one slight indication exists that prophetic materials are to be ignored, be set aside or marginalized.” He wrote, ‘Consider the following facts’–

  • 94% of the bible presents predictive information (62 out of 66 books)
  • ALL nine authors of the New Testament mention Christ’s Second Coming
  • Next to the subject of faith/salvation, the next most prominent theme is Christ’s Second Coming
  • Of the 333 specific biblical prophecies dealing with Christ’s two Advents, one-third deal with the first coming and two-thirds deal with the second coming.

John MacArthur talked about this new bent toward mysticism rather that rely on the solidity of prophecy and His sure word in his sermon “The Sufficiency of Christ“, where people walk and talk with Jesus at all times of the day, personally, either in heaven or …in their bathroom? Dr. MacArthur said,

“It’s a big ego trip, Paul says. All these people who are into mysticism, it’s coming at us like a flood, folks, like a flood. All the mysticism that’s encroaching upon the church, this New Wave interest in missions where they’re saying we’ll never reach the world without signs and wonders. And they’re having courses in seminary on miracles and signs and wonders. And they’re teaching people how to get into the other dimension, how to get into the other paradigm, they use that term of the third world, and think mystically. And it’s nothing, it’s nothing but sheer imagination at best and at worst you are courting demons…courting demons. It’s just not true.”

“A man said to me, “Sometimes when I’m shaving, Jesus comes in the bathroom and puts His arm around me in the morning and talks to me.” I said, “You mean the real Jesus?” He said yes. I said, “And He puts His arm around you and you see Him?” He said yes. And I just had one question, “Do you keep shaving or do you fall on your face in the ground in terror because you’re in the presence of a holy God?” If you keep shaving, it wasn’t Jesus.”

It’s also unfortunate that when one event happens, many people rush to say that it was the Hand of God for sure. We know that God is sovereign so that means He either cause or allows every little thing on earth and in heaven to happen. Not even a sparrow falls without His permission. (Matthew 10:29.)

But the earth is sinful and just because there was a Katrina or a Banda Aceh Tsunami or a quake in Kentucky it does not mean the end is near. Like the mountain peaks range of prophecy I’d mentioned earlier today, we have to look at the whole picture before we can say with any kind of certainty that this is the season of the end.

One way I look at it is through superlatives. If you are a regular reader of this blog you have read this before. It is when continual, persistent, events happen that top each other. When people begin to experience things that consistently outpace each other, it is something to look at. When those events start happening more frequently in time relative to each other, we look at that too.

This is because Jesus said the time of the end would be like birth pangs. The birth pain symbolism is used constantly throughout the bible describe individually prophesied events and also to refer to the long-term period of the end. (John 16:21, Revelation 12:2, Isaiah 13:8, Isaiah 26:18).

So what do I mean? Well, a few years ago if a weather forecasters said something like “This is a hundred year storm” people perked up. ‘WOW!’ they would say, ‘A once in a lifetime event is happening!’

But how many times have we heard even that topped? Hundred year events happen every year now. Snow records of “most ever” fall every winter. “Biggest-ever”, “worst ever outbreak”, “loudest ever”… are constant descriptors in the news now.

And when they run out of superlatives to describe a Superstorm Sandy they simply say things like “Historic”, “epic”, or even “biblical.”

And then we have the category of “rare” “unusual”, and “unprecedented.” Like this —

“As reported by TV company “Arig Us” from Republic of Buryatia, Russia- in the cold Republic of Buryatia, which is located in the east of Russia, for first time observed the snow tornado- huge tornado, which suddenly appeared out of the snow on the uninhabited forests of Buryatia. Vladimir Daganeev, a resident of Buryatia, was able to shoot the video of snow tornado in the mountains of the Oka region of Buryatia, at an altitude of about 3000 meters above sea level. Tornado lifted in the air a lot of snow, moving over the mountain tundra along Oka Ridge, the most surprising was, that the tornado was observed in complete silence and with full calm. Never before in the last 80 years in the Republic of Buryatia, was not seen a tornado…” (source)

The Accuweather meteorologists, in a separate newscast and not referring in particular to the Russian snow tornado, said that snow tornadoes are rare and elusive. They were reporting on a US snow tornado in Kentucky in March 2012. One forecaster said:

“It’s not terribly unusual for spring storms to bring snow after tornadoes, but this much snow (up to 6.5 inches reported in Kentucky) on top of this much damage (EF-4 in southern Indiana and EF-3s in Kentucky) is extremely rare – I personally have never seen it. “

You read this a lot in the news. Rare things happening frequently, lol. At what point do they become common and not rare anymore?

Here are some more recent superlative comments related to unprecedented things happening, this was Nov. 11. BBC reports. (I’ll put the superlatives in bold)

Venice ‘high water’ floods 70% of city
“Venetians direct anger at forecasters after ‘exceptional and unpredictable‘ rise in sea waters floods homes and businesses. Venice’s high water, or “acqua alta”, said to be the sixth highest since 1872, flooded 70% of the city and was high enough to make raised wooden platforms for pedestrians float away. The record high water in Venice – 1.94 metres in 1966 – prompted many residents to abandon the city for new lives on the mainland. Venetians bombarded Facebook with moans about the city’s weather forecasters, who had predicted just 1.2 metres of water on Saturday, before correcting their forecast at dawn on Sunday.”

So keep looking at the record-breakers. Note the language the weathermen and reporters use. Compare to an embedded prophetic situation, not just a one-time event. Think long-term. Keep to the sure word of God, but be measured and careful about it. I listed just one wrong date-setter, Harold Camping, but there have been many. However, you see the damage one wrong person was and the damage done to the reputation of God’s prophecies.

Above all, please do not follow dreamers. Here is what the bible has to say about people who have a “prophetic dream”:

“Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. (Jude 1:8)

“For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,” (Jeremiah 29:8)

The dreamers are not to be encouraged, as Barnes explains the Jeremiah verse: “As long as there was a market for dreams, so long there would be plenty of impostors to supply them.”

There certainly does seem to be a cottage industry for merchandising of dreams, heavenly trips, and angel talk, doesn’t there?

Do not follow people who say they chat up Jesus in heaven. So many people today say they talked with Jesus and have come back with a prophecy to tell. In this 15-minute video here, Justin Peters explains why stories of trips to heaven do not line up with scripture. I opened with the scripture that tells us we have a sure word, God’s word as stated by Him to us in the bible. Why would you follow after anyone else’s word?


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.