Posted in coaching

end-time bedtime stories: prophesying

Could it be that people get so obsessed with ominous end-time signs that they completely ignore the many good end-time signs in Scripture? Let’s work on changing that.

Peter tells us that the best end-time sign was “spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people’” (Acts 2:16-17; cf. Joel 2:28). The mark of the “last days” is an unprecedented downpour of God’s Spirit in both magnitude and intensity (cf. Is 32:15; 44:3). The outpouring empowers all who believe in Jesus to testify of his mighty works (Acts 2:11). By openly and unashamedly exalting “another king, namely Jesus,” we “turn the world upside down” (cf. Acts 17:6-7).

Along with testifying to the nations, God’s people would also “prophesy.” Peter continues his quote from Joel: “‘Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy … even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy’” (Acts 2:17-18). Everyone will prophesy regardless of their gender, age, or social status (e.g., Acts 21:9-11). What does it mean to prophesy?

Prophesying never adds to Scripture, never contradicts Scripture, never replaces Scripture, never becomes Scripture, and never includes “thus says the Lord” (it is not like OT prophecy!). Notice how Paul defined it: “The one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation … the one who prophesies builds up the church” (1 Cor 14:3-4).

No wonder Paul tells us to “pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor 14:1; cf. Num 11:29). Prophesying is a very special way for you to love the church!

Prophesying occurs when the Holy Spirit impresses on our heart words of comfort or encouragement for someone. It’s “a word fitly spoken” (Prov 25:11). It’s “good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29).

Think about all the “prophesying” going on before, during, and after Sunday worship services. We may not call it “prophesying,” but the Spirit will often speak through us when we express words of comfort or when we encourage each other to trust in the Lord or to step out in faith any given Sunday (cf. 1 Cor 12:11; 14:31; Acts 13:1-3). We all need people to prophesy into our life! In fact, “you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged” (1 Cor 14:31).

We will always prophesy in part. We will always deliver, receive, and understand words of encouragement imperfectly because “we see in a mirror dimly”—until the perfect comes and we see Jesus face-to-face! Then we will understand everything as clearly as we are fully known to him (1 Cor 13:9, 12). 

Posted in coaching

end-time bedtime stories: Matthew 24-25

Every great communicator organizes their material so that the form and content work together to communicate explicitly and by implication—and Jesus’ “Olivet Discourse” is no exception. So, it’s crucial to read Matthew 24 and 25 as one unit.

“Not one stone will be left on another,” Jesus tells his disciples (Matt 24:2). The end of the temple’s sacrificial system was coming (AD 70). So, the disciples ask, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3).

In the disciples’ minds, the destruction of Jerusalem, the coming of Messiah, and the end of the age were one multifaceted event (e.g., Zech 14:1-11). Jesus doesn’t take the time to explain that prophecy is not about predictions; it’s about the fulfillment of God’s promises. Nor does he launch into a teaching on how the prophets saw the coming Messiah as one giant “mission-accomplished” event (i.e., they didn’t distinguish between the first and second coming).

With the destruction of the physical temple in mind, Jesus prepares his followers to become the new, living temple in which God manifests his presence to the ends of the earth. The new, living worldwide temple must not be duped by counterfeits or paralyzed by tough times or rattled by persecution or foolish enough to stay in Jerusalem when the Romans level it (Matt 24:4-25).

Notice how Jesus wraps these threats like an ugly scarf around a stunningly beautiful promise: “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then end will come” (Matt 24:14). Jesus’ outstanding promise is a guarantee that the gospel will become so “loud” because of the living testimony of his people that no one can ignore it (and yet may still reject it). The gospel will be a force to be reckoned with across the globe. We are his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8; 13:47-48).

But living in a messy world can be exhausting! “Stay awake,” says Jesus (Matt 24:42-44). Stay awake? To what? Jesus illustrates the “what” in the parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13). “Stay awake” means don’t get drowsy to the reality of who’s in charge! Don’t let the news make your eyes heavy to kingdom realities! Keep your eyes on King Jesus and shine as lights in the world.

But living in a messy world can be scary! “The faithful and wise servant,” says Jesus, “is that servant whom the master finds doing his job when he comes” (Matt 24:45-46). Doing his job? What job? Jesus illustrates the “what” in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-46). “Doing your job” means being faithful in the little things. Don’t let the news paralyze you from using your God-given gifts for his glory! Keep giving out “cups of cold water” to everyone around you. You’re serving the King!

What a great end-time bedtime story! Don’t freak out by ominous end-time signs! Be one of those people who are too busy serving the King to worry about them.