Friday, May 20, 2016

Prophecy Being Fulfilled as We Watch (Part 7 in the “Why I Believe” series)



There are many examples of Bible prophecies being fulfilled.  Many Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  For example, Psalm 22 includes many details about the crucifixion of Christ, yet was written about a thousand years before Christ was born in Bethlehem.  Isaiah 53 describes both the sufferings of Christ and also points to His resurrection.

In addition to Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus, there is another type of prophecy fulfillment. There are prophecies given in the New Testament which we can see being fulfilled in the last two thousand years of human history.  We can even see them being fulfilled in our world today.

Two Types of Prophecies which are being Fulfilled Today

While some people try to tie each turn of events in the Middle East to specific Bible prophecies, I feel they are missing out on something else which is deeper and clearer when it comes to Bible prophecies being fulfilled today in plain view. Here, I will share about two areas of Bible prophesy which are being fulfilled today and which simultaneously challenge and inspire us.

First Type of Prophecy Being Fulfilled:  The Persecution of Christians

Jesus and the inspired authors of the New Testament repeatedly predict that Christians will be persecuted and the gospel will be opposed.  Here are some examples of specific prophecies followed by observations about their fulfillment.

Prophecy Example #1:

NIV  Matthew 24:9 "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”

Fulfilment:
Tragically, there is a vast amount of evidence that this prophecy has come true.  Everywhere that Christians have taken the gospel, we have been met with severe persecution.  This was true during the lives of the Apostles as the gospel spread throughout the Roman Empire.  It was true when the gospel spread into England, Ireland, and Europe.  It was true when missionaries brought the good news to India, China, and Korea.  Today it is most obviously true as the gospel is being proclaimed in Muslim nations.




The book By Their Blood documents the huge number of Christians killed all around the world during the 20th century.  The hate and the killing did not end with the 20th century.  As I shared in a previous post, 2014 was considered the world’s worst year for Christian persecution in modern history . . . until the heartbreaking statistics came in for 2015.

This consistent persecution is especially surprising in light of the Christian message.  Christians teach people to love their neighbors, give to others, submit to the government and pay taxes, and humbly serve everyone, including even our own enemies.  Does it make sense that a message like that would be hated and opposed?  Yet, when that message is combined with the rest of the gospel message which focuses on Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, the world responds with hate and violence. The nature of this consistent, intense persecution is best explained if the Devil is real and is working through fallen, sinful people to oppose the completion of the Great Commission.

Prophecy Example #2:

NIV  John 16:2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God.

Fulfillment:

This prophecy is more specific.  Jesus said that people would kill Christians specifically because they believe that they are serving God by doing so.  Before he was saved, the Apostle Paul persecuted Christians out of a misplaced and twisted zeal for God (Philippians 3:6).  Sadly, this type of twisted zeal has continued throughout history.  Most Muslims live peacefully with their Christian neighbors.  Unfortunately, a minority follow the example of their founding prophet, who is recorded as teaching:

"The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Messenger, cannot be shed except in three cases: in Qisas (equality in punishment) for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (Apostate) and leaves the Muslims." (Bukhari, volume 9, #17)

Based on this, and similar teachings, some Muslims actually believe it is their duty to kill any Muslim who becomes a Christian.

Prophecy Example #3:

NIV  Luke 21:16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.

Fulfillment:
I do not personally know anyone who was killed by their family, but I do personally know some Christians who were persecuted by their families.  I told Lily’s story in a previous blog post. Here I will share Cindy’s story (I’m not using her real name, and I have to leave out some details, but this story is entirely true. We have lost touch with Cindy, but we thank God for the opportunity we had to know her personally and to play a small part in supporting her through her trials).

Cindy’s Story

Cindy lives in a place where about 90% of population is Muslim.  As far as Cindy knows, all of her relatives are Muslims.  Her family was proud of being 100% Muslim for many generations.

When Cindy was a young lady, she met some Christians who became her friends.  The friendship started through a common interest, but soon her friends invited Cindy to church events.  Cindy was hesitant, but she attended some Christian meetings. Cindy was encouraged by the love, friendship, and testimony of her Christian friends. Cindy also had some dreams that encouraged her to trust Jesus. After her Christian friends had shared with Cindy and prayed for her for about two years, Cindy accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior and was baptized.

About a month later, Cindy’s family found out that she had become a Christian.  They threatened Cindy’s friends and the church she was part of.  As many churches had been burned down and many Christians killed by Muslim extremists in Cindy’s nation, the threats by her family were serious.

While her friends faced real danger, Cindy herself was the main target of her family’s anger.  Cindy endured some very cruel treatment from her own family as they tried to force her to return to Islam.  She was beaten, cut, and her head shaved to shame her. She was also taken to witch doctors who attempted to use magic to force her to give up her faith.  There were other things done which I won’t share in this blog.   Through all this she held on to her faith. She told us that she often felt Jesus holding her during her trials.

Cindy fled her home several times, but her family always tracked her down.  They threatened her Christian friends and her church in order to find her. At one point, in the middle of the night, I carried her in my car across town to a Christian family that Cindy’s family did not know who agreed to take her in and hide her.  But Cindy’s family got in touch with her by phone and they told her that if she did not return home they would attack her church and her Christian friends.  Cindy chose to return home.

Cindy returned home.  The Lord intervened in some unusual ways, and the physical abuse ended.  Her family did continue to pressure her to return to Islam.  They also would not allow her to meet her Christian friends.  However, Cindy was blessed with a good job, and the family desperately needed her income.  With care, Cindy was able to occasionally secretly visit to her Christian friends, who constantly prayed for her and supported her.

After all this, Cindy still shared the gospel with family members, some of whom were drawn towards Christ over the following years.

The way God worked to spread His truth in and through Cindy, despite her suffering, brings me to the second type of prophecy being fulfilled today . . .

Second Type of Prophecy Being Fulfilled: Worldwide Spread of the Gospel

At the same time that our Lord and His Apostles foretold the persecution of Christians, they also foretold the spread of the gospel to all nations:

Luke 24: 46 He told them, "This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

This key part of God’s plan was prophesied in different ways throughout the Bible.  Here are some examples:

NIV  Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

NIV  Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.

NIV  Isaiah 49:6 he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."

NIV  Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Fulfillment:
These prophecies are being fulfilled before our very eyes!  Today, Christians live in every political nation on earth. No exceptions. Does that mean the Great Commission is complete?  No.  There are two ways in which it is not complete.  First, “nation” in the Bible refers to an ethnic group, not a political nation.  Also, the Bible mentions “tribes” and “languages”.  There are still ethnolinguistic groups that have no believers at all.  Secondly, God does not want merely a tiny fraction saved from each people group.  He wants as many as possible to be saved.

Despite persecution, the gospel has spread all over the world.  Many Christians who have been directly involved in sharing the gospel with Muslims believe it is probably true that more Muslims have come to Christ in the last fourteen years than in the previous fourteen centuries combined (see an excellent article on this here, or better yet, watch this inspiring eight minute video) .  Jesus promised that nothing would stop Him from building His Church (Matthew 16:18), and He is keeping that promise!

So, how will we know when the Great Commission is complete?  This is how:  you’ll hear a trumpet in the sky and King Jesus will appear accompanied by a massive army of angel warriors (Matthew 24:30-31; Matthew 25:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).  Until then, we still have work to do.

Conclusion

That each of the prophecies mentioned above are being fulfilled in our world today gives evidence that the Bible is true.  But, to me, what is really amazing is the fact that these two prophecies continue to be fulfilled at the same time:
1.  There is intense opposition to the gospel and persecution of Christians.
2.  Despite the persecution, the gospel is spreading like wild fire all around the world and soon the Great Commission will be complete, Jesus will return, and there will be no more persecution.

When I think about how Jesus foretold that His gospel would spread all over the world at the very same time that it was fiercely opposed, and when I think about how we can see this happening in history and in our world today, I want to be “all in”.  I want to be “all in” for His gospel, His kingdom, His Church that He is building, and His glory.  How about you?



Other Blog Posts in the “Why I Believe Enough to Keep Following Jesus” Series

This blog post is the 7th in a series of blog posts in which I share why I believe in Jesus our Lord.  More to the point, I am sharing why I believe enough to keep following Him even when it is hard, costly, and dangerous.  I had this series of blog posts in my mind and on my heart when I decided to start a blog.  Because this series has been spread out over several months and mixed in with other posts, I’m providing a list of previous posts in the series.

Introduction
                 Note:  Part 2 includes a poem I wrote

Seeing Evidence of God in Creation

Seeing Evidence in the Bible


note:  Yes, I’m aware that part 6 is out of order.  That happened due to an article I read about scientific evidence for God that I saw after I had written part 5.


Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

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