The news was filled last week with the impending devastation of hurricane Irene. I heard one newscaster describe Irene as “the perfect storm”. While many people lost their lives in the hurricane and there was a lot of property damage, hurricane Irene failed to deliver the devastation many were predicting.
Sometime week before last, about a day or two before Irene made landfall, I received an e-mail from a friend that attended our last church. The e-mail was actually a forwarded e-mail from a woman in a nearby town that runs a “prophetic” ministry. The e-mail contained excerpts of a “prophecy” she was given about hurricane Irene being a judgement upon America brought by God. The general tone of this prophecy was that God was sending this hurricane upon America because the American church was failing to pray like it should. Additionally, at the end of the e-mail, was a link where we could order a CD that contained the “prophecy” in its entirety, for a small donation of course.
The part of the “prophecy” that was forwarded to me was already quite lengthy. I shudder to consider just how long the full length prophecy was. Nevertheless, as I read down the prophecy about the impending doom upon America, the “prophecy” said that if the American church would only begin to pray like it should, hurricane Irene would be turned out to sea. The “prophecy” also went on to describe that as we began to pray, that further judgements would be turned back and as we continued to pray that eventually America would be “taken for God” and we would be swept into this great end time harvest of souls.
Sound familiar? Sounds a lot like the typical doctrines of the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) to me.
Nowhere in this lengthy “prophecy” excerpt was there a call for us to preach the Gospel. No where was there a call for man to repent and turn to God. In all fairness I hadn’t heard the full length prophecy and there is a possibility there was more on the CD to be ordered. But from what I was reading, the direction the prophecy was taking was that we could all make the world a much better place and “take it for God” if we would only pray and pray. In other words, we could all collectively change God’s mind to what we believe needed to happen.
I composed a short e-mail and sent it back to all the original recipients. I, of course, offended some of them. In a kind and gentle way, I said what the American church really needed was to get back to preaching the Gospel. To have such heart for the lost that we feared what could happen to them if a hurricane DID hit them and take their lives before they had heard the Gospel. I said that the American church had turned so far from the Biblical Gospel and had been chasing a man-centered, “best life now” sort of Gospel for too long. This is what we needed to repent of and begin to preach the true Gospel to a lost world.
Additionally, and this is probably where the offense was taken, I stated that this world doesn’t get better. I stated that there is no great “end-time harvest” in which the entire world turns to Jesus Christ. Sadly, the majority will reject Jesus and the Gospel. This isn’t something that my former friends wanted to hear because of the type of doctrine they have come to depend on.
Briefly, my former church friends have increasingly come to embrace a doctrine of the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation) that states that there will be an “army” of end-time prophets that will rise up and perform such signs and miracles that the entire world will turn to Jesus Christ and usher in His second coming. This “end-time harvest” will then usher in the return of Jesus Christ. This is, of course, very unbiblical.
The Bible is very clear that when Jesus returns not only will the entire sinful world not be expecting His return, but many in the true church will be asleep as well. Take for example:
[25:1] “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.  For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,  but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps.  As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept.  But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’  Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.  And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’  But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’  And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut.  Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’  But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’  Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13ESV)
Notice how even the wise virgins with the oil were asleep. They were prepared for His return, but nevertheless asleep. There won’t be this massive waiting on the return of Jesus. When Jesus returns the majority of the church will be asleep.
 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14ESV)
Jesus Himself said few will find the narrow gate. The trials of this life and the pursuit of “our best life now” will ensnare most. Most will choose the easy path that will lead them to destruction. The “gate” is the church. The sinful world doesn’t choose to enter through any gate. The majority of the “church” will choose the easy path to destruction.
Finally, take at the book of Revelation. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the book of Revelation by any means. I do, however, believe that this is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”, just as it’s titled. In other words, this book was given to John in order to reveal to the world just who Jesus Christ is. I firmly believe that Revelation was not given by God to be completely shrouded in mystery. I believe that a common man seeking after the heart of God through prayer and Bible study can understand the majority of the book. I don’t believe for one second that there are only a few who have been gifted by God to be able to properly interpret the book of Revelation. Like any other scripture it’s meant to be read and heeded. Though I don’t believe the things shown in the book have all come to pass yet, and we won’t fully understand much of scripture until they do, I believe it is meant for the common Christian to understand. The trouble is, a mockery has been made out of the book of Revelation because too many self-serving people have tried to capitalize on its symbolism for their own agendas.
Take a look at the following passage:
[9:1] And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.  He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft.  Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.  They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.  They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone.  And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.  In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces,  their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth;  they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle.  They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails.  They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon.  The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.  Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God,  saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.”  So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind.  The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number.  And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths.  By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths.  For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.  The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk,  nor did they repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts. (Revelation 9 ESV) (bold emphasis mine)
Above is merely an example of the types of things seen throughout the book of Revelation. Thunder, hail, death, earthquakes, war, and disease. These things are prophesied in scripture. As sure as Jesus will someday return as promised in scripture, these things seen in the book of Revelation will also come to pass. As an example, if we were to pray as hard as we could for Jesus not to return, it wouldn’t happen because it’s a promise of God. Likewise, if we band together and pray for one of these hailstorms that’s meant to be a judgement of God to cease, it’s not possible because it, too, is a judgement of God.
Now, I’m not saying here that we should never pray for protection from a storm. Nor am I saying that God may never turn a storm or other natural disaster that’s headed our way. What I am saying is that if anyone, prophet or otherwise, thinks that every single judgment from God can be avoided if we would merely band together and pray, they’re just plain wrong.
I’m not really sure how everyone thinks the judgements listed in the Book of Revelation will come about, but think about this: If Jesus was hovering visibly over the Earth shooting giant hail and thunderbolts, don’t you think people would bow and repent in His presence? I would think so. So here’s what I think about the judgements in Revelation: I think they are to be taken fairly literally. In other words, when it says Large hailstones Kill a bunch of men, I believe it will appear here on earth just like any other hailstorm, only much more cataclysmic. People won’t visually see God doing it. When the Revelation speaks of pestilence, it will appear on Earth like any other disease, such as the swine flu, that’s swept the Earth before, only on a much grander scale like’s never been seen before. The reason people will refuse to repent of their immorality is that it will appear like any other natural disaster, although much bigger, and people on Earth will refuse to believe that God Almighty controls the heavens and the Earth.
Look at this scripture:
 And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.  And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. (Luke 21:8-11 ESV)
Notice how Jesus said “for these things must first take place”. No matter how hard you pray, there will just be some natural disasters that can’t be stopped. It’s bold and arrogant in the face of Almighty God to think that only if we would all band together we can convince God to do otherwise.
So what are we to do? First of all, we’re to pray like Jesus:
“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke22:42ESV)
We won’t know which natural disasters He’s willing to turn and which are judgments. Therefore we are to pray as Jesus prayed on all things. I don’t need another CD-hocking “prophet” to tell me this, I have God’s eternal word, the Bible to tell me how to pray.
Secondly, we know the Bible tells us to preach the Gospel both in season and out of season. In other words, we are to always preach the Gospel because the Bible says it’s the power unto salvation. But before that can be done, we need to have a handle on just what the Gospel is. I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of different churches the last couple of years and I can assure that most Christians have no clue what the Gospel is, though most think they do.
Finally, we need to realize that there are judgements and disasters coming on this Earth that can’t be stopped. Disasters like have never been since the Earth began. Regardless of when you think the “rapture” takes place, read Matthew 24 and Luke 21 and it’s clear we Christians will experience at least some form of natural disasters before the return of Jesus. No matter how hard we pray, they can’t be stopped because it’s the beginning of the birth pains.
Look up, and pray for wisdom. Pray that you will be spared the judgements of God. Most of all, preach the Gospel………The true Gospel, for only by the Gospel may men be saved from what’s coming upon the Earth.