“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, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” 2 Peter 1:19-20
I’m always a little bit cautious when it comes to individuals who claim to have received a “prophetic word” from God and then proceed to warn about some future event that is going to take place. In modern Christianity, the word “prophecy” has come to take on a meaning similar to what it had in the Old Testament when God sent specially gifted prophets to warn the kings of Israel and Judah of their wickedness. In the New Testament, I believe it is more centered on the ability of an individual to proclaim and interpret the word of God in such a way that Christians can see its meaning and apply it to their lives, but there are those individuals who come along every now and then and make an attempt to claim that God has allowed them to look into the future and interpret events that they see for the rest of us.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s there seemed to be an abundance of this kind of prophecy. Hal Lindsey’s book The Late Great Planet Earth probably topped the list of dozens of similar works by individuals like Salem Kirban and even Pat Robertson, claiming that they were gifted to interpret the book of Revelation to the point of being able to align modern events with specific passages of the book as signs of its fulfillment. I was too young then to know much about all of that, but later on, after what they predicted did not actually come to pass, I began to wonder how they were able to convince so many people that they were right, especially in light of Deutoronomy 18:22. I believe the later 80’s also saw the coming of the “Kansas City Prophets,” a group of pastors and church leaders who made some rather vague, difficult to pin down predictions that, in retrospect, said very little and were not really all that “prophetic.”
So I read with interest this piece http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=91097 about the recent prediction of “imminent catastrophe” by well known pastor David Wilkerson, author of The Cross and the Switchblade. I’m not normally a regular reader of World Net Daily, and don’t necessarily consider it a trustworthy source, but this particular prediction caught my interest partly because of who made it, and partly because former SBC Second VP Wiley Drake suggested that people pay attention to it.
Sometimes I think Christian leaders get a little too caught up in God’s judgment, and not caught up enough in his grace. Jesus came to set us free from sin, and through the grace of God that made this provision, we are also set free from its penalty. So why is there such a temptation to “scare the hell” out of people by making these predictions of future events related to God’s judgement, or connecting natural disasters to his wrath? The consequence for not turning to Jesus, and accepting the grace God gives through his sacrifice is death, and thereafter inescapeable judgment. What could be worse than that? The call to stockpile food and prepare for imminent disaster resembles the same sort of thing predicted to occur at Y2K. It also resembles other predictions, at other times in history, when Christians got caught up in the “signs of the times” messages and set about re-arranging their lives in preparation for a predicted, imminent second coming of Christ that never came.
This, however, is David Wilkerson, not Pat Robertson or Hal Lindsey. This is not someone who is prone to coming up with prophecies of a gloom and doom future scenarios just because his television ratings have dropped off, or he is no longer front page news, or his books aren’t selling. He is a credible, respected pastor with a long record of ministry service that, in spite of his moments of semi-celebrity in the Christian community as a result of his book, does not seem to have allowed that to go to his head. The fact that he spoke the words certainly caught my attention.
Wiley Drake’s endorsement puts a little different spin on it. Drake is one of many from what has become known as the “religious right” who has been highly vocal in his opposition to Barack Obama, to the point of attempting to bypass the scriptural mandate that the government authorites which are in place have been put there by God, and that Christians are to submit to their authority because of that. Drake has obsessively insisted that the President is not a “native born” American citizen and has claimed that he does not have to submit to his authority because it is not legitimate on that basis. So it would seem to me that his endorsement of Wilkerson’s statement might fall into the same category as the predictions of many other religious right wingers resentful of the fact that their guy lost the election, and so God is going to avenge them by punishing America for voting for the wrong guy. I, frankly, don’t buy that. It doesn’t square up with Romans 13.
Nor is Wiley Drake necessarily a spokesperson for a large segment of Southern Baptists. Though he did serve a term as second VP, which is a minor office with little more than a ceremonial role, I doubt very many Southern Baptists have even heard of him, and I don’t think his views would be widely accepted across the denomination.
Could America descend into a scenario in which rioting, burning and looting come about as the result of an economic recession and the hardships that come about as a result of what could be long term unemployment and widespread poverty? It’s happened here before. Los Angeles has experienced it more than once, in Watts in 1965 and again following the Rodney King incident. The latter part of the Vietnam War era sparked outbreaks of sporatic violence that led to the killing of four students at Kent State University in Ohio during the Nixon administration. Smaller, localized incidents sparked by a general sense of oppression and frustration have happened in many places in America. So it is not out of the realm of possibility. But I believe the scripture teaches that genuine prophecy is measured by its accuracy, and a word that comes from God, if it is genuine, is clear, concise and specific. This prediction doesn’t fit that description.
The “prophetic word” that we have from God today is the Bible. It is clear, concise, and if interpreted in the context in which it was written, and with the message to the original audience given clear consideration, it provides us with everything we need to live a life of faith in Christ. As a Christian, I can face whatever tomorrow might bring, whether it is imminent catastrophe, a personal crisis, or merely a politician whose policies I might not like. I have Jesus’ blood and righteousness, God’s written word and his indwelling Holy Spirit. I do not need anything else.