Predicting the Future

Scripture: 2 Peter 1:21, Amos 3:7, Daniel 2:1-49
Mankind was not always as certain about the future as he seems to be today. How do people know the future? The Bible is a sure source of knowing what will happen in the future.
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Perhaps if you have wandered through the religion section of a book store recently, you have noticed what I have noticed. There is a great revival of interest in the occult, the mystic and the exotic in religion. This should tell us something. People are groping for answers. They want to know the meaning of the life they are living and perhaps gain a little glimpse of the future.

Alvin Toffler's book "Future Shock" became a best seller simply because it provided one man's educated guess about the future. What he says seems plausible, and for some highly probable. You read the book, and you can see it all happening. And then of course, we have the certainty of electronic wizardry. The computer knows. It can even predict. It tells the results of elections, it polls opinions and the answers come up right a remarkable number of times.

Mankind was not always as certain about the future as he seems to be today. Yet he has never given up trying. Australia's desert nomads still study the footprints of the goanna lizard across the sand to decide the future. Ancient Romans took their predictions from a study of the entrails of slain animals. The future was all there displayed in the shape and layout of the butchered carcass. In this way they tried to discover how they should defend themselves against the Etruscans, the Carthaginians and others. The Greeks were a little more sophisticated and made pilgrimages to the Delphic oracles. From the double and triple meaning of the enigmatic sayings of the priestesses, they tried to figure out tomorrow. Even today people follow superstitious practices. Astrology, tea-leaf reading, palmistry, ouija-boards have their popularity simply because people want to know the future.

We have reason to believe that the Bible holds the key to the future. Why should I say that? Well, the record is clear. Time and time again the Bible has been successful in naming specific events of the future, and then they have happened right on schedule.

This is a far cry from the prophecies of oracles muttered in pagan shrines. Their shallow pretending and trivial issues make a mockery of the real thing. The scope and positive nature of the Bible prophecies indicate a far stronger mind in control. Jeanne Dixon is no Daniel. Maurice Woodruff cannot be compared with Isaiah, or Mother Shipton with John. Daniel, Isaiah and John had insights that came from a Source that is impeccable. Of them, the Bible says, "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." 2 Peter 1:21. The Bible writer, Amos, himself a prophet of considerable accuracy and great detail, said, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets." Amos 3:7.

As an example of how definite prophecy can be and what it can mean to people living in the late twentieth century, I would like you to stay with me while I take you to one of the prophecies of Daniel. Actually this takes you back to the period of Nebuchadnezzar, emperor of Babylon. This Middle East kingdom had its heyday about six hundred years before Jesus Christ. It enters Bible Prophecy because Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, destroyed Solomon's temple and took many Jewish leaders captive.

The important question of the day, to the king and to his captives, was how long will Babylon last? You see, other Bible prophets had already predicted that the Jews would go into captivity and that they would return to their homeland and rebuild Jerusalem. But how long would it be before this would happen? The captive asked. Nebuchadnezzar knew that many different nations and peoples had marched through the Middle East. Some had lasted a long time, some just a short time. So he wanted to know too, would his magnificent fortified kingdom last for a few years or for many centuries?

Now Daniel enters. Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. He is sure that it has a great meaning for the future. But he cannot remember the dream. He calls for the best trained and most experienced predictors in his array of counselors. They fail. He turns to Daniel, a captive Jew. Daniel prays to God. God reveals the future.

Interesting story, you say, but so what? What does that mean to me? Well, as with so many other Bible predictions, a local issue becomes the take-off point for a prophetic expedition far into the future. What Nebuchadnezzar saw was a multi-metal image. As his eyes scanned from head to toe the metals changed through gold, silver, brass, iron, and finally a mixture of iron and clay. Daniel said to the emperor, "You are this head of gold." Then he went on to trace the history of the great powers of the ancient world who, one by one, ruled the area where God's people lived. Medo-Persia followed Babylon under the leadership of Cyrus, a general whom the Shah of Persia recently honored in the 2500th anniversary of the Persian empire. By the time Medo-Persia had given place to Greece, and Greece to Rome, nearly six hundred years had rolled by and Christ was among men. But the prophecy did not stop there. By the time the iron empire of Rome was ready to crumble under the barbarian hordes, the prophecy had an apt picture for this event. "And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided." Daniel 2:40, 41.

The feet and ten toes of the image represent the ten divisions of Rome. The fact that the feet are of iron and clay is indicative of the fact that divided Rome would never again be reunited. "And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay." Verse 43. These seven words are God's "Iron Curtain" that foredooms all attempts for world conquest.

The kingdoms and nations of Europe today are very much the same as the divisions of the old Roman Empire. By the year A.D. 476 Rome was divided ten ways as follows: Alemanni (Germans), Franks (French), Anglo-Saxons (English), Burgundians (Swiss), Suevi (Portuguese), Visigoths (Spanish), Lombards (Italians), Heruli, Vandals, and Ostrogoths.

Numerous and varied attempts have been made to unite these kingdoms of Western Europe into one world power, but God decreed that "they shall not cleave one to another." All the king's horses and all the king's men cannot put Rome back together again. God's prophetic Word describes four world empires, and four only. It positively declares that there will never be another world political power dominated by one man, and it stakes its reputation and claims to inspiration upon this fact!

The iron and clay present a mixture impossible to weld together. Clay will crumble under slight pressure. It is historically true that, in spite of the attempts of Charlemagne in the ninth Century, Charles V in the sixteenth century, Louis XIV in the eighteenth century, Napoleon in the nineteenth century, and the attempts in World Wars I and II to unite the nations into ONE WORLD, all have failed. The spirit of "iron" still exists today, but the "clay" weaknesses forever exist to foil any aspirant to world empire.

Never will the world know the tyrannical power of a Nebuchadnezzar, or an Alexander, or bask in the military peace of the rulers of Rome.

In the metal image that Daniel explained to Nebuchadnezzar and so to us, the final span of history is to be a time of weak and strong nations struggling for survival and positions of power. How aptly this describes our world today! We can readily think of some nations that we would say are strong like iron, of others that yield or crumble like clay. The old Roman Empire was the last time that Europe has known unity of purpose, and the Bible says that no man or men, or nation will ever be able to put it together again.

Not that they haven't tried. History records the vain attempts of great military leaders of past ages, but their failures are spelled out, they could not break the word of God. Military power isn't the only force that has been used. The Papacy of the Middle Ages tried religion. Modern Communism has made its run. Even intermarriage has had its day. Right now economic advantages are cited as being reasons that Europe and perhaps the world will become one. Others offer the rule of law. Still others predict that the atom bomb will eventually drive the nations into each other's arms.

We might ask, "Does the Bible have anything to say about the future or does it leave us with a divided world and devoid of hope?" Here is your answer. "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." Daniel 2:44. In the dream that the emperor of Babylon had this kingdom is like a stone that breaks free from the side of a mountain, carved out without hands, that tumbles and rolls across the plain until it hits the metallic image and then crushes and grinds it to dust that the wind blows away.

The great stone, representing Christ's kingdom, was to strike the image on its feet. The Jews of Christ's day, even the disciples themselves, expected the Messiah to set up a temporal kingdom at that time. But the hour had not come. The stone would strike the image on the feet, down in the days of modern, divided Europe as we know it, in our time, not in the days of Rome, the legs of iron.

You see, when Christ sets up His kingdom it is not to be a mere taking over of rulership. Christ might have taken over nineteen hundred years ago. The people were ready to proclaim Him king. But regardless of the impact of His teaching, this would have made the world remain far from a perfect place. Christ healed the sick. But there were many thousands of sick in that day who never saw the Great Healer. Christ forgave sins. But million of sinners never came to Him for forgiveness.

It is no different today. A great program of education might be carried out. America might be swept by a spirit of revival. The heathen nations might turn to Christianity. But there would still be prisons and police, hospitals and ambulances, funerals and cemeteries. Education is not enough. Acknowledging Christ as King is not enough. The world itself must be changed, and the people in it.

All this is in God's plan. God has more to offer us than education and improvement. The second coming of Jesus Christ is God's answer. And, best of all, He will come in our day!

Friends, the picture is clear. Prophecy is saying that man doesn't really have a solution. But God does. Daniel knew this when he thanked God for helping him understand the dream. He said, speaking of God, "He changeth the times and the seasons; he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding." Daniel 2:21. You see, God does know the answer and He tells it to us through the Bible. Later Daniel affirmed to the king, "There is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days." Daniel 2:28.

Well, this is a brief look at only one of the Bible prophecies. We could talk about many others. Certainly this is one of the most exciting. Why? Simply because it talks about God intervening in our history in a dramatic and final way. He did this once when Christ entered the world to show us the true nature of God, and He will do it again when Christ comes the second time to bring the peace that men have not been able to secure for themselves.

In the 3,500 years of recorded history there have been more than 3,150 years of war. Think of it! Less than 350 years of peace in all that time. One wit commented: "Two thirds of the earth's surface is covered by water, the other third by war." The trouble lies in the hearts of men. Peace is not an eternal thing. It is something that must be in the heart. The Prince of Peace is not an external thing. It is something that must be in the heart. The Prince of Peace declared, "The kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17:21. Men long for peace. They anticipate heaven, but go on killing one another. Governments have demonstrated that they cannot bring peace. Leagues and unions of nations cannot bring peace. Why not? They legislate on international problems but cannot change the hearts of men, and the heart is the place where peace must be born.

What did Jesus Himself say about His second coming? Here are His words as Matthew records them, "Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." Matthew 24:42. We don't know the hour; but we can watch and get ready. The day of the stone is upon us. God is about to establish His kingdom and make Christ the ruler of the world. And there is a part in that Kingdom for you and for me.

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