Christ, Crisis, and Crystal Balls
by Stuart Greaves
Have you ever heard of a hydrogen bomb and the damage it can do? There is coming a time when hydrogen bombs will drop and will do extensive damage in the world. I remember it vividly. I was four years old, and my family and I were in the Netherlands. It was a beautiful brisk evening in the spring of 1977. It was a rather strange conversation with my childhood buddy who told me these things. It was the first time my mind got awakened to an “apocalyptic scenario.” From time to time I wondered if such a scenario would play out.
As I grew older I began to discover that many carry apocalyptical images in their hearts—even Hollywood, as seen with movies such as the Terminator, Independence Day, and The Book of Eli, to name a few. Some say that 14% of the world believes in some form of an apocalyptic scenario. The Pew Research Center shows that 20% of the people in the US believe in the second coming of Jesus and that it will occur in their lifetime.
However, we have not been left to our own imagination to envision the apocalyptic landscape. I came to know Jesus at the age of 15 and soon began to discover that the Bible describes for us the apocalypse in great detail. It is, however, important to note that the Bible does not speak about the ending of the world, but the ending of an era of darkness (John 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4) that reigned for millennia and the inauguration and consummation of a new one (Ephesians 2:7). The ending of this age is marked by the cross of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:11) and will culminate at a time of transition with uniquely unfolding dynamics known as the “Day of the Lord” or the “Day of Christ.” The cross of Christ dealt a death blow to this present evil age (2 Corinthians 4:4; Galatians 1:4; Colossians 2:15–16).
The Day of the Lord is a future time period when Jesus will globally fully display the glory of His Father in judgment, redemption, and vindication. The Bible has at least 80 verses the speak directly to the Day of the Lord, 150 chapters describing the end times in great detail, and nearly 100 apocalyptic verses in the context of addressing day-to-day pastoral dynamics. The Day of Christ is a theme that is spoken of extensively by the prophets and apostles in the Scripture.
There is a deep yearning and anxiety in the human heart to know what the future holds. In America the psychic industry is a multibillion industry with at least a 52% growth since 2005, and it serves business execs to determine how to carry on business. We all, believers and unbelievers, want to know the future, often connected to getting a sense of our future physical, emotional, financial, and domestic well-being.
However, there is the way of the world on how to pursue things (such as the psychic industry), and there is the biblical way and perspective (as seen in the prophetic Scripture as well as the subjective prophetic ministry). The temptation before us as believers is to approach the prophetic Scriptures like a crystal ball and to want to know what the future holds with a preoccupation of our own personal sense of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This approach results in looking at end-time prophesy merely with a curiosity of knowing what will happen while missing that apocalyptic events don’t merely happen, but rather are zealously administrated and executed by the majestic Sovereign, the Holy One of Israel—Christ Jesus. If what the future holds is wisely executed by a real person, then knowing apocalyptic events is an unveiling that demands a response.
The Scripture has much to say about the future of redemptive history and describes in detail the things that will take place in the generation of Jesus’ return. The book of Revelation talks about the things that The Scripture has much to say about the future of redemptive history and describes in detail the things that will take place in the generation of Jesus’ return. The book of Revelation talks about the things that must take place. Yet these things are not mere happenings but are unfolding dynamics and events, which are actively being played out by the Lord for His purposes. If God is not merely interested in informing us about the future, what then does the Scripture tell us about God’s prophetic declaration, especially through the prophets? If apocalyptic unfoldments are not mere happenings but divine activities by a relational God, then end-time passages give us insight into how we can respond, obey, and cooperate with Him.
There are several places in Scripture that show us what the Lord is after. The study of the end times is to produce worship (Revelation 19:10); confidence in God’s character and leadership (Isaiah 41:4); knowledge of His righteousness (Isaiah 41:26), His pleasure, and the certainty of His plans (Isaiah 46:10); understanding of His ways (Isaiah 48:3); and the knowing that, ultimately, the devil didn’t do it (Isaiah 48:5). These passages call for a response that will result in a bright, victorious witness through the Church, as a Bride during the greatest shaking the world will ever witness (Daniel 12:1). The prophets do not merely give insight into the future like a crystal ball—there is a message that calls for a response and wise cooperation and partnership with God (Daniel 11:32–33).
One of the most well-known end-time passages is about Jesus teaching on the end of the age in the Mount Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 (also includes Mark 13 and Luke 21). It is often the go-to chapter for insight about the signs of the times especially when society is in a time of unfolding global socio- and geo-political pressures (such as wars and pandemics), and not without reason. This great chapter highlights important escalating trends and signs, giving a clear panoramic outlook necessary to discern the times. I identify three components that make up Matthew 24.
Firstly, I see Jesus’ concern regarding the coming deception and the need for truth (v. 4, 11, 23–26). Secondly, we find the global context (v. 6–7, 9–10, 12, 29, 40–41). Thirdly, the chapter gives us Jesus’ counsel (v. 4, 6, 13–14, 32–33, 42, 44–45). These three components are intimately woven together. Emphasizing one without the others can potentially lead to cynicism, speculation, and burnout. Because of our yearning for knowing what the future holds, it is easy to focus on the global context and miss out on Jesus’ concern and counsel designed to equip the Church to be glorious and victorious at the end of the age. Jesus gives us eight points of counsel to equip us for the task at hand to be His witnesses:
- do not be deceived (v. 4);
- do not be troubled (v. 6);
- endure to the end (v. 13);
- preach the gospel (v. 14);
- learn the parable of the fig tree (v. 32);
- know the nearness (v. 33);
- watch (v. 42, 44); and
- faithfully feed the people in due season (Isaiah 33:6; Jeremiah 3:15; Matthew 24:45).
The Lord does not want His Church to simply be observers of end-time trends as they unfold. Like He told the church of Laodicea, “I counsel you,” Jesus has counsel for us as we see deception increasing and the global context shifting.
How is the Lord calling you to respond to the coming end-time events?
To learn more about the end-time message—including how to live daily in light of it and share its truths with others—we recommend School of Messengers, a new program from IHOPKC’s Center for Biblical End-Time Studies. Join today to take part in monthly three-day in-depth study with Mike Bickle, Stuart Greaves, David Sliker, and special guests, as well as touch points throughout the year. The offerings are customizable and available on-site in Kansas City and online. Learn more here >>
- Executive Director, IHOPKC
Stuart Greaves leads the Executive Leadership Team of the International House of Prayer of Kansas City. He has been part of IHOPKC since 1999. For 20 years, Stuart led the NightWatch—the section of the Global Prayer Room which goes from midnight to 6am every night. Stuart is recognized as one of the primary teachers at IHOPKC and International House of Prayer University (IHOPU). He teaches verse by verse through various books of the Bible. His passion is to equip people to cultivate intimacy by growing in their understanding of the beauty of Jesus and to engage in worship and prayer for the great harvest along with partnering with the Lord as He prepares the Church to be a ready Bride (Rev. 19:7). He has been married to Esther for 25 years.