Last Fall I wrote about my wife’s and my car trip to Florida, a massive loop from the Twin Cities, Minnesota to Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Naples, Florida, to Columbia and Clinton, South Carolina, and then home to Minnesota.
That’s a LOT of miles.
A lot of miles required a lot of gas.
A lot of fast food produced a lot of gas.
When we were planning our cross-country excursion, we consulted the Mapquest and Google Maps oracles to unfold the path of least resistance and maximized beauty during the Fall season. The map services and the autumn trees came through with flying colors!
We saw the starting point and the endpoint (which was the starting point, duh!) and all the main arrival points in between. There were even a few, “Hey, let’s check out these little points of interest along this stretch of road.”
The map, the route, the main cities, the marked-out points of interest, all of these gave us a great idea of what was in store for us during our trip.
Except for the wonderful and not-so-wonderful surprises that we encountered as we traveled through time and space.
Like the unplanned stop in Wisconsin at two of my favorite places – a cheese shop and a firework stand right across the street from one another! Wow, heaven! And road construction, the bane of my existence. And the miles of wind turbines cluttering up the beautiful plains of Indiana. They reminded me of the Martian invaders from the film War of the Worlds (2005) (Watch here) Creepy.
There were backroad detours in West Virginia and South Carolina. Beautiful, yes, but not when I’m stuck behind a rolling billboard (read semi) on a two-lane road with no chance of passing for the next 30 miles! Those who know me know how this challenged my patience.
There were times when Jeanne and I had to check our map and GPS just to be sure we had made the right turn because deep down we just knew we were off course. Well, we trusted the satellite orbiting in space and discovered technology knew a lot more than we did.
Most of the trip was a string of new sights, sounds, smells, and other pleasant and not so pleasant sensory experiences (pig farms). Most of all, it was fun finally seeing the Florida landscape I had only flown over multiple times.
After personally encountering all of these things and more, I reflect now on the much more complete picture than I had in my mind when I first plotted our course online. Yes, we had a map with all the anticipated destinations along the highway continuum and we had real-time GPS rolling to help us make the necessary turns to stay on course. But what helped were the mile-markers and the signs that confirmed our route and estimated time of arrival.
Even then it wasn’t a precision operation because there were so many variables in play. But we did make it to each destination and finally made it home.
Now I realize Bible prophecy is a lot like our road trip.
Prophecy. I’m talking about the broad prophetic road that winds through the Bible. Prophecy is a revelation from God. Since the Bible is God’s revealed Word, then the entire Bible is prophecy as both forth-telling and foretelling. In the foretelling sense, the totality of human history, past to future, is one long major highway of prophetic revelation along which we all travel. Let’s call it God’s Big Redemption Road Prophecy (BRRP). No that’s not the fast-food still kicking back.
The route. The Bible gives us the Big Redemption Road Prophecy start and endpoints with the route laid out between them. If you read through the entire Bible (and you should, dear reader) you’ll note distinct departure and arrival points in Genesis 1 and Revelation 21-22.
Humanity’s route began in Eden (Genesis) and will end with the whole world Edenized under Messiah’s reign, followed by the new heaven and new earth (Revelation). It’s a straight line that brings us back to the beginning. Cool, huh? By the way, this route has more twists and turns than any mountain pass in the world! That’s why we need to zoom in to locate significant markers to see where we are along the route.
The markers. Like online maps, the farther zoomed out you are, the less detail you get. So let’s zoom in.
Just after the Fall, God promised humanity He was going to destroy the serpent (Satan) via a human being (Genesis 3:15). To bring forth that human being, the Lord had to first find a man (Abraham), then turn him into a family (the children of Israel), forge them into a nation (Israel at Mt. Sinai), discipline them when they failed (the Babylonian Exile and Return), and then nurture Israel until it was time for Joseph and Mary to bring forth God’s Son, Jesus. These are the major mile markers on God’s Big Redemption Road Prophecy.
The most significant marker was Jesus’ crucifixion where the serpent was allowed to “strike his heel” (remember Genesis 3:15?). But little did Satan realize, Jesus’ demise was his own death sentence, as in “He will strike your head.” Once the crucifixion was accomplished, humanity could now turn the car around and begin the trip “back home” to our Heavenly Father.
The return journey has its own markers:
· The prophesied New Covenant began (Jeremiah 31:31, Luke 22:20) and was marked by the arrival of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).
· The prophesied destruction of Jerusalem and dispersion of the Jewish people (Luke 21:20-23, occurred in A.D. 70 by the Romans).
· Then came a loooong drive through history to the next prophetic marker. Prophetically speaking, imagine driving through Nebraska or North Dakota for about nineteen hundred years, passing miles and miles of endless terrain, yearning for some indication we’re approaching our destination.
But then the “end of the road” markers of the Big Redemption Road Prophecy route began to appear on the horizon!
· The stirrings of the Jewish people wanting to return to their God-given land in the 1800s.
· Followed by the waves of aliyah (meaning “going up,” Jewish immigration to the land of Israel) in the late 1800s and throughout the 1900s.
· Then Israel becoming a nation in a day (May 14, 1948, scripture).
· And finally, the HUGE Billboard marker of the Jews reclaiming Jerusalem as their own in a direct fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy. Why is this a biggie? Because Jesus prophesied, “… and Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). This means 1) Jerusalem will be under Gentile occupation and control for a limited time, and 2) when the Jews occupy and control Jerusalem, then the time of the Jews, Israel’s rise to become the head of the nations under Messiah, is nearing. Exciting, ain’t it?
These markers are the biggies leading up to the biggest, the Tribulation, the time when the world will get rocked as humanity closes in on its final destination, our redemption and restoration with the Kingdom of God covering the earth.
So, we have the route and the markers of the Big Redemption Road Prophecy. You may ask, what about all the events of human history between the markers? Good question!
The signs. The space between the markers is strewn with “signs.” As the landscape of the U.S. changed while we drove over the long route (rolling hills to plains to mountains to lowlands to beaches), so human history is strewn with changing signs. Jesus even fore-told some of them. “Nation will be raised up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be violent earthquakes, and famines and plagues in various places, and there will be terrifying sights and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:10-11).
Yes, these types of things have happened since the beginning of time. However, a little online research and a wide-angle perspective show the frequency and intensity of these “signs” have increased just like moving from the plains to the mountaintops as one drives across Colorado. Even though the landscape rolls slightly in eastern Colorado, pretty soon you’re on a roller coaster of a road climbing and diving through mountain paths.
These signs confirm the space between the markers and help us experience the shrinking prophetic distance to our destination and our ETA (estimated time of arrival).
When taken as a whole, the signs and markers over the last century indicate we’re on the final stretch of the Big Redemption Road Prophecy.
So, what now?
Keep your hands on the wheel. Stay buckled up. Sip your coffee. Turn on the tunes. But don’t take your eyes off the map (the Bible) and your GPS (God’s Positioning System).
These two things – the written Word and God speaking to us – will help us navigate some pretty treacherous oncoming territory. By all accounts, the landscape will get desolate and hostile (“But know this: Hard times will come in the last days,” 2 Timothy 3:1-5) and the road will get rocky (“Then they will hand you over to be persecuted, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name,” Matthew 24:9).
We’ll need the Redemption Road map and our real-time divine GPS to reach home. The map may tell us where we are, but the voice of God will tell us what detours we’ll have to take while assuring us we’re still on the right road even if it doesn’t much feel like it.
If we’re going to complete our trip successfully, we need to be,
· Familiar with the route,
· Familiar with the markers and signs along the way showing us how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go,
· Anticipating terrain changes,
· Familiar with the voice of the GPS,
· Constantly referring to the information,
· And be prepared for surprises! Just as a map doesn’t point out every pothole or washed-out section under repair, so it is with Bible prophecy. Again, this drives home our need to continually listen to our GPS.
One big surprise to many Christians is that prophecy’s focus is on the Middle East specifically or the world in general. It’s silent on other matters.
What role does the U.S. play in the Big Redemption Road Prophecy? Will we glow with an end-time revival under God’s grace or will we glow after a nuclear attack and our nation lies burnt and laid waste under God’s judgment?
I don’t know. I’ll let you know when we get there.
But until we turn into heaven’s driveway, the only thing we have to rely on is the information our Heavenly Father reveals to us.
And thank the Lord, the trip doesn’t require or produce gas.