Living With Foreknowledge
From time to time people ask me, “If I believe in the imminent fulfillment of Revelation’s story, how should I plan for tomorrow?” This is a good question. The best answer I have found is this: “Allow the Holy Spirit guide you.” This may sound like a careless or superficial answer, but it is the only answer.
Who has sufficient wisdom to deal with all the issues of life for today, not to mention the future? “If anyone lacks wisdom,” James says, “let him ask of God who gives generously.” (James 1:5) For this reason I repeat, “Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you.”
You are not alone in this predicament. The early Christians walked the same path 2,000 year ago when they anticipated the imminent return of Jesus. Notice how strongly opinionated Paul was about how to live during what he thought was the end of time.
Notice what he wrote:
“What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
In light of what you know today, did his comments make you smile?
Prophetic beliefs are a type of foreknowledge. As humans, we often allow our foreknowledge to affect our daily lives. This is a part of human nature and we cannot escape this fact. Every mature person is concerned about the future, as well as the present, and we try to manage both accordingly.
This issue of Day Star is a little different from previous issues. Instead of trying to provide some answers on various Bible topics, I hope you gain insight from a few Biblical examples about people who were given a limited amount of foreknowledge.
1. Noah Was Given Foreknowledge
- “Then the Lord said, ‘My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.’ The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord . . . So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. I am going to bring flood waters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.’ “ (Selected verses from Genesis 6)
Thought Questions: If you had lived in Noah’s day, would you have wanted to know all that Noah knew? When God told Noah that mankind would be totally destroyed in 120 years, how do you think he felt? How would you deal emotionally with this kind of foreknowledge? (120 years in Noah’s day is equivalent to about nine years in our life span today.) Even more, how do you suppose his wife and sons dealt with this foreknowledge? What did this foreknowledge do to their plans for the future?
2. Elisha Was Given Foreknowledge
- “Elisha went to Damascus, and Ben-Hadad king of Aram was ill. When the king was told, The man of God has come all the way up here, he said to Hazael, ‘Take a gift with you and go to meet the man of God. Consult the Lord through him; ask him, Will I recover from this illness?’ Hazael went to meet Elisha, taking with him as a gift forty camel-loads of all the finest wares of Damascus. He went in and stood before him, and said, Your son Ben-Hadad king of Aram has sent me to ask, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’ Elisha answered, ‘Go and say to him, “You will certainly recover;” but the Lord has revealed to me that he will in fact die.’ He stared at him with a fixed gaze until Hazael felt ashamed. Then the man of God began to weep. ‘Why is my lord weeping?’ asked Hazael. ‘Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites,’ he answered. ‘You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.’ Hazael said, ‘How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?’ ‘The Lord has shown me that you will become king of Aram,’ answered Elisha. Then Hazael left Elisha and returned to his master. When Ben-Hadad asked, ‘What did Elisha say to you?’ Hazael replied, ‘He told me that you would certainly recover.’ But the next day he took a thick cloth, soaked it in water and spread it over the king’s face, so that he died. Then Hazael succeeded him as king.” (2 Kings 8:7-15)
God revealed the apostasy of Israel in a vision to Elisha. Elisha also saw the horrible destruction that Hazael would imminently inflict upon Israel and the prophet wept. Elisha knew Israel was going in the wrong direction and he traveled throughout the nation trying to get Israel to repent and reform. Sadly, the nation did not take his warnings seriously and his pleas fell on deaf ears. Not long after Elisha met with Hazael in Damascus, the Lord gave Israel into Hazael’s hands.
- “In those days the Lord began to reduce the size of Israel. Hazael overpowered the Israelites throughout their territory east of the Jordan in all the land of Gilead . . . In the twenty-third year of Joash son of Ahaziah king of Judah, Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.” (2 Kings 10:32,33; 13:1-3)
Thought Invoking Questions: If God had given you this same foreknowledge, would you have wept? If you had been Elisha, what would you have done?
3. Isaiah Was Given Foreknowledge
God told Isaiah that Israel was going to be destroyed. About 160 years before Cyrus, the Persian king appeared on Earth, Isaiah knew God was going to use this king to destroy Babylon. Consider these verses:
- “This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:1-7)
Thought Questions: If you were Isaiah, what would you have thought about God’s plans? How would you have felt about the destruction of your nation and the subsequent destruction of Babylon? Even more, God appointed these men to fulfill his plans. Would you have been inclined to tell everyone that “God is love?”
4. Jeremiah Was Given Foreknowledge
- Jeremiah said, “This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. ” ‘But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will make it desolate forever. I will bring upon that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.’ “ (Jeremiah 25:11-15)
Thought Questions: If you and all your countrymen believed that Jerusalem was the city of God, would you be able to tell them that the Lord was going to make the holy city a desolate wasteland for seventy years? Would you have the courage to deliver “the word of the Lord” to the religious and political leaders of your day? How would you live with this foreknowledge? If you had been Jeremiah, how would this foreknowledge have changed your daily life?
Consider Jeremiah’s unflinching faith—he knew the destruction of Jerusalem was imminent:
- “The army of the king of Babylon was then besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was confined in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace of Judah. Now Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned him there, saying, ‘Why do you prophesy as you do?’ You say, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will capture it. Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hands of the Babylonians but will certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon, and will speak with him face to face and see him with his own eyes. He will take Zedekiah to Babylon, where he will remain until I deal with him, declares the Lord. If you fight against the Babylonians, you will not succeed.’ “ (Jeremiah 32:2-5)
Thought Question: Put yourself in Jeremiah’s place. What type of courage did it take for Jeremiah to tell the king to surrender his nation to the enemy?
5. The Disciples Were Given Foreknowledge
Jesus told His disciples:
- “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.” (John 16:1-4)
Thought Questions: If you had been one of the disciples, how would you have lived with this foreknowledge? Would you rush home and tell your wife and children? We now know that nine or ten of the disciples were martyrs for their faith. Do you think their foreknowledge was a comfort to them in their last hours?
You may recall the children of Israel reached the borders of the promised land about two years after the Exodus from Egypt. When they reached the borders, the Lord told Moses to send 12 tribal leaders into Canaan so they could see with their own eyes what the Lord was going to give His people.
During this inspection, the spies were overwhelmed with what they saw. The bounty of this country was enormous, with crops beyond anything they had ever seen. They also saw great cities like Jericho that were well defended. Even more, they saw the giants, the Anakims, who lived in the land of Canaan.
Israel anxiously awaited their report. When they returned, ten spies were overcome with fear and anxiety. From their carnal point of view, they thought the ragtag army of Israel was no match for the nations that already possessed the land. Only Caleb and Joshua believed that God could do for them what they could not do for themselves.
God wanted Israel to believe in Him for its future, and He wanted its leaders to understand that they could not possess the land on the basis of their own strength! God tried to give the leaders of Israel some foreknowledge, but they crumbled because of their lack of faith in Him. Consequently, God sent the whole nation back into the wilderness. Everyone but the families of Caleb and Joshua would perish there.
The story of the 12 spies offers an important parallel. Today, we have the privilege of “spying into” the things that God is going to do in the future. Like Israel of old, we cannot deal with the future in our own strength. This is why faith and trust in God are essential. Some Christians are afraid of the future, especially if it means going through a tribulation period. The carnal nature is always afraid of two things: the truth and the future. But, let me encourage you!
There is no need to be afraid. God stands in our tomorrows. He currently stands where we are going to be. His foreknowledge is perfect and complete. He ever sees the larger picture and is doing a superior job of managing the sin problem on Earth.
The prophecies of Daniel and Revelation reveal the coming plans of God. Yes, terrible times are coming upon the Earth, but so are the good times. Remember, the Great Tribulation is not the end of the story. The end of one story occurs when sin is destroyed and life without the curse of sin begins! The story that really matters is that soon, everyone will live happily ever after! In the five examples of foreknowledge presented in this study, the news about Gods forthcoming plans was not pleasant.
No doubt each person mentioned who received foreknowledge was overwhelmed at first. But, as the larger picture unfolds, it reveals that God is managing the sin problem for the benefit of man. This is good news. God understands us, He loves us and will do whatever it takes to save us.
The cross proves this beyond a shadow of doubt. If you have recently read my Warning! book and are depressed because of future events, consider four things: First, God is in the business of doing whatever it takes to save as many people as possible.
Second, the Great Tribulation will produce a numberless harvest of precious souls. Third, if there was a better way to present the gospel so that mankind would consider the generous offer of salvation, God would not inflict Earth with His horrific judgments.
What does this say of man’s degenerate condition when God is left with no other alternative to get man’s attention than global destruction? Last, the Great Tribulation is short and the eternity that follows is endless. Look on the bright side of prophetic foreknowledge: Jesus is coming soon! Jesus saves!
Soon, the sorrows, tears, pain, sadness, death, suffering, depression and grief will be just a fading memory. This view of the promised land and many other truths make me happy!