In the book of Acts, after the resurrection, Jesus was having a meal with his disciples. At some point during this meal Jesus gives them a command.null
“On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 1:4-5).
Upon hearing this command the disciples proceed to ask Jesus a very interesting question.
“Then they gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’” (Acts 1:6).
I can imagine their enthusiasm. After all Jesus was dead and is now alive. He had conquered death, maybe now is the time to restore the kingdom to Israel. I want you to pay very close attention to Jesus’ answer because this strikes at the heart of what I want you to think about.
“He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority’” (Acts 1:7).
Why is this statement important? The disciples were worried about times and dates and Jesus told them point blank, don’t worry about those. Fast forward two thousand years and many are thinking and asking a very similar question.
There seems to be lots of conversations happening around the return of Jesus, the end times, the mark of the beast, and the antichrist. While I understand the need to have the conversation, I can’t help but wonder if we are taking it too far. Could it actually be possible that Bible prophecy is becoming a distraction in your life? I know it seems like a weird question to ask, but when you see where I am coming from it might not be so weird after all.
Jesus’ Final Words before He Left
Before Jesus was taken up into heaven here is the last thing he told his disciples.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
I want you to see how Jesus shifted their focus from the original question. They were asking about times and dates and Jesus moved their focus to the Holy Spirit and evangelism. I fully believe that Jesus knew that if they simply kept thinking about times and dates it would distract them from what he wanted them to do. The same is true today when there is so much worry and fascination over when is Jesus coming back.
Now before you get ready to throw stones, I am not saying we should not think about when Jesus is coming back because he encourages it.
“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).
There is nothing wrong with looking for his coming, however there is something wrong when that is all you do. It is that mindset that makes Bible prophecy become a distraction. Let me show you three ways Bible prophecy can become a distraction.
1. It Distracts You from the Mission
I find it interesting that the moment the disciples started to talk about times and dates, Jesus steered them back to the mission. Until Jesus returns or until you breathe you last breath here on earth the mission has not changed. We need to preach the gospel and make disciples. This is what Jesus wanted them to be concerned with. Until Jesus returns God’s heart is still the same.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
God’s heart is to bring as many people to repentance as possible before the end comes. This is our mission. We need to tell people about the good news of Jesus Christ because they won’t know if we don’t tell them. This is where your focus needs to be. When you become so pre-occupied with times and dates then it is possible that Bible prophecy can become a distraction because it takes you off the mission.
2. It Can Make You a Star Gazer
In Matthew 24 we are encouraged to keep watch.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).
Watching does not mean don’t work. You can do both at the same time. Look at what he said just a few verses later.
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns” (Matthew 24:45-46, emphasis added).
Watching and waiting for Jesus’ return is a good thing, but while you are watching and waiting make sure you are still working. Don’t let prophecy distract you from doing the work he requires before he comes.
When you go back to Acts, look at what happened after Jesus was taken up into heaven.
“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11).
The disciples were looking intently into the sky. In my words they were star gazing. The two men in white snapped them back into reality basically telling them stop gazing and get to work. We have to make sure that we are doing both, watching and working. Until Jesus comes, remain faithful to what he has called you to do. It’s ok to look up but don’t become a star gazer because when you do, Bible prophecy then becomes a distraction.
3. It Can Cause You to Lose Your Love and Compassion
Let’s be honest, each and every day it seems like our society as a whole moves further away from Godly standards and principles. On a side note – we should not be shocked because the Bible tells us this would happen. When this happens then the ideals and things you hold dear to your heart and your faith as a believer come under attack. Sometimes it leads to mocking and ridicule. It is possible if this should happen to you that you could allow bitterness to rise up in your heart. Especially towards those who are the mockers. In these moments you may long for Jesus to come back to prove them wrong and to show them who is really in charge. You want Jesus to come and take revenge on all those who oppose the message of the gospel. However this is not the heart of God. When Jesus was hanging on the cross after being beaten, spit upon, mocked, ridiculed, and nailed to a cross he actually uttered these words,null
“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’” (Luke 23:33-34).
Looking for Jesus to return should not create anger in you for those who don’t believe, but compassion for them. For those who don’t know Jesus, his return moves them closer to their being lost forever. This should move your heart to concern and compassion, not justice and judgment. The “God’s gonna get you attitude” does not align with who God is. Yes he is a God of justice and he will judge the sinner, but before he gets to that end he offers much more opportunities for mercy and grace. We should do the same. Don’t let the hope and expectation of the return of Jesus cause you to stop loving and reaching for those who don’t believe.
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A Final Encouragement
I want to leave you with a simple instruction. Watch, Pray, Work. Watch because he is coming. Pray so you heart is always right before him. Work until he comes. There will come a day when you won’t have to work anymore, but that is not today. In the meantime, don’t let Bible prophecy distract you. Stay focused and keep doing the work until that day Jesus comes again. Yes that day is coming and it may be sooner than we all think, no one knows. Until then do what Jesus said in John 9:
“As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4).
Jesus hasn’t come yet, that means it’s still day. That means it’s time to get to work and not let the reality of his coming keep you from doing what he has called you to do.