The Bible's prophetic passages do far more than simply satisfy our curiosity about tomorrow. They impact our lives today. In this compelling book, Tony Evans explores the crucial topics of prophecy, including heaven, hell, the tribulation, and the anti-Christ.
The Understanding God series contains the bulk of Pastor Tony Evans' compelling and hard-hitting resources on the essentials about God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, spiritual warfare, and prophecy. Now available in paperback, readers will not want to be without a single book in the series by this popular and powerful speaker and author.
About the Author
DR. TONY EVANS is the founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, founder and president of The Urban Alternative, former chaplain of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, and present chaplain of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks. His radio broadcast, The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, can be heard on over 1,200 US radio outlets daily and in more than 130 countries. Dr. Evans launched the Tony Evans Training Center in 2017, an online learning platform providing quality seminary-style courses for a fraction of the cost to any person in any place. The goal is to increase Bible literacy not only in lay people but also in those Christian leaders who cannot afford nor find the time for formal ongoing education. For more information, visit: http://www.TonyEvans.org.
Read an Excerpt
The Best Is Yet To Come
Bible Prophecies Through the Ages
By Tony Evans
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2000 Anthony T. Evans
All rights reserved.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPHECY
Early Edition was a popular television program in the 1990s that featured a young man who regularly received the next day's newspaper a day ahead of time. Because he always knew the future, this man's task in each episode was to save people from a tragedy or problem he had read about in tomorrow's paper. So if he knew a building was going to burn, he tried to keep people from entering it. Or if someone was going to be hurt by an act of violence or in an accident, he tried to prevent the encounter from taking place.
We who hold God's prophetic Word in our hands also have an "early edition" of future events. We have God's plan for all eternity, the unfolding of His eternal drama that will culminate for believers in the glories of heaven.
The reason we can even talk about prophecy is that we are dealing with the God who is omniscient, "all-knowing." He not only knows what is and what has been, but He has equal knowledge of what will be. If God were any less informed about tomorrow than He is about yesterday or today, He would not be God.
Tomorrow is as real to God as today or yesterday because God is an eternal Being. In fact, time designations have no meaning to Him. That's why God identified Himself to Moses as "I AM" (Exodus 3:14). He is forever in the present tense, the now.
But because the eternal God has chosen to unfurl His plan for creation in time, prophecy—the study of future things—is very important.
Most of us have a natural desire to know the future, to try to find out what tomorrow will bring. That's why the phony psychic networks are raking in the money. They are preying on people's desire to put together the jigsaw puzzle of life, whether it's the collective history of a nation or an individual life. People want to know how things are going to unfold.
I don't know about anyone else, but if I want to know something about what the future holds, I want to get my information from a reliable source. I don't want to stake my life on what some horoscope writer says in the newspaper.
The main problem with these "prophets" of the future is that they are false prophets. They are feeding people lies because they don't have a clue about the future, either on the individual or the cosmic level. Even worse, sometimes they are demonically inspired.
Bible prophecy is not designed to satisfy our curiosity about tomorrow or the next day, nor is it designed to fill our heads with information so we can get together and debate the details of God's plan. Gaining information has its place in the study of prophecy. It's important that we understand as fully as we can what God is saying to us. But at the heart of God's purpose for prophecy is changing our hearts and affecting the way we live our lives.
So as we begin our study of the wonderful and complex revelation of God concerning prophecy, I want to help you see how important prophecy is. The last chapter of the Bible says:
I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18–19)
This thing called prophecy is very serious business with God. Mess with His prophetic Word, and it will mess up your eternity. God's prophetic message is so important that He announced a curse on anyone who tampers with it.
Let me say right up front that I know everybody does not agree on every jot and tittle of God's prophetic program. There are various views within the Christian community about exactly when Jesus will come back and the shape His kingdom will take. But these varieties of interpretations, if they remain within the sphere of orthodoxy, do not have to hamper us from gaining a broad-based understanding of what God has in store for His people.
So let's get started on this fascinating, awe-inspiring subject by considering the importance of prophecy. In this chapter, we need to answer the question, What makes this study significant to your life right now, where you are? Why should you and I be vitally concerned about God's prophetic agenda? I want to do a brief overview that will give you some solid reasons for studying prophecy.
PROPHECY HELPS AUTHENTICATE THE BIBLE
One of the questions people often ask is how we Christians can claim that the Bible is true as opposed to any other holy book. What makes the Bible distinct from other writings that claim to be from God?
The Bible's Prophetic Accuracy
There are many answers to that question, but one thing that sets the Bible apart is its prophetic accuracy. A large portion of biblical prophecy has already been fulfilled with flawless accuracy. Events that one author wrote about were fulfilled precisely hundreds of years later.
One of the classic examples is the prophecy of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem by the prophet Micah more than seven hundred years before the event (Micah 5:2; cf. Matthew 2:1–6). If Bethlehem had been a major metropolis in Israel, someone could argue it was a good guess. But Micah pinpointed an obscure village because he spoke the mind of God. The fulfillment of prophecies like this helps to validate the truth of the Bible.
Of course, Micah's prophecy is just one of several hundred biblical prophecies that were fulfilled in Christ's first coming alone. This validation of the Bible by prophecy is a strong argument to believe the many prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled.
The Divine Origin of Prophecy
In 2 Peter 1:20–21, the apostle wrote, "Know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." The accuracy of the Bible's predictions should not surprise us, because this was not human writers doing guesswork. Prophetic Scripture is accurate in all of its details because God moved the authors to record what was said.
Someone who was good with numbers and probabilities figured out that it would require 200 billion earths populated with 4 billion people each to come up with one person who could achieve 100 prophecies accurately without any errors in sequence.
In other words, it would be impossible. But the Bible contains hundreds of prophecies that have already come true. That's because it's not based on chance, but on the eternal knowledge of God.
Studying biblical prophecy is like riding a spacecraft far out into space. Ever since we launched our space program in the U.S., we've learned more about earth, because when you get that high, you can learn new information about things like weather patterns and natural resources.
That's what prophecy is like. It takes you above the limitations of time and space so you can get outside your immediate circumstances and see things from the standpoint of the bigger picture.
Giving you the big picture of God's prophetic program is our goal for this book. We want to survey what the Bible says about the future as we unfold God's eternal drama of the ages.
PROPHECY REVEALS GOD'S CHARACTER
The second reason prophecy is important is that it reveals to us the character of God. When you understand God's program, you get to know more about Him.
In Isaiah 46 the prophet made a powerful statement of God's character and knowledge as it relates to His prophetic program:
Remember this, and be assured; recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, "My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure." ... I have planned it, surely I will do it. (vv. 8–10, 11c)
Whatever God plans, He accomplishes. No part of His will can ever be outwitted or thwarted by the mind of man. God was not caught off guard by human sin, because His plan for this universe was drawn up and nailed down in eternity past. But this raises a question for a lot of people. If God planned everything and nothing can change His plan, why should we do anything? Why not just sit back and take it easy, because what's going to happen is going to happen anyway?
The answer is that God's sovereignty does not relieve us of our human responsibility. We are still obligated to live righteously, because God is holy and just and cannot tolerate sin. And God will use our obedience to help accomplish His plan.
I realize there is plenty of mystery here, because God's knowledge of the future includes not only everything that actually happens, but everything that could potentially happen. God knows all possibilities in any circumstance, but He chooses what will happen according to His will and purpose.
What if the Nazis had won World War II and become rulers of the world? God knows exactly how things would have been different over the last fifty years. If Hitler had conquered the world, it would not have been a surprise to God.
The word surprise is not in God's vocabulary. He never says, "Oops, I missed that one." All possibilities are taken into consideration. God's plan takes in "the end from the beginning." There are no surprises in heaven—absolutely none!
Prophecy not only reveals the character of God in terms of His perfect knowledge and power, but also in terms of His purpose to bring Himself glory and bless His people. Paul said of his trials, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8:18).
The apostle knew that the suffering God was allowing in his life would work out to God's greater glory and his greater reward. Paul could say this because he believed Christ's message about a future hope that was laid up for Paul, and "not only to [him], but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8).
A knowledge of prophecy gives you confidence to trust God for what's ahead. If God knows tomorrow already because He has been there and taken care of it, then you can go to sleep tonight confident that He is in control.
Prophecy enhances our understanding of the character of God and leads us to worship Him. Over and over again in his letters, Paul became so overwhelmed with God's character that he couldn't help but worship when he considered God's powerful plan.
PROPHECY PROMOTES HOLINESS
A third reason for studying prophecy is that it is designed to promote holy living. The more conscious we are of Christ's return, and of the fact that we could be standing face-to-face with Him at any moment, the more this knowledge will affect us. But if we forget that Jesus is coming back, we will start living like He's not coming back.
John gave a classic statement of prophecy's purifying purpose. "We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:2–3).
A Prize to Be Won
Let's look at this issue in more detail since it is so crucial. Paul said, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). Paul was determined to remain faithful to Christ because there was a heavenly prize to be won when Christ returned.
God's prophetic program included a reward for Paul, one that was worth all of his commitment on earth. And he urged all believers to adopt the same attitude (v. 15). There's a lot we will do if there's a big enough prize at the end of the process. Paul went on to explain his perspective: "Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory" (vv. 20–21).
Paul said, "I'm really a citizen of heaven. I just have a temporary address here on earth." Because Paul had such a high consciousness of eternity, he pressed on in history.
You can keep going, no matter what, when you know heaven is real. You can keep going if you understand that when your human body becomes worm food, you have just begun to live.
A Hope to Be Realized
John said our hope of Christ's return should purify us. Paul agreed, writing in Titus 2:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus. (vv. 11–13)
Notice the three distinct perspectives Paul mentioned here. Christians are people who are looking in three directions. We look back at the Cross and remember what Christ has done. We look inwardly to see what Christ is doing in us today. And we look forward to the day when Christ will return for us.
Do you see how consciousness of our tomorrow keeps us on track today? We should be living righteously as we await the final revelation of God's prophetic plan.
A Perspective to Gain
Peter also had something to say about the way prophecy ought to promote holy living:
The day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God. (2 Peter 3:10–12a)
Peter said a day is coming when your house, your car, the clothes in your closet, and the money in your bank will burn. The malls at which you shop for your clothes will burn. The earth as we know it is going to melt away.
Since that's true, don't start treating that stuff as if it were eternal. Don't fall so deeply in love with the stuff that's going to burn that you miss out on the stuff that can't burn. Don't trade the things that have eternal value for the things that won't make it to heaven.
It's OK to have a house and a car and clothes. Just don't put a value on them they don't have. Don't treat them like they're the real deal because when Jesus returns, they are going to be toast. It's OK to use the world, but not to be dominated by a worldly perspective (see 1 Corinthians 7:31).
Peter said we can hasten the return of Christ by our holy conduct (2 Peter 3:11–12). That's an interesting concept. How can we help Christ come back more quickly? Of course, Peter did not mean we can make God change His schedule for His Son's return. That has been fixed. Let me explain by way of illustration what Peter was saying.
You know what it's like to be at work with nothing to do. Time seems to drag. In fact, we call that a "slow" day. But what happens when you have a lot of work to do? You wonder where the time went. People say it "flew." Of course, time passed at the same rate in each case. The difference was in your perception. If you want to draw nearer to Christ's return, get busy serving Him and the time will fly by.
A good understanding of prophecy can give us a reference point for living. When a farmer wants to plow a straight furrow, he picks out a marker at the other side of the field and keeps his eyes on it as he plows. You need a reference point when you're looking into the future. If you're just entering college and you want to be a doctor, that's your reference point. Your goal will determine what courses you take and the path you follow. You will most certainly set your sights on medical school.
The Bible says if you fix your sights and your hope on Christ's coming, that perspective on tomorrow will keep you on the straight and narrow today. Prophecy can help us walk a straight line.
A Future to Prepare For
Paul also said he lived in light of one inescapable fact. Speaking of the judgment of believers for kingdom reward, or the lack thereof, he wrote, "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body" (2 Corinthians 5:10).
This is how I picture the judgment seat of Christ taking place. Most stores today have security cameras recording a customer's every move. Some stores even alert people to that fact as they enter the store.
When I first saw those signs, I wondered why the stores were advertising the fact that they used security cameras. After all, the idea is to catch a thief in the act. But as I thought about it, the reason for the warning signs became clear. People who know someone is watching their every move will probably think twice before trying anything funny. But if they don't think anyone is watching, they'll be more likely to take a chance and steal something.
Well, our lives are being recorded on God's cosmic video camera. At Christ's judgment seat, He will sit down with us to view the tape. That's pretty convicting, so let's move on. A bride doesn't wait until the wedding day to prepare for her marriage. She begins preparing far in advance in anticipation of that special day. When you have a prophetic mind-set, it will affect your preparation for eternity.
One of the things I hated most in school was the infamous "pop quiz." The problem with pop quizzes is the pop, not the quiz. You don't have time to prepare for a pop quiz because it is unannounced. I regularly asked the teacher, "Are we going to have a quiz tomorrow?" I wanted to take the "pop," the surprise, out of the quiz.
Jesus Christ has a "pop" return coming. We don't know the day or the hour. But we can prepare for it by living every day as if it were the day of His return. Prophecy can help give us that prepared mind-set. It's important because it promotes holy living on the part of believers.
Excerpted from The Best Is Yet To Come by Tony Evans. Copyright © 2000 Anthony T. Evans. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I: History of Fulfilled Prophecy
1. The Importance of Prophecy2. The Key to Prophecy3. Prophecy and Human History4. Prophecy and the Covenants5. Prophecy and the Times of the Gentiles6. Prophecy and Israel's Timetable
Part II: End Times Prophecy
7. Prophecy and the Church8. Prophecy and the Rapture9. Prophecy and the Judgment Seat of Christ
Part III: The Return of Christ
10. Prophecy and the Antichrist11. Prophecy and the Tribulation12. Prophecy and the Battle of Armageddon13. Prophecy and Christ's Second Coming14. Prophecy and the Millennium15. Prophecy and the Great White Throne
Part IV: Eternity Unveiled
16. What Happens When We Pie?17. What Is Heaven Like? 18. What Is Hell Like?19. How Should We Live Today?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is one of the few books in my life i have ever read for my own pleasure and i can honestly say it is the best book i have ever read. It is very well written and thoroughly explains everything so you dont have to know all about end time prophesy to understand what Mr. Evans is trying to say. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to understand what the future holds. Thank-you Tony.