The writer of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes spent considerable time and effort observing the realities of life. He bemoaned the fact that so much of life seemed utterly futile and repetitive ---
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one
can say, “Look! This is something new”? (Eccl. 1:9. 10)
What’s the point of working so hard to get ahead; of accumulating wealth, or wisdom, or pleasure? Because we are all going to die some day anyway; and who knows, maybe what you’ve gained will be left to a fool who squanders it all (Eccl. 2:17-19).
Most of the book is a depressing look at life. But amidst the gloom, he gives glimmers of hope --
He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the human heart. (Eccl. 3:11)
Although a wicked person who commits a hundred crimes may live a long time,
I know that it will go better with those who fear God, who are reverent before him.
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil. (Eccl. 12:13, 14)
I say all this as an introduction to a series of blog posts on a very specific topic entitled: What Was Will Be. A suitable subtitle would be: Historical Biblical Harbingers of Our Future. My posts will touch on several of the key things the writer of Ecclesiastes has spoken about: judgment, eternity, and the advantage of fearing God. But mostly I wish to put a different spin on his idea of “What has been will be again.” My thesis is this: God is good by giving us a record of past events that act as harbingers of future events, thereby helping us to prepare for them.
Jonathan Cahn wrote a best-selling fictional book a few years ago entitled, The Harbinger. It espoused the idea that the United States of America appears in Old Testament prophecies and some of the recent calamities which have come upon our neighbor to the south are fulfilments of these prophesies. I’ve not actually read the book, so I will not criticize it. What I can say, however, is that not everyone agreed with his take on the fulfilment of prophecies. Though it sold well, it received mixed reviews --- nothing shocking there.
A harbinger is defined by Merriam-Webster as “something that foreshadows a future event: something that gives an anticipatory sign of what is to come.” My goal in this series is to demonstrate from the historical Biblical record how God has provided for us many harbingers of our own future. We can have a pretty clear idea of certain future events based on similar events that have already happened in the past. In these things, we see that God is good to us humans by giving us a heads up. It’s almost always good to know what’s around the corner. This information, then, gives us a better chance to be properly prepared for our individual and corporate futures.
Many of the harbingers I’ll be speaking of are negative in their flavor; they are not happy things to talk about, like judgment. But I promise I’ll speak about some positive harbingers as well, even providing an answer to the lamenting question above: “Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’?”
The Days of Noah
My first harbinger is one provided by Jesus Himself. In answering his disciples’ questions about the future, Jesus tells them:
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying
and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew
nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all
away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. (Mat. 24:37-39)
Back in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we have the inspired record of this actual historical event, the world-wide catastrophic flood. The only people spared were the eight on the ark. I have heard that many cultures have a global flood story in their oral history, which is good, because it actually happened. But I doubt any of them provide the details that the Bible does, especially with regard to the theological reason for the flood ---
The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on
the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was
only evil all the time. The LORD regretted that he had made human beings
on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, “I will
wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created…” (Gen. 6:5-7)
Jesus plainly tells us that there will be a very similar time coming in mankind’s future. People will become complacent; absorbed in their daily activities with no fear of God whatsoever. They will become so evil in His sight that He’ll wipe them out again. This time, however, He will do so with fire ---
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with
a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done
in it will be laid bare. (II Pet. 3:10)
What would you think of God if He gave you no warning whatsoever of the future? You might conclude that He is mean. But the record God has left us in the Bible of past events that He even tells us are harbingers of future ones, leave humans without excuse. Therefore, we can prepare for our future, where judgment individually and corporately is sure to happen. Peter challenges his readers with these words:
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?
You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God…”
(II Pet. 3:11, 12)
What was will be. Fear of God in our hearts is a great place to start by way of a proper response to what He has revealed. And then repentance for our sinfulness and faith in the only Savior, Jesus Christ, is where we must end up. May we all get ourselves safely into that state.
(Bible verses quoted are from the NIV.)