Time travel fascinates me. Not the amount of time it takes to travel to work on the local highway at rush hour—that (and the fact they call it “rush” hour) is absurd. I mean the idea of zipping back and forth through time, like we travel about from place to place in the physical world.
Wouldn’t it be great to go back and remap your life? You could avoid making bad decisions, repair broken relationships, and buy some gadgets that you know will instantly have antique value when you return. Of course, if you’ve seen the movie Back to the Future Part II, you know that this ability can be used for evil. Biff, the neighborhood bully, got hold of an almanac that listed the winners of major sporting events, enabling him to win zillions of dollars and control the town.
I don’t know if traveling to the future would be a good idea. We probably don’t really want to know what awaits us there. As romantic as all of this sounds, we probably wouldn’t be able to change anything anyhow. Maybe that’s why God does not allow us to see our future.
Well, I’m not totally correct in that. He allows us to see as much of the future as we need to see. One of the distinguishing marks of the Bible is that about one third of it is prophecy. Most of it has been perfectly and undeniably fulfilled, which is a good indicator that the rest of it will be fulfilled as well.
Why does God reveal some future events to us, and why don’t we hear about it so much any more?
One reason He wrote down future events is to prove Who He is. “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Isaiah 42:8, 9, NKJV). He is the God of eternity Who ordains and controls all things.
God also revealed future events to prepare us and inspire us to righteous living. “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2, 3). “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:11, 12). Just like knowing that you are attending a wedding or job interview or final exam encourages you to prepare, knowing how history will end should motivate you to put your life in order.
Although we can read the future already written in the time machine of Scripture, we cannot know the details of our future lives. Therefore, we cannot afford to be over-confident or lax with our lives. As I write this, a friend is lying in a hospital bed after an unplanned emergency trip this morning. Events like this make these words all the more urgent: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). Whatever plans my friend had for today are now irrelevant.
We should not believe that our own plans are set in stone. As James told the merchants of his day, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:14, 15). God is in control of our future.
Thankfully, although things don’t always turn out the way we’d like, God’s plans are best. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). We may not understand what is going on, but “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NKJV).
The study of prophecy has fallen on hard times lately. It is a fascinating study, and the idea of looking into the future attracts many curious onlookers. But the days of prophecy conferences and the like are fading like wilting roses, with the anticipation of Christ’s return evaporating, despite promises like, “There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness . . . and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8, NKJV).
Prophecy is complex and takes effort to systematize and understand. Younger generations are not future oriented—instant gratification and a growing apathy toward the responsibilities of life may be dulling the spiritual senses. If it’s not relative to the here and now, and doesn’t fuel my gusto for life, it’s not worth my while.
Sadly, many believe that believers are so concerned about the future that we aren’t interested in the present. On the contrary, if we have a healthy concern for the revealed future, we will be more zealous to live life the way it was meant to be lived. We will “store up for [our]selves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20), because “their works do follow them” (Revelation 14:13, KJV).