While the New Testament bristles with unripe prophecy, the church often overlooks its lofty claims for the future. We struggle to muster a faith large enough to encapsulate Bible prophecies like the two we’re about to discuss. So we push them to the backburner, behind the easier-to-swallow passages, and shrug as they fade into ineffectuality.
In our pragmatic age, more than ever, we require a reminder of the biblical call to unhinged faith. The excerpts below are from Hebrews 11, which outlines Old Testament wonders in which unworthy men accomplished marvelous feats for God’s glory. But pay attention to the action verbs in bold below:
● By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. - Hebrews 11:4 (NIV)
● And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. - Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
● By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. - Hebrews 11:7 (NIV)
● By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. - Hebrews 11:8-9 (NIV)
● By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. - Hebrews 11:17-19 (NIV)
● By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones. - Hebrews 11:20-22 (NIV)
In all of the examples above, the man’s faith didn’t just live in his head. It manifested through his actions. To have faith is not to believe in God and believe that the Bible, in theory, is truth. Scripture reminds us that even the demons have a head knowledge of God:
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. - James 2:18-24 (NIV)
To have faith is to live out and act upon God’s truth--even when it seems outlandish. So here’s the first prophecy that needs our attention:
Prophecy #1: Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. - John 14:12 (NIV)
Jesus encourages His disciples with this promise shortly before His death, and it applies to us too. Yet how can this be? How is it that we could do greater works than Jesus did? Do you actually believe that? Does anyone? In the past, I have been guilty of dismissing this verse as just too far out. I think many could say the same.
This promise is one of the most radical Bible prophecies in the New Testament; it requires no less than a whole-hearted faith to stomach. Call it heretical or blasphemous, but it’s in the Bible, straight from the mouth of Jesus Himself--we will do greater works than He did. But how?
When Jesus says “you,” He means not just “you,” the individual, but “you,” the church.
Together, as the unified body of Christ, with the same Spirit surging through all of us, we will do more than the singular flesh-and-blood person of Jesus ever did in His three years of ministry on earth. When we understand that His prophecy is for the church as a whole rather than for the individual, the idea of doing “even greater things” begins to sound less outrageous.
Jesus doesn’t ask you to ramble through life alone, an extolled prophet, performing miracle after miracle. Rather, He invites us to plug into the Body of Christ and take up the restorative Kingdom work that He set in motion and that the Christian church has championed for thousands of years. In 1 Corinthians, Paul says this:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. - 1 Corinthians 12:12-20 (NIV)
God may choose to channel specific miracles through specific people, sure. But in the grand scheme of things, we are to view ourselves, not as solo Kingdom workers, but as a collective Body of believers, functioning as a cohesive whole, for a common cause.
But what is “Kingdom work?” What are these “greater things” that Jesus calls us to do?
If we’re going to do “greater things” than Jesus did, we need to understand what kinds of things He did and what kinds of things He commands us to do.
One command to start with is this:
Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
This mandate, known as the Great Commission, applies to all believers--not just missionaries or super-Christians. For practical tips on how to get involved in fulfilling the Great Commission, check out this post.
But beyond making disciples, we are to serve and care for the poor, the broken, and the marginalized:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. - James 1:27 (NIV)
Johnny Carr responds to this verse in his book, Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting, noting that “We frequently focus on keeping ourselves unstained, but we often fail in the area of taking care of orphans and widows.”
So rather than sitting comfortably in our Christian circles and trying not to sin, we are called to a more exciting kind of life--one in which we venture out into the lives of others to meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
James’s reference to “orphans and widows” is not original to the New Testament. God uses it throughout the Old Testament as an idiom signifying anyone marginalized or outcast:
● Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. - Isaiah 1:17 (ESV)
● You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. - Exodus 22:21-24 (ESV)
● At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. - Deuteronomy 14:28-29 (ESV)
Whether you work with orphans, widows, the elderly, the homeless, the foreigner, the sick, or the emotionally broken, you are working to fulfill Jesus’ prophecy. You are working with the body of Christ to do “greater things” than even Jesus did in His short time on earth.
Our mission is to build others up. Did you know that each loved + blessed subscription box contains an encouragement kit to help you encourage someone with a small gift? Read more here.
Now on to our second prophecy:
Prophecy #2: Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. - Luke 10:19 (NLT)
Jesus gives this promise to the seventy-two before sending them out to pave the way for His coming. And if we are in Christ, He also calls us to pave the way for His second coming. This protective prophecy applies to us.
Nothing will injure you. This promise is another one of those Bible prophecies that we overlook due to its implausibility. Christ followers get injured all the time, right?
While these words don’t promise us immunity to earthly injury, they do guarantee that nothing that happens to us on this earth can destroy our personhood in Christ. We are indelible souls.
And we are called to act like it. To have faith in this promise that nothing will injure us means to act out of courage, even when we have reason to be afraid. And when something hurtful comes our way, we must take hope knowing that nothing can ultimately injure us. We must adopt the mentality that even if we were to lose everything, we would be fine.
Even if you lost your job, you would be fine.
Even if your house burned to ashes in a fire, you would be fine.
Even if your closest loved ones passed away, you would be fine.
Why? Because our hope is not in the things of this earth, but in Christ alone.
This truth has nothing to do with suppressing emotion or putting on a fake happy face. Instead it has everything to do with allowing pain and loss to run their course through your system, without letting them crush you. You have God’s promise to hang on to--nothing will injure you. We have to choose to believe it.
But we also need to understand that we have “authority over all the power of the enemy.”
Some call the past couple of decades the “Age of Apathy.” With the rise of media, the steady flow of horrific news bleeding through our televisions, phones, and computer screens can lead to stimulus overload. We have too much information to care. Even those who have hearts for particular causes are probably guilty of apathy toward one issue or another. The more stories of tragedy and injustice we hear, the easier it becomes to disconnect.
This apathy stems from a sense of hopelessness. If we felt empowered to mend these mishaps, many of us probably would. But most of the time, the quest for justice and shalom feels like a hopeless cause.
Until the new heaven and new earth, we will never establish world peace. We will never eradicate poverty. We will never find homes for all orphans.
Authority is the antidote to helplessness. Jesus’ assertion that we have authority over all the powers of the enemy is one of the most empowering Bible prophecies in the New Testament. No, we’ll never solve the world’s problems for good, but we do have authority to trample on the powers of the enemy. Now we need to act on that authority.
N.T. Wright aptly describes our role as Kingdom workers:
“What you do in the present--by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself--will last into God’s future. . . They are part of what we may call building for God’s Kingdom.”
When we work to restore shalom to the world, we build for God’s Kingdom. What we do in this life does carry over into the next. We are here to lay the foundation for the Kingdom to come, until God finishes the job once and for all.
In his book, Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human, John Mark Comer says it this way:
“We are the people of the future in the present.
Paul said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”
So, new creation is here now; it’s bursting out through the cracks in the pavement, and it’s starting with us.
So we work in the present world--right in the middle of all the chaos and entropy and suffering and pain--for a glimpse of the future world, set free from evil and death itself.
And the hope is that as we do whatever it is we do, people will see our work, and, shivering in the cold, will come a little closer, listen to the music, and maybe, just maybe, start to see that in the middle of all the sorrow and emptiness and trauma of this life, something new is brewing, seeping up through the ground, breaking in.
Or as a teacher I follow once said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”
Did you learn anything new about Bible prophecies in this post? If so, let us know in the comments!