Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast I have with me, a dear friend of mine, Omri Miles. He’s a pastor of Grace Bible Church in Tempe, Arizona. He’s also a church-planting pastor of Grace Bible Church in New Orleans, you can find out more about that venture at gracebiblenola.org. He holds a Master of Arts degree in biblical counseling from The Master’s University and a Master of Divinity degree from The Expositors Seminary and currently serves as the Director of one of our Certified Training Centers, Biblical Counseling of the East Valley. He lives in Phoenix with his wife, Emily and their five children. Brother, so grateful that you’re here with us today to talk about prophetic passages.
Omri Miles: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
Dale Johnson: Now, as we think about genres of the Bible, this demonstrates I think the dynamic of the Scripture for us and its usefulness. And the way in which God has chosen to communicate to us in ways that are very, very helpful. And obviously the Bible is not a one-size-fits-all approach when we are ministering it to people. The way in which God reveals Himself is so important. And we need to be able to deliver the truth about God, and who He is in an accurate way, understanding the Bible in the way we study it, how He speaks to us and how that’s useful for us in life. So, I want to dive into this a little bit because, you know, a lot of people naturally gravitate towards a New Testament passage, but man, there’s so much information that God has chosen to give us about His character to about the way He deals with His people and things that are to come that we can gather from prophetic passages that are very useful for us when we think about God, and man, and who he is, and the hope that He’s given.
So, I want to dive into this Omri if we can, why is the doctrine of the future so crucial for counseling and how should counselors think about prophetic passages of Scripture?
Omri Miles: Yeah, so this is an often neglected area of doctrine, sort of, in a lot of people’s minds that doctrine of the end times, the last days, called it eschatology, sort of shrouded in lots of mystery and as soon as you talk to maybe a table full of your friends about this subject, then you’ve got one more view than the number of people seated at the table, often times, and it just can feel daunting to think about eschatology. But really the Bible talks about it and so we shouldn’t shy away from it, and Scripture is clear on what it says about the future that it takes a lot of work for us to get at, but it is clear, and essentially, the reason that this is so important for people who are instructing others in the church, for those who had counsel others is because God has bound our hope for starters to future realities. That’s why faith is demanded. If everything was passed or provable from history, the things that we could tangibly understand, there will be no need for faith.
So, just based on the fact that faith is so essential to the Christian life and change that just brings the future into focus that we’re waiting on promises. We’re trusting in realities that we cannot see. You think about even the gospel before recently quote-unquote, you know, the past 2,000 years in human history the Gospel was eschatological, it was a future reality, and so, everybody before Christ came was looking to the future and their hope was based on everything that God had said about the Gospel and it was all future. And so, you think about how are they counseling their own hearts. How are they encouraging their own souls and each other to obey the Lord, to walk uprightly and faithfully in their current day, well, Hebrews tells us it was all by faith. They were looking toward future promises, and before Christ came, those future promises were so many of them about the coming of Christ and even us we find ourselves in a time in human history where we’re still looking forward. We’re still looking forward to so many of the promises that the prophets, the Old Testament writers, or God through them taught us to look forward to and those have ethical implications for us in the here and now, they make demands on us morally and require our obedience based on what the future holds.
Dale Johnson: And the certainty of God’s foretelling that a Messiah would come. The Gospel, as you mentioned, the certainty of that event happening in Jesus genuinely coming to earth, which is in our past; that certainty is the demonstration of the faithfulness and steadfastness of our God. And when he talks about promises that are to come for us, and when Paul in the New Testament roots our future and our peace in a hope that is secure once and for all, it’s that same certainty that we can be assured of because these are promises of that same God.
Now, we always want to study the Scripture well, but our task as we study the Scripture well is to never keep it distant from how we respond in life and how we walk in the light in life, so give us some examples, Omri, of prophetic passages and how those types of passages might be useful in the counseling room.
Omri Miles: There’s a host of passages even right now thinking, man, I wrote some down and still there’s just so much more to talk about, but to take one passage Psalm 24. In Psalm 24, this is a Psalm of David and you have this one place in Scripture where the question is asked, who is the king of glory? I think that this Psalm answers that question in three different ways. In the first couple verses you have the answer. Well, that king of glory is the sovereign Lord of creation. The second way that this passage answers that question in verses 3 to 6, He’s the gracious God of seekers. And then the way the Psalm ends, he’s just climbing, climbing, climbing to say, this king of glory is the coming king of war.
Now, these three depictions of who God is where the Psalm ends. This one is clearly David’s seed. David calls for the gates of the city, the ancient doors to receive her King. This is an eschatological passage looking forward to the final arrival when Yahweh, the King himself will reign in Jerusalem. This isn’t, contrary to many commentators about the ascension of Christ because this is about him making war. And he’s actually looking to this one place on Earth, according to verse 3, the holy mountain, or the holy hill of the Lord. So this is Jerusalem or Zion, as it’s affectionately called throughout Scripture. When will the king finally be there? And the reason that this passage even in all of the future promises that is looking forward to when Jesus finally reigns on earth as king, and the reason this is so helpful in counseling is because in the midst of this description, when he talks about God being this gracious God, those who seek him. You have this question in verse 3, who may ascend the mountain of Yahweh and who may arise in His holy place? So, there’s a question asking who gets to be there on that day and then you get the answer. Well, verse 4, he who has innocent hands, and a pure heart has not lifted up his soul to worthlessness and who has not sworn deceitfully, he shall lift up a blessing from Yahweh, and righteousness from the God of his salvation, this is the generation of those who seek Him, seek your face, and then you have a difficulty in translation, but a call to Jacob, pay heed, O Jacob, the LSB translates it and then this break in the psalm, selah. Often times what people do, when they read that description innocent hands of pure heart, doesn’t lift up his soul to worthlessness, doesn’t swear deceitfully. That must be a way of the Psalmist saying, hey, no one fits that description so we should see Christ as the rescue from the demands of God’s law. Well, I think that this is actually not the right way to take this as David anticipates his seed, God in human flesh reigning in Jerusalem as king from His throne; David’s encouragement here is who gets to be there, who gets to be on the holy hill have access, have rights, and inheritance on that day. And here’s the answer. You have to have innocent hands, a pure heart to not practice lifting up your soul to worthlessness, this idolatry or swearing deceitfully, just a practical honesty and uprightness to your life.
Well, that’s helpful in counseling because you can call people to moral uprightness. You think about the person who is a perpetual deceiver, a liar and to say that is a sin that will cause you to miss the kingdom. And this is exactly what Jesus is doing in the beatitudes, blessed are, that’s a current that’s a right now, blessed are the pure in heart. Why? They shall see God, a future reality, in the future, they will dwell with God, they will see him with their own eyes, as the same thing Job anticipated with his own eyes and his own flesh seeing God, that day is promised to those who have a pure heart in the here and now, that’s not perfection, but it is pointing to sincerity, and so, in counseling, you can call counselees, you can call people who are not taking sin seriously or sluggish to put off sin to say, hey, if you anticipate seeing this future day, if you want to make it into the kingdom, then you have to prove that your faith is genuine by your obedience. Same thing Jesus is doing again in the Sermon on the Mount. When he talks about cutting off your right hand plucking out your right eye. This radical repentance or else you will miss the kingdom, and that’s the weight of those commands when we’re looking at the future in the passages that direct our attention there almost always there is this ethical obligation placed upon the hearers that to see that day, you have to have a certain life now, you have to be characterized by faithful obedience now.
One other example of this that has just been astonishing to me and just arrested my attention most recently is in Zephaniah, so I just taught through Zephaniah recently chapter 2:1-3 are really the hinge of that book as he describes all through chapter one this worldwide destruction that is coming upon all mankind because of sin, it’s coming on the world generally, and Israel in particular, because she is most accountable being given the most revelation from God being called out by God as a unique people, well when this day comes there’s nothing you’re going to do to stop it, but there is a way that you can escape that destruction coming on that day and Zephaniah 2 gives us the answer. He says, in verse, gather yourselves together, indeed gather oh nation without shame before the decree takes effect, that’s a reference to the day, the day passes like the chaff before the burning anger of Yahweh comes upon you, before the day of Yahweh’s anger comes upon you. So, there’s this urgency to the message. Gather yourselves, i.e., repent, turn, get your lives together in order under the lordship of Yahweh of our God before this day comes. Why? He tells us in verse 3, again, he adds command “seek Yahweh, all you humble of the earth who have worked his justice, seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden.” That’s the hope, that word “perhaps” is the same word that Sarah used when she encouraged Abraham to have children through Hagar. Perhaps she will give me children. And so this is a hopeful anticipation that the one who responds to these commands they seek Yahweh. They genuinely humble themselves and believe the message of the prophet, they will be hidden in the day of Yahweh’s anger. So, when this day of the Lord comes, the humble of the earth will escape that universal wrath and eventually if you keep reading into chapter 3, they will one day experience the unparalleled blessing that’s coming on the world, but that promise only belongs to those who humble themselves under God’s authority.
So, the one who is recalcitrant in counseling, the one who’s resistant to instruction, the one who is daring to test God by not forgiving, not practicing self-control, not turning away from whatever the idol is. Then you can put this passage in front of them and say, hey, here’s what’s coming according to chapter 3, here’s the joy of the future. But to see that day, you have to practice humility now. And so these kinds of passages that emphasize eschatology actually have bearing on the hearers’ lives today.
Dale Johnson: It becomes a motivation, right? I mean it becomes the motivation to live out the justification the Lord has secured for us. I’m even thinking I was mentioning to you earlier my family is currently reading Amos, which you know, that’s probably not many people’s top choice, but we’re in the middle of that now, and chapter 5, he gives sort of this twofold picture where he describes, he’s encouraging the people to seek the Lord and live. That’s a posture for those of us who believe. We look to that eschatological hope and we say we want to seek the Lord. We want to seek refuge in him. We want to hide in him as we see in Christ. But why do we do that? As you mentioned as a warning, because justice will roll down, as he describes at the end of that Chapter in Amos Chapter 5, justice will roll down. The Lord is coming to separate his people and to bring his judgment on all those who remain in their sin. And that is a hopefulness for us.
I think about this in terms of counseling, where man, as much as we try, Omri, we are flawed people and we want to see justice happened. We try to enact the justice of God and by the means in which he gives us, but we’re flawed, we don’t know all things, we can’t see all things clearly and one of the most helpful things that I can encourage our counselees with is to say, you know what, there’s coming a day for all of us who have been offended by different things. Or, you know, when we’ve offended in wrong ways, there’s coming a day when the Lord will set all things right, and proper justice will be delivered, either with my sin that’s been placed on Christ, a just punishment and praise the Lord for that sacrifice, or people will endure the wrong that they’ve done to believers. And we trust that the justice of the Lord will roll down. So many things that we learn about God that we look forward to when he comes, as Revelation 21:5 says, “to make all things new,” I love how we’re thinking about this.
I want to keep going here. How does thinking about eschatology, at least in your mind, it’s obvious you’re working through some of these passages and there’s so much to extrapolate and for us to be useful in how we see God and understand Him, how He interacts with His people. So how does our thinking about end times, this particular doctrine as you mentioned, we typically call eschatology, and how does eschatology strengthen our counseling? How does it strengthen our commitments that we have as biblical counselors?
Omri Miles: Yeah. So you think about a classic text like 2 Timothy 3:16-17 about the sufficiency of Scripture. Well, what we do, is eschatology actually tests whether we believe that. So I think it strengthens your bibliology. If I really believe that all of Scripture is instructive, all of Scripture is profitable, then I should embrace the texts that talk about the future. How are they profitable? And everybody’s on a spectrum in regard to our learning to apply and use those passages. But are we working at that? Are we working to expand the amount of Scripture that we utilize in our counseling? That’s a way that we should just continually be sharpening ourselves. Even as you think about the local church to really embrace what your local church teaches about this crucial doctrine, are you able to run into other people’s lives and apply your church’s teaching?
I think about Paul encouraging the Thessalonians. He said we came, we solemnly warned you in chapter 4 with these things, know that the Lord is an avenger in all of these things as you anticipate your rescue from the day of the Lord that rescue belongs to those who are turning away from sexual immorality, the Lord’s an avenger in these things. So you have the sweet promise of God’s rescue as you watch God’s grace work itself out in your life to produce purity, and so he says, he turns a corner and talks about the comfort or the encouragement that ought to come, you know, in Isaiah fashion, comfort, comfort, you get that in 4:13 “Comfort one another with these words,” you get that again in 4:18, then 5:11, 1 Thessalonians, “comfort one another with these words.” The same word there whether you translate comfort or encouragement. So these things strengthen our eschatology or our eschatology, knowing these things strengthen our bibliology, strengthen our ecclesiology, they strengthen our confidence in God as we believe Him. You know, thinking theology, proper Christology. Those are commitments that any good biblical counselor has just doctrinally, and as you gain clarity on this one area of doctrine it just brings light and confidence and clarity to the others.
Dale Johnson: I think this is an area as you’re encouraging us here that we need to expand and get better at and maybe even focus a little bit more to see the beauty of what God has given to us here. And I’ll just mention one other thing as we think about eschatology or what’s coming in the future. I think maybe our lack of focus on the hope that will be revealed in Christ and how much the New Testament roots are our present steadfastness, our present peace on that hope which is to come. When we neglect that we have a tendency to run after superficial things because we want to see things fixed today. We want to see things work out yesterday, right? We don’t have time for this, we need to get this thing done now, and we have a tendency to be very vulnerable to wanting imminent release from whatever problem it is that we have right now and we miss some of the point I think because we don’t see the value in the way the Lord places and rest our peace on the hope that’s to be revealed.
Omri Miles: That’s Proverbs 19:2, right? Desire without knowledge is not good; whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” You might desire justice now, increase your knowledge about coming justice and let that slow you down. Let that increase your patience. It’s absolutely right.
Dale Johnson: Yeah, well done. Well said, I think this is really helpful and a good encouragement to us. And we’ve, you know, in a short time today, only touch the surface of the depth of what God has given us in this particular way in the prophetic genre in the Scripture, Omri, this is really helpful. Thanks for a good reminder and goading us in this direction to see the beauty of Scripture.
Omri Miles: Thanks for having me.
Click here for more information about ACBC’s Foundations High School Curriculum.