In the third of these stories, a young man from a wealthy family demands and gets his inheritance long before the death of his father (the time when custom said he ought to receive the money). He leaves home and spends his entire fortune on wild living, eventually winding up broke and friendless and working in a pigpen. One day, surrounded by hogs that eat better than he does, he comes to his senses. He realizes that even his father's servants enjoy a better life than the one he is enduring. So he picks himself up and sets off for home, determined to ask his father for work as a hired hand.
Meanwhile, his dad sits patiently on the veranda, scanning the road and praying each day to see his wandering son return home at last. On this day, while the son is still a long way off, the father recognizes the tired silhouette of his boy hobbling down the road. And what does he do? Does he sit there with folded arms and a scowl on his face and say, "Well, let's see if this foolish boy can make it all the way up to the bunkhouse. Then I'll give him a piece of my mind"? Not on your life! The father leaps off the veranda and runs to his son, embraces him, covers his dirty, pigsty face with kisses, and treats him to a homecoming party, complete with the best fresh beef in the county.
As I sat in a Bible class one day, studying this parable, I suddenly realized that the real story is not so much the prodigal, but the father of the prodigal. Jesus was portraying God as the prodigal's father! Our Lord wanted us to realize that his Father, God Almighty, was just like the merciful father in this story.
And for the first time I grasped the gracious, loving nature of God.
At that moment the lightbulb went off in my head. At once I understood that God isn't sitting up in heaven, arms crossed, trying to prevent people from entering. Instead, he stands with arms wide open, trying in all conceivable ways to usher as many people into heaven as possible.
The Bible insists that when any of us makes it to heaven, we do so only because God has made it possible (Matt. 18:14; John 6:37, 39-40, 44; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:9). If he can discover any way for us to make it safely through heaven's gates, he'll see that it happens. This is the truth about our gracious God. He reaches out to bring us to his side, where he has stockpiled "pleasures forevermore" at his right hand (Ps. 16:11).
That's the truth about God! Our Lord is a loving Father. And believe it or not, Bible prophecy reveals God's kind nature as almost nothing else can. So deeply do I believe this, that I've dedicated the rest of my life to helping others grasp this breathtaking truth.
People are interested in prophecy today as never before. I can't adequately express how thrilled I am at the way God is blessing the Left Behind fiction series that Jerry B. Jenkins and I are writing. I have to pinch myself. People all over the country ask me how and why the series took off the way it did. The truth is, I don't know. All I can say is that God loves to honor his prophetic Word. When we began, I certainly had no idea of what was to come. Initially, I envisioned only one book.
I got the original idea seventeen years ago while sitting on an airplane, and it burned in my soul from that day on. Although I was a successful nonfiction author with forty titles in print, I had never written fiction. At first I thought, You know, I should try on my own to write a story based on prophecy. At the time, three of my nonfiction-writing friends wrote novels. I picked up their books, thinking, Hey, if they can do it, so can I. But then I actually read what they had written. And I quickly realized the truth: None of us can write good fiction.
I profited by that experience and asked the Lord to hook me up with an experienced author of fiction. I did some looking, found a promising candidate, and together we wrote a book.
I paid him to throw it away.
It cost me a fortune to toss a 550-page book in the trash, but the final product just didn't have the quality I demanded. It didn't feel like my book; it didn't speak to my heart.
Then I met Jerry B. Jenkins-and the rest, as they say, is history. At the time of this writing, more than fifty million books from the series are in print worldwide. We estimate that at least one hundred thousand readers have so far made a decision to receive Christ as their Savior through the influence of these novels.
Now can you see why I have a deep passion to declare the mercy and love of God through the medium of Bible prophecy? I want to counter the false notion that only gloom, doom, and despair await this troubled world. Much to the contrary, the Bible proclaims that God has a magnificent plan for our future, a plan that reveals his mercy. When properly understood, prophecy shows us the astonishing steps God will take to help a maximum number of people enjoy a spectacular eternity with him.
We should all stand amazed at how many future events God has revealed, primarily in order to show us his love and mercy. Even now he is carefully and relentlessly at work, superintending the course of world events in order to bring about the glorious future he has foretold. Some important prophetic events appear to be unfolding even now, in our own day.
God does love this world! Bible prophecy proves it! And this great message of divine love has become the passion of my heart. I'm in my mid-seventies, and I feel a strong compulsion to do whatever I can in the time I have left to encourage men and women to earnestly study Bible prophecy.
One of the most important books of prophecy, Revelation, says, "Blessed [or happy] is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; because the time is near" (1:3).
Do you want to enjoy the greatest possible happiness? Then you must strive to understand Bible prophecy. God promises in his Word to give a special blessing of happiness to all those who seek to grasp what he has revealed about the future. Those who neglect the prophetic plan of God lack something essential in their lives, particularly in relation to their understanding and appreciation of Jesus. It may be that you have little desire to understand Bible prophecy-but do you want to know Jesus better? If so, then you must invest some time in God's prophetic word. Don't forget that the Book of Revelation does not merely disclose future events, but is particularly "the Revelation of Jesus Christ" (Rev. 1:1). If you want to know Jesus as he truly is, you cannot afford to bypass Bible prophecy.
Amazing treasures await those who plunge into the world of Bible prophecy. For there we learn that if the Scriptures teach us anything about God, it's that he is for us. He is not against us! He calls us to obey him, not because he needs our puny efforts, but because he wants to bless our lives. And as we will discover, the key to opening the door to God's blessing is to say, "Here's my life, Lord. Do with it whatever you see fit."