I realize that the whole subject of eschatology-the doctrine of the "end-times"-has gotten a bad wrap. It's been tarnished by "doomsdayers," date-setters, "let's name the Antichrist," and a lot more. Some people get out of balance with the topic. I don't fit into any of those categories but I know they are out there.

I do take seriously the exhortation to "watch and pray" for our Lord's return (Mark 13:33). I am also reminded that Jesus chastised the Pharisees in Matthew 16 because they knew the signs of impending weather but were not able to discern the signs of His first coming. Why wouldn't He be very concerned that we know the signs of His subsequent comings, first in the clouds known as the "Rapture," then finally His Second Coming in power and glory?

Consider with me some "positive points on prophecy:"

• It challenges us to live holy in an unholy age (II Peter 3).
• It encourages evangelism as it emphasizes the fact that the hour is late.
• It is a faith-builder. We see how Jesus fulfilled literally all the promises of His first coming. Now we see signs of His return playing out, particularly since 1948 and Israel's rebirth. God keeps His promises!
• Prophecy gets our eyes fixed on things of an eternal nature, not the dilemmas of this present life. It is a hopeful message in an age where hope is scarce!
• We can focus on the overwhelmingly positive future God has for us.
• It encourages us to get our lives in order.

Still, a lot of people are yawning and not yearning over His return. Many only want to focus on the "now," not the future. There are many scoffers asking, "So where is the promise of His coming?" as in Bible times. They are missing out on the crown promised to all who long for His return (II Timothy 4:8).

God wants this topic to be an encouragement. In Hebrews 10 we read that we are to "encourage one another, and all the more as you see the end draw near." How unfortunate that it has actually become divisive when the different interpretations should just be an "in house debate."

Prophecy isn't "escapism!" This is watching and waiting for the king of Kings and lord of Lords. Why else would almost two-thirds of the Bible be prophecy-related?

Prophecy turned my life around. I made my first trip to Israel in 1974 as a young person looking for direction in life. To be sure, my Jewish heritage made the experience much more significant, and I felt that I should align myself with some Israel-related ministry. Israel, in fact, is the very center of eschatology. There is a saying that Israel is the time clock to it all; Jerusalem is the minute hand; the Temple Mount is the second hand.

p> When days seem dark and current events get oppressive, I exhort you to look up and know that your Redeemer draws nigh (Luke 21:28). God has a Heavenly mansion awaiting you with your name on it if you are a child of the King. The roof will never leak as it does in my townhome! I'll have no mortgage. I'll live in a community of believers who will spend eternity praising the One who lived and died for us and who has prepared an "out of this world" home for us for ever and ever.

I challenge anyone to tell me that is gloom and doom.

(Jan is founder and director of Olive Tree Ministries, Inc. To receive her free newsletter and learn more of her ministry, visit the Web site, www.olivetreeviews.org.)