This is original material copyrighted by Larry White in 2013.
Scriptures quoted from the King James Version are public domain and denoted by KJV.
Scriptures quoted from the New King James version are by permission from Thomas Nelson Inc and denoted as NKJV.
WHY STUDY PROPHECY ?
Why study prophecy? For the same reason some people say they climb a mountain, because it is there! There are estimates that as much as 20 to 30 percent of the Bible is about prophecy. That is a very significant portion of the Bible. “ALL SCRIPTURE is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine…” 2 TIMOTHY 3:16 NKJV. I heard one preacher say, “All means all.” I would have to agree with that. So prophecy is included in that which is profitable and good to study and teach as doctrine.
Some people object and say its not meant for us to understand the prophecies now and it will all just play out. There are two major problems with that way of thinking. First, there are prophecies that were given in the past and recorded in the Bible that have come to pass. Are we to think they have no value to us now since they have already been fulfilled? Not so! The fulfilled prophecies of the Bible have great value. In fact, the Bible says they have more value than even the eye witness testimony of the followers of Jesus in His day!
Peter was an eye witness to the life of Jesus and to His resurrection. God used him to write a portion of the New Testament. In 2nd Peter chapter 1 verses 16-18 KJV Peter shared his past experience of being a witness to the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain and hearing the Father say of Jesus, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
The word of an eye witness is accepted as proof in a court of law. Yet Peter himself said there is a greater proof of the truth. He wrote in 2 Peter 1:19 KJV ” We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed….” Peter is saying here that fulfilled prophecy is proof that the scriptures are from God and that it is more sure than even eye witness testimony. Only God knows with perfect accuracy every detail of the future. Through Isaiah God says, “…I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning…” Isaiah 46:9-10. So as Christians read the prophecies and see their fulfillment it can confirm and strengthen their trust in God and His Word.
The fulfilled prophecies can be used as a witnessing tool. Prophecy can not be faked. Once something is foretold to happen and written down it is there for the whole world to see and it either comes to pass or it does not. If it is specific and involves great detail and is not ambiguous then there can be no doubt it is from God. Jesus foretold the coming destruction of the temple including the detail that every stone would be thrown down. It came to pass just as He said. In the Old Testament God foretold that the people of Israel would be scattered around the world and that He would gather them back. For hundreds of years the Church leaders ignored the clear prophecies about the regathering of Israel and taught instead that the Church had replaced Israel. In May of 1948 God fulfilled His prophecy and Israel became a nation again after nineteen hundred years of being dead. There are hundreds of details about the life of Christ foretold in the Old Testament hundreds of years before He was born in Bethlehem. Even the details about the way he would be abused and crucified were foretold.
Another reason to not ignore the prophecies and not to wait and see what happens is that there are prophecies that give us warning about coming events. We need to know those prophecies and be on guard. Jesus asked the question “…can ye not discern the signs of the times?” Matthew 16:3 KJV. He said this to the religious leaders who should have known and understood the prophecies about His coming but they did not. He rebuked them for not knowing the prophecies and said, “…You are mistaken, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God.” Paul also condemned them, saying of them “which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:8 NKJV. In Proverbs 29:18 KJV we read “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” There were many who perished when the Romans destroyed the nation of Israel. Most of them had no vision that their Messiah had come to them. They did not know the prophecies and their leaders lead them astray.
The organized Church today seems to have no vision. Most of the leaders ignore or avoid prophecy. Most prophecy study is presented by television teachers and evangelists and at prophecy conferences. There is a measure of hunger for it but those wishing to study it are getting their information from outside the Church and their own private studies. This is a shame since so many of the prophecies are coming true in our lifetime. God gave wonderful prophecies about the future to Daniel to record but not to understand in his time. In Daniel 12:4 NKJV we read “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end” The prophecies shown to Daniel are coming true now. This is a sure sign that we are at the end of the Church Age with the resurrection and rapture fast approaching and the Tribulation to follow after that.
When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he admonished them to ‘watch’. Today we need to be on guard and alert to the events going on in our world. We need to compare them to the warnings and prophecies given to us in our precious Bibles. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about the approach of the Day of the Lord he said,
“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” 1 Thessalonians 5:4 NKJV. In Matthew chapter 25 Jesus taught a parable about maidens waiting for the Bridegroom to come and take them to the Father’s house. Sadly, half of them were not ready and were not taken with him.
There is a wonderful verse in Amos about prophecy. “Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7 NKJV. God reveals His plans through the prophets to give to His people. He wants us to know His plans for our future. How disappointed He must be that so few Christians bother to study His prophecies! Prophecy is a gift to us from God. So many Christians never open that gift.
To encourage His followers to study the prophecies God even promises a blessing to them. “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” Revelation 1:3 NKJV How many people who say they are Christians have even read the book of Revelation one time, much less spent time in the study of it?
As if a blessing were not enough incentive to study prophecy God also provides for our comfort by way of the prophecies! How can that be? When we read about the terrible things that are going to happen during the Tribulation how can we have comfort?
Paul had taught prophecy to the Christians at Thessalonica. He had taught them about the return of Christ to resurrect the Church and to translate living believers and to take them to heaven for safe keeping during the Tribulation. Paul was a master of the Old Testament scriptures and no doubt shared many of those prophetic verses as he taught them about the future. Perhaps he shared Isaiah chapter 26 with them. It is a marvelous chapter that outlines the end time sequence of events. Verses 17 and 18 tell of the coming birth of the Messiah. Verse 19 tells of the resurrection of the Church. Verse 20 proves beyond doubt that the Church will be safe in heaven during the Tribulation. “Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past.” Isaiah 26:20 NKJV This indignation is the Tribulation. Christians will be safe in their chambers in heaven until the indignation of the Tribulation is over. Verse 21 then tells of the Tribulation. “For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain.” Chapter 27 then continues with the Lord’s return to earth, and us with Him, to establish His Kingdom and rule the world.
These two chapters in Isaiah alone are enough to settle the debate about when the rapture will occur and what the sequence is of the other events.
Someone had undermined the work of Paul and told the Thessalonians that the resurrection and rapture had already taken place and that they had missed it! They were extremely upset. You would be too if you thought you now had to go through the Tribulation! So Paul wrote a letter to remind them of the things he had taught them. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 THESSALONIANS 4:16-18 NKJV
Paul told them to comfort each other with this prophecy. So how can the prophecies be a comfort to us? They show us that we will not have to endure the Tribulation. There is prophecy about what happens to Christians when they die. “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8 NKJV It is a comfort to know that the moment we die we will be with our Lord. Paul also wrote “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21 NKJV It is a comfort to us to know that when we leave this sin cursed world and all its troubles we will be going to a better place.
The disciples ask Jesus about the future. Before answering their questions the very first thing He did was to warn them about deception. He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived….” Luke 21:8 NKJV He then went on to tell them the details of what would happen in the future. We need to study prophecy in order to avoid being deceived. Jesus put it this way “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Matthew 24:24 NKJV Wow! The deception that is coming will be so powerful that even believers will be in danger of believing it. God will allow the deception, perhaps as a way of testing those who say they are Christians but are not. The Bible tells us “…God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie…” 2 Thessalonians 2:11 NKJV
We should also study prophecy so that we can warn others about the things to come. If they are not Christians then perhaps hearing about the dangerous times to come will get their attention and help lead them to Christ. Back in the 1970s Hal Lindsey wrote a best selling book about prophecy. The book was entitled “The Late Great Planet Earth.” It awakened many people to an interest in prophecy and help to lead many people to the Lord. God says in Ezekiel 3:17 NKJV, “ …hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.”