How long has it been since you heard a sermon or did a Bible Study on some aspect of prophecy?
Considering that at least a quarter of the Bible consists of prophecy – fulfilled and as yet unfulfilled – doesn’t it seem strange that many preachers and Church leaders tend to ignore or downplay its importance?
I think some preachers find prophetic passages too hot to handle, and they don’t want to be regarded as fanatical by taking a particular stand on debatable points.
Another reason is that some church leaders like Rick Warren actually mock and disparage the study of prophecy.
Warren has written that to study prophecy is a “distraction” and makes one “not fit for the Kingdom of God.”
I believe such a wholesale dismissal of a vital part of the Word of God says a lot more about Rick Warren than the “distraction” of prophecy.
Just consider what John says in Revelation 19:10
“… the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
So, if prophecy is correctly taught, it should stress the centrality of the Lord Jesus and not detract from Him at all.
Is Prophecy Practical?
The writers of the New Testament all testify to the fact that living with the anticipation of the Lord’s soon return will motivate us in holy living.
What can be more practical for a Christian than that?
Paul says in Romans 13:
“The night is almost gone and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.”
The study of prophecy has employed, over the years, a great many deep-thinking Christian people as well as a certain number of charlatans and some shonky dealers.
If our study of prophecy does not bring honour and glory to Him because of the holy living we are encouraged to maintain, then it becomes a waste of time as far as God is concerned.
Lord Shaftesbury, the great English social reformer of the nineteenth century, is reported to have said on one occasion, “I do not think that in the last forty years I have ever lived one conscious hour that was not influenced by the thought of our Lord’s return.”
The anticipation of Jesus’ return must have been one of the strongest influences behind Shaftesbury’s efforts to assist the poor and advance the cause of foreign missions.
He expected to meet Jesus face to face, and he watched for Him. He was ready for his Master to come back.
Prophecy is Spiritual Food
Many Christians say they believe that Jesus will return but they don’t seem to believe with their hearts. In other words, their lives don’t show that expectancy.
Many don’t seem to understand that the catching up of believers – sometimes called the rapture – is described by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4 as an event which will take many by surprise.
We will not be taken by surprise if we are expecting Him:
“But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief … let us be alert and self-controlled.” [1 Thess 5:4-6]
When prophetic Scriptures are carefully taught to a congregation (leaving aside any conjecture where Scripture may not
be clear, but relying on the clear promises of God and not human opinion) then God’s people can be literally transformed.
This transformation of understanding that Jesus could return at any moment will have two effects:
1. People will be motivated to share the Gospel more urgently, and
2. Their lives will be more consistently holy.
Reasons for Studying Prophecy
A leading scholar of prophecy, Dr David Reagan, suggests 10 reasons why the Church today should be studying prophecy.
1. Prophecy makes up between a quarter and a third of the Bible.
2. No other religious scriptures (eg, the Koran) contains fulfilled prophecies.
3. Fulfilled prophecy helps to validate the Bible.
4. Prophetic Scriptures support Jesus’ claims to be the Son of God.
5. Prophecy reveals what God wants us to know about the future.
6. Fulfilled prophecy helps in evangelism.
7. The Old Testament prophets were God’s agents in calling His people to repentance.
8. Prophecy encourages Christian patience.
9. Prophecy helps to give an understanding of current events.
10. Prophecy does not give us the date of the Lord’s return, but it does make us aware of the season. Jesus said in Matt 24:33:
“When you see all these things, recognise that He is near, right at the door.”
The Apostle Peter warns Christians that scoffers would arise in the end times who will pour scorn and ridicule on the Lord’s promise of His return. [2 Peter 3]
I have found that some of the greatest scoffers are the religious leaders of certain well-known denominations, and they are closely followed by others who SCOFF WITH THEIR SILENCE.
Do your Church leaders scoff publicly, or do they scoff silently, by refusing to warn their people of Jesus’ near return?
If either situation applies, I would politely speak to those leaders and show them the Scriptures. The trouble is, not many leaders like to be given straight scriptural advice by the rank-and-file.
So – go easy, but stick to what the Holy Spirit says in the Scriptures.