With all the unusual circumstances and changes to our “normal” way of life this year, there has been a renewed interest in end-times prophecy among believers. Do a search on “prophecy” on Youtube and you’ll find quite a selection. It’s not just pastors and teachers who study prophecy for a living; many believers have made it their passion and there are many different views and interpretations.
Bible scholars agree that prophecy is an important part of God’s Word. Almost one-third of scripture contains prophecy, either fulfilled or yet-to-be fulfilled. Without prophecy, we would have little evidence to believe that Jesus truly is the Son of God, the Messiah promised by God. Without prophecy, we would fail to understand that God has had a plan for our world from eternity past, a plan that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
As a child (and teenager), I heard many sermons on prophecy. I can still see the charts and outlines used by our pastor to explain what God said would happen in the days leading up to Jesus’ return to earth. While I didn’t understand everything, a focus on prophecy gave me confidence that the Bible was true, and that God was bigger than I could imagine.
Should we study prophecy today? Is it a distraction to read articles, follow bloggers and Youtubers, and spend time pondering scripture in light of current events? Is it a valuable use of our time to study books like Revelation and the Old Testament prophets, or should we just focus our efforts on living out the truths found in Paul’s letters and the gospels?
Here are six benefits of studying prophecy, giving us good reason to expand our understanding of how God has communicated to us in His Word.
Benefit #1 – You get a complete picture of God.
If you and someone else have a common friend, you probably will describe them in different ways, depending on your relationship and experience with that person. For instance, my husband and I may both know my employer, but I can tell you many things about my boss that my husband may never experience or know in his relationship simply as a friend.
The people God used to write the Bible all knew God at different times, and in different settings and experiences. Their relationship was personal, and God revealed different things about Himself to each one. When we study ALL of scripture, including prophecy, we get a more complete view of His character, nature, and the ways He works through us, and responds to us. We learn about His love, but we also see His wrath against sin. We see His mercy, but also His justice. Prophecy helps us see the bigger, complete picture of God.
Benefit #2 – Scripture is proven to be true.
As I stated earlier, fulfilled prophecy is one way we can have complete confidence that Jesus is who He says He is. Bible scholars estimate He fulfilled over 350 prophecies! Scripture comes alive to us as we are assured that past prophecy was fulfilled, giving us assurance that what is yet to happen will happen.
Benefit #3 – Repentance is magnified because of the coming judgment.
End-times prophecy is filled with vivid details of the wrath of God that will be poured out on sinful men. We are told that believers will stand before Christ and give account for how we have used the gifts and opportunities we were given to make an impact for the kingdom. Those who reject God and refuse to acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior will stand accountable for their own sin, and be sent to everlasting punishment. Knowledge of coming judgment magnifies the need for believers to repent of their apathy and worldliness, and unbelievers to cry out for God’s mercy in salvation.
Benefit #4 – Doctrine is protected because of the awareness of false prophets are coming.
Prophecy warns us about the false antichrists (both the spirit of antichrist and the last Antichrist who will be revealed), and false teachers who will attempt to lead even the elect in Christ astray. Studying prophecy gives us discernment and awareness of the deception and spirit of delusion that will be prevalent in the days before Christ comes. Because we are warned, we can avoid being deceived; we will not fall away from teaching, living and believing the truth.
Benefit #5 – We are motivated to urgently share the gospel because we see the outcome for those who reject God.
If your friend is sitting on the train tracks and you see an engine bearing down on him, would you warn him? Or would you just assume he will see it and get out of the way? Would you doubt yourself, thinking perhaps it really isn’t a train coming at all, that it’s just something you imagined? Of course not; we would be highly motivated to shout a warning. We’d describe the size and speed of the train as much as possible, anticipating the moment it would impact our friend, in order to urge them to get out of the way.
In the same way, knowing and studying prophecy creates an urgency to share the gospel. People who fail to respond will suffer great tribulation, and face God’s eternal wrath. Knowing the fact that judgment is coming (even if we don’t know the exact timing or details) should compel us to boldly share the gospel.
Benefit #6 – We are promised a blessing.
Revelation is the only book in the Bible where a blessing is promised for those who read, hear and heed its words. In fact, it opens with this promised blessing (Revelation 1:3) and repeats it at the end (Revelation 22:7). I think God was making a point.
I’ll leave it to you to decide what that blessing is. Perhaps we won’t know until we meet Christ face to face. We don’t know the day or the hour when Jesus will return, but we are given much information about the season and the times. Personally, I am scanning the skies and listening for the trumpet.
How about you?
2 Timothy 4:8 – In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.