We recently held our 16th annual prophecy conference at Greater Rhode Island Baptist Temple. Prophecy is not like angelology—a doctrine that is approached with a tepid response. Prophecy has its strong advocates, but it also has its strong detractors. It appears that there is no middle ground. I heard a famous preacher once say, “Our congregations are more concerned about the ten toes on Daniel’s statue than we are using our ten toes to walk across the street and tell somebody about Jesus.” He apparently thought that prophecy was a waste of time.
Part of this animate repudiation of prophecy stems from some of the “poster children” who support it. We often think of the prophecy student as one who owns a fallout shelter in his backyard, brings his own distilled water to church in a half-gallon jug, and has a yellow glow from the overabundance of carrots that he has juiced for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In short, we think that prophecy students are kooks. They constantly monitor the buzzard population in the Holy Land to see if Armageddon is near, look for 666 on Jerusalem license plates to see if the anti-Christ is on the horizon, and track the births of red heifers to see how close we are to a rebuilt temple. I suspect that we shy away from prophecy, in part, because we do not want to be branded with the group that is “into it.”
It is important for us, however, to notice several Biblical points with regard to the study of prophecy. For starters, the study of prophecy contains a special promise. Though there are no bad sections to the Word of God and people receive blessing in general when the Word of God is consumed, the Bible attaches a particular blessing to the study of prophecy (Revelation 1:3). Therefore, to spend time in prophetic studies, especially the prophetic studies of Revelation, is to take advantage of God’s blessing.
Second, the study of prophecy promotes purity. If we really believe that the Lord is coming again, we will live in light of that impending return. As John puts it, “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself” (1 John 3:3). Obviously, the Christian does not want to be “ashamed at His appearing” (1 John 2:28). The return of the Lord is thus meant to be a catalyst to moral behavior.
In addition to securing God’s promises and practicing moral purity, the study of prophecy provides inner peace. After Paul gives his most detailed account of what will happen at the rapture, he says, “Comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Therefore, any study of prophecy that promotes consternation and upheaval is not aligning itself with Biblical motivation. God gave us a preview of future events so that our hearts would be stable. In the midst of chaotic world events, we know how the last chapter of history will unfold. This is a great source of peace.
The study of prophecy also buttresses our faith in the person of God. While God always uses His Word to create faith (Romans 10:17), this is especially true with regard to Bible prophecy. It is tragic that people look to Edgar Cayce, the Koran, and Nostradamus, when God has spoken. All Bible prophecy has come true just as God said it would (Isaiah 46:9–11), proving the veracity of God’s sure Word. Bible prophecy comes about because, “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). A study of prophecy, therefore, validates the authenticity of the Bible and the authenticity of God who stands behind His sure Word
And finally, Bible prophecy is an aid in proclaiming the gospel. The fulfillment of Bible prophecy was used by Peter to preach the gospel at Pentecost (Acts 2:14–42) and by Philip to share the gospel with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26–39). Peter states that prophecy helps us share the light in a dark place (2 Peter 1:16–19). People want to know the future in light of current events. We have a message that helps un-muddy the waters. The more familiarity we have with Bible prophecy, the more answers we will have for seekers.
Since the Bible attaches promises to prophecy, motivates purity by prophecy, provides inner peace through prophecy, validates God’s person through prophecy, and assists our proclamation through prophecy, we would be foolish to negate our study of eschatology. Indeed, we could say a Christian would be kooky not to study it.