WHY STUDY PROPHECY?
When the non-believer reads prophecy, all they usually see is a bunch of fanciful, vaguely worded stories that can be interpreted to mean nearly anything. Consequently, they dismiss prophecy as foolishness. Sadly, many believers also dismiss prophecy. To them, it simply isn’t important. I even know pastors who say they are not concerned with prophecy. Frankly, this troubles me more than non-believers who dismiss prophecy. Nearly one third of the Bible is prophecy. If the Lord thinks prophecy is important enough that one third of His Word has been revealed in the form of prophecy, then I should think that, at the very least, believers should think it is important enough to study (let alone a pastor). But more than this, the Scriptures actually tell us why we should study prophecy. Here’s what I’ve found in studying this subject.First, the Bible tells us to study prophecy! In fact, the only book of Scripture which promises a special blessing to those who study it is Revelation, and Revelation is nothing but prophecy.
Furthermore, God tells us why He gave us prophecy. God provides us with prophecy so that we will know that He is God and the Bible is the revealed Word of God. We know this because it says so, and it says so in plain language. For example: in the book of Ezekiel, the phrase “Then you will know that I am the Lord” appears fifty times — and always after a prophecy of what is to come! Right there, the Lord’s Word tells us that He has given us prophecy so that, after it happens, we know that He is the Lord, and that His Word is true and reliable. We find another clear assertion of this principle here:
John 13:19 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
19 From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.
A second, and equally important reason the Lord has given us prophecy is so that we can identify key people and events. The perfect example here is Christ. Jesus fulfilled more than 300 Old Testament prophecies. Those prophecies were meant to point us to Him, so that we would recognize Him when He came, and accept Him as the Messiah. In reading the New Testament, we find that the Apostles are constantly using prophecy to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. Even Jesus used prophecy to identify Himself. When John, the Baptist, sent his followers to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah, Jesus answered by telling John He, Jesus, was fulfilling prophecy — and so had John!
Luke 7:18-28 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
A Deputation from John
18 The disciples of John reported to him about all these things. 19 Summoning [a]two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are You the [b]Expected One, or do we look for someone else?” 20 When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the [c]Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’” 21 At that [d]very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. 22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them. 23 Blessed is he [e]who does not take offense at Me.”
24 When the messengers of John had left, He began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 [f]But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft [g]clothing? Those who are splendidly clothed and live in luxury are found in royal palaces! 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom it is written,
‘Behold, I send My messenger [h]ahead of You,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’
28 I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is [i]least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.
The words in bold type are from Old Testament prophecies. Jesus was using prophecy to tell John that He, Jesus was the Messiah, then to tell the crowed that John was the figure of Elijah, who was to be sent to make way for the Messiah. The simple truth is, without prophecy, no one would have known who Jesus is. But by knowing prophecy and comparing it to the life of Jesus, we can know He is the Christ, the Messiah.
Finally, prophecy is a powerful evangelical tool. Where the non-believer may resist the pure message of the Gospel, he or she can often be reached by showing how prophecy was not only clear in its predictions, but also its fulfillment. But this is probably the most difficult part of prophecy: understanding what it actually says, and how to see when it has been fulfilled. To do that, we have to understand the language of prophecy, which leads us to the next post in this series.