In the past two months I have had the opportunity of opening the Word of God at a couple of prophecy conferences. Both pastors and people at these conferences were delighted to spend some concentrated time looking at what the Scriptures reveal about future events. I was told by numerous individuals that it had been years and years since such a conference was held. And they said that they just couldn’t understand why prophecy conferences are almost non-existent in the American church today. Sadly, their observation is accurate as the absence of prophecy conferences is almost universal in the American church.
These fine folks are correct and there are several reasons for this phenomenon. First, many a pastor believes that prophetic subjects are just too controversial and, therefore, they stay away from it. They see prophecy as a divisive doctrine. This has led churches to adjust their doctrinal statements. Some do not even include “eschatology” in the church’s doctrinal statement while many others make their statement on future things amazingly vague. Second, many feel that they need to deal with the “real issues of life” and prophecy simply doesn’t fit well into the real world where people live. They believe that prophecy is just a lot of speculation and the church doesn’t need that but rather needs teachings on real life issues. Third, a pastor confided in me that he was never taught eschatology in a meaningful way in his seminary studies. In this case, he was happy to have someone come in and deal with the subject of future things. But he represents a rather large number of men who simply did not spend time studying biblical prophecy as part of their training. A fourth reason for the absence of prophetic teaching in churches is that prophecy is seen as the domain of those who live on the lunatic fringe. And, to some extent, there is some validity to this viewpoint. It does seem that there are many too many on television, radio and especially the Internet, who abuse the prophetic scriptures. Every day they declare that this prophecy or that one over there is being fulfilled. And people can be told only so many times that the Rapture will take place on such and such a date, or that Trump, Putin, Assad or whoever is fulfilling a certain prophecy. And time after time, these events or leaders don’t turn out as declared by these modern day prophets with the result that people soon write off prophecy as irrelevant, nonsensical or worse.
But Jesus, the prophets and the apostles certainly did not view the prophecies of scripture this way. As a reminder, let’s consider the immense practical value of biblical prophecy in the lives of both believers and unbelievers.
(1) Biblical prophecy is essential in believers’ developing a two-world view. A two-world view has to do with living well in this world while keeping an eye focused on the world to come. This is, in fact, the world view of scripture. It enables the follower of Christ to be “in” the world without being “of” the world. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul was declaring in Philippians 3:14 ff.
“I press towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude…For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…”
And Hebrews 11 reveals that all these OT saints had this two-world view.
Today, the pulpit’s emphasis is on a one-world (this present one) perspective. And believers with a one-world perspective simply do not and cannot live as they ought to for Christ because the quality of their life depends heavily on how things go in this life.
(2) Biblical prophecy is designed to aid us in our ongoing struggle with sin. All of us daily deal with the culture, the forces of evil and most of all with our own flesh. Logically and biblically, when a person lives consciously with the reality of seeing Jesus, they have a mighty spiritual weapon in their personal war against personal sin. This is stated by John and illustrated by Jesus.
“And now little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming….And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself just as He is pure.” (1 John 2:28; 3:3)
“But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘my master is not coming for a longtime,’ and shall begin to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards;…” (Matthew 24:48-49)
When a believer is not exposed consistently to the two-world view, he slips into a one-world view, and a result is that he is deprived of truth that deters sin in his life. Several years ago I was conversing with a pastor who said that he stayed away from prophecy in his preaching and teaching. I asked him if he wanted his people to live sanctified lives. He, of course, did want that very thing. And he later confessed that he hadn’t seen the connection between biblical prophecy and personal sanctification. And to his credit, he shared that he was going to rethink his position.
(3) Biblical prophecy provides us with a valuable mindset when facing trials. No one I know of delights in having trials and trouble in their lives. There are, as we all know, a variety of reasons for why these come into our lives. Going through difficult, distressing times is not easy. But when we realize that these are very temporary in light of eternity and when we pass the test this enables the Lord Jesus to reward us in greater ways, then a new perspective comes our way.
Consider again the words of Peter and James.
“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)
“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Both of these writers make it clear that the results of trials go beyond this life. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, rewards will be greater for the person who passed the test of trials. Does that not provide each of us with great encouragement to look beyond the troubles and trials of life to the great outcome? It was said of Jesus that “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). The cross did not bring joy, but the results of the cross which would bring many into His redemption and kingdom.
(4) Biblical prophecy creates a framework for making better decisions in life and for prioritizing life itself. Present priorities come into clearer focus when we see them in light of future realities. When we see what is ahead of us, we can make much better decisions in life. This was the basic point the Apostle Peter made in 2 Peter 3:10-14. When we become convinced that life in the forever kingdom of God is impacted by what we do now, that makes a difference in how we made decisions and how we order our lives. When we come to believe that placing “funds” in the Bank of Heaven, where those funds never deteriorate (Matt. 6:19-21), will bring amazing dividends, this changes our perspectives. Jesus said that when our treasures are in the Bank, our hearts will follow. And this priority will be impact us in the present.
(5) Biblical prophecy gives clear warnings to unbelievers. Those who have not placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are given a “heads up” by scripture. The Bible clearly sets forth the consequences of refusing God’s free gift of eternal life. What awaits the unbeliever is an eternity away from God in a place called “the lake of fire.” The descriptions of this eternal condition are legitimately frightening. Fair warning is given to those who will not turn to Christ for eternal life and the forgiveness of sins (2 Thess. 1:8-10).
Conclusion. It is hard to look at these scriptures (and so many more) and the truths contained in them without concluding that biblical prophecy really is important and is designed to impact the way we live right now. Biblical prophecy is not so much about satisfying our curiosities about the future, but rather changing the way we live in the present in light of the future. Prophecy does remain important and eternally relevant.