Why the Study of Biblical Prophecy Is Important

An attitude exists among many Christians that knowing about biblical prophecy is irrelevant, and that those displaying an interest in it are misguided. Their perspective is that our focus should be on living in today’s world, raising godly families, and reaching our neighbors. They reinforce their position with the assertion that seeking to understand prophecy is guesswork anyway, so why spend time on studying something we can’t know, areas in which we have almost as many positions as we do prophecy scholars.

The primary factor that should compel us to study prophecy is that prophecy comprises the topic of a huge segment of Scripture. Large portions of the Old Testament prophetic books deal with future prophetic events. For example, just recently I was reading through Ezekiel 36-48, virtually all of which describes events yet future. Much of the books of Daniel and Zechariah address prophetic themes. In the New Testament, practically all of the Book of Revelation is prophetic, and so is the Olivet Discourse found in Matthew 24-25 and other locations in the Gospels, as are parts of First and Second Thessalonians and other passages.

We have the assurance in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (ESV) Therefore, to assert that large sections of Scripture do not deserve our attention when the Bible tells us that all Scripture is profitable is clearly on biblical.

This takes us back to the argument that we really cannot understand biblical passages related to future events. Granted, understanding them can be challenging and require hard work, but the same is true of virtually every other doctrine in Scripture. Think, for example, of the various theological perspectives on the nature of humans, salvation, and sanctification. If we allowed difficulty of understanding and differences of opinion to prevent us from studying major scriptural topics we would not study any of it.

In addition, among students of Scripture that actually study prophecy there exists a rather general consensus, probably as much as we find in the other areas of biblical study. I make reference to those who actually study prophecy because many Bible scholars don’t. However, I believe that it is safe to say that among those who place emphasis on biblical prophecy in their preaching and teaching, an overwhelming majority subscribe to the Pre-Millennial, Pre-Tribulation position.

This reality leads to the reason many pastors and Bible teachers do not emphasize prophecy. Those who do not take a Pre-Millennial, Pre-Tribulation position have difficulty making sense out of Bible prophecy, and therefore they tend to shy away from it. It has been my experience that pastors not taking a Pre-Millennial, Pre-Tribulation position, when they do preach on prophetic passages it almost always goes something like this: “Good people disagree on the meaning of these passages, and nobody can claim that they know the meaning with certainty, so rather than making any dogmatic assertions regarding what this passage is teaching, I will just seek to glean some spiritual principles that we can apply to our lives.” Though such a position seems humble and practical, it gives up on identifying the meaning of passages, is not especially interesting, and therefore results in these pastors neglecting prophetic teaching.

Often such pastors take the prophetic position they do because it is that taught by the tradition from which they come. I am convinced that if they would study the Pre-Millennial, Pre-Tribulation position with an open mind, they would grasp its validity.

Regarding the argument that we should be more focused on practical aspects of biblical teaching and Christian living, though it is true that a small minority of those showing interest in prophecy have done so to the exclusion of other aspects of Christian living, it is more often the case that Bible prophecy with its focus on the return of Christ challenges people to engage even more aggressively in Christian living in light of the Lord’s soon return.

The same New Testament book teaching us that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable also exhorts us to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” For Christians to come to the conclusion that “all Scripture” does not include prophetic Scripture places human rationalizations above the statements of the Bible.

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