20 Studies in Bible Prophecy
Study 1 - The Importance of Prophecy
In the study of prophecy we must begin here.
Is The Study of Prophecy Important?
Some would contend that one has to be either mentally unbalanced, a religious crank, or heretic in doctrine, to show an interest in such a subject. Others fight shy of the subject because it is beset with so many difficulties, and is too controversial. There are those however, who feel they cannot afford to neglect any phase of Biblical teaching, and therefore give themselves to a study of the great truth of Christ's Second Coming.
While not professing to unravel every prophetical problem, yet such are assured that history is moving towards its climax, and events in our world bristle with prophetic significance. God has a plan for the future, and that plan is outlined in His Word, "the Bible is a talking book".
The Place of Prophecy in the Bible
Approximately one quarter of all Scripture relates to prediction. With such an emphasis, can we afford to neglect the subject? Thus our final court of appeal is the Word of God, a position we seek to maintain despite the suggestion that conservative evangelicals are guilty of bibliolatry. What the Bible says. God says. That is fundamental to any study of the Scriptures. Indeed, avers Prof. Walvoord, "The Holy Scriptures present the only comprehensive eschatology which has ever been offered to man in written form".
It is clear from the Scriptures that God reveals His plan through His divinely chosen vessels, the prophets. If we compare (Amos 3:7 with Mark 13:23) we will see this plainly set forth. In particular, the events relative to the arrival of Jesus on earth as the Jewish Messiah and Redeemer of the world were matters of divine prophecy, while other events relative to nations and individuals, were also subjects of prior revelation. Examples of this can be found in connection with the Noachin deluge (Genesis 6 and 7), the judgment that befell the cities of the plain (Genesis 18 and 19), and the averted destruction of Nineveh (Jonah 3).
Other incidents could be quoted, but this will suffice to show that prophecy is history written in advance. The truth of the Second Coming is predicted with such lavish detail that one cannot ignore the subject without doing an injustice to Bible doctrine as a whole.
The Primary Marks of Biblical Prophecy
If we study (1 Peter 1:10-12 and 2 Peter 1:16-21) certain attributes of the Prophetic spectrum reveal them-selves.
a) The central theme of prophecy is Christ. See (1 Peter 1:11 and Rev 19:10). As Prof. Dwight Pentecost observes: "Interpret prophecy Christologically".
b) The two advents of Christ are placed side by side (1 Peter 1:11).
It becomes evident from a study of the Old Testament prophets that their foreview of things to come did not explain the parenthesis of grace, the Church age, intercalating between the two advents. Further confirmation of this can be seen by comparing (Luke 4:18-20) with (Isaiah 61:2). Isaiah gave no indication of an interval between this present age, "the acceptable year of the Lord" and "the day of vengeance of our God". But Jesus stopped abruptly in the middle of the sentence in application of the words, thus denoting the parenthesis.
The same thought is suggested in the interpretation of Daniel's seventieth week (Daniel 9:24-27). Fuller study of this chapter will be given in a future lesson,
c) The interpretation of any prophecy must be in harmony with the whole scheme of revelation (2 Peter 1:20-21).
In view of false teachers, see chapter 2, Peter lays down this important rule. A good book in this field is 'Prophecy in the Space Age' by Dr. A. Skevington Wood, in which he avers that each part of the Bible is to be studied in the light of "the totality of revelation".
The Purpose of Prophecy
God has a design in everything, and His purpose in the prophetic Word is that we might see how His purpose is working out as year succeeds to year. It is possible, and not a little dangerous, suggests Dr. Tatford, to have an over-occupation with details and symbols, and miss the under-girding principles of heaven's dealings with mankind. Unless our occupation with the prophetic Scriptures leads us eventually to see the Lord and His ways, we are being sidetracked. Or, as Prof. Walvoord states, albeit a little humourously, "The Scripture was given to reveal Him."
If we become so interested in the Antichrist that Jesus Christ is removed from the place of centrality, and if we study the Word of God only to see on which side the Beast parts his hair, and miss the Lord Jesus Christ, then we have been side-tracked and derailed from that which is pre-eminent."