Why Study Prophecy?
by Tom Stewart
May 18, 2001
Blessing and happiness is promised to those who read, hear, and
keep the words of Scriptural prophecy. "Blessed
is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this Prophecy, and keep those
things which are written therein: for the time is at hand"
(Revelation 1:3). [See our "Commentary
on the Book of Revelation" ---New Window for more about prophecy.] Study of prophecy is crucial because the "time
is at hand" (1:3), implying that
future events will be effected by our present actions. Study goes beyond even the
blessedness of simply reading and hearing the prophecies.
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed,
rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2Timothy 2:15). Study, in this instance, comes from the Greek word spoudazo, which
means to exert one's self, endeavour, or give diligence.
"Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence [Greek,
spoudazo] to make your calling and election
sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall"
(2Peter 1:10). But, keeping "those
things which are written therein" (Revelation 1:3) means that we must allow our present actions, e.g., obedience, to be continually
guided by our understanding of the Spirit's enlightenment of what "must shortly come to pass" (1:1).
What value is there in understanding in advance the wretched condition to which our Earth and our neighbours will come? Some would even say that to admit or profess that such things will occur, is to invite them and to give up on the spread of the Gospel, but "what saith the Scripture?" (Romans 4:3). The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy that his understanding of the prophecies, i.e., "things to come" (John 16:13), would strengthen him in the fight of faith., i.e., "according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare" (1Timothy 1:18). After all, to know today what will happen tomorrow should give the Saints a staggering advantage over the Enemy in strategically and tactically planning the advance of the Gospel. "And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14). Stop and consider. Not until the Gospel is "preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations" (24:14), will the End come. If the Saints are truly led of the same Spirit that converts the Lost, then we will know when the Father has planned our departure. "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your Redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28). [Read A. J. Gordon's poem, "The King Draws Near" ---New Window, to appreciate the relationship of the Second Coming of Christ to Christian service.]
But, as important as our concern for the Lost, we need to recognize that the Spirit of God must complete the Work of Grace in us that He began at our conversion. "Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). This means that our sanctification must not be taken for granted, and that we must be actively trusting God for its fulfillment as we trusted Him for our salvation. "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the LORD" (Hebrews 12:14). Those who take for granted their security in Christ would be most susceptible in deceiving themselves that they possess salvation. "He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His Commandments, is a liar, and the Truth is not in him" (1John 2:4). Therefore, our cooperation in completing the process of our sanctification is essential in promoting the return of the LORD Jesus Christ for us. "And the very God of Peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our LORD Jesus Christ" (1Thessalonians 5:23). [Our article, "He Will Subdue Our Iniquities" ---New Window, teaches us how God makes normal Christians to walk without sinning.]
Prophecy assures us that the calamitous events of the Book of Revelation will most certainly occur; and for that reason, our efforts to actively oppose wickedness and promote the Gospel of the Grace of God must recognize that we will not usher in the Millennium without the intervening Apocalyptic Tribulation. "1 Come, and let us [Wayward Israel] return unto the LORD: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up. 2 After two days [2,000 years of the Church Age] will He revive us: in the third day [the Millennium] He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight" (Hosea 6:1-2). Man's pattern has been a precipitous plunge from the first sin in the Garden of Eden toward the ultimate worship of the Antichrist in the place of Jesus Christ, "Who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen" (Romans 9:5). Only with the season of suffering and glory during the Smyrna Church Age and the small missionary expansion of the Philadelphian Church Age, has the True Church seen enough respite to turn the tide in favor of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an Open Door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept My Word, and hast not denied My Name" (Revelation 3:8). Otherwise, we have seen wickedness in the world only wax worse. "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (2Timothy 3:13). The present Laodicean Church Age is the predicted result, where True Godliness is all but unknown, and a false standard of holiness is generally received. "16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked" (3:16-17).
Be warned, however, that the study of prophecy, is a study of eschatology, which means the study of last things. This presumes an understanding of the first things, i.e., the fundamental doctrines of the Scriptures. "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God" (Hebrews 6:1). Just as a stone mason understands the need of a well and truly laid cornerstone, the study of prophecy demands a pivotal understanding of the LORD Jesus Christ-- defining all of prophecy in terms of our understanding of Jesus Christ. "Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a Chief Corner Stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded" (1Peter 2:6). We are taught that the LORD Jesus is "made unto us Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption" (1Corinthians 1:30). If we deviate from a good understanding of the "first principles of the Oracles of God" (Hebrews 5:12), then the building of our understanding of prophecy will become increasingly unstable as we construct. "And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it" (Matthew 7:27). Often, we can observe what error in comprehension of the first truths that Laodicea has received, and avoid their mistakes of misunderstanding Bible Prophecy. "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished" (Proverbs 22:3; 27:12). [Charles G. Finney's "The Relations of Christ to the Believer" ---New Window makes plain our continued need of sanctification through faith in Christ.]
Through the study of prophecy, we will derive encouragement that our King is coming, not simply to judge the world for its wickedness, but to deliver us, who are "strangers and pilgrims on the Earth" (Hebrews 11:13). "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass [via a Pre-Tribulational Rapture], and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36). Our hands will not grow weak as we continue to plow the ground for the seed of the Gospel. "And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God" (9:62). Hope will be renewed in our hearts that we are not plowing in vain. "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing Precious Seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psalm 126:6). We seek not just the salvation of our neighbours, but the reclamation of the Backslidden. "To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the LORD Jesus" (1Corinthians 5:5). Close to the heart of Jehovah, will be the Spiritual Re-Birth of the Nation of Israel at His Second Coming. "Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the Earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children" (Isaiah 66:8). But, of course, "every transgression and disobedience [will receive] a just recompence of reward" (Hebrews 2:2), when the LORD Jesus Christ returns to judge the world. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the Earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen" (Revelation 1:7).
May the LORD bless your study of Bible prophecy!
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