Does the study of prophecy add value to the lives of believers they could not receive apart from it? Is it worth the effort talk about our future hope despite the controversy that rages over it today?
Yes, absolutely! The Lord provided us with prophecies regarding Israel, the rapture, and Second Coming throughout Scripture; the last book speaks almost exclusively about future things. The volume of space given to prophecy in the Bible tells us its study has great value for us.
Here are five key reasons for talking about the specifics of our hope:
1. Prophecy Consoles us in the Midst of Loss and Despair
I experienced the consoling impact of biblical prophecy at the age of ten when my dad suffered a fatal heart attack. In the midst of my sorrow, the words of 1 Thessalonians 4:12-18 provided much comfort.
“Wouldn’t a belief in the general resurrection of all believers have brought the same relief?” one might ask. Perhaps, but the imagery of the rapture touched my heart at the time. The Lord knew the naïve little boy of my past needed more than a foggy notion of eternal life to console him and provided him with a picture of meeting his dad in the air. And, it worked! I love to talk about prophecy to this day!
Life in this fallen world provides many reasons for despair besides the loss of a loved one. We feel the pain of vanishing aspirations, of failing health, of aging, of financial woes, of persecution, and of rejection by those we love. Even when our dreams come true in this life, we know they cannot last forever. Life goes by so quickly we scarcely have time to catch our breath before the next decade arrives.
The Gospel comforts us in all those circumstances through its assurance of a joyous existence after this life. Paul wrote that Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). Apart from our future bodily resurrection to immortality, the apostle went so far as to say our faith would be worthless (read 1 Cor. 15:17-19).
Many teachers err by divorcing prophecy from the Gospel. The Apostle Paul did not do that; he made the specifics of our forever hope an essential aspect of the Lord’s saving message (see Rom. 8:23-25).
2. Prophecy Reminds Us that God is Sovereign
In Isaiah 46:9-11, God tells us His purpose for revealing events before they happen, “. . . I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish my purpose . . . I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposes, and I will do it.’”
Fulfilled prophecy demonstrates God’s sovereign control over history. He loves to reveal the distant future so when what He predicted takes place, people recognize His greatness. The Old Testament contains over 100 prophecies regarding Jesus’ first coming that happened exactly as predicted. This is why Christ chided the Pharisees for not recognizing the signs that He, their Messiah, was standing before them (Matt. 16:1-4).
The Bible contains many more prophecies related to Jesus’ return to earth than of His first coming; some of which He is already fulfilling before our eyes so we can recognize time in which we live. We rest assured God’s promises will never fail; He remains in control of history.
The world often seems out of control to us, but prophecy tells us a different story: God is sovereign over all things. He is absolutely in control!
3. Prophecy Assures us that God will Punish Evil
Numerous passages in the Old Testament speak of a future “day of the Lord.” Scripture describes it as a time in which God pours out His wrath on sinful humanity and reaches its climax with Jesus’ return to earth to setup His earthly kingdom centered in Jerusalem (Isa. 13:9-13; Joel 2:1-11, 30-32; Zeph. 1:14-18). Prophecy assures us of a coming time when God will punish evil.
Psalm 37 explains how this still future time of wrath enables us to cope with the overt wickedness of our day. Without the reassurance of God’s future judgments, we would easily give in to anger, worry, and loud demands that justice be served. Whenever I feel these tendencies, I read Psalm 37:1-15.
In these verses David explains that our agonizing over the wickedness of the world only hurts us. God sees everything we do, and much more. He will certainly judge the evil and lawlessness that grieves our hearts; we can count on that.
We need only to wait a little while longer for Him to intervene in our world. His glory will one day fill the entire world “as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). The Lord’s righteousness will triumph over all the evil we see in our world. Count on it!
4. The Fulfillment of Prophecy Strengthens our Faith
The reemergence of Israel in the past the seventy years provides us with an example of how prophecy strengthens our faith. The Israel we see today represents the beginnings of the prophecy God gave to the prophet Ezekiel in chapters 36-37. The Lord has stood up the dry bones ahead of the time He will put His Spirit inside them.
When we examine how Jesus literally fulfilled prophecy with His first coming, it reassures our faith. Many have come to saving faith through seeing God’s hand at work in that way. When we see God starting to do the exact same thing with future prophecy, it stirs our hearts with hope that His promises regarding our future will soon be reality.
Watching God fulfill prophecy strengthens our faith at a time when the news makes our future seem bleak; we read predictions of economic collapse and great natural disasters. Because God never fails to keep His covenants and promises, we rest in His assurances of our future.
5. Prophecy Leads to a Two-World Perspective
The more we immerse our minds in the specifics of eternity, the more we live in the two-world perspective of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
A skeptic might ask, “Isn’t this perspective possible apart from a study of the specifics of prophecy?” And I agree, but it’s extremely difficult.
Apart from a focus on God’s promises regarding our future, how does one maintain such an outlook in a world that never ceases to beg for our attention? I spend my work week studying and writing about our imminent hope and other matters of prophecy. Even with all that, this perspective does not come easily to me.
Apart from our focus on Jesus’ promise return to take us back to His “Father’s house” in heaven (John 14:2-3), how do we maintain a proper balance between this life and eternity? I believe this is why Jesus commanded us to always “watch” and “be ready” for His return (Matt. 24:44; 25:13). He knew we needed to “watch” for His imminent return in order to remain mindful of it.
The Lord does not come to us in our despair and simply say “be comforted.” He tells us of our future glorious existence in eternity. He reminds us of His track record in fulfilling His promises and gives us an inner confidence of future joy regardless of our circumstances.
Jesus assures us this world is not all we have and tells us that He will soon appear to take us home to take us to the place His is preparing for us.
These are my key reasons for talking about prophecy. Perhaps you have other items you treasure in your heart for doing the same.